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  • Showing only topics with the tag "fiction". Back to normal view
    1. Can anyone help me remember a sci-fi short story about disintegrating weapons and nuclear winter?

      I'm trying to recall a short story I read about 10 years ago in English class in school. It would probably be fair to call it "sci-fi", but I'm not sure how important that is. What I remember: the...

      I'm trying to recall a short story I read about 10 years ago in English class in school. It would probably be fair to call it "sci-fi", but I'm not sure how important that is.

      What I remember: the story was set in the midst of an escalating arms race, Cold War-style, and the characters were chiefly military personnel (I think).

      At some point, a chief actor obtains technology that is designed to (from memory) "disintegrate all weapons (certain materials/metals?)" within a vicinity.

      I believe the technology is then used, and what ensues is a world-enveloping nuclear winter. I'm not sure how the weapons disintegration tech leads to a nuclear winter. It's also quite possible that I'm conflating two separate stories I read in that class.

      Anyone have any idea what short stories I could be thinking of? This would be at the very latest pre-2010 stuff, and knowing my English teacher (old bloke from Yorkshire) probably 20th century. Probably.

      7 votes
    2. What's the deal with Proust?

      I've never read Marcel Proust, and I know very little about his work. But every serious reader of literature I know absolutely gushes over him, but never seems to be able to explain what's good...

      I've never read Marcel Proust, and I know very little about his work. But every serious reader of literature I know absolutely gushes over him, but never seems to be able to explain what's good about it or what the books are even about.

      The scarce pop-culture references I see to his work (like in "Little Miss Sunshine") seems to cast an affection for Proust as kind of a mark of being an unmoored and depressive romantic.

      So is he worth reading? The full collection of "Remembrance of Things Past" is nearly $100, so that's not a trivial amount to invest. Is there a recommended/definitive translation or edition I should read? What should I keep in mind or be open to if I do try giving it a shot?

      By that last question I mean like, I'd have hated "Catcher In the Rye" if I wasn't told ahead of time to approach it from the mindset of a 15 year old boy. Or I kind of hated 'Madame Bovary" but when explained to me that this was Flaubert's exercise in trying to make people see themselves in an adulteress, a generally reviled archetype, and this was groundbreaking for the time lets me at least appreciate it for accomplishing what it's set out to do. Are there any literary contexts like I this should have in my head before I delve in?

      11 votes
    3. What social responsibilities do fiction authors have (if any)?

      In 1977, Stephen King published a novel about a school shooting called Rage. It is somewhat infamous, as it has been connected to instances of real-life school shootings. King, in response,...

      In 1977, Stephen King published a novel about a school shooting called Rage. It is somewhat infamous, as it has been connected to instances of real-life school shootings. King, in response, allowed the story to fall out of print and has never reissued it. The novel has a lot in common with other YA stories and tropes: a disaffected protagonist, meddling/out of touch adults, and newfound social connection with peers. While the main character is undoubtedly disturbed, the novel feels somewhat uncritical (or potentially even supportive) of his actions.

      Certainly fiction is a space where authors are free to explore any point of view or theme they wish. The beauty of fiction is that it is limitless and consequence-free. No people are harmed in Rage because there are no people in it. Its characters are merely names and ideas--they are a fiction.

      Nevertheless, Rage addresses a real-world phenomenon, and the beauty of fiction is that it doesn't live as a lie. As Ursula K. Le Guin writes,

      "In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we're done with it, we may find - if it's a good novel - that we're a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have changed a little..."

      We like fiction because it resonates with us, exposing us to themes that can affirm, shape, or challenge our mindsets.

      With this dichotomy in mind, I'm torn between whether authors should be free to explore anything they wish from the safety of make-believe, or whether they have a social responsibility because their words carry messages and ideas that directly impact lives. I'm not sure what to think, and I can come up with great arguments for both sides. What's your take? What social responsibilities do fiction authors have (if any)?

      19 votes
    4. The greatest lesson you've learned from classical fiction?

      I am currently enjoying a very thought-provoking semester of American Literature. Prior to this class, I wouldn't have considered fiction as useful in my everyday life, as opposed to something...

      I am currently enjoying a very thought-provoking semester of American Literature. Prior to this class, I wouldn't have considered fiction as useful in my everyday life, as opposed to something like a self-help book. What I've found is exactly the opposite, and I have found novels such as Great Expectations to be even more influential than anything I've ever read.

      So I ask you all, what is the greatest lesson you've learned from classical fiction?

      12 votes
    5. Good whodunnit/crime investigation books?

      What are for you the best modern whodunnit/criminal investigation books? I'm interested in books like Sherlock Holmes where there are clever deductions but also books where everybody knows who the...

      What are for you the best modern whodunnit/criminal investigation books? I'm interested in books like Sherlock Holmes where there are clever deductions but also books where everybody knows who the criminal is but they need to find evidence and the bad guy seems to always be two steps ahead (kind of like Daredevil season 3 with Wilson Fisk).

      10 votes
    6. China Miéville

      Is anyone here familiar with his work? Perhaps you could recommend a starting point for someone more inclined towards exploring darker urban / sociopolitical realist "fantasy"; not so interested...

      Is anyone here familiar with his work? Perhaps you could recommend a starting point for someone more inclined towards exploring darker urban / sociopolitical realist "fantasy"; not so interested in escapism for the sake of escapism. LeGuin over Tolkien, etc.

      10 votes
    7. Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk, my take. Discussion welcome.

      Adjustment Day is a parody, at least I hope it is, of a United States dystopia. The concept is rather ambitious, but the author rises to the task. The prime conspiracy theory behind the book is...

      Adjustment Day is a parody, at least I hope it is, of a United States dystopia. The concept is rather ambitious, but the author rises to the task. The prime conspiracy theory behind the book is that throughout history, civilization has periodically weeded out young men of 18-24 through war and whatever other means available to keep society from returning to the dark ages. Who does this in the U.S? Why, your government, of course.

      In this version of the conspiracy, the young men turn the tables. Most of the book is about what happens after Adjustment Day. I've only read Fight Club and Choke by Palahniuk before this. All I can say is the cynicism and nihilism of those two books seems increased tenfold in Adjustment Day. Do you have a conservative conspiracy theory that you think about from time to time? They're all in here. I'd even bet that the author comes up with some you've never heard before.

      In a satire that is as biting as The Sellout, Palahniuk presents several characters who live through the aftermath of the event, including the originator of it. But instead of nobody talking about it, (like in Fight Club) everybody is talking about this new bizarre movement/social-political revolution. As you go down this rabbit hole of irrational rationalization, it's easy to lose sight of what is going on. Scenes and characters are switched at the beginning of random paragraphs, causing me to back up every few pages.

      A good example of Palahniuk's treatment of infrastructure is given by a new form of money that comes out of the movement:

      Officially, the order called them Talbotts, but everyone knew them as skins. Rumor was the first batches were refined from, somehow crafted from the stretched and bleached skin taken from targeted persons. People seemed to take a hysterical joy from the idea.
      Instead of being backed by gold or the full faith of government or some such, this money was backed by death. The suggestion was always that failure to accept the new currency and honor its face value might result in the rejecter being targeted. Never was this stated, not overtly, but the message was always on television and billboards: Please Report Anyone Failing to Honor the Talbott. The bills held their face value for as long as a season, but faded faster in strong light and fastest in sunlight. A faded bill held less value as the markers along the edges became illegible.

      Because the money had a shelf life, people had to work all the time. At the top of the hierarchy were the young men who had put their lives on the line during the Adjustment Day revolution. They would get the money from some source and give it away to their workers and people they knew, spending it all as fast as they could.

      If that sounds ridiculous, you haven't even scratched the surface of this world. Chief among the topics are racism and prejudice toward everyone you can imagine. All in all I found the book a little tedious. Palahniuk puts the crazy theories in the mouths of people who voice them so convincingly that it becomes surreal. If you're a fan of the author you might like it. But practically every paragraph seems engineered to be offensive in some way, to someone.

      Let's just hope Chuck is making all this stuff up.

      6 votes
    8. A particularly good passage from Peter Watts' Blindsight

      Once there were three tribes. The Optimists, whose patron saints were Drake and Sagan, believed in a universe crawling with gentle intelligence---spiritual brethren vaster and more enlightened...

      Once there were three tribes. The Optimists, whose patron saints were Drake and Sagan, believed in a universe crawling with gentle intelligence---spiritual brethren vaster and more enlightened than we, a great galactic siblinghood into whose ranks we would someday ascend. Surely, said the Optimists, space travel implies enlightenment, for it requires the control of great destructive energies. Any race which can't rise above its own brutal instincts will wipe itself out long before it learns to bridge the interstellar gulf.

      Across from the Optimists sat the Pessimists, who genuflected before graven images of Saint Fermi and a host of lesser lightweights. The Pessimists envisioned a lonely universe full of dead rocks and prokaryotic slime. The odds are just too low, they insisted. Too many rogues, too much radiation, too much eccentricity in too many orbits. It is a surpassing miracle that even one Earth exists; to hope for many is to abandon reason and embrace religious mania. After all, the universe is fourteen billion years old: if the galaxy were alive with intelligence, wouldn't it be here by now?

      Equidistant to the other two tribes sat the Historians. They didn't have too many thoughts on the probable prevalence of intelligent, spacefaring extraterrestrials--- but if there are any, they said, they're not just going to be smart. They're going to be mean.

      It might seem almost too obvious a conclusion. What is Human history, if not an ongoing succession of greater technologies grinding lesser ones beneath their boots? But the subject wasn't merely Human history, or the unfair advantage that tools gave to any given side; the oppressed snatch up advanced weaponry as readily as the oppressor, given half a chance. No, the real issue was how those tools got there in the first place. The real issue was what tools are for.

      To the Historians, tools existed for only one reason: to force the universe into unnatural shapes. They treated nature as an enemy, they were by definition a rebellion against the way things were. Technology is a stunted thing in benign environments, it never thrived in any culture gripped by belief in natural harmony. Why invent fusion reactors if your climate is comfortable, if your food is abundant? Why build fortresses if you have no enemies? Why force change upon a world which poses no threat?

      Human civilization had a lot of branches, not so long ago. Even into the twenty-first century, a few isolated tribes had barely developed stone tools. Some settled down with agriculture. Others weren't content until they had ended nature itself, still others until they'd built cities in space.

      We all rested eventually, though. Each new technology trampled lesser ones, climbed to some complacent asymptote, and stopped.

      But history never said that everyone had to stop where we did. It only suggested that those who had stopped no longer struggled for existence. There could be other, more hellish worlds where the best Human technology would crumble, where the environment was still the enemy, where the only survivors were those who fought back with sharper tools and stronger empires. The threats contained in those environments would not be simple ones. Harsh weather and natural disasters either kill you or they don't, and once conquered---or adapted to--- they lose their relevance. No, the only environmental factors that continued to matter were those that fought back, that countered new strategies with newer ones, that forced their enemies to scale ever-greater heights just to stay alive. Ultimately, the only enemy that mattered was an intelligent one.

      And if the best toys do end up in the hands of those who've never forgotten that life itself is an act of war against intelligent opponents, what does that say about a race whose machines travel between the stars?

      7 votes
    9. What's the Best Horror book you've read in the past year?

      I finished The Little Stranger last week. While I found the pacing very compelling, I felt some pretty palpable dissatisfaction in how everything ended. I can't quite put my finger on it...

      I finished The Little Stranger last week. While I found the pacing very compelling, I felt some pretty palpable dissatisfaction in how everything ended. I can't quite put my finger on it...

      9 votes
    10. Web serial recommendations

      Is anyone else here into web serials or serial fiction more generally? I was first introduced to the medium through Worm, probably the most well-known web serial out there at this point, and I...

      Is anyone else here into web serials or serial fiction more generally? I was first introduced to the medium through Worm, probably the most well-known web serial out there at this point, and I loved it. (Well, okay, if we're getting technical I was probably first introduced to it through fanfiction, but it didn't register to me then that this was a medium used by original works as well.) I've worked my way through a few other serials since reading Worm, and I've continued to enjoy the format. Does anyone have recommendations for web serials (or printed serials!) they like?

      For me, I'm currently reading Hate Would Suffice, a story about a teenager and a world frozen in ice. It updates almost daily with chapters around a thousand words long, and while it's a pretty new one I'm thoroughly enjoying it so far.

      6 votes
    11. Anyone want to do a young adult fiction swap with me - two books - details in post

      I really like YA fiction. I like contemporary stuff. Fante is my favorite author period, so maybe that helps understand what I like even if he is definitely not YA. I really like Cormier's...

      I really like YA fiction. I like contemporary stuff. Fante is my favorite author period, so maybe that helps understand what I like even if he is definitely not YA. I really like Cormier's Chocolate Wars, but his other stuff not so much.

      I have: (both links go to Goodreads)

      Both are just sitting around and I'd like to swap them out. So if one or two people want to swap, I'll send them to you and pay for postage if you send me a book in return. One for one please. Continental US only please. I am in OK if it helps you estimate shipping.

      Thanks

      I think True Diaries is amazing and a way better book, but both are good.

      8 votes
    12. Any Rothfuss Fans in the House?

      Just finished The Wise Man's Fear, and I'm blown away by the massive amounts of world building interspersed by hella awkward sex scenes. Anyone else eagerly awaiting the next Kingkiller Chronicle...

      Just finished The Wise Man's Fear, and I'm blown away by the massive amounts of world building interspersed by hella awkward sex scenes. Anyone else eagerly awaiting the next Kingkiller Chronicle addition?

      9 votes
    13. Bingeable book series - light reads for summer.

      You know the kind I'm talking about - a series of fiction novels (generally falling into urban fantasy/sci fi/straight fantasy) based around a main character (or small group of characters),...

      You know the kind I'm talking about - a series of fiction novels (generally falling into urban fantasy/sci fi/straight fantasy) based around a main character (or small group of characters), nothing overly serious, though they may sometimes touch on serious topics. Fun, fluffy reads with engaging characters that leave you wanting more. The main drawback of a lot of these series is that the starring characters can turn into Mary Sues REAL FAST (Looking at you, Harry Dresden), but I'm ok with that.

      A few examples:

      • Jim Butcher - The Dresden Files
      • Kim Harrison - The Hollows

      What series have you enjoyed?

      8 votes
    14. Meat and Salt and Sparks by Rich Larson [Sci-Fi] [7365 words]

      tor.com/2018/06/06/meat-and-salt-and-sparks-rich-larson/ A futuristic murder mystery about detective partners—a human and an enhanced chimpanzee—who are investigating why a woman murdered an...

      tor.com/2018/06/06/meat-and-salt-and-sparks-rich-larson/

      A futuristic murder mystery about detective partners—a human and an enhanced chimpanzee—who are investigating why a woman murdered an apparently random stranger on the subway

      Found this today and read it for my morning break. I'm worried about spoilers, but I'm curious about people's thoughts on being a non-human intelligence and the subsequent integration into human society. Did this short evoke any particular emotions in you?

      9 votes
    15. SF recommendations

      Not exactly an original first post, but as a life long avid SF fan, I'm always on the lookout for recommendations. According to Google Play, my reading (and re-reading) this year has been ... Iain...

      Not exactly an original first post, but as a life long avid SF fan, I'm always on the lookout for recommendations.

      According to Google Play, my reading (and re-reading) this year has been ...

      Iain M Banks, Alastair Reynolds, John Scalzi, Dan Simmons, Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, China Miéville, Vernor Vinge, Peter Watts, Neal Asher, Richard K Morgan, Corey Doctorow, C.J. Cherryh, Karl Schroeder, Ann Leckie, Hannu Rajaniemi, Yoon Ha Lee, Greg Bear and James S.A. Corey.

      So I guess that sums up my current taste, which would seem to tilt towards space opera and "hard" SF.

      11 votes
    16. What are some good young adult fiction books that are somewhat contemporary?

      I really like Young Adult fiction. I am a big fan of contemporary/realistic fiction in general. Fante is probably my favorite author. Favorite YA author is Robert Cormier. Does anyone have any...

      I really like Young Adult fiction. I am a big fan of contemporary/realistic fiction in general. Fante is probably my favorite author. Favorite YA author is Robert Cormier.

      Does anyone have any suggestions on some good YA novels?

      7 votes
    17. Dystopian disappointment

      I first read "The Giver" circa 1998 when I was still in elementary school, and it changed my life. From that moment on, I craved idyllic utopias with undercurrents of death and despair but...

      I first read "The Giver" circa 1998 when I was still in elementary school, and it changed my life. From that moment on, I craved idyllic utopias with undercurrents of death and despair but couldn't find them anywhere. I moved onto ghost stories and fantasies and Harry Potter, but still I read The Giver several times a year, inevitably kicking off a pre-family-computer search for more. The simple but powerful themes made me feel wise and the promise of euthanasia made me feel dangerous, and I was changed again.

      Imagine my relief when I found Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale." And Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." And, finally, a name for my favorite genre. Even after I learned the phrase "Dystopian Fiction" and told everyone I could about it, it wasn't easy to find all the books I wanted. But I read "1984," "Fahrenheit 451," and the classic allegorical novels. When I was in high school, I read Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" and Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," and I was shaken to my core and felt content enough.

      [This ended up being more melodramatic than I originally intended; I'm definitely not a writer. I just wanted to get across my adolescent depth of feeling for dystopian fiction before I actually come to the point in my timeline when "it" happened. *self-deprecating eye roll emoji]

      I actually enjoyed "The Hunger Games." The world compelled me even when the characters did not, and while I would have liked a touch more exposition about how the high society came to accept the murder of children, it was still chilling. But then the world exploded. YA dystopian novels were spilling from publishing houses with abandon as the populace became as obsessed as I was, and of course I was thrilled! And then I was miffed. And then I was disappointed, and then I became some sort of crotchety old-man/hipster hybrid. "No I'm not just jumping on the bandwagon! I was here before the world even knew its name! Back in my day, dystopian books had actual themes, not just unhealthy love-triangles and shadowy-but-one-dimensional villainous overlords!" The genre became overrun, in my opinion, with authors trying to cash in on the success of the big name novels without any passion for subject matter. Characters were flat, love stories were rampant and boring, and the dystopian world-building was over-the-top, reaching, and unearned. I still feel a little bit cheated.

      I do feel bad about being so petulant; I'm glad that this surge has fostered a love of reading in zillions of children. I'm honestly probably missing out on some excellent novels, but now I'm hesitant to read a post-2012 book marketed as "Dystopian" lest I'm forced to live in yet another world where love is a disease ("Delirium"-Lauren Oliver) or, preserve me, where all forms of language have become deadly to adults ("The Flame Alphabet"-Ben Marcus).

      Hopefully that wasn't too boring! I'm done now! I want to know if you've ever felt similarly, if you think I'm flat wrong, if you have some post-2013 novels I should read, if you want to talk about the genre... anything!

      11 votes
    18. New sci-fi book recommendations?

      Whenever I hear sci-fi being discussed it’s usually in the context of the classic titles, and there’s nothing wrong with that but I wanna read sci-fi of the now! One series I just picked up is the...

      Whenever I hear sci-fi being discussed it’s usually in the context of the classic titles, and there’s nothing wrong with that but I wanna read sci-fi of the now! One series I just picked up is the Terra Ignota series by Ada Palmer - the first book is called Too Like The Lightning, it’s a really rich and dense text that - and it’s hard to describe without spoiling anything - manages to discuss a lot about human nature in the past, present and perhaps in the future through a really well told narrative. It’s mysterious and a thrilling read as more and more of the world is revealed to you.

      Does anyone have any cool sci-fi published recently that they’re reading?

      21 votes
    19. Which Hogwarts House is best?

      And why is it Ravenclaw? I figure we might as well get a thread going about the Harry Potter series of books, show that it is popular and that ~HarryPotter needs to be a thing. Which Hogwarts...

      And why is it Ravenclaw?

      I figure we might as well get a thread going about the Harry Potter series of books, show that it is popular and that ~HarryPotter needs to be a thing.

      Which Hogwarts house are you? Find some like-minded friends and start the seeds of a community here.

      14 votes
    20. About Prose Novelists: Who writes novels that speak to you because of the quality and style of the writing? How would you describe them or their books?

      I don't mind reading a fast book with lots of action or a twisting plot, but over the years have discovered authors that seem to have a style unique to them apart from what's going on: Richard...

      I don't mind reading a fast book with lots of action or a twisting plot, but over the years have discovered authors that seem to have a style unique to them apart from what's going on:

      Richard Powers seems to play with the sounds and meanings of words strung together like pearls on a necklace(The Echo Maker, Orfeo).

      John Banville (Athena) creates descriptions that sound poetic and deep while remaining clear and visual.

      Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch) puts you into a scene so that you feel the emotion of being there.

      Don Delillo (The Names) makes a continental paradise seem like a dense forest of scholars and bright sunlight all at the same time.

      Those are a few of mine, what are your favorites?

      8 votes