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    1. What are some non-science-fiction books that are deep, insane, mind-bending, etc?

      What I am really asking is, what would be fantasy's (and other related genres) equivalent to authors such as Greg Egan (Permutation City), Peter Watts (Blindsight), or Greg Bear (Blood Music)?...

      What I am really asking is, what would be fantasy's (and other related genres) equivalent to authors such as Greg Egan (Permutation City), Peter Watts (Blindsight), or Greg Bear (Blood Music)? Intense books that are about different realities, transhumanism, personal identity, etc, but from a non-sci-fi standpoint?

      46 votes
    2. The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas and the stories that came after it

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I think I first came across "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" by Ursula K LeGuin a few years ago. I read something else in conversation with it, but somehow had missed the original. Hugo Award winning and Locus award nominated, I thought folks might be interested in discussing it and its descendants.

      LeGuin's original in pdf format

      Omelas is a utopia in the middle of a festival. And as the narrator explains the city to you, they understand that you may not believe it is even possible.

      The ones who walk away from Omelas spoilers So the narrator explains that keeping this city a utopia relies on the horrible and perpetual suffering of a single child. At a certain age, all citizens are brought to see the suffering child and they're all horrified, but most come to see that the prosperity and safety of everyone is served by the suffering of this one child. The ones who don't, walk away and never return.

      Othe authors have written stories in conversation with this,

      NK Jemisin's The Ones Who Stay And Fight is directly engaging with it.

      In Um-Helat There is a utopia, and no child suffering in a hole. But when suffering arises, there is a call to fix it.

      The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik (the 3rd Scholomance book) engages with this idea too.

      Golden Enclaves major plot point spoiler All the major enclaves of magic users are build on the death of an innocent - someone that has never taken and used magic from the death or pain of other beings, and at least once a teenager, but likely a often child due to the restriction. This allows you to create a safe home against the magical monsters but also creates an ever hungry devouring monster of perpetual suffering (a maw mouth) that is unleashed on anyone who doesn't have an enclave to protect them. There's a way to build them without this, but the enclaves would be smaller and less luxurious, and after all, it's only one person...

      So I had read all of the above works and been mulling over the topic of Omelas, and then found this story today

      Why Don't We Just Kill the Kid In the Omelas Hole

      In which people, uh, start killing the kid in the Omelas hole. Sorry, not a lot of room not to spoil that given the title. I'll let you read the story for where that goes.

      Risk of spoilers for the above works from here:
      I think there is a lot about our society here. LeGuin herself said the story, "has a long and happy career of being used by teachers to upset students and make them argue fiercely about morality." Because what is the right answer? Novik, via El in the Scholomance series says to burn it down. Jemisin says there is a better way. I don't believe LeGuin is arguing that the ones who walk away are "right" in that they leave having benefited from Omelas and the child still suffers.

      But I thought folks who hadn't read one or more of these might enjoy them, and I find they make me think and often won't stop letting me think.

      ETA: ST:SNW did an entire episode using Omelas as an inspiration. I haven't seen it so I can't speak to it but wanted to add it here for reference.

      36 votes
    3. Looking for recommendations for sci-fi books with a 'body snatchers' theme of human possession or replacement

      After reading The Body Snatchers and The Puppet Masters, I am almost finishing Blood Music and I am not yet done with that theme. These are all stories about human possession or replacement with...

      After reading The Body Snatchers and The Puppet Masters, I am almost finishing Blood Music and I am not yet done with that theme.

      These are all stories about human possession or replacement with copies by other entities, extraterrestrial or otherwise. As I finish Blood Music, I find myself craving for more. It doesn't matter if it is about invasion or something else that takes over our bodies and minds. Stories that question and entice our attachment to our identities, as well as our desire to conform and dissolve into the collective.

      I wish for stories that are not about just one person undergoing a transformation, but rather a group or a community (family, town, country, the world).

      Ideally, they should be some kind of science fiction (even if science's role is not immediately obvious and overt), but I am open to suggestions if you believe something in other genres deserves my attention.

      References:

      21 votes
    4. Book recommendation: Delta-V and Critical Mass

      It's hard to find hopeful sci-fi these days. The zeitgeist is that things are bad and they will keep getting worse. That's a problem, because before you can build a better future, you must first...

      It's hard to find hopeful sci-fi these days. The zeitgeist is that things are bad and they will keep getting worse. That's a problem, because before you can build a better future, you must first imagine one. This is the first book I've found in a long time that does a credible job of that.

      This post is about a pair of novels by Daniel Suarez. The first one is Delta-V, the physics term for a change in velocity; the second one is called Critical Mass. Together they're a heavily-researched look at asteroid mining, offworld economics, and space-based solar power.

      The series takes place in the mid 2030s. By this point, the symptoms of climate change are becoming serious, creating what people call "the Long Emergency": famines, storms, and waves of climate refugees. There is real concern that the global economy will collapse under the strain. To avert financial apocalypse, an expedition is launched to mine the asteroid Ryugu; the first book covers the miners' training, their long journey through space, and the hazards of mining an asteroid in deep space. In the second book, they use those mined materials to build a space station in lunar orbit, to set up a railgun for launching materials from the moon's surface into its orbit, and to begin building the first space-based solar power satellites.

      I was surprised to learn that space-based solar power is a real thing that the US, China, and several other countries and companies are actively pursuing. Basically, you have a bunch of solar panels in orbit, which beam power down to receiving antennas ("rectennas") on Earth. You lose a lot of efficiency converting the electricity to microwaves and back, but solar panels on orbit have access to ~7-10x more energy than those on the ground, since there's no atmosphere in the way and it's always solar noon. In exchange for a large initial investment, space-based solar power offers always-on, 100% renewable energy that can be switched from New York to California at a moment's notice.

      That initial investment is a doozy, though. SpaceX is working on lowering launch costs, but launching material from Earth's surface into orbit is going to be very expensive for a very long time. So these books look at what might be possible if we could avoid those costs. What if we could create mining and manufacturing operations in space? What if we could use those to generate clean power in heretofore undreamt-of amounts?

      I’m going to excerpt a conversation from the second book:

      [At dinner,] chemist Sofia Boutros described the unfolding water crisis in the Nile watershed back on Earth—and the resulting regional conflict. This elicited from around the table a litany of other climate-change-related calamities back home, from wildfires, to floods, to famines, to extinctions.

      The Russian observer, Colonel Voloshin, usually content to just listen, chimed in by saying, "Nations which have contributed least to carbon emissions suffering worst effects." He looked first to Lawler and then Colonel Fei. "Perhaps the biggest polluters should pay reparations."

      Dr. Ohana looked down the table toward him. "It's my understanding that Russia has actually benefitted from warmer climate."

      Yak replied instead. "Not overall. Soil in Siberia is poor. Wildfires and loss of permafrost also disruptive."

      Lawler added. "You guys sell plenty of fossil fuels, too, Colonel."

      The electrical engineer, Hoshiko Sato, said, "Complete decarbonization is the only way to solve climate change."

      Most of the group groaned in response.

      She looked around the table. "That might sound unrealistic, but there's no other choice if we want to save civilization."

      Chindarkar said, "We've been saying the same thing for fifty years, Hoshiko. It's barely moved the needle."

      "We’ve brought carbon emissions down considerably since 2020."

      Boutros said, "You mean we slowed their growth."

      Ohana said, "We should be planting more trees."

      Monica Balter countered, "Trees require water and arable land. Climate change is causing deserts to spread, pitting food versus trees. Plus, whatever carbon a tree captures gets released when it dies—which could happen all at once in a wildfire."

      Chindarkar looked down the table at her. "Nathan Joyce claimed we could use solar satellites to power direct carbon capture. Could that really be done at the scale necessary to reduce global CO2 levels?"

      Colonel Voloshin let out a laugh. "That's not even in the realm of possibility. It wouldn't even make a dent."

      Monica Balter said, "I respectfully disagree, Colonel." She looked to Boutros. "And Sofia, I understand we must do everything possible down on Earth to reduce carbon emissions: solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal—all of it. But that won't remove what's already in the atmosphere."

      Voloshin shook his head. "We must adapt."

      Lawler couldn't resist. "Easy for Russia to say."

      Balter spoke to Voloshin. "Back in 1850, atmospheric carbon was at two hundred eighty parts per million. Now it's at four hundred fifty-seven parts per million. We put over a trillion tons of CO2 into Earth's atmosphere over that time. Humans caused the problem, and humans can solve it."

      The colonel was unfazed. "Yes. All of humanity worked hard to cause this, and it still required almost two centuries to accomplish. It is naïve to think a few machines will correct it."

      "Half of that excess carbon was emitted in the last forty years, and direct air carbon capture powered by solar satellites can actually work at a global scale. I can show you the numbers, if you like."

      He scoffed. "Even billionaire Jack Macy says that solar power satellites are idiotic—that very little energy beamed from space reaches the terrestrial power grid due to transmission and conversion losses."

      Balter nodded. "The number is 9 percent."

      The crew around the table murmured.

      He spread his hands. "I rest my case."

      "But 9 percent of what? Jack Macy neglects to mention that a solar panel up in orbit is seven times more productive than one on the Earth's surface. The fact that he runs a rooftop solar company might have something to do with that.

      Boutros asked, "A sevenfold difference just from being in space?"

      Balter turned to her. "The best you can hope for on the Earth's equator at high noon is 1,000 watts of energy per square meter—and that's without factoring in nighttime, cloudy days, seasons, latitude. But a power sat in geosynchronous orbit would almost always be in 1,368 watts of sunlight per square meter. So you get a whole lot more energy from a solar panel in space even after transmission inefficiencies are factored in. Plus, a power sat won't be affected by unfolding chaos planetside."

      Voloshin shrugged. "What if it is cloudy above your rectenna? You would not be able to beam down energy."

      "Not true. We use microwaves in the 2.45-gigahertz range. The atmosphere is largely invisible at that frequency. We can beam the energy down regardless of weather—and directly to where it's needed. No need for long distance power lines."

      "But to what purpose? It could not be done on a scale sufficient to impact Earth."

      "Again, I could show you the numbers."

      Chindarkar said, "I'd like to see them, Monica. Please."

      Balter put down her fork and after searching through virtual UIs for a moment, put up a shared augmented-reality screen that appeared to float over the end of the table on the station's common layer. It displayed an array of numbers and labels. "Sorry for the spreadsheet."

      Colonel Fei said, "We are quite interested in seeing it, Ms. Balter."

      She looked to the faces around the table. "There are four reasons I got involved in space-based solar power... " She pealed them off on her fingers. "...electrification, desalination, food generation, and decarbonization. First: electricity. We all know the environmental, economic, and political havoc back on Earth from climate change. Blackouts make that chaos worse, but a 2-gigawatt solar power satellite in geosynchronous orbit could instantly transmit large amounts of energy anywhere it's needed in the hemisphere below it. Even several locations at once. All that's needed is a rectenna on the ground, and those are cheap and easy to construct."

      Chindarkar nodded. "We saw one on Ascension Island."

      Jin added, "J.T. and I are building sections of the lunar rectenna. It is fairly simple."

      "Right. For example, space-based energy could be beamed to coastal desalination plants in regions suffering long-term drought-providing fresh water. It can also be used to remove CO2 directly from seawater, through what's known as single step carbon sequestration and storage, converting the CO2 into solid limestone and magnesite—essentially seashells. This would enable the oceans themselves to absorb more atmospheric CO2. Or we could power direct air capture plants that pull CO2 straight out of the atmosphere."

      Voloshin interjected. "Again, a few satellites will not impact Earth's atmospheric concentrations, and where would you sequester all this CO2?"

      "Just a few satellites wouldn't impact climate, no—but there's definitely a use for the CO2—in creating food. Droughts in equatorial zones are causing famine, but hydrogenotrophic bacteria can be used to make protein from electricity, hydrogen, and CO2. The hydrogen can be electrolyzed from seawater and CO2 from the air. All that's needed is clean energy." She glanced to Chindarkar. "NASA first experimented with this in the 1960s as a means for making food here in deep space."

      "Really? Even back then."

      "The bioreactor for it is like a small-batch brewery. You feed in what natural plants get from soil: phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, iron, potassium—all of which, incidentally, can be extracted from lunar regolith. But I digress..."

      Colonel Fei's eyebrows raised. "That is indeed interesting."

      "The bioreactor runs for a while, then the liquid is drained and the solids dried to a powder that contains 65 percent protein, 20 to 25 percent carbohydrates, and 5 percent fatty acids. This can be made into a natural food similar to soy or algae. So with energy, CO2, and seawater, we could provide life-saving nutrition just about anywhere on the planet via solar power satellites."

      Voloshin was unimpressed. "Yet it would still not resolve climate change."

      "At scale it could. Do the math ... " Balter brought up her spreadsheet. "We're emitting 40 billion tons of CO2 per year, 9 billion tons of which can't be sequestered by the natural carbon cycle and which results in an annual increase of roughly two parts per million atmospheric CO2—even after decades of conservation efforts."

      She tapped a few screens and a virtual image of an industrial structure covered in fan housings appeared. "A direct air capture facility like this one could pull a million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere each year at a cost of one hundred dollars a ton. All of the components are off-the-shelf and have existed for decades. Nothing fancy. But it needs 1.5 megawatts of constant clean energy to power it—and that's where solar power satellites come in."

      Voloshin said, "But who would pay? Governments? Do not count on this."

      Chindarkar asked, "Monica, seriously: How many carbon capture plants would it take to make a difference in the atmosphere of the entire Earth?"

      Jin added, "And how many solar power satellites to power them?"

      Balter brought her spreadsheet back up. "Merely to cancel out Earth's excess annual emissions—9 billion tons of CO2—we'd need nine thousand 1-megaton DAC plants worldwide, each requiring 150 to 300 acres."

      The group groaned.

      Tighe said, "That's a lot of hardware and a lot of real estate, Monica."

      "It doesn't have to be on land. Just 2.7 million acres total—smaller than Connecticut. And that would be spread across the entire globe. More importantly, doing that stops the advance of climate change. If we reduce emissions, then it would actually help reverse climate change."

      Chindarkar studied the numbers. "Powered by how many solar satellites?"

      Balter highlighted the number. "It would take 1.6 terawatts of electricity—or 818 2-gigawatt SPS-Alphas. Each about 7,400 tons. But again: that halts the advance of climate change."

      The group groaned again.

      "Eight hundred eighteen satellites?" Jin shook his head. "That would take decades to build."

      "Not with automation and sufficient materials here on orbit. You've seen the SPS-Alpha I'm building—it's made of simple, modular components."

      "Yours is one-fortieth the size of these 7,400-ton monsters."

      "But it's the same design. We just need the resources up here in space, and we could scale it rapidly with automation."

      Voloshin picked up his fork. "As I said: it is a technological fantasy."

      Chindarkar ignored him. "Monica, what would it require to not just halt climate change—but reverse it?"

      Balter clicked through to another screen. "To return Earth to a safe level—say, three hundred fifty parts per million CO2-you'd need to pull three-quarters of a trillion tons out of the atmosphere." She made a few changes to her model. "So with forty thousand DAC plants, powered by thirty-six hundred 2-gigawatt satellites in geosynchronous orbit, you could accomplish that in eighteen years."

      Fei asked, "At what cost?"

      "Roughly seventy-two trillion dollars."

      Again groans and an impressed whistle.

      Voloshin shook his head. "I told you."

      Balter added, "That's four trillion a year, over eighteen years. Spread across the entire population of Earth."

      This was met with a different reaction.

      Jin said, "That is actually less than I thought."

      "And bear in mind the fossil fuel industry has been supported by half a trillion dollars in direct government subsidies worldwide every year for ages. Whereas this four trillion is for just a limited time and would permanently solve climate change, and we'd see significant climate benefits within a decade as CO2 levels came down. And once it was accomplished, all that clean energy could be put toward other productive uses, either on Earth or in space."

      She studied the faces around her. "But to accomplish it, we'd need tens of millions of tons of mass in orbit. Launching all that mass up from Earth would never work because all those rockets would damage the atmosphere, too. However, with your lunar mass-driver—and the ones that follow it—we could make this work. This is why I'm here."

      Those around the table pondered this. For the moment, even Voloshin was silent.

      Boutros asked, "Is it not risky to tinker with the Earth's atmosphere?"

      "That's what we're doing now, Sofia. This would just reverse what we've done and return Earth to the conditions we evolved in."

      Chindarkar pointed to the virtual spreadsheet. "Does that seventy-two trillion dollars include the cost of the solar power satellites?"

      "Yes. And doing nothing will cost us far more. Best estimates are that by the year 2100, continued climate change will reduce global GDP by 20 percent—which is about two thousand trillion dollars. Not to mention the cost of possibly losing civilization.

      "But if, as your CEO Mr. Rochat says, we intend to prove the SPS concept at scale here in lunar orbit, well... then you will make this commercially feasible. In other words, you can make this future happen. Everyone else has talked it to death. The bean counters and decision makers back on Earth clearly won't do it, no matter how critical it is. And this needs to be started as soon as possible—before the situation on Earth gets truly untenable."

      This book is not afraid to think big. That's what sci-fi is for, right? And it's extensively researched; there's a bibliography at the end of each book that I've used to start my own research journeys.

      I like these books because they're ambitious. They never downplay the scale of the problems we face, but they maintain that these problems are solvable, and they expose me to new ideas I'd never heard of. I found them in my local library. Thanks for reading this wall of text!

      29 votes
    5. Douglas Adams and Iain M. Banks

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I've just started reading The Culture novels by Iain M. Banks, and am currently reading A Player of Games. This might be a controversial thing to say, but I'm getting some Douglas Adams vibes, especially in his depiction of the drones. Am I the only one who feels a certain connection there?

      17 votes
    6. This is How You Lose the Time War - I loved it but I understand why some hate it

      After giving This is How You Lose the Time War a five star review, I started scrolling through other reviews and I found thoughtful, well reasoned arguments for the other side. This is a...

      After giving This is How You Lose the Time War a five star review, I started scrolling through other reviews and I found thoughtful, well reasoned arguments for the other side. This is a thoroughly crafted well written book that is not going to be to everyone's taste.

      The premise is two opposing secret agents, saboteurs, time and history manipulators who work for conflicting civilizations become aware of each other and start to exchange letters. It becomes a love story.

      The nature of the work each main character does to manipulate history across many centuries and many parallel universes makes the narrative confusing. I can't imagine it done effectively any other way, but I also like other confusing time shifting stories where the story starts to make sense later.

      The characters only meet through their letters with a couple of exceptions, so some say the love story is unbelievable. For me, it reflects the extreme isolation and loneliness of their work and how even minimal tenuous companionship of a peer would satisfy a gaping need.

      The writing includes extravagant romantic feelings and poetic literary allusions to go with the science fiction and time travel aspect. I appreciated it, but people who like romance and poetry don't always like science fiction and time travel and vice versa.

      The authors lean into the epistolary format. It's not exclusively letters but a significant percentage of the writing is the letters these two characters exchange.

      The creative forms the letters take were fun for me and seemed like a valid extrapolation of actual historical spycraft if you assumed much greater ability to manipulate matter. However some people find them over the top.

      It is an exuberant, enthusiastic book that is fun if you like it and possibly cringy if you don't

      22 votes
    7. Tildes Book Club: Discussion topic for Roadside Picnic

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      This is the Discussion topic for all those who participated in Tildes Pop-up Book Club: Roadside Picnic, or for anyone who has previously read the book and wishes to join in.

      I don't have a particular format in mind for this discussion, but I will post some prompts and questions as comments to get things started. You're not obligated to respond to them or vote on them though. So feel free to make your own top-level comment for whatever you wish to discuss, questions you have of others, or even just to post a review of the book you have written yourself.


      For all the latecomers, don't worry if you didn't read the book in time for this Discussion topic. You can always join in once you finish it. Tildes Activity sort, and "Collapse old comments" feature should keep the topic going for as long as people are still replying.

      And for anyone uninterested in this topic please use the Ignore Topic feature on this so it doesn't keep popping up in your Activity sort, since it's likely to keep doing that while I set this discussion up, and once people start joining in.

      45 votes
    8. Looking for audiobook ideas that have TV/movies released

      Hey folks! I’m looking for some audiobook ideas (preferably fantasy and science-fiction). I want them to have a TV series or Movie about them though I could watch before listening to them. All...

      Hey folks! I’m looking for some audiobook ideas (preferably fantasy and science-fiction). I want them to have a TV series or Movie about them though I could watch before listening to them.

      All ideas welcome!

      14 votes
    9. Red Rising series made me start reading again (no spoilers)

      Currently on book 3 of the Red Rising series. I've been trying to get back into reading for years but I've felt like "quicker" forms of entertainment (video games, etc.) have broken my ability to...

      Currently on book 3 of the Red Rising series. I've been trying to get back into reading for years but I've felt like "quicker" forms of entertainment (video games, etc.) have broken my ability to sit down and focus on a book. Case in point - I've had Red Rising book 1 downloaded to my kindle for years after a friend of mine gave it a overwhelmingly positive recommendation. I tried reading it a few times but my lack of attention span made me fail after just a few pages.

      Well all that changed recently when I finally sat down again and gave the book a proper chance by reading more then 3 pages I feel like I'm 14 years old again just crushing books in a few days. Several times I have not been able to put the book down and read until 2AM.

      Since the end of June I've finished the first 2 books and am around 1/3rd through the 3rd one.

      36 votes
    10. Scifi / action (audiobooks)... who would I like next?

      I'm in need of "the next" great Sci-Fi / action series to binge on. I've currently gone through read most / all of: Craig Alanson Andy Weir Jeremy Robinson John Scalzi Jonathan Maberry Timothy...

      I'm in need of "the next" great Sci-Fi / action series to binge on. I've currently gone through read most / all of:

      • Craig Alanson
      • Andy Weir
      • Jeremy Robinson
      • John Scalzi
      • Jonathan Maberry
      • Timothy Zahn (all his Star Wars works)
      • Max Brooks (WWZ)
      • Earnest Cline (RP1/2)

      I like Star Trekky plots and plucky nerd protagonists.

      Also, I'm finding that I'm getting a bit tired of R.C. Bray (I think he narrates the majority of the above. At some point every snarky AI sounds like Skippy). Marc Thompson of the Star Wars series is an amazing narrator.

      Side comment: I'm inclined to listen to a good audiobook just for the narrator's performance alone.

      42 votes
    11. I love space horror and sci-fi with horror elements. Any recommendations around?

      New to Tildes, so I wanted to kick things off by asking—do you have any sci-fi horror recs you reckon I might be interested in? Here's some of what I've read: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer Solid...

      New to Tildes, so I wanted to kick things off by asking—do you have any sci-fi horror recs you reckon I might be interested in? Here's some of what I've read:

       

      Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

      • Solid read, but definitely more about the weird vibes than anything else. Sequels didn't hook me as much.

       

      Blindsight by Peter Watts

      • I generally try not to DNF my reads. But this was one of them. I'm sorry, I just can't buy vampires in a sci-fi world that's trying to take itself seriously, without proper grounding. It's also incredibly dry.

       

      Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes

      • A pretty solid read, I like how the narrative is told via flashbacks and then suddenly terminates in a way that makes you want to know more, in the most tantalizing of ways. Unfortunately I thought the reveal of the lurking horror was incredibly meh, and it went mostly downhill from there.

       

      Diamond Dogs by Alistair Reynolds

      • Fantastic novella with a mysterious locale functioning as the backdrop of the setting, and the horror elements being both external (as in the setting) and internal (how far our characters are willing to go to crack the mystery).

       

      Paradise-1 by David Wellington

      • A really solid space horror novel, with a pretty interesting protagonist trio (including a self-aware robot with plastic bodies) and it has some genuinely uncomfortable moments of horror that I can absolutely get behind. My main issue though, is that it ends in a cliffhanger and I'm still mad about it.

       

      Salvaged by Madeleine Roux

      • Decent read, but the horror reveal came super early and in reality, it's less space horror than it is human drama involving horror elements which is basically the Protomolecule from the Expanse. Fun read though, if you're okay with that.

       

      Salvation Day by Kali Wallace

      • I thought this was somewhat bland, the concept and initial plot were interesting, but it trails off and overall, overstays its welcome with some scenes that pacing-wise, feel like they belong in the middle part of the book. Some solid moments of horror though.

       

      Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo

      • Probably the quintessential space horror book for me. A fantastic setting, an intriguing protagonist narrative interspersed with religious themes and a genuinely solid pacing, horror-wise.

       

      Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

      • This would have been an interesting murder mystery in space... if it actually had good and compelling characters. It does not. Everyone feels like a cardboard cutout with One Defining Trait and that's it.

       

      The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

      • This was... a disappointment. I still rank it amongst the worst books I've read, simply because the protagonist is unbelievable. I can buy a protagonist doing things under duress or from being manipulated, but I cannot buy a protagonist who constantly flip flops 5 minutes after making a decision and then
        hooks up with the person who was manipulating her, because yay fucked up sexytimes! Look, I want queer representation in my books too, but this came off too much as just doing it for the vibes. Queer rep deserves better than stupid protagonists.

       

      Walking to Aldebaraan by Adrian Tchaikovsky

      • A great novella; it's a retelling of a really well-known story but reframed in sci-fi terms, and I love that approach.

       

      We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

      • A really haphazard book I think; I like some things about it, but others just don't make sense, or contradict it. E.g. the protagonist is a psychologist, but is absolutely horrible at reading human emotion and speech, and a loner who prefers robots. Throw in some Michio Kaku-esque pseudoscience and while it's not a horrible read, it feels like a book that could have been better with a rewrite. The setting and suspense are pretty neat though.

       

      So, as you can see, I have met the good, the bad and the ugly of sci-fi horror. I'd love to find more! For non-book horror or horror adjacent works I've enjoyed, those include Alien, The Thing, Event Horizon, Sunshine, Underwater and Dead Space. Please don't recommend tie-in novels though; I can find those myself and generally I've found that they're not really up to par.

      27 votes
    12. Tildes Book Club: Roadside Picnic, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

      Several users expressed interest in reading Roadside Picnic after I recommended it in another (now deleted) topic about the movie it inspired, Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky, which in turn inspired...

      Several users expressed interest in reading Roadside Picnic after I recommended it in another (now deleted) topic about the movie it inspired, Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky, which in turn inspired the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. videogame series. So I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to create a Pop-up Book Club event about it to encourage others to join us in reading it, so that we can all discuss it afterwards.

      My description of the book from a previous comment that enticed the others to read it:

      The basic premise was really unique and interesting, too. Without giving too much away, it's a story of Alien "invasion" only when the Aliens visited Earth, instead of doing any of the standard scifi trope stuff, the event was basically like that of a Roadside Picnic to them. That is to say, they showed up, barely noticed the humans who were tantamount to ants to them, did whatever Alien travelers with incomprehensibly advanced technology do when taking a quick pitstop on another world, and left a bunch of trash behind when they left. The story is about "stalkers" that venture into the exceptionally dangerous wasteland left behind by the Aliens in order to recover their trash (also usually exceptionally dangerous, but also exceptionally powerful) in order to sell it on the black market.

      IMO, it's a very good classic scifi novel, and also a relatively short one too (only 224 pages) which makes it ideal summer reading, and ideal for this sort of thing since it’s not a huge commitment. I think this could be fun, so if you feel like joining in, please feel free to. I will also be rereading the book to refresh my memory of it, and roughly a month from now I will make a follow-up topic so we can have the discussion.

      The book is available on paperback at Amazon for $15, or on Kindle for $10, but your own local retailer or library might also have a copy. The Strugatsky brothers are both long dead though, so you can always pirate it relatively guilt free if you can't find it elsewhere.

      p.s. If there is a decent level of interest, and this goes well, maybe we can even make this a regular thing. :)


      Edit: For all the latecomers, don't worry if you don't read the book in time for the Discussion topic. You can always join in once you finish. Tildes Activity sort, and "Collapse old comments" feature should keep the topic going for as long as people are still replying.

      Let me know if you're interested by leaving a comment and I will ping you when the Discussion topic gets posted.

      56 votes
    13. Bobiverse

      Any fans of this series over here? I was planning a series reread before book 5 comes out. It was going to be hosted on the bobiverse subreddit, but... well, ya know. If enough people want to do...

      Any fans of this series over here? I was planning a series reread before book 5 comes out. It was going to be hosted on the bobiverse subreddit, but... well, ya know.

      If enough people want to do one here I'd be happy to host it, probably starting in about 4 weeks and doing one book every 2 weeks.

      22 votes
    14. Short story review: A Logic Named Joe by Murray Leinster

      A Logic Named Joe is a 1946 Sci Fi short story that introduces concepts such as the internet, streaming music and streaming video, search engines with family friendly filters and artificial...

      A Logic Named Joe is a 1946 Sci Fi short story that introduces concepts such as the internet, streaming music and streaming video, search engines with family friendly filters and artificial intelligence.

      Link to story: http://www.baen.com/chapters/W200506/0743499107___2.htm

      4 votes
    15. What are some good examples of retro sci-fi literature (retrofuturism)?

      So I'm reading Asimov's short-story anthology The Complete Robot, which contains stories written between 1939 and 1977, and I'm fascinated by several instances in which Asimov tries to predict the...

      So I'm reading Asimov's short-story anthology The Complete Robot, which contains stories written between 1939 and 1977, and I'm fascinated by several instances in which Asimov tries to predict the future of robotics.

      When he gets it right is just as interesting as when he gets it wrong, as even when he's wrong, he's wrong in very interesting ways.

      For example, it's very interesting how Asimov seems to think that everything must have a positronic brain (which often produces something either identical or very close consciousness), when in reality we now have numerous useful robots that have nothing of the sort.

      So this made me thinking, I think I'd like to write a story that was just like that, an exploration of universal themes that is facilitated by simplified technology. A form of retrofuturism. And since I had the idea, obviously someone else had it before. I wanna read it! More recent stories, especially those with old-school robots and artificial intelligence. Any suggestions?

      Also open to other medias, but books would be particularly helpful.

      15 votes
    16. Science fiction that presents immortality in a good light?

      It seems incredibly common in works of science fiction that touch upon technological immortality to focus on every possible way that such a technology could go wrong, create problems, or worsen...

      It seems incredibly common in works of science fiction that touch upon technological immortality to focus on every possible way that such a technology could go wrong, create problems, or worsen social dynamics.

      Among the negative outcomes that have attained trope levels of frequency, off the top of my head, I can name the following:

      1. Immortality becomes available only to the ultra-wealthy, allowing them even more power to abuse everyone else, leading immortal people to be antagonists in a pretty generic dystopian plot.

      2. Immortality subtly twists the morality of its beneficiaries, causing them to lose sight of "the real meaning of life" according to the author's worldview, and the protagonist usually fights for society to recognize how important death and endings are

      3. Immortality causes people to go insane, become monsters, or otherwise utterly lose their humanity (this is more of an extreme version of case #2, but I feel it's distinct in the way a story plays out)

      4. Immortality ultimately leads to the extinction of the human species due either to biological effects of the immortality technology in question, or due to cultural/societal shifts that lead people to stop reproducing

      I'm sure there are many others that I'd recall if prompted, but my point is that I don't think I can name any science fiction that involves immortality technology that doesn't also decry it as ultimately a harmful development.

      Are there any works of science fiction that any of you can think of that do more to celebrate the idea or look forward to it with some optimism?

      16 votes