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  • Showing only topics in ~books with the tag "science fiction". Back to normal view / Search all groups
    1. 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. Finished this last night. It's been so long since I read any Bradbury for the first time. His style shows some age, but he's a really poetic and visionary writer. Published in 1953, this tale is a...

      Finished this last night. It's been so long since I read any Bradbury for the first time. His style shows some age, but he's a really poetic and visionary writer.

      Published in 1953, this tale is a battle between visual media and books, but taking the form of the fleeting versus the permanent, the here and now versus history, pop culture versus capital C Culture.

      In a way, its datedness is a strength, because of so much of Bradbury's prophetic vision and because of the way his 1950's idea of dystopia contrasts with the more numerous recent ideas.

      If there was ever an object lesson about filter bubbles, Farenheit 451 is it: recent enough to be relatable and distant enough to be outside our current filters. Readers should take note of this when relating and evaluating fiction and any work that lies outside their personal space. A valuable lesson in itself.

      So often we're totally unaware of the walls we create for ourselves, our comfort zone. It's precisely because they provide comfort that we tend to stay within them.

      And of course, Bradbury's whole novel is both about this issue and again a reference object for it.

      8 votes
    3. Ursula K. Le Guin was my favourite SciFi & Fantasy writer. Her passing earlier in the year was a great loss. I'm reading her scifi-fantasy book Always Coming Home (1985), a compilation of...

      Ursula K. Le Guin was my favourite SciFi & Fantasy writer. Her passing earlier in the year was a great loss.

      I'm reading her scifi-fantasy book Always Coming Home (1985), a compilation of "in-universe" codices and oral traditions as seen by an anthropologist. Her works were usually put in the "soft scifi" bin, as opposed to the "harder" genre. What caught my attention was a passage from the book, as appeared in an oral narrative (p. 161):

      There are records of the red brick people in the Memory of the Exchange, of course, but I don't think many people have ever looked at them. They would be hard to make sense of. The City mind [a vast autonomous network of computers] thinks that sense has been made if a writing is read, if a message is transmitted, but we don't think that way.

      Here we're called to notice the information vs. meaning distinction, for which a lot has been said and will be said. It was striking to me how the definition of "sense" according to the "City mind" closely paralleled the concept of information in Claude E. Shannon's seminal paper, A Mathematical Theory of Communication (PDF link). There, "information" simply meant what was transmitted between a sender and a receiver. It gave rise to a consistent definition of the amount of information based on the Shannon entropy.

      However, we implicitly feel that this concept of information isn't encompassing enough to include meaning -- a vague term, but one we feel to be important. It seems that meaning enters information only as we (or someone) interpret it. In the words of computer scientist Melanie A. Mitchell, "meaning" seems to have an evolutionary value (Complexity: a Guided Tour, 2009). I feel that we could as well say, meaning may be bonded to the bodily and messy reality where flesh and blood living is at stake.

      Returning to the passage in the novel, for me it was read as a rare spark of "hard" science in Le Guin's scifi works. Was it possible that she actually read into the information theory for inspiration? I don't know. But it appears to have captured the tension in the "ever-thorny issue" of meaning vs. information. For the computers, "sense" follows the information-theory concept of information; but for the human people in the story, it "would be hard to make sense of" the information in that way.

      Do you have similar "aha" moments, where you find a insightful moment of grasping an important "hard-science" idea while immersed in a "soft" scifi/fantasy work?

      Or, we can talk about anything vaguely connected to this post :) Let me know.

      10 votes
    4. I'd like to make a book recommendation that I believe some users here may enjoy. I'll keep it spoiler-free. Schild's Ladder is a hard science-fiction book by author Greg Egan. An excerpt can be...

      I'd like to make a book recommendation that I believe some users here may enjoy. I'll keep it spoiler-free.

      Schild's Ladder is a hard science-fiction book by author Greg Egan. An excerpt can be read on the author's website.

      It begins in the far future with a physics experiment based on Quantum Graph Theory, a fictional theory based on spin networks. Like in most of Egan's works, physics is a central topic, in the forefront of the story. The results of the experiment, which was meant to help understand the origins of the universe, trigger an event whose consequences may well be cataclysmic. Humans need to face it as the most important event in history, study it, argue about it, and decide what to do about it.

      The science-fiction elements are really excellent, that's the main reason why anyone would want to read it. But I'm also recommending it on Tildes for another reason. I really enjoyed how this book portrayed people arguing with each other. In the book, people with different, sometimes opposed ideologies have to live and work together, and to decide on a common course of action in the most important situation they ever faced.

      I loved how even the characters that are somewhat in the position of scientific or political opponents were presented as mostly having naturally reasonable and normal decision making skills instead of being caricatures. Characters on all sides of the issue are written such that even when they do make irrational decisions or decisions that you disagree with, the motivations are always well understood and it is easy to empathize.

      My favorite quote from the book is

      There's nothing worse than a label to cement people's loyalties.

      This book shaped the way in which I approach conflicts today.

      No Tildes user will fail to notice that the hot topics in ~tildes are about conflicts emerging around controversial and difficult to handle issues. I thought that some of you may be interested in a science-fiction book that deals with conflict in a serious and remarkable way.

      Just to make things clear, the topics of the book are not related to the popular controversial topics on Tildes, and I'm not recommending it as a guide for how to deal with Tildes' issues specifically. Rather, it is a pretty damn awesome science-fiction story which happens to have some interesting elements about conflict that I hope some of you may enjoy thinking about and which happen to have some relevancy to the community's current climate.

      Has anyone read it already, and if so what did you think of it? Since it is a recommendation thread, please let's avoid spoilers since there is no tag to shield users from them yet.

      Also I'd like to take the opportunity to ask what are the best tags for science-fiction? I usually just write SF, but reddit seems to have adopted scifi instead. Scifi has less risk of collision with other tags so I used this one as well.

      15 votes
    5. 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
    6. 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
    7. 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