Science fiction authors Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle collaborated on about a dozen SF novels, at least one of which is highly regarded as a classic in the genre (and an oft-named favorite). Ironically, that one — The Mote in God’s Eye — was the very first book the two of them wrote together.
Rereading it is a task I have queued for this summer (along with the sequel they wrote almost 20 years later: The Gripping Hand). But this past week or so my relaxation reading took me back to their second and third collaborations, the latter of which I just now finished.
Being that it’s Sci-Fi Saturday I thought I’d share those two with you (along with an entirely different series by an entirely different author).
Science Fiction — or rather Speculative Fiction — has the general quality that it contains all other fiction genres. There is mystery and detective science fiction. There is romance (and sexual) science fiction. Action? Horror? Psychological thriller? Drama and pathos? Allegory? Westerns? Science fiction has them all and more.
In a sense, SF is just a property that fiction can have. I’ve tried to explain what I think that property is. I also took a stab at separating science fiction from fantasy. Now that thread resumes to explore the idea of SF hardness.
But first we return to and start with…
The Earth orbits our star, Sol, at a distance of roughly 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) — a distance we call an Astronomical Unit (AU). Our little rock is just under 8,000 miles wide (a bit over 12,000 km) and has a surface area (including oceans) of just under 200 million sq miles (510 million sq km). Depending on how you look at it, the Earth seems very large or very small.
What if, instead of a rock spinning around its star, it was a ring encircling it? Suppose the ring spun fast enough (770 miles per second) to create “gravity” on its inner surface? And suppose the ring was one-million miles wide and had walls 1000 miles high long both rims to keep air inside? Such a ring would have a surface area equal to about three-million Earths.
And what you’d have is Larry Niven’s Ringworld!
I’ve gotten spoiled. Writing about the con carne topics is much harder than writing about the life stories and the off-the-cuff opinions. Meaty topics require research and fact-checking (and often I need to create the images). And I expect they’re also harder to read!
My intention here was always to write mostly about ideas with a fallback of writing about things and, to a lesser extent, writing about life (which is to say, about people).
Today’s post keys off a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon I saw a while back. At first the cartoon spoke to me, but the more I thought about it, the less I agreed with it.
I recently asked the question, “What is Art?” Answering that one is a real challenge, and the answer may be entirely subjective. This time I’m asking a question that is almost as difficult: “What is Science Fiction?” The answer may turn out to be just as subjective, and just as much of a challenge, but I’ve always thought the tough questions are the most interesting to explore.
I may, or may not, be an artist (but I know what I like!), and suffice to say I have only dabbled in art over the years. Science fiction, however, has filled my life as long as I’ve been picking my own reading material. I suspect that, overall, my fiction reading (and I read a lot of fiction) is at least 80% science fiction. It could be more. Most normal fiction leaves me disinterested, no matter how insightful it might be. I live in the real world; I want stories that take me far, far away, be it conceptually, spatially or temporally (if only temporarily).
Only authors that bring something newly invented to the table really hold my interest.