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  #51  
Old 05-18-2018, 08:09 PM
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I read Clarke's A Fall of Moondust about once a year.
  #52  
Old 05-18-2018, 09:10 PM
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I read most Hugo and Nebula nominees, and I enjoy them for the most part. Since most folks are naming classics, I'll name the best one I've read in the past decade--and I'm limiting to the pleasures best given by hard science-fiction.

It'd be The Three Body Problem, a helluva novel that has enough jawdroppingly cool ideas in it to populate any three lesser novels. It's well worth your read if you enjoy traditional science fiction.
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Old 05-18-2018, 09:33 PM
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I'm going to say my favourite sci fi novel is Slaughterhouse 5, though I don't really categorise it as sci fi in my head. It has aliens and time travel, so it has to count. But it just doesn't feel like it is.

Still, it's my answer. I'm sticking to it.
  #54  
Old 05-18-2018, 11:28 PM
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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  #55  
Old 05-19-2018, 12:14 AM
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I'm reading this thread because I know essentially nothing about the genre. I don't understand what belongs and what doesn't, but I do have sort of an idea that seems to resemble something that's lurking in this thread: the relationship of the story's characters with the story's science. It feels to me as if - for a rough example - if the characters ride somewhere in a spacecraft but we don't see them interact with or refer to the science behind that craft, then they might as well be riding in a K-car.

Similar to if there was a sports movie where all the action took place inside the locker room, or an action movie that only showed a narrator sitting in a rocking chair explaining what happened.
  #56  
Old 05-19-2018, 12:15 AM
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The Left Hand of Darkness.
  #57  
Old 05-19-2018, 05:42 AM
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Player of Games by Banks is my favourite (today).
  #58  
Old 05-19-2018, 07:17 AM
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So hard to choose, but I think for me it's a tie between two Heinlein novels, Double Star, or The Moon is a Harch Mistress.

For short stories it would be a tie between Heinlein's The Man Who Traveled in Elephants" or Spider Robinson's True Minds.
  #59  
Old 05-19-2018, 07:49 AM
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Which leads me to wonder if A Princess of Mars is science fiction or fantasy. John Carter doesn't get to Mars any more realistically than the travelers in the earlier works, but what he finds there is a bit more plausible given the science of the day. If he went by rocket, and everything else was the same, would it be more like science fiction?
Which is precisely the issue when you separate science fiction from fantasy. I argue they are essentially the same, except that the fantastic events in SF have a "scientific" cause (and thee quotes are deliberate).

Samuel R. Delany has pointed out it's impossible to come up with a definition that includes all cases that the definer considers science fiction but excludes all cases that the definer does not.
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  #60  
Old 05-19-2018, 09:24 AM
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I would certainly argue that at least some parts of Gulliver's Travels are science fiction. Lilliput and Brobdingnag are pure fantasy, to be sure, but Laputa is a society distinguished from ours by their significantly greater level of technological advancement. What's more SF than visiting a land of high technology? He even meets my personal criterion of "hard science fiction", that is, that the author needed to do calculations to write the book: He tells of the Laputan scientists having discovered moons of Mars (then unknown to real science), and correctly uses Kepler's Third Law to describe their motions.

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Quoth Left Hand of Dorkness:

It'd be The Three Body Problem, a helluva novel that has enough jawdroppingly cool ideas in it to populate any three lesser novels. It's well worth your read if you enjoy traditional science fiction.
Isn't that the one that has robots powered by generators in their own joints, so they can keep running indefinitely as long as they keep moving? If you're going to stick a perpetual motion machine into a science fiction story, you had darned well better make that machine the main focus of the story, and explore the implications in considerable depth, if you expect me to take the story seriously.
  #61  
Old 05-19-2018, 09:39 AM
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Single favorite, read it more often than any other is hands-down Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.
Without question, this is my pick and my favorite Science Fiction author.



It is a great book and great read.
  #62  
Old 05-19-2018, 10:07 AM
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There is also Louis-Sébastien Mercier’s L’An 2440 (The Year 2440), published in 1770, in which the author imagines Paris in the far future. It's introduced as a dream, but this is just a convention, it's an attempt to describe a future society.

There's an 18th century English translation on Google Books under the title Memoirs of the year two thousand five hundred.

But I would say that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is probably the first work that can really be classified as SF in the modern sense. The idea of reanimating a dead person was already being discussed in the decades before Mary Shelly wrote, so the idea wasn’t original, but her treatment of it was.


In modern SF, I think C.J. Cherryh is underrated. Her books are intelligent, well-written hard SF, with three-dimensional characters, and realistic space combat.

I like Downbelow Station, and Pride of Chanur.
  #63  
Old 05-19-2018, 11:32 AM
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Which is precisely the issue when you separate science fiction from fantasy. I argue they are essentially the same, except that the fantastic events in SF have a "scientific" cause (and thee quotes are deliberate).

Samuel R. Delany has pointed out it's impossible to come up with a definition that includes all cases that the definer considers science fiction but excludes all cases that the definer does not.
My Favorite Martian, Mork and Mindy, Bewitched, and I Dream of Jeannie are exactly the same show. But the first two justify the premise by aliens, i.e. science fiction, and the latter two justify it by magic, i.e. fantasy.

SF and Fantasy are far better used as marketing devices, and the "I know it when I see it" test works in 90+% of cases. I also know cheap and lazy writing when I see it, and using technology as magic was all too prevalent in the field even, perhaps especially, in the so-called Golden Age.

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Isn't that the one that has robots powered by generators in their own joints, so they can keep running indefinitely as long as they keep moving? If you're going to stick a perpetual motion machine into a science fiction story, you had darned well better make that machine the main focus of the story, and explore the implications in considerable depth, if you expect me to take the story seriously.
I don't remember any robots at all in The Three-Body Problem and a search on the book using "robots" doesn't bring up any hits. You're thinking of some other book, is my guess.
  #64  
Old 05-19-2018, 11:41 AM
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Isn't that the one that has robots powered by generators in their own joints, so they can keep running indefinitely as long as they keep moving? If you're going to stick a perpetual motion machine into a science fiction story, you had darned well better make that machine the main focus of the story, and explore the implications in considerable depth, if you expect me to take the story seriously.
That is A Closed and Common Orbit, first mentioned in post #62 in this thread. Three Body Problem was terrible for other reasons.
  #65  
Old 05-19-2018, 12:55 PM
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Isn't that the one that has robots powered by generators in their own joints, so they can keep running indefinitely as long as they keep moving? If you're going to stick a perpetual motion machine into a science fiction story, you had darned well better make that machine the main focus of the story, and explore the implications in considerable depth, if you expect me to take the story seriously.
I enjoyed Closed and Common Orbit enough to come up with an (unlikely) fan fix for power supply issue (just as I enjoy the Expanse books in spite of their scientific errors (for which I didn't even bother to come up with a fan fix).
  #66  
Old 05-19-2018, 01:20 PM
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I'm reading this thread because I know essentially nothing about the genre. I don't understand what belongs and what doesn't, but I do have sort of an idea that seems to resemble something that's lurking in this thread: the relationship of the story's characters with the story's science. It feels to me as if - for a rough example - if the characters ride somewhere in a spacecraft but we don't see them interact with or refer to the science behind that craft, then they might as well be riding in a K-car.

Similar to if there was a sports movie where all the action took place inside the locker room, or an action movie that only showed a narrator sitting in a rocking chair explaining what happened.
There are definitely genre blurring series. I consider both the Darkhold novels and The Pern novels as fantasy although there are references to the humans arriving on those planets on spaceships.
  #67  
Old 05-19-2018, 01:25 PM
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There are definitely genre blurring series. I consider both the Darkhold novels and The Pern novels as fantasy although there are references to the humans arriving on those planets on spaceships.
Pern is closer to Sci-Fi. The Science is Fantastical and the most important plot devices are effectively dragons, but it is really Sci-Fi at its heart.
  #68  
Old 05-19-2018, 02:26 PM
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My Favorite Martian, Mork and Mindy, Bewitched, and I Dream of Jeannie are exactly the same show. But the first two justify the premise by aliens, i.e. science fiction, and the latter two justify it by magic, i.e. fantasy.

SF and Fantasy are far better used as marketing devices, and the "I know it when I see it" test works in 90+% of cases. I also know cheap and lazy writing when I see it, and using technology as magic was all too prevalent in the field even, perhaps especially, in the so-called Golden Age.
Good examples. And a lot of stories in Unknown used magic as technology, and did it in a more logical and worked out way than the use of "science" in lots of science fiction.
  #69  
Old 05-19-2018, 02:31 PM
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That is A Closed and Common Orbit, first mentioned in post #62 in this thread. Three Body Problem was terrible for other reasons.
The first part was pretty good. But I had seen the problem motivating the very last bit before it came up and wondered how he was going to solve it. I wasn't expecting such a load of unscientific nonsense. It's like the Chinese government blocked access to physics sites for some reason.
Not to mention not having an exact solution to the problem doesn't mean that planets and stars bounce around.
I was very disappointed, and am not planning on reading the sequels unless I really have a lot of spare time on my hands.
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Old 05-19-2018, 02:38 PM
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Ah, my mistake, then, as I haven't read either.

And I think with Pern, what happened was that McCaffery wanted to write fantasy, but science fiction was considered more respectable at the time, so she had to toss in a few spaceships so she could pretend it was sci-fi and sell it. For fantasy that's "science fiction at its heart", I would instead nominate something like Hardy's Master of the Five Magics.
  #71  
Old 05-19-2018, 02:39 PM
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I was very disappointed, and am not planning on reading the sequels unless I really have a lot of spare time on my hands.
Yes, I skipped them, too. It was a real test of will to finish the first one.
  #72  
Old 05-19-2018, 02:41 PM
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I am going to go with the Foundation trilogy (surprise!), but I think the bible is the first science-fiction--at least if we include fantasy (which we must unless we exclude any story with FTL drives, telepathy, time travel, and other standard memes. For best short, I'll stick with Nightfall.
  #73  
Old 05-19-2018, 02:47 PM
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If we include Fantasy then I would put the Lord of the Rings above all others.



However, these are two different but close genres and not the same. The Odyssey otherwise would be an early Sci-Fi story and perhaps even Gilgamesh.
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Old 05-19-2018, 02:52 PM
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Ah, my mistake, then, as I haven't read either.
The biggest technology stupid in 3BP is
SPOILER:
Advanced aliens "unfolding" a proton through several dimensions until it is a sheet millions of square miles in area, etching circuits into its surface, and folding it back down again into a subatomic mega-supercomputer, which is sent to Earth to do things like give people visions by bouncing around on their retinas, screw around with physics experiments, and--once--unfold itself and surround the Earth to make it appear like the cosmic microwave background of the whole universe itself was being modulated to deliver a message to a specific scientist on Earth.
  #75  
Old 05-19-2018, 04:44 PM
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The biggest technology stupid in 3BP is
SPOILER:
Advanced aliens "unfolding" a proton through several dimensions until it is a sheet millions of square miles in area, etching circuits into its surface, and folding it back down again into a subatomic mega-supercomputer, which is sent to Earth to do things like give people visions by bouncing around on their retinas, screw around with physics experiments, and--once--unfold itself and surround the Earth to make it appear like the cosmic microwave background of the whole universe itself was being modulated to deliver a message to a specific scientist on Earth.
That's just a variation of Eric Frank Russell's Sinister Barrier plot (except he did it with
SPOILER:
invisible alien emotional vampires
).

Last edited by Andy L; 05-19-2018 at 04:46 PM.
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Old 05-19-2018, 05:37 PM
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I'm not actually all that bothered by that. If you're going to try to depict an insanely-advanced alien race, then their technology is going to be insane. And almost certainly wrong, but what can you do?
  #77  
Old 05-19-2018, 07:35 PM
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I'm not actually all that bothered by that. If you're going to try to depict an insanely-advanced alien race, then their technology is going to be insane. And almost certainly wrong, but what can you do?
Yup. I find it baffling that folks object to stuff like that in science fiction--that's exactly the sort of bonkers stuff that I adore--but no accounting for taste and all.
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Old 05-19-2018, 08:01 PM
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So--perpetual motion machine is bad, but acting like a cluster of sea quarks, valence quarks, and force carriers are a single solid object is okay?
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Old 05-19-2018, 10:02 PM
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So--perpetual motion machine is bad, but acting like a cluster of sea quarks, valence quarks, and force carriers are a single solid object is okay?
It's almost insanely stupid, and yet it makes a kind of sense. Some magic has to be allowed through the door to have a genre at all. Aliens, space battles, time travel. A lot of people can't accept this and can't get into sf as a genre at all. I think that's one reason why fantasy has an easier path to grab people. Call magic magic and people understand how the rules are suspended. Call magic quarks and it's a reminder of a failed test in science class.

I personally can't think of anything in sf that's stupider than zombies and vampires, but millions of people run to embrace those stories. We all have doors that are only partially ajar. (Well, some of us have fully open doors. You've seen what happens when they post here. They don't last very long.) I hated The Three Body Problem, but it wasn't the science that did me in. (Well, the magic monofiliment ending....) Lots of people will read for magic technology and be fulfilled in ways that no longer work for me, but I get what they're seeing in a way I'll never get zombies.
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Old 05-19-2018, 10:56 PM
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I believe it was Clarke who said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

I'm not sure I could pick a favorite SF anymore. Dune is one that I've reread the most, so maybe that. But I've also reread Passage at Arms by Glen Cook umpty times, and the characters are certainly more relatable than anyone in Dune.
  #81  
Old 05-20-2018, 07:43 AM
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So--perpetual motion machine is bad, but acting like a cluster of sea quarks, valence quarks, and force carriers are a single solid object is okay?
I think the objection was to an author inadvertently introducing a perpetual motion machine into a story without apparently realizing it (like in "Closed and Common Orbit" or like Frank Herbert did in Dune). 3BP explicitly introduces bizarre future physics with the full expectation that both the characters and the readers will see it as bizarre and new (kind of like the "electron psychology" that Van Vogt introduces in "Far Centaurus").
  #82  
Old 05-20-2018, 09:34 AM
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So--perpetual motion machine is bad, but acting like a cluster of sea quarks, valence quarks, and force carriers are a single solid object is okay?
You're asking me to justify the consistency of two opinions when I only hold one of them. Both things are fine by me, inasmuch as I don't expect myself to understand future science, OR for future science to make much sense from the perspective of modern science. McGuffins are McGuffins; as long as the story revolves around them consistently, and especially as long as the characters make sense to me, I find zero pleasure in disputing the technology.

Now, there are exceptions that prove the rule. I once read a vampire novel in which someone cured her vampirism with a dose of Antarctic fish blood. The blood had antifreeze in it, which helped--but she was deathly afraid of ever eating ice cream again, because if her body temperature dropped below the antifreeze's potency, she'd instantly turn into an icicle.

That drove me crazy, because a single bite of ice cream wouldn't reduce your whole body temperature that much, and if it did, ice cream would be deadly for everyone. It wasn't the future tech that was a problem, it was a fundamental misunderstanding of ice cream.

I read another book in which a wizard unwrapped a new deck of playing cards and then exploded it, and all 52 cards shot out and murdered his enemies around the room. I was 100% fine with the magic, but who doesn't know that a new deck of cards has 54 cards in it, plus a couple of useless ad cards? And then to make matters worse, the wizard went to a corpse and plucked the Joker out of its throat. A deck with 52 cards in it doesn't have Jokers!

So that's where I draw the line. But perpetual motion machines? Seventh-dimensional atomic particles that function as supercomputers? Not even the tiniest bit a problem for me.

Again, to each their own.
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Old 05-20-2018, 11:34 AM
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This probably deserves a separate thread, but I just noticed that PBS, for its May 22 program, The Great American Read, put out a list of America's 100 Best-Loved Novels for people to vote on.

The weasel words "Best-Loved" is critical. While there are a bunch of classic novels from Jane Eyre and Moby Dick to Heart of Darkness and The Great Gatsby, it also includes Fifty Shades of Grey.

If they let that in, they'll let in anything, so I searched for sf.

Two pure genre titles made it: Asimov's Foundation Series and Herbert's Dune.

More books marketed as mainstream rather than genre, but clearly in the genre, were there: Jurassic Park, The Handmaid's Tale, The Sirens of Titan (not Slaughterhouse 5, which is incomprehensible), Frankenstein, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and 1984. I never read it, so I'm not sure whether The Clan of the Cave Bear goes here or in fantasy. Same with Ready Player One. The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead is some kind of allegory and might be in any category.

Adult fantasy has, of course, the Game of Thrones series and The Lord of the Rings, as well as Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, and the Outlander series. King's The Stand is horror but it fits in here. The Picture of Dorian Gray is horror, too. The Mind Invaders is a thriller but looks to have a fantasy premise.
Children's and YA fantasy abound. The Chronicles of Narnia series, Harry Potter series, Charlotte's Web, The Little Prince, the Hunger Games series, the Twilight trilogy, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. (What, no Oz?)

By my rough count, only about half the list can be classified as adult nongenre literary works. It's amazing how many of those have non-mimetic elements. One Hundred Years of Solitude is magical realism. Toni Morrison's Beloved has a ghost. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz has a curse. Rómulo Gallegos' Doña Bárbára is a witch. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is a Buddhist parable. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is another religious parable. The Left Behind series is fantasy by my definition, but I don't know where believers would place it. Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon is post-apocalyptic. The Lovely Bones might be considered a fantasy. This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti and The Shack is religious fantasy. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya might also be.

Who got kicked out to make way for these authors? Dead white men. No Hemingway, Faulkner, Dos Passos, Roth, Updike, Bellow, Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair, Steinbeck, Pynchon, Jack London, David Foster Wallace, Wallace Stegner, Tom Wolfe, Dreiser, Mailer, Capote, Vidal, Nabokov, Doctorow, Bradbury, Kerouac, John Irving, Jack London, Malamud, Henry James, Steven Crane, O. Henry, O'Hara, Styron, Don DeLillo, Donald Barthelme, Hammett, or Chandler. And that's limiting the list just to Americans. The foreign list starts with Joyce, Kipling, Doyle, Dumas, Huxley, Conrad, and goes on and on.

The 21st century is No Country for Old Dead White Men. Starring Javier Bardem. No Cormac McCarthy either.
  #84  
Old 05-20-2018, 11:46 AM
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Who got kicked out to make way for these authors? Dead white men. No Hemingway, Faulkner, Dos Passos, Roth, Updike, Bellow, Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair, Steinbeck, Pynchon, Jack London, David Foster Wallace, Wallace Stegner, Tom Wolfe, Dreiser, Mailer, Capote, Vidal, Nabokov, Doctorow, Bradbury, Kerouac, John Irving, Jack London, Malamud, Henry James, Steven Crane, O. Henry, O'Hara, Styron, Don DeLillo, Donald Barthelme, Hammett, or Chandler. And that's limiting the list just to Americans. The foreign list starts with Joyce, Kipling, Doyle, Dumas, Huxley, Conrad, and goes on and on.
A rough count of the book shows that about 50 of the books are by white guys (Hemingway, Dumas, Conrad and London are on the list by the way) (I didn't count how many were dead). I was disappointed that Sinclair Lewis, O. Henry and John Irving weren't on the list (but you or I probably could come up with a hundred authors that ought to be on this list).
  #85  
Old 05-20-2018, 12:08 PM
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(Hemingway, Dumas, Conrad and London are on the list by the way)
I see Exapno listed Jack London twice. Maybe only one of them got kicked out?
  #86  
Old 05-20-2018, 12:59 PM
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Re: Clan of the Cave of the Clan Bears. If you consider paleo-sociology a science it'd be science fiction. On the other hand the main character is a Mary Sue so it's reads like fantasy.
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Old 05-20-2018, 01:07 PM
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Re: Clan of the Cave of the Clan Bears. If you consider paleo-sociology a science it'd be science fiction. On the other hand the main character is a Mary Sue so it's reads like fantasy.
If Mary Sue's are excluded, then a lot of science fiction is in trouble.
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Old 05-20-2018, 01:10 PM
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This probably deserves a separate thread, but I just noticed that PBS, for its May 22 program, The Great American Read, put out a list of America's 100 Best-Loved Novels for people to vote on...
The 21st century is No Country for Old Dead White Men.
I wonder if this thread skews older (are we mostly Old I'm-Not-Dead-Yet! White Men?), and if a list made by "over-forty educated avid readers" would have more classics. I assume so.

But, then, I would've assumed PBS would have older viewership (please don't tell me my demographic chose fifty shades of anything...).


Related side note: Took me til my 60s to finally join a book club, and it's full of thirty-somethings. We had an initial organizational meeting, and the leader announced that I would choose the book. Everyone looked at me, and I blurted "Ummm... Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury!" A few had read ƒ451, but otherwise, blank faces.

(I hadn't read it in 30 years, but it holds up, albeit a bit wholesome for this club, but I warned them they'd have to take off their Lit Crit Hats, and their Cynical Hats, before reading :-)

Last edited by digs; 05-20-2018 at 01:12 PM.
  #89  
Old 05-20-2018, 02:23 PM
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Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
You're asking me to justify the consistency of two opinions when I only hold one of them.
No, I was addressing the titan, who said thus:
Quote:
I'm not actually all that bothered by that. If you're going to try to depict an insanely-advanced alien race, then their technology is going to be insane. And almost certainly wrong, but what can you do?
  #90  
Old 05-20-2018, 03:25 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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A rough count of the book shows that about 50 of the books are by white guys (Hemingway, Dumas, Conrad and London are on the list by the way) (I didn't count how many were dead). I was disappointed that Sinclair Lewis, O. Henry and John Irving weren't on the list (but you or I probably could come up with a hundred authors that ought to be on this list).
Sorry. I should have double checked everything.
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Old 05-20-2018, 03:39 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Sorry. I should have double checked everything.
No problem.
  #92  
Old 05-20-2018, 06:38 PM
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I can accept a perpetual motion machine, if the author realizes what a Big Damn Deal that is, and gives it the depth that it deserves. What I can't accept is a casual perpetual motion machine. It's not just something that you can shrug off in an aside. And even the serious authors that do posit perpetual motion machines generally give them limitations: For instance, in Asimov's The Gods Themselves, the "hill that goes downhill both ways" turns out to just be tapping a vast and previously-unaccessed, but still finite, resource, and for which overexploitation would have truly horrific consequences.

As for Clan of the Cave Bear, it's mostly "realistic", but the Neanderthals (I can't remember what they call themselves; probably something like "The People") are described as having such excellent memories that they can they can remember everything their ancestors ever experienced. Which is pretty clearly magical. And it's made even more bizarre, in that we're asked to accept that The People haven't figured out that sex leads to babies, and have only an extremely vague notion of paternity. OK, I could maybe accept that by itself, but how can you not know who your father is when you can magically remember his experiences?
  #93  
Old 05-20-2018, 07:04 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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I can accept a perpetual motion machine, if the author realizes what a Big Damn Deal that is, and gives it the depth that it deserves. What I can't accept is a casual perpetual motion machine. It's not just something that you can shrug off in an aside.
Then I was pretty close with this post https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...2&postcount=81
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