Science Fiction

“In space no one can hear you burp.”

If I ever write a science fiction story, that’s going to be the first line. I love science fiction. I still read some history, biography, and enough current events stuff to maintain my functional illiteracy with respect to the Middle East. There are some mystery writers I like. But when I go to the Kindle store I’m making a beeline to science fiction first.

Not Fantasy. Just can’t get into it. Maybe it’s because I feel like my grasp on reality is tenuous enough that I need to see that connection to the world I live in. Or could live in. So I stick to science fiction over fantasy. It’s not a value judgement.  It’s just a preference. I did read many of the Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series and there are dragons in those, so that should count for something.

spacetravel-800pxI love the Kindle because it’s so easy to get new stuff to feed the hunger. I hate it because now there’s a lot of really, really terrible stuff out there. I have the beginnings of an idea for a story.  A world, if you will. There’s still a lot I need to know about it before I go forward. And I have to figure out what’s going to happen there. Some of the stuff I’ve downloaded and read were clearly written by people who didn’t share my concern with that. For every The Martian there are a million hack jobs with bad writing, terrible plots and characters and 5-Star Amazon reviews from people who find the nutrition labels on cereal boxes riveting reading.

Here is who I read in no particular order:

William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. I love how they both can just throw you into a world inhabited by real people and it’s up to you to figure out what the hell is going on. Thanks to William Gibson I can’t think of jet-lag as anything other than the time it takes for the soul to catch up to the body after a trip. When I want to go to another place and feel like an idiot, I open up Stephenson’s Anathem. I think I could read that book a thousand times and get something a little different from it every time. For the record, I’ve read Seveneves the one time I’m ever going to. But Snow Crash? It’s about a guy named Hiro Protagonist! And pizza delivery! And the Mob! If you have to ask, I can’t explain it.

I’m really looking forward to whatever Ann Leckie decides to write next.  Her Auxiliary trilogy is another I’ll have to re-read to get what I missed the last time. When the heck is Steven Gould going to get another book out? I’ve recently come across Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s books and have enjoyed them a lot. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has me hooked with the Retrieval Artist series. She’s a good example of what I call “hand-waving” science fiction.  She doesn’t try to explain everything. I’m pretty sure her idea of the mechanics space travel doesn’t really hold up, but I don’t care. The stories are gripping and the characters are worth caring about.

I wish Greg Rucka would do more science fiction. I wish Richard K. Morgan would revisit science fiction. I’m sitting around tapping my foot waiting for the next ones from Ramez Naam and Daniel Suarez. I’ve been a fan of The Expanse books since I read Leviathan Wakes and there’s a SyFy Channel binge to get caught up with the series based on the books. I saw the pilot and I love the adaptation. Neal Pollock recently wrote a satirical book called Keep Mars Weird that was both funny science fiction on its own and a nuanced discussion of the growth of Austin, Texas from about 1975 on. With sex, violence and drugs.  Just like Austin. Ernest Cline.  I loved — adored —  Ready Player One.  Armada needed a couple of more drafts.

Then there’s Scalzi.

I get the feeling those words have been used in many different contexts. In my case I mean Scalzi the author and Scalzi the essayist. Irony alert! Irony alert! I don’t read that many blogs anymore. Whatever is one of them. That I still read it, I mean. Amazon should really just have a pre-order-whatever-this-author-writes button. Most of the authors in this post would get clicked. And when Scalzi writes a book, I read it.  I wasn’t crazy about Lock In. The lack of gender thing was well done (I read the whole book before I knew it was a thing), but somehow there was something missing for me. I actually liked the prequel novella Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome better.  I think Zoe’s Tale may be my favorite of the Old Man’s War series, thought the whole series is good. Loved Agent to the Stars. There’s a bittersweet wistfulness in the ending that I get when I read a Carl Hiassen novel. I also like it when he gets dark. I’m one of possibly eight people on the planet who loved The God Engines. He did a short story called the Muse of Fire that’s equally dark. I hope he had fun writing those and that they didn’t come from working out bad mojo. I’d love for him to write more like that, but don’t want to wish him ill in order to get them.

The other reason I read Scalzi’s blog is a feature he does called “The Big Idea.”  He invites writers to talk about their latest project and what inspired them to write it. I’m pretty sure that’s where I discovered Ann Leckie. There are quite a few books I heard about there first. He’s publisher-agnostic, so I get a bit wider net than the website, which is my other go-to.

So that’s me and science fiction.  I have no idea whether or not I’ll ever write the story that follows that first line, but if I do and screw it up it won’t be because of the people I’ve read. They’re really good at it.

ADDENDUM: I can’t believe I forgot to mention Markos Kloos.