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Posts from the ‘SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY’ Category

Twice upon a time

Yes, well, we’d all like a do-over, especially knowing what we know from the first time, the second time.  My life would be less fraught with disasters and bad decisions.

Of course, I’d be someone else. They say all this shit is character building and if that is true I now have a large enough character to launch low orbit satellites by dropping them off the top of it. Well, whatever. It may be that there an infinity of alternate universes just a hairbreadth of a dimension away (part of the foundation for the Karres books, which may be supposed to be pure space opera, but bits of science kept sneaking in), and given enough iterations, one where my chaos-prone nature didn’t result in character building. I’m not sure if it is nature or nurture, but it does seem to be me.

So: time and again. Time travel has been a staple of sf since… well, Mark Twain, I guess.  I mean traveling to the future is in a couple of myths and of course the like of Rip Van Winkel – but traveling into the past (and changing it) seems to be later idea. I can’t offhand think of any earlier ones, but I may well just not know it or have thought of it. Some books have been fairly successful, but it is a cow for paradox (the old you went back in time and killed your own grandfather, so you didn’t live go back in time, so your grandfather lived, so you went back in time… I have this mental images of versions of the universe winking on and off in an endless loop.

There tend to be two versions of ways to get around this: either the past reflects the effect of the time travelers (Spoiler: See Harry Harrison’s ‘Technicolor Time-Machine – and that’s the punchline to the whole book) or, more popularly the time traveler changes the future…  but it is not his future (the multiverse concept, with breakpoints engineered in this scenario, by the activity of time traveler. Of course the latter has the fascinating dichotomy – can one person change future history, or is history ‘self-healing’ (you travel back in time to stop Archduke Franz Ferdinand being assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, to stop World War 1… and because that was merely a trigger to an unstoppable chain of events, something else promptly triggers the same chain, and, looked at from 500 years hence, ye Time Police arresting the time-traveling perp, discover that actually there is almost no difference as consequences.)   It’s the sort of stunt you can pull once as short story, but really most time-travel sf tends towards the former. I have a feeling that the best scenario (for the writer, because it allows you to ‘borrow’ the plot from history) is that one person can make changes – but that history would trend slowly back to what we know. YMMV.

Of course the idea that we can see the past but not change it has been used too – as has the fact the past is a microsecond ago. (I am trying to remember the name of that story. Anybody help?)

Of course, there is travel into future (and sometimes back again, a la DOOR INTO SUMMER).

Or stopping time for everyone but the character (A favorite of mine: THE GIRL, THE GOLD WATCH AND EVERYTHING, and as part of various DISKWORLD novels.)

And then there is the idea in James White’s TOMORROW IS TOO FAR with travel in time being also, obligatorily travel in space (a fascinating idea I toyed with, once again in one of the Karres books, but I haven’t seen elsewhere).

Time travel does however seem to have largely been displaced by Alternate History.

But, because sf trends are rather like fashion, recurrent if not absolutely circular, maybe its time is coming again.

Image by annca from Pixabay

Super-readers and their interests

I was, thanks to Michael A Rothman pointing me at it, looking at some of the Bookbub data. Now: words of caution, these reflect largely ‘super-readers’ – people who read a lot and are therefore interested in this service. The data may not reflect the overall sales patterns at all (for example, literary fiction in absolute numbers sells less than sf –which is why I always wonder at the self-elected ‘elite’ of sf and their frantic desire to be accepted by… literary fiction.) Read more

Up and Out

Happy Tuesday to all you fine sophonts! After the Snowmageddon of last week (seriously, two full snow days, and two 2-hour delays), and then – and then!! – a blasted holiday weekend, I’m finally getting into restoring my poor, shattered and tattered routines. On the upside, I’m managing to get traction toward a renewed work-out regimen, which travel and holiday shenanigans mostly put paid to. So that’s a goodness. Meanwhile, on to the fiction! In which our hero overcomes challenges, only to be faced with an untenable situation… Read more

An author to learn from

I’ve been working hard at the fine art of making myself itchy (putting ‘earthwool’ or glass-fibre insulation in the wall cavities of our home.) so I thought it had been a long day and it was time I decamped…

Well, de Camp. Lyon Sprague de Camp, 1907-2000, author of many fantasy, sf and non-fiction works. I happened to mention him to a young author I like and respect, who said he had read almost no de Camp… and I thought, sadly there are probably a lot of sf/fantasy readers and indeed writers who have never encountered de Camp’s work. That’s rather sad, not because he was the best author that ever wrote, but because there is quite a lot of value to gleaned from his work. Like Clifford Simak, the ideas are terrific – but sometimes you wish the story execution was better.
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Deep Down

It’s the time of year, again, where the amount of things doesn’t really fit into the time allotted for them. For us, we’ve had Mrs. Dave’s ‘rents here for the last few days. It’s been great to have other eyes on the Wee Horde, and they all enjoyed it, too. My brain took enough of a rest that I was actually able to write, yesterday. And the house is still clean! Which I’m promptly going to ruin, as I pack for the imminent holiday departure.
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Fire

The flickering light of the flames, the pulsing red of the coals, the sheer sensuous pleasure of the radiant heat.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the first major change to their environment early Hominids made was the taming of fire. And then they evolved to better take advantage of that warmth in the cold, the delicious food that happened when things were exposed to fire. The safety from predators in the night, a relatively safe way to drive animals over a cliff. Read more

Small Worlds: Writing Them

A commentor here observed that the Merchant and Empire books are set in a small world. It’s an interesting observation, and one that deserves some thought, because a lot of fantasy and sci-fi books seem to sprawl. They cover an epic-worth of territory, sometimes by design, sometimes just because it seems traditional.

But not all stories need sprawling worlds. Some books, even novels or series, fit better in a small space, a human or other person sized space. Which is sometimes difficult to do.

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