Another classic piece of science fiction, this should take you less than an hour to read, but it will set you thinking for long after you've finished it. You might say that it will keep you thinking after Nightfall.
I wanted to dedicate a post to a specific aspect of writing science fiction: writing aliens. Or, as the title more accurately asserts, failing to write aliens.
It starts and ends with an utterly outlandish premise, that a chunk of the Earth should be scooped up by a comet without anyone hardly noticing, and then that it should be returned, again without anyone hardly noticing.
A recent Writing Excuses episode to which I listened discussed the ideas of disordered storytelling, and means of writing stories that are intended to be read in an order other than from the first page to the last page. Unfortunately, it didn't really dig into the topic the way I hoped it would engage with it.
If anyone could write a compelling and insightful science fiction treatment of the concept, I thought that it would be Asimov. I was wrong.
Imagine that the year is 1869. Heavier-than-air powered flight is a distant fantasy for reckless dreamers and adrenaline junkies willing to throw themselves off of cliffs to test their contraptions. The American Civil War only recently ended, and the transcontinental railroad is not quite complete. Steam-powered ships are just beginning to replace sailing vessels for oceanic travel. This is the context in which Jules Verne, one of the grandfathers of science fiction, told the story of the Apollo program.
I made an exception this past week for a pair of short stories (they could almost be called flash fiction) that Brandon Sanderson recommends for studying dialogue. Since the stories were fine examples of both storytelling and writing craft, I decided to share a review for them, along with a review for Sanderson’s contribution to this technical style.
When did probiotics become trendy? When did they become legitimate science and medicine? How do we differentiate between the pseudoscience of “raw food” movements and the clinical science of potential treatments for diseases from Alzheimer’s to ALS?
It was actually a television adaptation of Foundation that prompted me to realize how long it had been since I last read this science fiction classic, and that it was probably time for a revisit. My wife and I recently watched AppleTV’s interpretation of Asimov’s novel, and so I decided it was an opportune time for a reread.
Yet for all the attention that the equivalency between science and magic seems to take, it was not to me really what drove this book or made it enjoyable. I think this book was really all about perspective and communication, and the evidence is in the very structure of the book. It is written primarily from two perspectives: the “magic” perspective and the “science” perspective, and it is the contrast between the two that makes this book distinct from any number of other riffs on the interaction between more and less “advanced” civilizations.