Friday, February 22, 2013

Science Fiction Inspirations



My appreciation for pulp science fiction is well known, but I haven’t recommended any non-pulp stuff in a while, so maybe it’s about time. These are not only good reads, but good gaming inspirations:

The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds by Scott Westerfield form a space opera duology about a struggle between two powers: an empire ruled by the immortal-after-death Risen and the Rix, cybernetic humans who worship planetary-size AIs. The opening battle is much more “hard science fiction” than anything in Star Wars or Star Trek--and all the more  fresh and inventive for it. The Rix, there abilities and goals, are much interesting than the Borg ever were, while filling a similar niche.

Diaspora by Greg Egan is less of an action narrative and not as immediately gameable, but has plenty of interesting elements. In the far future, when the solar system is inhabited by post-humans, a cosmic catastrophe endangers all life. The digital citizens of one polis hatch a plan to escape--to higher order dimensions! Probably the most gameable bits here are the different clades of post-humanity and their societies: the digital polis citizens, the robotic gleisners, the devolved dream-apes.


The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi sits between these two. It’s got a bit of Diaspora’s heavy science flights of fancy and post-human setting, but more of the Succession duology’s action and conflict. Jean le Flambleur, the greatest thief in the solar system, is busted out of prison by an Oortian warrior and her intelligent ship. The Oortian’s master has a job for le Flambleur, but first the thief has to retreive his own memories from a moving city on Mars--and match wits with a young consulting detective to do so. The various societies of Rajaniemi’s future are exotic and the technologies presented are really evocative.
 

12 comments:

Rev. Dane Black said...

I absolutely LOVE Greg Egan's stuff. Another point regarding Diaspora: After a certain point in the story, the theme turns into Ultra-Hard Science Fiction Star Trek. Totally worth reading for people who haven't checked out any "Hard" Science Fiction. Permutation City is another good starting book for Greg Egan, too.

Trey said...

Definitely. My favorite Egan novel is probably Quarantine, though--I like it's cyberpunk without the punk-ness.

Tim Shorts said...

It's been a long time since I've read much Science Fiction. I think the ones that influenced me were the Forever War, Heinlein (pick a book), Dune I found astounding with amount of information he was able to include in a single novel and not bore you with giant information dumps, Foundation Series to a lesser degree, Asimov's short stories were the best imagination food for me, of course Dick's novels and Harlan Ellison is definitely a huge factor. But as you can see most of these guys are the old timers.

Trey said...

Old ones but god ones. I like Dick more for his short-fiction. In the realm of sort of "sci-fi in space" Dune and Hyperion remain among my favorites.

Francis Lee said...

I will have to look up "The Risen Empire"....

Porky said...

I haven't read any new science fiction in a while. I love it, and I love books, but skimming in a book store is enough to make me want to game it instead, and load up on other volumes with the funds, usually non-fiction.

Re Dune, that book just doesn't get old, but I wonder if one day we won't just drop it and have a hard time remembering what the point ever was.

And I like the sound of 'devolved dream apes'. I'm going to go and see if I can't find out what they are.

Sean P. Robson said...

Thanks for this, Trey. I'm woefully uneducated in pulp science fiction, but I'd like to delve into it more. The only pulp sci-fi I have is E.E. Smith's Lensmen books and H. Beam Piper's Paratime stories.

I'd love to see more posts about your favourite science fiction stories.

Trey said...

@Porky - The dream-apes are one of the factions of "exuberants"--people still into biological existence. They've put their minds in ape like bodies and live a pre-sapient existence.

@Sean -The two previous posts should I linked to should get you started. I might do a favorite sci-fi post, at that. I guess the only problem is the variety of sci-fi makes comparisons a bit like apples and oranges.

Aos said...

I read the risen books, and enjoyed them, but found the argument against immortality banal and unconvincing.

Trey said...

I can see that, for sure. I found the the first book better than the second and I think that was part of the reason.

Porky said...

Thanks. I found less than that, more's the pity, but the term is definitely very suggestive of the general idea, as well as being evocative in itself - 'dream ape'. It's superb all in to be honest, and it seems to me an area ripe for exploration. As old schoolers we're arguably a bit like that too.

Trey said...

Heh. Well, evolution isn't always progress.