Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Antique Futures -- Dude, where's my flying car?


This 'Fantastic' cover dates from the 'Hush, I hear a white woman scream' era.

But seriously, Amanda brought up the 1960s Space Exploration and books like Heinlein's 'Podkayne of Mars', about settling our solar system.

Here we are forty years later and where are the tourism trips to the moon station? Those books of the 50s and 60s were full of excitement, no challenge was too big, anything seemed possible. Terraform Mars? Mine the asteroids? A colony ship to Andromeda?

Space Opera.Those were positive days, now SF is very dystopic unless it is Space Opera.

What's your favourite classic SF book and what have you read recently that inspired you?

16 comments:

John Lambshead said...

And my food pills, and my ray gun, and my cute robot that does the housework, and my house in the sky drifting over an unspoilt land, and my silver skintight suit - on second thoughts, scrub the last one now that I am old with everything sagging.

John

John Lambshead said...

PS As an adolescent boy, I do remember the covers. We were sure the future would feature very short skirts.

John

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Women of the future would wear very short skirts, John?

They do, along with bras on the outside. Such is the price of progress.

Speaking of robots ... did you see the article on how Japanese robot companies are going out of business because of the economic downturn?

RJ_CruzeJr said...

Unfortunately, it looks like all we got were the George Jetson treadmill (the management at the gym is *still* P.O.'d at me for setting the speed too high one day and yelling "Jane! Stop this crazy thing! Help! Jane!!!")

Though, in retrospect, it might not be such a bad thing we didn't get the flying cars. My late grandfather's driving was scary enough in two dimensions, thank you...

matapam said...

Yeah, everyday use of flying cars would be dangerous.

But how handy when surveying a new planet! Mapping the Forerunner Ruins half buried in the Alien jungle.

I think it was the imagined discoveries rather than the journeys that I liked. Planets, civilizations, Aliens. One needs the techie stuff to get there, but it's the characters and the discoveries that I liked.

KylieQ said...

I don't read much SF but I've just finished Journey to the Centre of the Earth. I had expected to find it inspirational. It wasn't. More than 100 pages before they even got there and most of that was filled with descriptions of rocks. It was a real let down. I've got to say, the Brendan Fraser movie was better than the book!

KylieQ said...

And should I now go and wash my mouth out with soap? :)

matapam said...

The styles in writing have changed. Drastically. Along with scientific understanding.

We won't require the soap treatment, though. If there weren't a range in tastes there would be a lot fewer writers.

Amanda Green said...

My favorite "classic" SF has to be The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The one that sent me searching for more SF to read was Jungle in the Sky by Milton Lesser. That one because it had a female ship captain who knew she had to be tough to keep the respect of her male crew, but who also was still female and who did let her guard down eventually.

What have I read recently that inspired me? That's a bit more problematical because what I've been reading has mainly been reference material for my current WIPs. However -- Sarah, quit trying to hide in the corner -- I have to admit DarkShip Thieves fits the bill quite nicely for inspiration. (Hehehehe, I've been lucky enough to read it pre-pub.) DST is space opera as it should be -- fun, well-written and it makes you think.

Kate said...

If anyone knows where the good stuff went, I wish they'd tell me! I don't like being left here in dreary old dystopia-land.

I don't know that I could name a favorite classic SF book, but I am going to crow a bit and say Sarah's DarkShip Thieves is definitely inspiring stuff.

Various bits and pieces of science news, too, like organ regrowth and such.

It's not a flying car, but there are at least some signs that not everyone out there wants to wallow in misery, degradation, and possibly commit literature as well. ;-)

Chris McMahon said...

One that springs to mind for inspiration is a Piers Anthony book - can't remember the name now - where the main character was transported across the universe from body to body, alien to alien.

I loved that idea. Just the way that character got to explore all the different societies. Of course I think he ended up having sex with half of them as well, which could have explained a lot of my adolescent interest, but it was fascinating.

When I returned to Piers Anthony as an older reader I can remember being disappointed. I was frustrated in much the same way as I was by David Eddings, a feeling of shallowness with the characters while getting bogged down in a story that was going nowhere.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

I agree, Kate, I can only take so much Dystopia Fiction. After all, we are living in a dystopia, aren't we?

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Matapam, I think you hit the nail on the head. I wasn't all that concerned about how we got to the stars. I was really interested in the alien civilizations we met.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris, I know what you mean. Coming back to books that we've read when younger is sometimes a bit of a let down.

Styles and tastes change, and we mature.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Amanda, I read Brasyl.

I think it has reached the stage where, unless you've been reading SF for years and years, the embedding of knowledge in the text has become so ingrained that the average reader can't access the story.

There's so much assumed knowledge about nano tech, AI, virtual reality etc.

I do manuscript assessments. And I had to do an SF ms last year with a physics premise in a near future setting. The writer wasn't an SF reader, but he was an informed lay person. He took time out of the story so his narrator could explain to a taxi driver what String Theory was.

I told him to go read Brasyl. Your SF reader is so far past a device like that to explain String Theory, that they'd find it insulting. I suggested he write for 10 - 12 year olds, as he made it all very accessible. Al also suggested that he read what is currently being published in near future SF.

The OnyxHawke Agency said...

Of Men and Mosters - William Tenn as my fave classic SF...

Recently, um possibly Greg Van Eekhout's NorseCODE was good, but there isn't much SF out there right now.