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Author Topic: DC Sci Fi Book Club!  (Read 3699 times)

vrgrrl

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DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« on: October 07, 2012, 02:31:21 PM »
Hi everyone!!

So I'm finishing Cloud Atlas (bought it for my Kindle and started it before I knew there was a movie version coming out in a few weeks!!) and I thought it might be fun to start a DC Sci Fi Book Club for those inclined to chat about their favorite sci fi books and discover new ones they haven't read before!

I cannot believe it took me so long but I just read Snow Crash and Diamond Age and loved them both. What are your favorite sci fi (particularly steam punk) books?

40hz

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2012, 02:53:23 PM »
Excellent idea. I'm in. Be back when I have something better than this iPhone to type on.  :Thmbsup:

vrgrrl

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2012, 02:56:02 PM »
Excellent!!! :)

Deozaan

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2012, 03:05:07 PM »
Hi vrgrrl, don't forget about this book thread already on DC:

What books are you reading?

There has been some discussion of Sci-Fi books already on that thread. :Thmbsup:


vrgrrl

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2012, 03:09:52 PM »
 :Thmbsup: Cool -- I'll look through that one but it seems oriented to everything! :)

This one is just for sci fi/steam punk though and not mouser's crazy books! ;) Hehe. It's always a good day when you can tease mouser! :D

ewemoa

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2012, 05:00:34 PM »
I don't intentionally read fiction these days, but in earlier times found the following to be of interest:

  Stories of Your Life and Others
  True Names
  The Peace War
  Marooned in Realtime
  A Fire Upon the Deep
  Maneki Neko
  The Left Hand of Darkness
  Eon
  Aristoi

+1 for those 2 Neal S. books too :up:
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 05:46:58 PM by ewemoa »

40hz

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2012, 01:36:40 AM »
Out of curiosity...has anyone found a really well done Steampunk novel yet? I've read several, and much as I love the concept behind the genre, I've been fairly disappointed with what I've seen so far. In most cases these stories start off with a very good premise. But they inevitably petered out and felt somewhat unfinished before the ending. A good example would be the much hyped The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist. And this is something that concerns me. Because if there ever was a sci-fi genre at risk of turning into a complete cliché, it's Steampunk. It's intrinsically a one-trick pony due to the constraints (time/technology/manners/mores) of the period it's set in. So in order to make it work - as literature - it will require a deal more creativity and effort than has been displayed so far.

When I compare most modern Steampunk to the original masters such as Jules Verne or H.G. Wells, the new stuff comes up short. And it's not like Wells or Verne were that talented a pair of literary stylists. (Their prose styles often leave much to be desired.) But they did have strong story lines and decent plot development. And that makes it easy to overlook the almost complete lack of character development, stilted dialog, and over-reliance on coincidence in their stories.

So far (to me at least) the most successful Steampunk seems to be found in short stories. I haven't seen anything I'd consider a definitive sui generis Steampunk novel comparable to what something like Gibson's Neuromancer was for cyberpunk.

Does anybody know of one? :huh:
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 01:57:52 AM by 40hz »

ewemoa

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2012, 02:04:24 AM »
Regarding Steampunk, I don't know if the following counts, and I didn't finish it, but there was:

  The Difference Engine

May be you can enumerate more of the ones you didn't like :)

TaoPhoenix

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2012, 02:11:35 AM »
Out of curiosity...has anyone found a really well done Steampunk novel yet? I've read several, and much as I love the concept behind the genre, I've been fairly disappointed with what I've seen so far. In most cases these stories start off with a very good premise. But they inevitably petered out and felt somewhat unfinished before the ending. A good example would be the much hyped The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist. And this is something that concerns me. Because if there ever was a sci-fi genre at risk of turning into a complete cliché, it's Steampunk. It's intrinsically a one-trick pony due to the constraints (time/technology/manners/mores) of the period it's set in. So in order to make it work - as literature - it will require a deal more creativity and effort than has been displayed so far.

When I compare most modern Steampunk to the original masters such as Jules Verne or H.G. Wells, the new stuff comes up short. And it's not like Wells or Verne were that talented a pair of literary stylists. (Their prose styles often leave much to be desired.) But they did have strong story lines and decent plot development. And that makes it easy to overlook the almost complete lack of character development, stilted dialog, and over-reliance on coincidence in their stories.

So far (to me at least) the most successful Steampunk seems to be found in short stories. I haven't seen anything I'd consider a definitive sui generis Steampunk novel comparable to what something like Gibson's Neuromancer was for cyberpunk.

Does anybody know of one? :huh:

Sorta the problem is that the "Original Masters" weren't writing Steampunk, they were just writing "ultra-early science fiction". The thing that I think you are touching upon is the Steampunk "Historical Knowing" by using those old cultural customs as a form of Nostalgia, with some new tech ... *but not too much*. So maybe Charles Babbage would have made some kind of awesome Weather Prognosticator Engine, or something, but the "style constraints" force it to weigh some 800 pounds and be made of "Brass, Glass, and Class."

It's the reason I'd one day like to have a Brass Keyboard, just because its sheer "wrongness" is appealing. You know, in a world of plastic everything, good ol' solid metal construction and all that. Just make sure it doesn't require 8 psi to push each key or something. We wouldn't want actual *inconveniences* messing up our idealized experience now, would we? Have we forgotten just how unrefined a lot of 19th century tech was?

I sorta think Steampunk is a nice interlude to my traditional problem with classical High Fantasy. You get World Class Wizards who can create entire tornadoes in the weather, but they then flunk miserably when faced with a wristwatch, 2nd Year Apprentice Cantrips, and a one week magic-camp with Derren Brown. (Think Predictions and Prophecies etc.) So Steampunk at least gets that Tech is Good, but it has to force itself into contortions that "can't be too good". Heck we have nice crispy computers that can calculate a Zillion flops per minute, no, Steampunk guys can't have that, too modern.

So it's another difficult genre problem.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 02:25:00 AM by TaoPhoenix, Reason: Added more stuff »

40hz

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2012, 07:07:38 AM »
Regarding Steampunk, I don't know if the following counts, and I didn't finish it, but there was:

  The Difference Engine

May be you can enumerate more of the ones you didn't like :)


I think what I'm trying to say is that the original masters had a certain "ring of authenticity." Same goes for good sci-fi. Asimov, Brin, Brunner, Carr, Delany, Dick...climb the alphabet up to Zelazny and you'll see it. Many created immersive and believable settings and plots. They weren't consciously posturing with their stories. Which is something that plagues the Steampunk genre. About half the writers seem to treat it as a big joke. Or an elaborate parlor game. Much like the Sherlock Holmes and "bad Hemingway" pastiche writers do, except with those people, the avowed goal is to write the most wretchedly excessive work possible based on their favorite author's style.

I don't get that from "bad" Steampunk. The spoofs tend to be embarrassing failures. And most of the rest are either unreadable exercises in trying to sound Victorian or end up being unintentionally hilarious. And not in a good way.

I think the problem is that Steampunk is not currently being given respect it needs to become a valid sci-fi  genre in it's own right. The whole name Steampunk (with that hipster 'punk' at the end of it) implies an antisocial element that wasn't much at the heart of the era it's based in. Victorian society was enamored of the notion of "progress" and fiercely nationalistic. If anyone ever had a "get with the program" and "hoist the flag" mindset, it was the Victorians.

I don't think most people who are writing Steampunk approach it that way. Most examples seem to have been written more as a stylistic exercise than anything else. And most are obviously written as one-offs. Almost as if the authors wanted to do one just to get it out of their system before moving on to more recognized and respected sci-fi topics and settings.

Perhaps if they called it "historically themed science fiction" instead of "Steampunk" things might have turned out differently.

The closest I've seen so far to a genuine attempt to write a literary Steampunk novels is Gibson/Sterling's The Difference Engine. Unfortunately that was a meandering and largely plotless story too despite it taking its subject matter seriously. It also suffered from being far too long. Most people figured out where the story was going to end up taking them no later than page 200. Which wouldn't have been too big a problem if there weren't 300+ additional densely written and rambling pages that followed. This book sorely needed some heavy-duty editing and revising - which it never got. The end result read more like a late draft rather than a finished book. Considering the quality of Gibson's and Sterling's solo work (both do know how to tell a good story BTW) I almost sense they got tired of The Difference Engine long before they 'finished' it. And it shows.

Probably just as well since the average reader seems to have had the same experience. Most readers never finish it either. :huh:

« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 07:16:01 AM by 40hz »

rjbull

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2012, 02:45:34 PM »
Rather depends on what you mean by "favourite:" books you like, or books you respect?  It's possible not to be both.

Of traditional SF, I reckon Fred Pohl's Gateway takes some beating.  Off the top of my head, others I respect include Alfred Bester's Tiger! Tiger! and The Demolished Man, and Chtistopher Priest's Inverted World.  Note respect; I don't say any of these are particularly comfortable reading.

Streampunk isn't a genre I've consciously explored, but I'd suggest a look at Chris Wooding's "Tales of the Ketty Jay" series, which start with Retribution Falls.  I'd classify them as fantasy wearing an SF leather jacket with an eagle on the back...  ;)  For all the swashbuckling, edgy violence, humour and yes, sheer silliness, the abiding interest is in the character development, how this completely dysfunctional crew (even the ship's cat) ended up aboard the Ketty Jay, what their back stories are, and what they do about it.  Terrific entertainment.  Another series worth looking at is Philip Reeve's "Hungry City Chronicles," which start with Mortal Engines.  These are older children/YA, but very entertaining, set in a post-apocalypse far future where some technologies are being reinvented.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 02:58:05 PM by rjbull, Reason: Added Christopher Priest »

rjbull

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2012, 02:53:52 PM »
I sorta think Steampunk is a nice interlude to my traditional problem with classical High Fantasy.
I'd welcome a DC Fantasy Book Club as well  :)  If by "High Fantasy" you mean the kind of stories that start from the general area of "Morte d'Arthur" and Tolkien, don't overlook the wealth of non-High Fantasies.  See this post by Iphigenie in the Re: What books are you reading? thread, and my reply to it.

TaoPhoenix

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2012, 03:24:39 PM »
I'd welcome a DC Fantasy Book Club as well  :)  If by "High Fantasy" you mean the kind of stories that start from the general area of "Morte d'Arthur" and Tolkien, don't overlook the wealth of non-High Fantasies.  See this post by Iphigenie in the Re: What books are you reading? thread, and my reply to it.

Oh to be sure, I like a lot of Modern/Neo fantasy, authors too numerous to mention, let's start with John De Chancie and Castle Perilous.  Point is, if ya are gonna have all that learning and all those powers, use'em smart and quit whining that you don't know who the King talked to in the castle, he's not good enough to block a sensor device.

40hz

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Re: DC Sci Fi Book Club!
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2012, 07:50:06 PM »
Like to put in a recommendation for a very good sci-fi/fantasy/horror/grapic novel news and review site. Found some stuff I definitely would have missed out on if I hadn't seen it there first.

newheader.jpg

It's called Nerds on Babeland. Intelligent and well written commentary. Highly recommended. Find it here. :Thmbsup: