Originally posted by sharps
a) how the two species bridge the gap of communication and culture
by Barry B. Longyear. I haven't read the book; just the novella on which it is based, which was published years ago in, I think,
. I quit reading SF magazines years ago too. Too much dross.
Of course, Enemy Mine
turns inward, like most SF does (your Solaris
quote is right, but it also reflects a convention of the genre) to
become a meditation on otherness, xenophobia and intolerance. One of my favourite FC stories.
b) The long range ramifications of contact on us,
I'm less enamoured of those 'They have been Watching Us for Millennia' numbers, possibly because the mother of them all, 2001: A Space
, was the first SF novel I read. Having said that, I love Iain M.* Banks's Culture novels, which take the whole concept to another
c) What questions the protagonist asks, and in what order of importance he puts the questions.
Hmmm... see above. I'm more of a realpolitik kind of guy, and I find it hard to see how two intelligent species could meet in the galaxy without
either engaging in competition of some kind or else being completely irrelevant to each other. There's a great triple-first-contact novel by Frederik
Pohl called Jem
. It's a horrific allegory of late-Cold War-era geopolitics and a complete downer to read, but brilliant.
Strangely I think my first questions would be about Earth - what's really going down on this planet, is the history of the Earth as we see in
science books or are we as ignorant of our past as I think we are.
As I said, I'm not too keen on having the privacy of my home planet invaded by peeping toms from outer space; fortunately, I also think their
existence highly improbable for Drake Equation-related reasons. But assuming that such voyeurs existed, I would definitely
want to ask them
about all the naughty bits. Was the Empress Theodora... no, on second thoughts I'll leave the questions I would ask to your imagination; likewise
their order of importance.
Have you read Ursula La Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. I felt it was overrated although I enjoyed how the politics of the story mirrored
what was happening in the West at the time.
I've read it at least twice, most recently last year (after a lapse of nearly thirty years) to see how it stood up. I stands up very well indeed. The
only elements that had aged were the space-travel ones, and as you'll recall they play a very minimal part in the story.
Off the top of my head, three things impress me about TLHOD
First, the realism of the politics (on the ground, not within the implausibly goody-goody Ekumen of which the book's narrator, Genly Ai, is the
ambassador). The power struggles in court, the troubles of Estraven and so on are all very true to life. So are the attitudes and behaviour of the
feudal-totalitarian society surrounding the court.
Second, and this is a commonplace with LeGuin - her male characters are brilliantly realized, always far better so than the female ones. She avoids
the problem entirely in this novel by eliminating the ladies altogether. Her Gethenians are on the whole rather masculine than feminine, and she does
them well. Paradoxically, the most feminine character in the book is the only indisputable male in it, the narrator, who is an Earthman. I suppose
this is why the book is often hailed as a milestone in feminist literature.
The highest achievement, though, is the brilliant sexual concept at the heart of the novel. The Gethenians are human but hermaphrodites (no giveaway;
it's explained early in the book), being by turns male and female in season. LeGuin works out the dynamics of the Gethenian sexual instinct and
behaviour expertly, avoiding all probability pitfalls, and then uses it to drive the plot and add life to the characters.
Early LeGuin - before she went all earthmotherly and macrobiotic - is very, very good. Another classic, or near-classic, is The Dispossessed
Check it out if it's still in print. But then she went and drowned herself in Earthsea, an ocean of tears of her own creation, and became
Have you ever read 'Ender's Game' ? I think I'd have to rate that as the best sci-fi novel of all time.
My own choice would be The Book of the New Sun
by Gene Wolfe. But everybody reads for different reasons, and derives different pleasures from
it. One man's meat, etc.
I never read the back page and instead hope to get thrown into an adventure...
Me too. What I do is read the first paragraph. If the author can write, and the introduction captures my attention, I'll keep going.
I never read song lyric sheets either.
it with SF writers and middle initials?