Back in 2013, Ted Gioia wrote a piece for The Millions about an old sci-fi novel that correctly predicted the future. Since then, he’s embarked on an ambitious project that expands on his interest in sci-fi, exploring how the most radical sci-fi writers of the sixties paved the way for much of modern fiction. As he puts it, “I focus on this era in the history of sci-fi because it laid the groundwork for one of the most important developments in current-day fiction.”
“Cosmicomics is that rarity among progressive texts: its premises are absurd and almost incoherent, yet the plot lines are filled with romance, drama, and conflicts that draw the readers deeper and deeper into the text.”
When Octavia Butler died in 2006, she left behind unseen short stories. Butler’s agent has discovered two unpublished stories in the author’s papers. “A Necessary Being” features a lonely alien leader, and “Childminder” is about mentoring telepaths. The two stories will be published this summer in the collection Unexpected Stories.
How can science fiction writers invent aliens and entire planets but not include multifaceted characters of color in their fiction? At The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky discusses the genre’s equality problem and analyzes how race is viewed in everything from The Left Hand of Darkness to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. “When that future unthinkingly reproduces current inequities, it seems like both a missed opportunity and a failure of imagination.”
Pre-college creative writing seems to be a sort of group therapy — gush out your feelings and nobody can criticize them because you’re being “creative.” Nobody teaches you the bones of the language. Nobody teaches you forms. Imagine trying to learn to play violin if no one taught you pitch and fingering, if you never practiced. But that’s what we do to children.
”[Paul] Scheerbart’s book bears the subtitle An Asteroid Novel, and all of its action takes place far from Earth. Not a single human character appears in the story; nor do its protagonists resemble the anthropomorphized aliens of so much science fiction. Rather, Scheerbart populates the asteroid Pallas with a race of newt-like creatures who are capable, when provoked, of expanding their bodies to several times their normal size. Moreover, the Pallasians have eyes that extend on stalks and function as telescopes or microscopes (the latter for reading micro-books: the Pallasians wear, as personal adornment, entire libraries around their necks).”
The answer that came back was unanimous, and surprising to me. They wanted to know something about the artist, what kind of a person he was. And then something about the background to the pictures — how they came to be painted, what was going on in the artist’s life at the time. And nothing else — “none of that art interpretation stuff,” as one person put it.
Who else was unaware that Jasper Johns and Michael Crichton were besties? Lary Wallace tells us more.
Teddy Roosevelt could read an entire book before breakfast. Kim Peek (Rain Man) could read two pages of text simultaneously. Perhaps by using some combination of both techniques, you’ve managed to make your way through our entire Great 2013 Book Preview. Or perhaps you’re just looking for some poetry and science fiction recommendations. Well, either way Mark Sanderson and China Miéville have you covered, respectively.