View Full Version : Over rated Authors-Isaac Asimov


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Anabran
09-18-2012, 10:12 AM
Hi
have you ever finally gotten around to reading some legendary works of a very famous& celebrated genre author only to find yourself asking: What??.. are they kidding me??

I experienced this earlier this year when ,after years of admiring the Michael whelen cover Art,
I finally got the "Great" Foundation series
by Isaac Asimov for my, then new, Kindle fire.
HORRIBLE just... HORRIBLE!!!

I bailed out of Foundation about 2/3 of the way through and never revisited the series.

First it all seemed awfully dated with his talk about "nuclear powered" this and that

Second the complete lack of powerful or relevant, influential female characters.
it read like a cheesy 1950's sci fi novel where all women are just "secretaries"

Third Asimov let his (IMHO) Rabid Atheism color his linguistic choices to the point of sounding goofy & ridiculous.

OK We get it
He does not believe in a Diety or a God
his choice his freedom.

but to make this repeated effort to replace the word GOD with "space" in a fictional setting, makes his books look like they were post edited& censored by some totalitarian to "Committee of intellectual purity"

For example many people in a stressful situation who might say:
"I swear to God Captain we did not order that attack on those civilians !!"
are just using a linguistic expression they are not even religious people per say.

but to have them say: "I swear by Space etc etc." just sounds silly and goofy.

And his characters were shallow and uninteresting most times lacking even a physical description to help the reader Visualize the scenes.

Asimov may have been a great Science& technology Visionary

but as a Science fiction writer he just plain SUCKS!!.

BeccaPrice
09-18-2012, 10:19 AM
Consider his era. You can't compare his writing to modern writing, things have changed both in the SF world and in our culture.

And Asimove was never particularly a character-driven author; he mostly dealt with Ideas.

For it's time, Foundation was revolutionary.

HomeInMyShoes
09-18-2012, 10:20 AM
First it all seemed awfully dated with his talk about "nuclear powered" this and that

Second the complete lack of powerful or relevant, influential female characters.
it read like a cheesy 1950's sci fi novel where all women are just "secretaries"


You're reading a book first published in 1951 and complaining that it read like a cheesy 1950's sci fi novel. File under: useless criticism.

holymadness
09-18-2012, 10:53 AM
I agree. Compared to other writers of his era, Asimov sounds like a child. Writing science fiction is no excuse.

Cyberman tM
09-18-2012, 10:57 AM
(Note: I'm a fan of Asimov's fiction, and I actually find his writing style rather pleasant. So don't expect truly objective text from me :-)

First it all seemed awfully dated with his talk about "nuclear powered" this and that
Well, it IS dated. Think about when it was written - consider it to be alternate future history, branching before the atomic age.
(Like steam punk, just atomic punk?)

Second the complete lack of powerful or relevant, influential female characters.
it read like a cheesy 1950's sci fi novel where all women are just "secretaries"

Correct.
However, in his defense - you aren't going to see many strong females (apart perhaps from Dors Venabili?) or many relevant females at all because he does NOT want to display them all as "secretaries" and on the other hand didn't have much experience with women - so he didn't know how to write about them.
(He wrote about that in his autobiography - using the above explanation when asked why there are no women in his books. Seems sensible, IMO. Don't write about something you don't understand. Would you prefer women who are the supposed male's ideal?)

Third Asimov let his (IMHO) Rabid Atheism color his linguistic choices to the point of sounding goofy & ridiculous.
True enough.
Though I think it can be easily explained that by the time of foundation there would be either one giant amalgamated church composed of all the "little" religions we have today, or be replaced by some sort of atheism/agnosticism (i.e. either the lowest common denominator or division by zero).
(Of course, since I consider myself to be agnostic - perhaps influenced by Asimov? I don't mind it. I think it's refreshing, and probably less problematic than choosing a religion at will.)

And his characters were shallow and uninteresting most times lacking even a physical description to help the reader Visualize the scenes.
You probably won't read it, but there's a short story, "Gold", where he pokes fun at himself, having a character scorn a writer who seems unwilling to describe his characters beyond the necessary minimum.
The writers defense was - naturally - that this way the readers can supply the missing elements themselves, and that his stories rely on talk and ideas, not action and visuals.

Asimov may have been a great Science& technology Visionary
For all his greatness, he didn't expect/realize that the Cassini Division isn't really a gap at all, even though, as he wrote, it should have been obvious that it can't be really empty.
(He said something like that in his autobiography. Seems to have bothered him quite a bit.)

but as a Science fiction writer he just plain SUCKS!!.
Obviously I don't agree. But I can easily see why someone would think so.
Try Heinlein, might be more to your taste. To me, he's almost "too strong", compared to the "mild" Asimov literature.


I agree. Compared to other writers of his era, Asimov sounds like a child.
How so?

Writing science fiction is no excuse.
Why should it?

Anabran
09-18-2012, 11:10 AM
"You're reading a book first published in 1951 and complaining that it read like a cheesy 1950's sci fi novel."

Yes but it was supposed to set in the Distant future and the most advance future tech this so called" visionary" he could imagine was nuclear power.

A Truly Talented Sci fiWriter Like Frank Herbert Wrote Dune in the 1960's its Future tech was way more imaginative as well as his Characters but.... Oh no!!I just mentioned Asimov and Frank Herbert in the same forum post about Sci fi writers
My deepest Apologies to Fellow Frank Herbert Fans.

QuantumIguana
09-18-2012, 11:18 AM
Foundation was first published in 1942. It was first published as a novel in 1951, but it had previouosly appeared in 8 installments of Austounding Magazine between May 1942 and January 1950. So, it's seventy years old, of course it is dated. How much science fiction from 1942 isn't dated? And yes, it seems like science fiction from the 1950's, because it is from the 1940's. And yes, the female characters are lacking, but that's true of most science fiction from that era.

Asimov was an atheist, yes, but I've never heard of him being described as "rabid". Nevertheless, being offended by it doesn't mean he's a bad writer.

QuantumIguana
09-18-2012, 11:20 AM
Yes but it was supposed to set in the Distant future and the most advance future tech this so called" visionary" he could imagine was nuclear power.

A Truly Talented Sci fiWriter Like Frank Herbert Wrote Dune in the 1960's its Future tech was way more imaginative as well as his Characters but.... Oh no!!I just mentioned Asimov and Frank Herbert in the same forum post about Sci fi writers
My deepest Apologies to Fellow Frank Herbert Fans.

The last time I checked, the 1940's were much earlier than the 1960's. Objection overruled.

RDaneel54
09-18-2012, 11:41 AM
Yes but it was supposed to set in the Distant future and the most advance future tech this so called" visionary" he could imagine was nuclear power.

And the pocket computer, and miniaturization of electronics.

I like Asimov for his exploration of ideas like the collapse of a galactic civilization, the effects of robotics (a word he invented), etc.

It is always easy to judge earlier science fiction in the light of today's technology. Not so easy to write of the future and not be considered "outdated" down the road.

Apache
09-18-2012, 11:49 AM
And the pocket computer, and miniaturization of electronics.

I like Asimov for his exploration of ideas like the collapse of a galactic civilization, the effects of robotics (a word he invented), etc.

It is always easy to judge earlier science fiction in the light of today's technology. Not so easy to write of the future and not be considered "outdated" down the road.

I agree. For his time his vision was ahead of most Science Fiction of the time. How will people see the Science Fiction of now in seventy years? I bet dated and unrealistic. :D
And remember the Atomic Bomb was only theory when Foundation was written.
Apache

holymadness
09-18-2012, 11:52 AM
How so?
He is not a very strong manipulator of language. His plots are simplistic, as he prefers imagining the contours of alternate universes to creating interesting and intricate storylines. He created no memorable characters in his lifetime.

If we compare him to his contemporaries—Raymond Chandler, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, George Orwell, Albert Camus, Arthur Miller, Evelyn Waugh, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck—there is really no question that he was a minor, minor figure in letters at the time. Had he not popularized science fiction along with Clarke and Heinlein, I think he would be forgotten today.

He has the merit of being a visionary, but not a particularly good writer.

Why should it?
I don't think it should. Some others in the thread are saying that because 1950s sci-fi movies/pulp fiction were cheesy, Asimov somehow has the right to be just as cheesy.

Sci-fi should be held to the same standard as all literature.

WillAdams
09-18-2012, 11:58 AM
I believe the OP would be more pleased by some of the Isaac Asimov / Robert Silverberg re-workings:

The Positronic Man
Nightfall
The Ugly Little Boy

Agree w/ everyone else to the effect that one has to judge Asimov by when he was writing and what had come before.

Moreover, ``if I have seen further it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants'' --- w/o him, there wouldn't be science fiction as we know it now --- he's a huge influence, directly or indirectly to pretty much every SF author now writing.

William

DustyDisks
09-18-2012, 11:58 AM
And the pocket computer, and miniaturization of electronics.

I like Asimov for his exploration of ideas like the collapse of a galactic civilization, the effects of robotics (a word he invented), etc.

It is always easy to judge earlier science fiction in the light of today's technology. Not so easy to write of the future and not be considered "outdated" down the road. And do not forget "The three laws of robotics". The computers in his time when most of his works were written ran on vacuum tubes and were the size of a good size house of the times. Solid state and microchips at the time were not even a dream until the 1950's.

Sure he is dated, but when reading him one has to keep in mind the ways of the world he lived in, when he wrote his works.

HarryT
09-18-2012, 11:58 AM
You probably won't read it, but there's a short story, "Gold", where he pokes fun at himself, having a character scorn a writer who seems unwilling to describe his characters beyond the necessary minimum.


He also mercilessly pokes fun at himself in the (very good) murder mystery "Murder at the ABA", in which Asimov writes himself in as a character in the story. Well worth reading, in case anyone hasn't.

mr ploppy
09-18-2012, 12:03 PM
Reminds me of this:

http://b.holyjeeb.us/post/19626903116/painful-twilight-fans-review-bram-stokers

Graham
09-18-2012, 12:06 PM
Even when we were reading Asimov back when he was writing it we all knew that he lacked depth of characterisation. However, we loved him for the plots and the ideas and the way his stories leapt off the page.

There's more than one route to greatness, and as others have said many have built on what he did to climb higher and further.

Graham

DrNefario
09-18-2012, 12:08 PM
I found Foundation quite boring too, although the dated technology was kind of charming. At least he had computers with visual displays. I also read Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky earlier this year, where they still use slide-rules.

I quite enjoy some of Asimov's work, but I don't think I'd really waste much time defending the quality of his prose. I was just thinking the other day that Asimov's The Gods Themselves and Ursula K Le Guin's The Dispossessed both feature the internal politics of scientific progress as major plot points, and won the Hugo award just two years apart, but stylistically they could hardly be further apart. The lumpen Asimov seems from another era, compared to the Le Guin, and I'd say it was one of Asimov's best. For all that, I enjoyed both of them; they just have different virtues.

calvin-c
09-18-2012, 12:19 PM
I remember an essay about science fiction-by Poul Anderson, I think. According to it the true value of science fiction isn't predicting changes in technology but predicting the social effects of those changes. The part I remember was about science fiction that might have been written in 1880-1900. The automobile was visible, if not yet commonly known. So the technological change would be the prevalence of the automobile. No problem if you treat it like a horse. ("The hero jumped into his automobile & raced off in pursuit of the bad guys.") But the true value was in predicting how the automobile would allow people to live further away from their jobs, thus creating suburbs, and provide more privacy for lovers, thus increasing 'back seat' sex, etc.

In that view, Asimov's writing is very good. Although he couldn't predict technology beyond nuclear fusion (really? what about hyperspace jumps?) he predicted the social changes well. Whether or not he's accurate remains to be seen-but I haven't seen any evidence (yet) that he's wrong.

QuantumIguana
09-18-2012, 12:20 PM
If we compare him to his contemporaries由aymond Chandler, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, George Orwell, Albert Camus, Arthur Miller, Evelyn Waugh, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck葉here is really no question that he was a minor, minor figure in letters at the time. Had he not popularized science fiction along with Clarke and Heinlein, I think he would be forgotten today.

There's no question that he was a major figure. He just wrote in an a genre that was sneered at. People still read his books, they aren't reading him just because he was historically important. He is - and was - a major figure, even if not everyone likes his books.

I don't think it should. Some others in the thread are saying that because 1950s sci-fi movies/pulp fiction were cheesy, Asimov somehow has the right to be just as cheesy.

Sci-fi should be held to the same standard as all literature.

No one said that. What was said was that it is no surprise that science fiction from the 1950's (again, it's actually from the 1940's) feels like science fiction from the 1950's. Someone today may judge it dates and cheesy today, but that doesn't mean that it was dated and cheesy at the time it was written, 70 years ago. There is little writing about the future that won't appear dated 70 years after it is written.

HarryT
09-18-2012, 12:25 PM
Even when we were reading Asimov back when he was writing it we all knew that he lacked depth of characterisation. However, we loved him for the plots and the ideas and the way his stories leapt off the page.

There's more than one route to greatness, and as others have said many have built on what he did to climb higher and further.

Graham

Absolutely. Asimov's characters are two-dimensional, cardboard characters, but for all of that he is unquestionably one of the great SF authors. Why? Because of his ideas and his plots. Asimov invented the "galaxy-spanning galactic empire" depicted in his "Foundation" novels; the sweep of his imagination surpassed that of almost any other author of his day.

Pomtroll
09-18-2012, 12:33 PM
I read the Foundation series back in the early 60s. I enjoyed it. Was he my favorite science fiction writer? No. I do agree others wrote better stories. Recently my Science Fiction/Fantasy book club read Foundation. All the younger readers didn't care for it till I started pointing out some of the ideas & philosophy he was imparting. None of the club members liked the main character nor the blind following of so many people after his "death". I honestly don't think we were suppose to like the main character. He really wasn't all that likable.

taustin
09-18-2012, 12:48 PM
Second the complete lack of powerful or relevant, influential female characters.
it read like a cheesy 1950's sci fi novel where all women are just "secretaries"


Make a particular effort to avoid the Barsoom stuff by Edgar Rice Burroughs, then. Unlike the recent movie (where Dejah Thoris kicks ass better than John Carter, and they wonder why it bombed) the sole reason female characters exist is to get kidnapped, so that the he-man hero can rescue her (and she will fall madly in love with him and make his babies).

And I say this as someone who has a certain apprecation for the classics.

(Could not read the one written by his son, though. From what I could tell, by the writing style, the characterization, the plotting, it was written when said son was about three years old.)

ScotiaBurrell
09-18-2012, 01:16 PM
If we compare him to his contemporaries由aymond Chandler, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, George Orwell, Albert Camus, Arthur Miller, Evelyn Waugh, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck葉here is really no question that he was a minor, minor figure in letters at the time. Had he not popularized science fiction along with Clarke and Heinlein, I think he would be forgotten today.

He has the merit of being a visionary, but not a particularly good writer.



It's hard to be a good writer, let alone a very good or great one. There are plenty of storytellers who lack the chops to great writers -- but are famous because they can glue you to the edge of your seat.

I think being a great visionary and storyteller is a thing in its own right -- and that a author shouldn't be dinged for lack of being a great writer.

Put another way - perhaps Vera Wang or other fashion person can't sew at all, but he/she can design and put colors and styles together well enough that it don't matter.

teh603
09-18-2012, 01:18 PM
Make a particular effort to avoid the Barsoom stuff by Edgar Rice Burroughs, then. Unlike the recent movie (where Dejah Thoris kicks ass better than John Carter, and they wonder why it bombed) the sole reason female characters exist is to get kidnapped, so that the he-man hero can rescue her (and she will fall madly in love with him and make his babies)
And definitely stay away from anything by John Norman.

ScotiaBurrell
09-18-2012, 01:21 PM
(and she will fall madly in love with him and make his babies).

Whats wrong with babies? :cool:

fjtorres
09-18-2012, 01:30 PM
I like Asimov for his exploration of ideas like the collapse of a galactic civilization, the effects of robotics (a word he invented), etc.


And psychohistory, which is (under different names) actually being developed.
Robotics as a science practically deifies him since he pretty much wrote the roadmap for the science.

To appreciate Asimov you have to appreciate ideas more than wordsmithing.
His prose is intentionally lean and accessible to make the ideas accessible (the man wrote textbooks and popular science books--he was Brian Greene before Brian Greene).

If wordsmithing is your thing, go to Bradbury and Ellison and the other New Wave/Dangerous Vision era writers. Don't expect it from the Asimov era SF writers because that is not what the *editors* were looking and paying for. (That is precisely what the Dangerous Visions revolt was all about.)

Asimov started in the 30's and wrote most of his signature works in the 40's.
For a look of what his works evolved to, you might want to look at THE GODS THEMSELVES or his latter Robot and Foundation books.

He can no more be blamed for writing 40's SF than 70's fantasists can be blame for writing Tolkienesque fantasies. He and they wrote what the market let them publish.

twowheels
09-18-2012, 01:49 PM
I remember an essay about science fiction-by Poul Anderson, I think. According to it the true value of science fiction isn't predicting changes in technology but predicting the social effects of those changes.

YES! This is exactly why I love science fiction, and it's what I look for. I don't look for the futuristic setting, I don't look for the character development, I look for the exploration of the ethical and moral implications. I love science fiction stories that leave you thinking and pondering right vs. wrong.

twowheels
09-18-2012, 01:53 PM
Reminds me of this:

http://b.holyjeeb.us/post/19626903116/painful-twilight-fans-review-bram-stokers

That's funny. I'm half way through it now (for my first time) and tried to get my 13 yo daughter to read it, but somehow suspect that even though she's an avid reader who loved Twilight she won't get very far into it before giving up, if she tries at all.

QuantumIguana
09-18-2012, 01:56 PM
Stories can be dated without being overrates. I recently read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I could see how this would have been an amazing story to someone in the 1870's, when little was known of life under the sea, and when submarines were only in early prototypes. But I couldn't share that excitement, becasue I live in a world where we know a lot about undersea life, I can strap on a scuba tank or watch a documentary, and submarines are fairly routine. That doesn't take anything away from the book, even if it was less interesting to me than it would have been to a reader in 1870.

WillAdams
09-18-2012, 01:58 PM
Re: Bram Stoker's _Dracula_ --- an interesting alternative to that for modern sensibilities would be Fred Saberhagen's _The Dracula Tapes_.

Lemurion
09-18-2012, 02:20 PM
He is not a very strong manipulator of language. His plots are simplistic, as he prefers imagining the contours of alternate universes to creating interesting and intricate storylines. He created no memorable characters in his lifetime.

If we compare him to his contemporaries由aymond Chandler, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, George Orwell, Albert Camus, Arthur Miller, Evelyn Waugh, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck葉here is really no question that he was a minor, minor figure in letters at the time. Had he not popularized science fiction along with Clarke and Heinlein, I think he would be forgotten today.

He has the merit of being a visionary, but not a particularly good writer.

I don't think it should. Some others in the thread are saying that because 1950s sci-fi movies/pulp fiction were cheesy, Asimov somehow has the right to be just as cheesy.

Sci-fi should be held to the same standard as all literature.

Actually, Asimov was a very good writer with a very strong command of the English language.

What one has to remember, though, is that when he was writing his science fiction he was deliberately trying to write unmemorable prose. In fact, he is on record as saying that whenever he wrote what he thought was a particularly good sentence he struck it out.

Isaac Asimov did not want anyone to pay attention to his writing. His belief was that if the reader is paying attention to how a writer is saying something they are not paying that attention to what they are saying. He did not want his writing to draw attention away from his ideas.

He knew exactly what he was doing.

Desertway
09-18-2012, 02:22 PM
A tiny addition: As to Asimov and major female characters, remember Susan Calvin (I, Robot).

taustin
09-18-2012, 02:41 PM
And definitely stay away from anything by John Norman.

Grk. Yeah. Definitely. Todd Akin would be offended by John Norman.

taustin
09-18-2012, 02:43 PM
Whats wrong with babies? :cool:

Well, they're noisy, ugly, smelly, and grow up to be teenagers.

Aside from that, nothing. But I do believe that women should aspire to something other than being a plot of dirt to be plowed and planted.

Cyberman tM
09-18-2012, 02:50 PM
He is not a very strong manipulator of language.
I think I can agree with this. He didn't write great literature, but fun stories, IMO.
(I think he said about himself that he continually failed to write "great" text, but at the same time he rarely writes "bad" text.)

However, I think he was great at conveying ideas - which, to me, is one of the main purposes of a book.

He created no memorable characters in his lifetime.
Depends on how you define memorable, I guess.
I could name a few, but perhaps mainly because they're the heroes of the stories.

He has the merit of being a visionary, but not a particularly good writer.
That doesn't necessarily mean he was a bad writer, I guess?
If comparing writing to food, I'd consider his writing to be oatmeal - it's uniformly bland but you know what you're getting and there aren't any bad surprises.
(Unless of course you can't stand it in the first place. I only once tried it. Yuck.)

Also, it might be worth mentioning that he himself said he never could really escape his growing up with "pulp fiction" magazines.
From what I gather, those were often really bad writing. (Apparently written words on paper not bound as books were new back then. Everything was bought and published.)

A tiny addition: As to Asimov and major female characters, remember Susan Calvin (I, Robot).
I think it could be argued that Susan doesn't really count as being a female :D
(Not in terms of body, but mind. Just as well one might argue that she wasn't really human either.)

holymadness
09-18-2012, 02:52 PM
There's no question that he was a major figure. He just wrote in an a genre that was sneered at. People still read his books, they aren't reading him just because he was historically important. He is - and was - a major figure, even if not everyone likes his books.
I'm afraid I disagree; I think the vast majority of interest in his work is historical rather than literary. As a writer he doesn't hold a candle to the luminaries of his era. People may enjoy his work; that doesn't make it good.

No one said that. What was said was that it is no surprise that science fiction from the 1950's (again, it's actually from the 1940's) feels like science fiction from the 1950's. Someone today may judge it dates and cheesy today, but that doesn't mean that it was dated and cheesy at the time it was written, 70 years ago. There is little writing about the future that won't appear dated 70 years after it is written.
There is a great deal of science fiction that has aged remarkably well. The novels of H. G. Wells, Frank Herbert, and much of Philip K. Dick are still astoundingly fresh and relevant decades—even a century—after their publication.

I believe that because Asimov's futurist idiom focused on gadgets, alternative timelines, and theoretical political structures at the expense of developed characters and human stories, they feel frozen in time: a snap-shot of his thinking but nothing more enduring. In that way he's very similar to Jules Verne, who has not aged terribly well either.

BeccaPrice
09-18-2012, 02:52 PM
After I first read Foundation, I wanted to be a psychohistorian when I grew up. That (and the Peter Wimsey books) really shaped the kinds of courses I took in high school and college (alas, i have no head for languages, and so let Lord Peter down).

rkomar
09-18-2012, 03:11 PM
As someone who studied reactor engineering, I have to say that Asimov's walnut-sized nuclear power units are still almost as far-fetched today as hyperspace travel. We just don't have the technology to convert nuclear power to a more useable form on such a small physical scale. So, it's about as futuristic as you can get, and I don't see what the beef is with the idea. Were the units supposed to be siphoning energy from a hidden dimension via mini-blackholes or something?

ScotiaBurrell
09-18-2012, 03:26 PM
But I do believe that women should aspire to something other than being a plot of dirt to be plowed and planted.

How rude! Motherhood is a wonderful, fulfilling institution.

But we'll each hold our own opinions to keep the peace.

Conor
09-18-2012, 03:35 PM
Second the complete lack of powerful or relevant, influential female characters..
Bayta Darrell, and her granddaughter Arkady Darrell?

taustin
09-18-2012, 03:44 PM
How rude! Motherhood is a wonderful, fulfilling institution.

I didn't say it wasn't. I said that women should, generally, aspire to more than just that, just as men should aspire to be more than just fathers.

Breeding is nothing special, after all. Every living thing does it.

ScotiaBurrell
09-18-2012, 03:53 PM
I didn't say it wasn't. I said that women should, generally, aspire to more than just that, just as men should aspire to be more than just fathers.

I disagree. Those few decades can be unmatchably rewarding and worth all sacrifice.

To each his own .

QuantumIguana
09-18-2012, 04:26 PM
If a book is still read 70 years later, that's an indication that it is a good book. That doesn't mean everyone is going to like it, of course.

Anabran
09-18-2012, 04:36 PM
As a visual person for me its all about the writing and Visualizing the scenes and characters in the storyline
to be honest the parts of Foundation where Harry Seldon was still Alive were intriguing somehow
but I quickly lost interest after that

This notion that some great "vision" can be communicated in the absence of well thought out descriptive writing just does not pass for me personally

its like trying to excuse to an untrained singing voice and bad song writing because the subject matter of the songs are so important or "visionary."

I had such high hopes for the Foundation series....perhaps too high

But reading it was like reading a Junior high school book report about what might have been a great science fiction novel series.

Contrast this to the "Dune universe" of Frank Herbert where his (and yes even his sons writing)
,made me care about the Characters" even about the fate of that universe, I have a clear image in my Mind of what Vladamir Harkonnen or liet kynes looks like. because of
Frank's Descriptive writing
and "God Emperor of Dune" is IMHO one greatest novels ever written in any genre.

kennyc
09-18-2012, 04:38 PM
You're reading a book first published in 1951 and complaining that it read like a cheesy 1950's sci fi novel. File under: useless criticism.

This.

I'm sorry the O.P. found it so horrible, it remains in my top few best SF novels ever written. Tastes vary. To each his own. C'est la vie.

Abtacha
09-18-2012, 04:39 PM
People may enjoy his work; that doesn't make it good.


I'd argue that's exactly what makes a (fiction) book good, it just doesn't make it great literature.

kennyc
09-18-2012, 04:39 PM
...

Third Asimov let his (IMHO) Rabid Atheism color his linguistic choices to the point of sounding goofy & ridiculous.

OK We get it
He does not believe in a Diety or a God
his choice his freedom.
.....

Ah, I see the real issue...

never mind.

QuantumIguana
09-18-2012, 04:41 PM
It's not like excusing a bad song. It's like not liking a song. There is a difference between not liking a song and a song being bad.

holymadness
09-18-2012, 04:44 PM
I disagree. Those few decades can be unmatchably rewarding and worth all sacrifice.

To each his own .
That is not the question.

The question is whether women should aspire to be ONLY wives and mothers and nothing else, or not.

You can valorize motherhood and childbirth without thinking it's the end-all-be-all of existence for half the human race.

Don't be sexist.

holymadness
09-18-2012, 04:46 PM
This notion that some great "vision" can be communicated in the absence of well thought out descriptive writing just does not pass for me personally
It (sort of) can, but then it becomes philosophy, not literature. Like reading Heidegger.

its like trying to excuse to an untrained singing voice and bad song writing because the subject matter of the songs are so important or "visionary."
Very good analogy.

ScotiaBurrell
09-18-2012, 04:54 PM
Don't be sexist.

It's not.

fjtorres
09-18-2012, 04:55 PM
I didn't say it wasn't. I said that women should, generally, aspire to more than just that, just as men should aspire to be more than just fathers.


And what if society doesn't *allow* them to be more than that?
What if society doesn't teach them they can be more?
What if society *needs* them to be just that?
(It is easy to envision scenarios where any or all three are plausible and reasonable.)

The Foundation series is set in a very distant future; 25,000-plus years in parts. Asimov doesn't go into detail on what the societies spread through those millennia and those thousands (millions?) of planets where like before the Empire homogenized them. There is a lot of room for alternative civilizations, alternative cultures, alternative mores. Nowhere does he say that the Empire is a direct descendant of our culture, our mores, our technology. Even the City culture of Lije Bailey is a major departure from our times.

It is just as naive to expect the future will *only* change in ways *we* would like as it is to expect it *not* to change at all.

With Science Fiction you either like the world the author builds or you walk away but you don't get to say it is good or bad solely because it doesn't fit *your* preconceived notion of what that world might be like.

holymadness
09-18-2012, 04:57 PM
It's not.

You don't seem very qualified to comment on the matter.

RDaneel54
09-18-2012, 04:57 PM
Other opinions on Isaac Asimov and his work:

1987 Grand Master Award Winner
1960 Hugo for best all time series, "Foundation" (of all things!)
1973 Hugo for novel, "The Gods Themselves"
1977 Hugo for novelette, "The Bicentennial Man"
1983 Hugo for novel, "Foundation's Edge" (again for this series?)

Several other Hugos, Nebulas you can look up.

I think these Science Fiction award guys know good writing. :thumbsup:

Dean (who didn't pick RDaneel54 as his monicker because he thought Asimov's writing was bad.)

Loafers
09-18-2012, 04:59 PM
Paul Krugman disagrees.

ScotiaBurrell
09-18-2012, 05:00 PM
Other opinions on Isaac Asimov and his work:

1987 Grand Master Award Winner
1960 Hugo for best all time series, "Foundation" (of all things!)
1973 Hugo for novel, "The Gods Themselves"
1977 Hugo for novelette, "The Bicentennial Man"
1983 Hugo for novel, "Foundation's Edge" (again for this series?)

Several other Hugos, Nebulas you can look up.

I think these Science Fiction award guys know good writing. :thumbsup:

Dean (who didn't pick RDaneel54 as his monicker because he thought Asimov's writing was bad.)


Yes, and I think I know where I'm going when the series I reading now ends.

Freeshadow
09-18-2012, 05:18 PM
Well, as said before, Asimov's great achievements were not on the tech side of SF (altough he managed some marvellous predictions: e.g. scanner pen cf. Cpen) but rather on the psychological and social.
(robotics & psychohistory both currently under serious consideration of people in the respective fields of research)

Same goes for Heinleins "Stranger": Altough his prediction of a water bed was precise enough to lead to a later denial of a patent due to prior art, his achievement in said book was working on the question in how far acquisition of psionic skills (or if you want the fantasy glasses: magic) would change society.
When judging an author's attempt to make tech predictions, never lose the tech level they live within out of focus. Verne was a well chosen example.

For a hardcore comparison read:
http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/16-ClawsThatCatchCD/ClawsThatCatchCD/
"Warp Speed" & "The Quantum Connection"
Unless you keep in mind that Doc is @ home in these sciences you'll think it's the biggest heap of makeuppium ever seen - until you read his notes on the scientific background of it all.

Re Dune: De gustibus...
IMO the last three volumes of Dune are far away of being labelled greatest for whatever reason. Tastes differ.

RDaneel54
09-18-2012, 05:18 PM
Paul Krugman disagrees.


I heard Krugman's interview on The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy. He was inspired by Foundation to become an Economist.

There are people thoughout the US space program who were inspired by early science fiction.

Hmmm.

taustin
09-18-2012, 05:28 PM
And what if society doesn't *allow* them to be more than that?

A completely different subject.

What if society doesn't teach them they can be more?

Another completely different subject.


What if society *needs* them to be just that?

Quite possibly an evolutionarily impossible subject. Certainly a different subject.


(It is easy to envision scenarios where any or all three are plausible and reasonable.)

Not really, any more. And, in all cases, not the subject at hand. You seem to be trying to argue with something nobody has said.

QuantumIguana
09-18-2012, 05:33 PM
If you want children, have children. If you don't, then don't. You probably know what is best for you.

teh603
09-18-2012, 05:48 PM
I'd argue that's exactly what makes a (fiction) book good, it just doesn't make it great literature.I'd argue that trying to write "literature" is to go after writing with the intention of disservicing all but a tiny fraction of your potential reader base and even then you aren't going to be as literary as James Joyce. If writing genre fiction alone wasn't enough of a disqualifier, you will never be as incomprehensible as Finnegan's Wake or Ulysses.

holymadness
09-18-2012, 05:55 PM
I heard Krugman's interview on The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy. He was inspired by Foundation to become an Economist.

There are people thoughout the US space program who were inspired by early science fiction.

Hmmm.
Interesting. By looking at the kinds of people who admire and enjoy Asimov, we can come to some understanding of the virtues that are proper to it.

QuantumIguana
09-18-2012, 05:59 PM
Other opinions on Isaac Asimov and his work:

1987 Grand Master Award Winner
1960 Hugo for best all time series, "Foundation" (of all things!)
1973 Hugo for novel, "The Gods Themselves"
1977 Hugo for novelette, "The Bicentennial Man"
1983 Hugo for novel, "Foundation's Edge" (again for this series?)

Several other Hugos, Nebulas you can look up.

I think these Science Fiction award guys know good writing. :thumbsup:

Dean (who didn't pick RDaneel54 as his monicker because he thought Asimov's writing was bad.)

http://www.asimovonline.com/asimov_FAQ.html#literary3

Asimov was presented a special Hugo award in 1963 for "adding science to science fiction" for his essays in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
The Foundation Series was awarded the Best All-time Novel Series Hugo Award in 1966.
The Gods Themselves won both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for best novel in 1973.
"The Bicentennial Man" was awarded the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for best novelette in 1977.
Foundation's Edge was presented with the Hugo for best novel in 1983.
In 1987, he was awarded the special lifetime Nebula Grandmaster award.
"Gold" was presented with the Hugo for best novelette in 1992.
I. Asimov: A Memoir won the Hugo Award for best nonfiction in 1995.
"The Mule", the seventh Foundation story published in Astounding Science Fiction (which appeared in book form as part two of Foundation and Empire), was awarded a 1946 Retro-Hugo for Best Novel of 1945 at the 1996 WorldCon.
He was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1997.
He won the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation Award in 1957 for his book Building Blocks of the Universe.
He was awarded the Howard W. Blakeslee Award from the American Heart Association in 1960 for his book The Living River.
He received the James T. Grady Award of the American Chemical Society in 1965.
He was presented with the Westinghouse Science Writing Award in 1967.
He was awarded fourteen honorary doctorate degrees from various universities.

RDaneel54
09-18-2012, 06:06 PM
http://www.asimovonline.com/asimov_FAQ.html#literary3

Asimov was presented a special Hugo award in 1963 for "adding science to science fiction" for his essays in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
The Foundation Series was awarded the Best All-time Novel Series Hugo Award in 1966.

Thanks for the correct date on the Foundation series Hugo. Don't know why I put 1960.:smack:

cromag
09-18-2012, 06:14 PM
As a young teenager in the 60s I was a big Asimov fan. This thread was just the stimulus I needed to go back and reread some of them.

I have been rereading some of A. Bertram Chandler's Rim Worlds stories lately. They now suffer from some of the same flaws as Asimov's. They have second and third generation star ships with sophisticated computers, but reports are still "typed" on paper and newly landed spacemen look for phone booths. Even his description of the universe reflects a bias towards the Steady State theory of Cosmology as opposed to the Big Bang.

Far from being stumbling blocks I think they add to the interest.

I also read mysteries from the 50s and 60s, but in this genre the anachronisms are suited to the setting. No one would expect a private eye in the 1960s to do research on Google, or keep in touch with his cell phone (mobile).

It's all part of the fun. And it really is fun!

ScotiaBurrell
09-18-2012, 06:28 PM
I heard Krugman's interview on The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy.

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/05/paul-krugman-geeks-guide-galaxy/
http://geeksguideshow.com/2012/05/10/ggg61-paul-krugman/

fjtorres
09-18-2012, 06:51 PM
As a young teenager in the 60s I was a big Asimov fan. This thread was just the stimulus I needed to go back and reread some of them.

I have been rereading some of A. Bertram Chandler's Rim Worlds stories lately. They now suffer from some of the same flaws as Asimov's. They have second and third generation star ships with sophisticated computers, but reports are still "typed" on paper and newly landed spacemen look for phone booths. Even his description of the universe reflects a bias towards the Steady State theory of Cosmology as opposed to the Big Bang.

Far from being stumbling blocks I think they add to the interest.

I also read mysteries from the 50s and 60s, but in this genre the anachronisms are suited to the setting. No one would expect a private eye in the 1960s to do research on Google, or keep in touch with his cell phone (mobile).

It's all part of the fun. And it really is fun!

Larry Niven wrote of a future where, instead of phone booths, cities had teleport booths. And they used rotary dials.
In F.M Busby's RISSA KERGUELEN, the starship combat lasers were aimed with oscilloscopes.
In most of Heinlein's stories, audio was recorded on wire, not silicon chips.
None of which was essential or detrimental to the nature of the story or its impact.

All SF, by definition, takes place in alternate universes. (They sure as heck don't take place *here*.)

gojisube
09-18-2012, 11:50 PM
I recently re-read the Foundation trilogy for the first time since the early 80s. Reading it today, yes it felt dated, the characterization was less than I remembered, but the ideas and psychohistory were still there. And, that's what I remembered from the books. As others have mentioned, it was the ideas not the awesome prose or turn of phrase you read Asimov for.

If you think the Foundation series is badly written, please stay as far away as possible from the Lucky Starr series he wrote as "Paul French." They're a slight step up from Tom Corbett space cadet books. I've been reading a lot of 50s and 40s science fiction lately, in comparison Asimov is well beyond them in regards to his ideas, but his writing style is very much pulp SF. It's what was being read, and what he had to use to get his ideas out there.

piper28
09-18-2012, 11:54 PM
I'll have to admit that the early Foundation stuff was never really my favorites of the Asimov stuff myself. There were pieces that I liked and pieces that I just found incredibly dry. I actually found Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth more interesting myself. That said, I still pick the series up from time to time to read. And to say that it's not visionary? There's an awful lot of research that goes into crowd dynamics that I'd argue is very much related to the psychohistory stuff.

To be though, I'd actually say Asimov's biggest impact was all the stuff he did with Robotics. And that stuff definitely had a profound impact on other science fiction writers.

Dune? I'll give you the first three as pretty good, but I found it pretty tough to labor through the second three myself. Actually can't remember if I ever managed to finish them, or if I finally gave up.

That's the nice thing about science fiction (and literature in general). There's an awful lot of it out there, and nobody has to like everything.

piper28
09-18-2012, 11:58 PM
If you think the Foundation series is badly written, please stay as far away as possible from the Lucky Starr series he wrote as "Paul French."

Hey now, I loved those as a kid :). And I'd argue that for a young reader level, they're not actually that bad. Yeah, they definitely don't hold up well, but they're an amusing light read.

pholy
09-19-2012, 12:05 AM
Make a particular effort to avoid the Barsoom stuff by Edgar Rice Burroughs, then. ... the sole reason female characters exist is to get kidnapped, so that the he-man hero can rescue her (and she will fall madly in love with him and make his babies).

And I say this as someone who has a certain apprecation for the classics.


And definitely stay away from anything by John Norman.


No, no, NO! Anyone who thinks Issac Asimov is a bad writer definitely must read John Norman.


As a penence... :rolleyes:

taustin
09-19-2012, 12:17 AM
No, no, NO! Anyone who thinks Issac Asimov is a bad writer definitely must read John Norman.


As a penence... :rolleyes:

There are rules about cruel and unusual punishment, aren't there?

pholy
09-19-2012, 12:30 AM
If you think the Foundation series is badly written, please stay as far away as possible from the Lucky Starr series he wrote as "Paul French." They're a slight step up from Tom Corbett space cadet books. I've been reading a lot of 50s and 40s science fiction lately, in comparison Asimov is well beyond them in regards to his ideas, but his writing style is very much pulp SF. It's what was being read, and what he had to use to get his ideas out there.

Hey now, I loved those as a kid :). And I'd argue that for a young reader level, they're not actually that bad. Yeah, they definitely don't hold up well, but they're an amusing light read.

Yeah, you lay off of Paul French. I read them when I was 10 or 11, and I loved them. The Moons of Jupiter, the Rings of Saturn, the Oceans of Venus (!?), um not the Hell of Mercury... ah, the Big Sun of Mercury! He put as much science in them as was known, and could be handled by a ten year old. I'm not sure I'd enjoy them fifty-some years later, though.

pholy
09-19-2012, 12:31 AM
There are rules about cruel and unusual punishment, aren't there?

Ah, but the punishment must fit the crime, don't you think?

Serpentine
09-19-2012, 01:18 AM
I can't really say that Asimov lets me down; I find it just as with a lot of A.C. Clarke's stuff, you need to try and remove the whole todays-computer thing from your mind when you look at the technology. It was also a time where novels were more about stories and ideals and less about the minute details of a fictional world.

That said, one SF author that I think is massively overrated is Niven. Urgh :/

grumbles
09-19-2012, 01:31 AM
DrNeferio said
"I found Foundation quite boring too, although the dated technology was kind of charming. At least he had computers with visual displays. I also read Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky earlier this year, where they still use slide-rules."

What do you mean, still using? When that was written, that was all that was available. If you were really lucky you might have an adding machine. A large organization may have a few mechanical calculators that could actually do multiplication and division. They were big, they were noisy and they were expensive. Cheap four function calculators first appeared in the mid seventies. I still remember the first pocket scientific calculator, the HP-35, and it was over $300 at the time.

The technology of all sf from before the sixties will seem hopelessly outdated. Nobody anticipated the revolution that solid state electronics would create. But in the same fashion, heroines (and heroes) dying of TB seems quaint in the age of over abundant antibiotics.

Asimov, Heinlein and the others were first and foremost story tellers who told stories of the future as it might unfold from where they were looking. And for the most part, they are great stories.
Asimov didn't write

Rizla
09-19-2012, 04:39 AM
I'd be interested to know what the OP does like.

HarryT
09-19-2012, 04:55 AM
I prefer Asimov's short stories to his novels, especially his mystery stories. The "Black Widowers" stories are excellent, I think.

Rizla
09-19-2012, 05:36 AM
That said, one SF author that I think is massively overrated is Niven. Urgh :/

Ringworld is excellent (and the first couple of sequels), though I don't like his other stuff.

Speaking of overrated, what's the big fuss about Heinlein? Starship Troopers is okay, and I read Have Spacesuit, Will Travel when I was a kid and enjoyed it. But IMO he's not even close to Asimov or Clarke.

Another overrated book is The Forever War. It's alright, but it's nothing special. I dunno. Different blokes different strokes, I guess.

SeaKing
09-19-2012, 05:46 AM
DrNeferio said
"I found Foundation quite boring too, although the dated technology was kind of charming. At least he had computers with visual displays. I also read Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky earlier this year, where they still use slide-rules."

What do you mean, still using? When that was written, that was all that was available. If you were really lucky you might have an adding machine. A large organization may have a few mechanical calculators that could actually do multiplication and division. They were big, they were noisy and they were expensive. Cheap four function calculators first appeared in the mid seventies. I still remember the first pocket scientific calculator, the HP-35, and it was over $300 at the time.

The technology of all sf from before the sixties will seem hopelessly outdated. Nobody anticipated the revolution that solid state electronics would create. But in the same fashion, heroines (and heroes) dying of TB seems quaint in the age of over abundant antibiotics.

Asimov, Heinlein and the others were first and foremost story tellers who told stories of the future as it might unfold from where they were looking. And for the most part, they are great stories.
Asimov didn't write

First I generally like Asimov. Heinlein not so much, but heck when I was a kid, you didn't have much choice. The only thing good about Heinlein's "Stranger in a strange land" was that very line.
Asimov had much better material, but I agree Foundation was kind of a bore to me. A lot of friends loved it though.

As for the calculators, I remember the mechanical ones you speak of that could do multiplication and division. They had a big, big keyboard about a 10 inches wide and about the same wide. There were rows of mechanical keys. I don't remember how many but maybe 10 or more rows on some.
When they multiplied or divided the wheels inside would spin and make a tremendous whine. The ones that added weren't so noisy, as I remember. There was a part of the machine on the top that would slide left and right as it calculated, lining things up internally. All mechanical except for the motor that drove the apparatus.

Some ladies at the base used them. They had been around for years. The ladies and the machines.

:)

The first real scientific electronic calculators appeared early 70s I believe. HP brought the 35 out, then the 45 and finally the 65 which was programmable. I only saw demonstrations of those.
Before that you could get a 4 function electronic calculator for maybe a $100 and remember that $100 was a lot more than a $100 today. What people wanted was a 4 function with a square root key which could do interesting calculations. There were books on it.
But sometime after the HP 35 came out, TI (I think) brought out the SR 70 calculator or something like that. (I can't multitask right now and look it up.) I remember it was about $169 or $179 and got everyone excited.

I do remember getting a Commodore Navigational calculator around 1978 or 79. It was a wonder. LED machine. Always used it with external power. I think it had batteries. Not sure now. Don't know the cost. I just signed for it.

Before that it was slide rules both like a stick and circular slide rules. Some people had problems with them.

Cyberman tM
09-19-2012, 06:36 AM
Since we're talking about calculating machines.
Has one of you read Asimov's "End of Eternity" ? It took me a while to figure out that a "computer" was actually a human being that worked with computing machines, not a sentient calculator...

Paul French is nice. A bit corny(?) perhaps, but it was made for TV, so... :D

Unintentional funny - in the first book he establishes the new name and the great gadget the hero gets from the aliens - just to never use either again...

DiapDealer
09-19-2012, 07:48 AM
The only thing good about Heinlein's "Stranger in a strange land" was that very line.
Again with the different strokes. I loved everything about Stranger in a Strange Land. Still do. ;)

It's funny to see so many people defend an author/work they feel someone has maligned by pointing out other authors/works they feel are even more deserving of a good maligning.

I'm not a fan of Asimov's writing. That's all I'm really qualified to state. The rest of what I could say is personal preference and subjective hoo-hah that isn't relevant to anyone else (except coincidentally). "Overrated" is a term used when someone just can't accept the fact that their tastes aren't universal. There's no way to use it without seeming to say; "I know better than all of you."

Lbooker
09-19-2012, 08:07 AM
All sci-fi authors who write about the future of humanity are worse than outdated : they are irrelevant, since humanity is self-destroying itself, fast destroying nature. Their writings are all dwarfed by those of this genius (IQ = 167) and real visionary :
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Kaczynski

kennyc
09-19-2012, 08:16 AM
I'd be interested to know what the OP does like.

:chinscratch:

kennyc
09-19-2012, 08:20 AM
No, no, NO! Anyone who thinks Issac Asimov is a bad writer definitely must read John Norman.


As a penence... :rolleyes:


:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

kennyc
09-19-2012, 08:23 AM
If you want children, have children. If you don't, then don't. You probably know what is best for you.

Well unless you are being controlled by aliens, in your brain or beaming thoughts in.. :D ;) :chinscratch:

pholy
09-19-2012, 08:42 AM
Geez, kenneyc, must you give this debate all the respect it deserves? :D

fjtorres
09-19-2012, 08:53 AM
If you think the Foundation series is badly written, please stay as far away as possible from the Lucky Starr series he wrote as "Paul French." They're a slight step up from Tom Corbett space cadet books. I've been reading a lot of 50s and 40s science fiction lately, in comparison Asimov is well beyond them in regards to his ideas, but his writing style is very much pulp SF. It's what was being read, and what he had to use to get his ideas out there.

Interesting that you bring up Tom Corbett Vis-a-vis Lucky Starr. The Lucky Starr books were conceived as companions to a proposed TV show Asimov was consulting on (Intended to compete with Tom Corbett) and they were intended for what 50's editors viewed as Young Adults. That the science was as "accurate" as it is (for the time) was Asimov going above and beyond the requirements of the effort.

Pulpishness and dated science aside, the books are still quite readable; especially the latter ones where Asimov folded them into his 50 worlds millieau.

DrNefario
09-19-2012, 09:29 AM
DrNeferio said
"I found Foundation quite boring too, although the dated technology was kind of charming. At least he had computers with visual displays. I also read Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky earlier this year, where they still use slide-rules."

What do you mean, still using? When that was written, that was all that was available. If you were really lucky you might have an adding machine. A large organization may have a few mechanical calculators that could actually do multiplication and division. They were big, they were noisy and they were expensive. Cheap four function calculators first appeared in the mid seventies. I still remember the first pocket scientific calculator, the HP-35, and it was over $300 at the time.Foundation pre-dates Farmer in the Sky, and in Foundation they use calculating machines with (monochrome) displays, whereas in Farmer they use slide rules.

Of course, Farmer in the Sky is set in the near future (maybe even past, now, I forget), after we colonised Ganymede in the 1980s, and Foundation is set in what is presumably the far future, of galactic empires, although I'm not sure it's related to Earth's timeline at all.

I don't hold the moving goalposts against either of them, or any of the other thousands of SF books that have been overtaken by history. I find the past views of the future quite interesting, in fact.

That doesn't make Asimov's books any more appealing. I still have to read Second Foundation and Foundation's Edge as part of my Hugo read-through, and I can't say I'm especially looking forward to them.

When I was growing up, the Big Three were Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein, and I have never really liked any of them. Asimov and Clarke tend to be very flat and dry, and while Heinlein can tell a good tale, he does tend to beat you around the head with some objectionable views while he's at it. They've all written at least one book I like, I just don't consider myself a fan of any of them.

HarryT
09-19-2012, 09:34 AM
When I was growing up, the Big Three were Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein, and I have never really liked any of them. Asimov and Clarke tend to be very flat and dry, and while Heinlein can tell a good tale, he does tend to beat you around the head with some objectionable views while he's at it. They've all written at least one book I like, I just don't consider myself a fan of any of them.

I love Heinlen's early stuff, but his later novels I think are just dreadful. Books like "Space Cadet" and "Starman Jones", though, are great.

b0ned0me
09-19-2012, 09:40 AM
A Truly Talented Sci fiWriter Like Frank Herbert Wrote Dune in the 1960's its Future tech was way more imaginative
I haven't read any of Herbert's stuff for a long time, but from what I recall his 'future tech' was a bit more towards the 'fantasy' end of the spectrum than Asimov's. Nothing wrong with that, there are two parts to Science Fiction and writers are free to pick which they emphasise.

However one particular problem the more 'sciency' writers suffer from is that they are punished for being real visionaries rather than speculating wildly, because their ideas are close enough to reality to be either mundanely ordinary or recognisably a bit wrong.
e.g. Heinlein who nailed the whole cell phone thing in the late forties - so well that sixty years later the only bits you notice are the minor wrongnesses (no-none answers their own cellphone by reciting their name and number).
This simply isn't an issue for those who fabricate an extraordinary McGuffin from whole cloth when the story calls for one. Something like Herbert's 'spice' isn't ever going to collide with our everyday experience of reality, for instance.

DiapDealer
09-19-2012, 09:48 AM
I love Heinlen's early stuff, but his later novels I think are just dreadful. Books like "Space Cadet" and "Starman Jones", though, are great.
See, I'm the complete opposite. I love Heinlein's later stuff and find his early novels a tad silly. But that probably has everything to do with the fact that I never read any Heinlein until after I was nearly a jaded adult. I had no nostalgic, boyhood Have Spacesuit—Will Travel-reading memories with which to influence/temper my later reading experiences. :D

Namekuseijin
09-19-2012, 09:50 AM
Third Asimov let his (IMHO) Rabid Atheism color his linguistic choices

now you really got to the crux of it, huh?

Asimov as others told, is not really about characters. The ideas and concepts are awesome, though.

Read his "The last question" (http://filer.case.edu/dts8/thelastq.htm). Short and sweet pulp classic tale, though wholy anachronic by now. Should bring a smile to your face.

BenG
09-19-2012, 10:37 AM
If you're going to be bothered by details like slide rules and no cell phones, perhaps you shouldn't read SF. It's like complaining about a 70s novel picturing future appliances in avocado and harvest gold. :) The stories weren't about those details and today's SF will get just as many details wrong when we look back decades later.

Besides it's in the future, how do you know interstellar space travel won't require slide rules? :)

RDaneel54
09-19-2012, 11:00 AM
I love Heinlen's early stuff, but his later novels I think are just dreadful. Books like "Space Cadet" and "Starman Jones", though, are great.

I agree with you there, Harry. I love his "juvenile" novels.

He was always a good story teller, even to the end. But the stories got stranger the older he got. To be fair, there are a lot stranger writers out there; but the change in his writing bothered me. Maybe it was a loss of innocence on my part.:chinscratch:

Toxaris
09-19-2012, 11:08 AM
I really like Heinlein. I feel that 'By His Bootstraps' is still one of the best time-travel novelettes. I know that several people complain about his believes or ideas, but personally I don't see it in his novels. Stranger is also one of my favorites.
Clarke and Asimov I also like, but don't care much for Foundation. I find the short stories of Asimov much better as his Robot novels.

Another real favorite of mine is Jack Vance. He can really play with words and tell a good tale.

DrNefario
09-19-2012, 11:15 AM
Besides it's in the future, how do you know interstellar space travel won't require slide rules? :)

It did occur to me that if you can't rely on power, a slide-rule might be a better choice, but I've never used one and have no idea how they work. I'm a victim of progress. :) (Although at least I do know how to work things out on paper.)

MikeB1972
09-19-2012, 12:05 PM
It did occur to me that if you can't rely on power, a slide-rule might be a better choice, but I've never used one and have no idea how they work. I'm a victim of progress. :) (Although at least I do know how to work things out on paper.)

I'm thinking that it you can't rely on power then a spaceship is probably not the best idea.

You could always say that hyperspace messes up computers (alters the conductivity of silicon or some such) so all spaceships need to be manually operated - Steampunk in space :chinscratch:

calvin-c
09-19-2012, 01:16 PM
Another essay I read (can't even remember who wrote it) renamed science fiction as speculative fiction-and I like that name better. What *I* like to read are stories that make you think. For me it's usually not about the people but about their society. People don't change due to scientific advancement-but societies do. The same, to a lesser extent, is true of philosophical 'advancement'.

BenG
09-19-2012, 01:42 PM
It did occur to me that if you can't rely on power, a slide-rule might be a better choice, but I've never used one and have no idea how they work. I'm a victim of progress. :) (Although at least I do know how to work things out on paper.)

We learned to use one in high school in the early 70s. It may still be in storage somewhere at my mother's house. We never had a chance to use it practically.
I remember there was one guy in my Algebra class that had a calculator but it was prohibitively expensive and he wasn't allowed to use it in class or for tests.

bill_mchale
09-19-2012, 01:48 PM
Just a couple of thoughts on what people have said.

1. People tend to treat the Foundation Trilogy as a set of novels; its not. It is really a collection of short fiction (from short story to novella length). In science fiction its generally difficult to focus much on characters and still make it an SF story in short fiction. While he was never a great character writer, the characters in his true novels do tend to have a bit more depth to them. Maybe not three dimensional, but maybe 2.5 dimensional :).

2. Dune, published more than 2 decades after foundation escapes some of the datedness of Foundation by essentially throwing out any technology we recognize. Computers are banned, atomics likewise by strong social conventions. Lots of other normal technology is explained away by a single revolutionary (and implausible I might add) technology. Spice is a gigantic McGuffin. It all works. Dune is truly one of great SF books of all time and remains readable today without seeming overly dated. Dune Messiah was pretty good as well. Frankly, though I read them, I think the rest of the series was average at best.

3. On Heinlein. I think he was truly visionary in the early years and for me, remained highly readable up through the mid-60s. After that, the weirdness first displayed in Stranger in a Strange Land seems to become the norm.

So, is any of it great literature? I don't know. I expect that judgment will be made in about 50 years. Some that are held up as great now will likely be mostly forgotten and others denigrated might be considered new classics.

--
Bill

BenG
09-19-2012, 01:50 PM
I agree with you there, Harry. I love his "juvenile" novels.

He was always a good story teller, even to the end. But the stories got stranger the older he got. To be fair, there are a lot stranger writers out there; but the change in his writing bothered me. Maybe it was a loss of innocence on my part.:chinscratch:

The rule for Heinlein is to start with the books that are under an inch thick, then go on from there.

I like most of his books through the 1970s, his 80s novels not as much.

petrucci
09-19-2012, 01:53 PM
That is not the question.

The question is whether women should aspire to be ONLY wives and mothers and nothing else, or not.

You can valorize motherhood and childbirth without thinking it's the end-all-be-all of existence for half the human race.

Don't be sexist.

I think that women should be free to aspire to be what they want without being looked down upon by others.

As an adolescent, Asimov was one of my favorite authors. I loved his settings, and being a nerd, the lack of character never registered on my radar. I will have to dust off some of the old books and see how they aged.

tompe
09-19-2012, 02:24 PM
Other opinions on Isaac Asimov and his work:

1987 Grand Master Award Winner
1960 Hugo for best all time series, "Foundation" (of all things!)
1973 Hugo for novel, "The Gods Themselves"
1977 Hugo for novelette, "The Bicentennial Man"
1983 Hugo for novel, "Foundation's Edge" (again for this series?)

Several other Hugos, Nebulas you can look up.

I think these Science Fiction award guys know good writing. :thumbsup:

Dean (who didn't pick RDaneel54 as his monicker because he thought Asimov's writing was bad.)

The Hugo is voted on by members of Worldcon so anybody who pay a supporting membership can vote. And looking at how people vote you will see that you cannot trust their taste... And good writing is usually not winning over old fashioned sf stories.

QuantumIguana
09-19-2012, 02:45 PM
If you're going to ignore the Hugo Awards because they were chosen by readers as well as writers, then how about the Nebula Awards, chosen by writers? Just because you don't like the books that won the Hugo Awards doesn't mean that they are wrong.

Nebula awards for best Novel:

1983 Isaac Asimov Foundation's Edge
1973 Isaac Asimov The Gods Themselves

Best Novelette:

1977 Isaac Asimov The Bicentennial Man

Best Short Story

1966 Isaac Asimov Eyes Do More Than See
1966 Isaac Asimov Founding Father
1987 Isaac Asimov Robot Dreams

taustin
09-19-2012, 03:23 PM
Ah, but the punishment must fit the crime, don't you think?

Actually, the correct response is, "That's cruel and unusual. If we do it to everyone, it's not unusual!"

(This has actually been used - successfully - as a defense by jails.)

bill_mchale
09-19-2012, 03:36 PM
The Hugo is voted on by members of Worldcon so anybody who pay a supporting membership can vote. And looking at how people vote you will see that you cannot trust their taste... And good writing is usually not winning over old fashioned sf stories.

Well I don't think you can trust anybody's taste except your own.. and perhaps those people you have previously found to have similar taste to yours. Awards do tend to be somewhat unreliable because they are chosen by a group that changes over time. So even if you like authors who who the Hugo recently, it doesn't mean you will like the authors who won it 30 years ago.

I do have one thought though.. if you are at all a fan of science fiction, I find that books that win both the Hugo and the Nebula are probably books that should be read... if for no other reason that they will probably be books your other SF friends will read :).

--
Bill

GlennD
09-19-2012, 03:49 PM
Make a particular effort to avoid the Barsoom stuff by Edgar Rice Burroughs, then. Unlike the recent movie (where Dejah Thoris kicks ass better than John Carter, and they wonder why it bombed) the sole reason female characters exist is to get kidnapped, so that the he-man hero can rescue her (and she will fall madly in love with him and make his babies).

And I say this as someone who has a certain apprecation for the classics.

(Could not read the one written by his son, though. From what I could tell, by the writing style, the characterization, the plotting, it was written when said son was about three years old.)

I don't think you're giving Burroughs enough credit. When we first 'meet' Dejah Thoris, she is part of a scientific expedition although we aren't told her role. She then functions as a diplomat, standing up to a Warhoon leader despite believing that she is soon to be tortured and killed. She attacks Sarkoja (a green woman twice her size at least) when Sarkoja tries to blind John Carter during a duel. She's pretty strong for a female character written in 1912.

It's been a while but I also seem to remember that John Carter taught his daughter Tara how to handle a sword.

Thuvia saves John Carter's life in the Gods of Mars when they're about to be attacked by banths, and takes care of herself pretty well in her own book.

Tavia fights beside Tan Hadron in A Fighting Man of Mars.

Barsoomian women even get some independence in the reproductive process - they lay eggs and don't have to deal with pregnancy and delivery. We don't get a lot of detail about that, or about child rearing. (We do know that the green women are responsible for young children, but they're the 'barbarians' after all.)

I'm not claiming Barsoom is a feminist paradise by any stretch....but the women aren't simpering weaklings just waiting to be rescued.

I don't actually think of the Barsoom books as being primarily sci-fi. They are (along with all of Burroughs' other books) escapist romances aimed at men. They're essentially equivalent to the bodice rippers aimed at women....that's either your cup of tea or it ain't.

ebusinesstutor
09-19-2012, 03:51 PM
Taste is so subjective so if you don't like Asimov's stories, no reason to call him overrated.

I think today's critics focus too much on character sometimes to the detriment of the story line. I skip past the extensive physical descriptions of people, places and objects because I find them boring.

On the other hand, we can't fault a 40's author for thinking nuclear power would be a major power source in the future. After all, we are still using it today and in space.

I don't have to defend Asimov - his career and work stands for itself. But I will highlight a few things:

1. He revolutionized robot stories. Before his I,Robot stories, most robot stories were of the "Frankenstein" bent. Always running amuck and killing their creators. Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics" was a radically different approach.

2. He is credited with adding several new words to the English language including robotics, positronic and psychohistory. So the whole robotics industry is built on a word he made up.

3. He has writen what many people believe is the best science fiction short story of all time, "Nightfall," along with a ton of other excellent short stories.

His books have sold many,many copies and he has won numerous awards including multiple Hugos and Nebulas.

So while he may not be your cup of tea, he is not "overrated."

fjtorres
09-19-2012, 04:10 PM
It did occur to me that if you can't rely on power, a slide-rule might be a better choice, but I've never used one and have no idea how they work. I'm a victim of progress. :) (Although at least I do know how to work things out on paper.)

My High School physics teacher believed the best way to truly understand and internalize logarithms you had to use a slide rule. Also the best way to understand orders of magnitude in calculations. He had a honking big eight foot monster mounted in the classroom for demonstration and drills. (Plus, it looked really cool.)

DustyDisks
09-19-2012, 04:15 PM
My High School physics teacher believed the best way to truly understand and internalize logarithms you had to use a slide rule. Also the best way to understand orders of magnitude in calculations. He had a honking big eight foot monster mounted in the classroom for demonstration and drills. (Plus, it looked really cool.) Had one of those monsters in my class also! Pocket protectors were also part of the "Uniform"! :rofl:


Sorry! :D

:offtopic:

fjtorres
09-19-2012, 04:18 PM
Had one of those monsters in my class also! Pocket protectors were also part of the "Uniform"! :rofl:

No pocket protectors for me--the glasses were bad enough.
But the T-square was a dead giveaway for first year engineering students. (So I bought an attache case and a modular one I could disassemble and hide so I could at least pass for human.) :cool:

Anyway, when I first read Heinlein's DOOR INTO SUMMER I was seriously impressed by his mechanical drafting machines. A bit less so after AUTOCAD and co came out. ;)

tompe
09-19-2012, 04:33 PM
If you're going to ignore the Hugo Awards because they were chosen by readers as well as writers, then how about the Nebula Awards, chosen by writers? Just because you don't like the books that won the Hugo Awards doesn't mean that they are wrong.


My point was more that good writing is not a thing that will win you the Hugo usually. Competent writing and a really god story will most often win. Or just being a popular person might cause you to win.

The Nebula seemed to me at a certain period to be political in the way that the best book was not the one that won but a book could win if it was considered that the writer deserved to win for all the previous work.

The short list i think have the best books are the Carke Award short list.

tompe
09-19-2012, 04:36 PM
I do have one thought though.. if you are at all a fan of science fiction, I find that books that win both the Hugo and the Nebula are probably books that should be read... if for no other reason that they will probably be books your other SF friends will read :).


I think that all the books that are on the Hugo and Nubula and Clarke short list should be read. I read all the Hugo naminated novels and try to read the Clarke short list.

And this year the Hugo voting actually voted according to my taste with Jo Walton as winner and China Meiville as second.

Graham
09-19-2012, 04:55 PM
2. He is credited with adding several new words to the English language including robotics, positronic and psychohistory. So the whole robotics industry is built on a word he made up.

'Robotics' perhaps, but not 'robot'. That comes from the play R.U.R (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.U.R._(Rossum%27s_Universal_Robots)) by Karel Čapek (Rossum's Universal Robots).

Graham

bill_mchale
09-19-2012, 04:58 PM
My point was more that good writing is not a thing that will win you the Hugo usually. Competent writing and a really god story will most often win. Or just being a popular person might cause you to win.


I suppose that is true. There are an awful lot of us that believe the first job of a novel is to tell a story. The better it tells the story, the better the book (in our view). Indeed, I tend to think of that as good writing :). What you and others here seem to be talking about is good style.


The Nebula seemed to me at a certain period to be political in the way that the best book was not the one that won but a book could win if it was considered that the writer deserved to win for all the previous work.



Don't most awards get political at some point or another? Certainly the criteria will be driven by what is most important to the voters. Even if we divorce politics from the question, in Science Fiction and Fantasy, there are additional criteria that must clearly be considered beyond how good the story is and how good the style is; the ideas presented and the world building are almost certainly aspects that would be considered as well.

--
Bill

Fbone
09-19-2012, 05:35 PM
I prefer Asimov's short stories to his novels, especially his mystery stories. The "Black Widowers" stories are excellent, I think.

Thanks, I added this to my TBR list.

piper28
09-19-2012, 05:53 PM
Actually, the correct response is, "That's cruel and unusual. If we do it to everyone, it's not unusual!"

(This has actually been used - successfully - as a defense by jails.)

I tried that argument back in high school in a government class. I seem to remember failing that particular essay.

taustin
09-19-2012, 05:55 PM
I tried that argument back in high school in a government class. I seem to remember failing that particular essay.

As odd as it sounds, high school is more rational that real life courts.

taustin
09-19-2012, 05:59 PM
I don't think you're giving Burroughs enough credit.

Now that you point it out, yeah, I exaggerated a bit. But their primary purpose in those stories was to give the male characters something to rescue, even if they did often serve to reduce the total number of characters you have to keep track of. And now that I think about it, he got better as time went by (the laters ones were written post WWII, and the world was changing at that point).

rkomar
09-19-2012, 06:09 PM
I don't actually think of the Barsoom books as being primarily sci-fi. They are (along with all of Burroughs' other books) escapist romances aimed at men. They're essentially equivalent to the bodice rippers aimed at women....that's either your cup of tea or it ain't.

They're also "potboilers". Each chapter starts with someone fighting their way out of a trap, the middle has them wandering around for a bit, and then it ends just as they fall into the next trap. I think most of those novels were serialized chapter by chapter in magazines, which encouraged that format.

rkomar
09-19-2012, 06:21 PM
2. He is credited with adding several new words to the English language including robotics, positronic and psychohistory. So the whole robotics industry is built on a word he made up.

Is positronic actually used outside of Asimov's stories? In physics, it mirrors electronic (based on positrons rather than electrons), but Asimov didn't mean it that way. As far as I know, it refers to some fictional and undefined brain-like material in the stories, so I don't see the word being that useful anywhere else.

teh603
09-19-2012, 06:27 PM
My High School physics teacher believed the best way to truly understand and internalize logarithms you had to use a slide rule. Also the best way to understand orders of magnitude in calculations. He had a honking big eight foot monster mounted in the classroom for demonstration and drills. (Plus, it looked really cool.)Sad thing is, he's right.

DiapDealer
09-19-2012, 06:39 PM
Is positronic actually used outside of Asimov's stories?
Data has a positronic brain. :D

Nate the great
09-19-2012, 06:43 PM
However, in his defense - you aren't going to see many strong females (apart perhaps from Dors Venabili?) or many relevant females at all because he does NOT want to display them all as "secretaries" and on the other hand didn't have much experience with women - so he didn't know how to write about them.



Dors wasn't introduced until a much later book; one written in the 1980s, I believe.

And don't tell me it's difficult to write strong female characters in the 1950s; Heinlein wrote several.

fjtorres
09-19-2012, 07:16 PM
And don't tell me it's difficult to write strong female characters in the 1950s; Heinlein wrote several.

Ah, but Heinlein was a character-focused writer.
And he gave us memorable characters by the dozen. (Johnny Rico, Hugh Farnham, Lazarus Long, Val Smith...)
Asimov and Clarke were both focused in other directions, being primarily short-story writers.
But when Asimov felt the need to focus on character he didn't do all that badly. (THE END OF ETERNITY and PEBBLE IN THE SKY comes to mind from his more neglected works, as well as the ROBOT NOVELS where character is a driving force as much as the social issues at the heart of the stories.)

More to the point, when you consider that the ostensible premise of the classic FOUNDATION series is that individual action is subsumed/outweighed by the greater forces of mass human activity (economics, demography, etc) it would be a bit ironic if the series had spawned an iconic protagonist comparable to The Mule (who was defined as an aberration to start with).

Nate the great
09-19-2012, 08:01 PM
More to the point, when you consider that the ostensible premise of the classic FOUNDATION series is that individual action is subsumed/outweighed by the greater forces of mass human activity (economics, demography, etc) it would be a bit ironic if the series had spawned an iconic protagonist comparable to The Mule (who was defined as an aberration to start with).

I still think Asimov has a much overrated reputation as an SF author.

He wrote hardly any SF between 1960 and 1982 (not counting anthologies of his early works). And the first 15 years were very pulpy works, little of which aged well.

rkomar
09-19-2012, 10:02 PM
Data has a positronic brain. :D

Ah! Maybe if I wasn't so busy loathing the show while watching it with university housemates I would have picked up on that (or, more likely, I just grumbled even more at the reference). Kirk for the win! :D

Once again, DiapDealer, your superior memory is evident!

BenG
09-19-2012, 11:55 PM
Not just one of many. Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov were the SF "Big Three" in the 40s and 50s.
I'm not sure but Heinlein may have been the first to actually have a book published when he signed the deal with Scribners to write the juveniles.

QuantumIguana
09-20-2012, 10:10 AM
I couldn't get into Dune. I just couldn't see what the fuss was about. That doesn't mean that Hebert was "overrated", it merely means that it didn't appeal to me. Azimov is widely regarded as one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time. If your works are still being read 70 years later, you are obviously doing something right.

Not everyone is going to like every author. It's not just with science fiction authors either. Dickens is beloved by a great many people, but there are people who scratch their heads and wonder what people see in Dickens. They aren't wrong to not like Dickens, it is a matter of personal taste.

Asimov did write less science fiction in the 60's and 70's, but he was also writing an amazing number of science books during this period. Here's a link to Asimov's bibliography, sorted by year. http://www.asimovreviews.net/Numerical.html

ScotiaBurrell
09-20-2012, 11:08 AM
Here's a link to Asimov's bibliography, sorted by year. http://www.asimovreviews.net/Numerical.html

:thumbsup:

Graham
09-20-2012, 11:33 AM
The bibliography's nice, but doesn't include short stories, which is what he was publishing prolifically in the 40s (beginning in 1939).

The short stories and novellas that make up the Foundation Trilogy were published between May 1942 and January 1950, for example.

EDIT: Aha!

The site links to a chronological listing for his SF stories:

http://www.asimovonline.com/oldsite/short_fiction_sf_f_index.html

Graham

bill_mchale
09-20-2012, 02:01 PM
The bibliography's nice, but doesn't include short stories, which is what he was publishing prolifically in the 40s (beginning in 1939).

The short stories and novellas that make up the Foundation Trilogy were published between May 1942 and January 1950, for example.

EDIT: Aha!

The site links to a chronological listing for his SF stories:

http://www.asimovonline.com/oldsite/short_fiction_sf_f_index.html

Graham


This is interesting. It looks like he continued a fair bit of work in short fiction during the 60s and 70's despite Nate's contention that he wrote hardly any SF during that period. And one or two of the things he did write (The Gods Themselves, the Bicentenial Man) are ranked fairly highly amongst what he wrote through his entire career.

--
Bill

Loafers
09-20-2012, 03:50 PM
The Last Question

nuff said.

kennyc
09-20-2012, 04:13 PM
42



.

Loafers
09-20-2012, 04:15 PM
42



.
wrong book, but im sure that was a joke :)

twobob
09-20-2012, 04:30 PM
I'm late to the debate, and it's mainly been said.

Isaac = visionary :bow2:

unkilbeeg
09-20-2012, 06:00 PM
Another essay I read (can't even remember who wrote it) renamed science fiction as speculative fiction-and I like that name better. What *I* like to read are stories that make you think. For me it's usually not about the people but about their society. People don't change due to scientific advancement-but societies do. The same, to a lesser extent, is true of philosophical 'advancement'.

I think that might have *been* Asimov. I remember the "SF as Spec Fiction" discussions from the mid 70s, and still to this day cringe at the phrase Sci Fi.

fjtorres
09-20-2012, 06:45 PM
I think that might have *been* Asimov. I remember the "SF as Spec Fiction" discussions from the mid 70s, and still to this day cringe at the phrase Sci Fi.

The term SciFi *originated* as a disparaging term in the 50's.
Forest J. Ackerman intended it for stories that had the form but not the substance of serious SF. The mass media, ever subtle, applies it to everything.

BlackVoid
09-21-2012, 08:23 AM
Lol, you should read the Bible. Also a bit dated, but rampant atheism at least is missing.
;)

It is called SCIENCE fiction, not RELIGIOUS fiction.

kennyc
09-21-2012, 08:57 AM
Lol, you should read the Bible. Also a bit dated, but rampant atheism at least is missing.
;)

It is called SCIENCE fiction, not RELIGIOUS fiction.


:thumbsup:

DrNefario
09-21-2012, 09:07 AM
I have to say I would definitely not recommend Asimov to a non-SF reader to try to convert them. Foundation especially.

The Robot stories might be a bit more accessible. It's a long time since I read them.

I wouldn't recommend Clarke or Heinlein, either. Bradbury, maybe, for that era?

tompe
09-21-2012, 09:36 AM
I wouldn't recommend Clarke or Heinlein, either. Bradbury, maybe, for that era?

Bradbury is just to strange and he considered himself to be writing fantasy and not sf.

I would say that Heinlein's Have Spacesuit, Will Travel is a very good introduction to science fiction.

fjtorres
09-21-2012, 09:54 AM
50's era Heinlein is a good intro to newcomers.
Any of the juvenies if they're young; THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS if they're older.
His first novel (BEYOND THIS HORIZON) is probably a bit better for sheer accessibility.

Asimov? NIGHTFALL is probably a good intro to what he's all about.
Clarke? Oh, go straight to CHILDHOOD'S END.

And since Herbert keeps coming up; yes, do DUNE. Avoid all sequels, avoid SANTAROGA BARRIER, HELLSTROM'S HIVE and most of his work other than UNDER PRESSURE, at least until you're familiar with the genre. Accessible he ain't. :)

Bradbury is in many ways the opposite of Asimov and Clark; more about mood and style than idea and concept. A SOUND OF THUNDER is probably as accessible he gets.

BeccaPrice
09-21-2012, 10:51 AM
I've always felt that Heinlein's Double Star was an under-rated book. It has a lot to say about the nature of personal identity. (wasn't there a Kurasawa film with the same theme?)

fjtorres
09-21-2012, 11:11 AM
I've always felt that Heinlein's Double Star was an under-rated book. It has a lot to say about the nature of personal identity. (wasn't there a Kurasawa film with the same theme?)

Neglected, for sure.
A bit odd given that it won a Hugo and has figured in the news a few times:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2008/mar/21/nicepicpleaseturnerpic


In 1968, when Charles Hall tried to apply for a patent on the waterbed he thought he had invented, he found he was unable to do so because Heinlein had already described one in sufficient detail in Double Star (and other places). This impressive bit of technological pre-empting sits neatly alongside the fact that the book is generally cited as the first to use the abbreviation "ET" (or at least, eetee). Elsewhere, there are dozens of other inventive ideas, which may not have been realised, but do sound cool. There's real appeal to a sealed off "Hush Corner" noise reduction areas for intimate conversations in crowded bars, for example, while "Bounce Tube" pneumatic transport systems for people might do a lot to improve commuting.

In common with much of the best SF, it's not just the scientific ideas that make this book worthy of investigation. History does too. The political concerns and philosophy that Heinlein chooses to project onto his imagined future also provide an intriguing barometer of his times.

The book's impassioned pleas for understanding and tolerance with regard to Martian culture, for instance, might not make for a subtle allegory, but it is moving given the book's context in 1950s America. It's not beyond the realms of possibility that a few of those impressionable teenage white males who comprised the books original target audience went on to stand with Martin Luther King on the Washington Mall a few years later.


Considering how often Heinlein gets crucified by those a of a certain political persuasion, as a "fascist" and even a racist, DOUBLE STAR should indeed be brought up more often.

Darkday
09-21-2012, 11:49 AM
Another essay I read (can't even remember who wrote it) renamed science fiction as speculative fiction-and I like that name better. [...]

I think that might have *been* Asimov. [...]

No, Asimov preferred the term "science fiction". In his autobiography "In Joy Still Felt," he wrote the following: (page 731)
[O]n January 23 [1976] [...], I was on a panel with several writers, and we all tried to define science fiction. Two of the other members of the panel were Harlan Ellison and Barry Malzberg. They (together with Robert Silverberg, who was not on the panel) had grown disillusioned with science fiction and were threatening to write no more of it. Harlan even argued that the name itself was mischievous and helped keep us all in a disregarded "ghetto." He wanted it called "speculative fiction." Against this, I maintained the conservative view. I liked science fiction, I wanted to keep the name. [...]

BenG
09-21-2012, 12:09 PM
I've always felt that Heinlein's Double Star was an under-rated book. It has a lot to say about the nature of personal identity. (wasn't there a Kurasawa film with the same theme?)

I always thought it was the best of the juveniles and more appealing to adults.

JD Gumby
09-21-2012, 12:33 PM
And since Herbert keeps coming up; yes, do DUNE. Avoid all sequels, avoid SANTAROGA BARRIER, HELLSTROM'S HIVE and most of his work other than UNDER PRESSURE, at least until you're familiar with the genre. Accessible he ain't. :)

Really, avoid anything of his that isn't Dune. They're quite 60s & 70s and the best you can call them is schlock, I think.

The sequels written by Frank Herbert (Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune) are good, not great (worth reading, but you won't miss much if you ignore the final three). The Dune books to avoid are the abominations by Brian Herbert (Frank's son) and Kevin J. Anderson. They have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Bradbury is in many ways the opposite of Asimov and Clark; more about mood and style than idea and concept. A SOUND OF THUNDER is probably as accessible he gets.

...while "The Martian Chronicles" is an almost incomprehensible mess. :) (tried reading it a couple of months ago - I'll stick to Fahrenheit 451, I think :))

taustin
09-21-2012, 12:52 PM
It is called SCIENCE fiction, not RELIGIOUS fiction.

It's not missing so much as punished.

fjtorres
09-21-2012, 01:13 PM
It's not missing so much as punished.

Some might call it turnabout, given how often it has been used as an excuse to punish rationalist thinking. ;)

fjtorres
09-21-2012, 01:20 PM
Really, avoid anything of his that isn't Dune. They're quite 60s & 70s and the best you can call them is schlock, I think.


I have a high tolerance for "schlock" but DUNE MESSIAH is just a mess.
UNDER PRESSURE, on the other hand, I found to be a cut above everything of his but DUNE. (And, being a glutton for punishment, I have a fairly deep Herbert library.) At the time it was highly regarded, too.

Bradbury I just never got into. A matter of style and taste. Most poetry doesn't do much for me either.
I just prefer lean prose (Asimov over Bradbury, Donaldson over Tolkien, etc)

kennyc
09-21-2012, 01:22 PM
I have a high tolerance for "schlock" but DUNE MESSIAH is just a mess.
UNDER PRESSURE, on the other hand, I found to be a cut above everything of his but DUNE. (And, being a glutton for punishment, I have a fairly deep Herbert library.) At the time it was highly regarded, too.

Bradbury I just never got into. A matter of style and taste. Most poetry doesn't do much for me either.
I just prefer lean prose (Asimov over Bradbury, Donaldson over Tolkien, etc)

And anything over Neil Stephenson :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

Phogg
09-21-2012, 02:00 PM
Well, they're noisy, ugly, smelly, and grow up to be teenagers.

Aside from that, nothing. But I do believe that women should aspire to something other than being a plot of dirt to be plowed and planted.

So you don't like babies, and you believe women who find the process of making them mutually enjoyable to be worthy of denigration. Are you a misogynist all the time, or just today?

taustin
09-21-2012, 02:48 PM
So you don't like babies,

All children, really, but not children in general. It's just that most of the ones I meet, I hate personally and individuall.

and you believe women who find the process of making them mutually enjoyable to be worthy of denigration.

Not what I said.

Are you a misogynist all the time, or just today?

Are you a liar all the time, or just today? (Note: you started the namecalling, not me.)

jgaiser
09-21-2012, 03:30 PM
And anything over Neil Stephenson :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

Blasphemy.... :eek: :p

JAcheson
09-21-2012, 06:01 PM
Asimov was definitely an idea man. His best stuff is probably his robot stories, where he takes an interesting concept (his Three Laws of Robotics) and then turns them into pretty good stories that also serve to show the twists and turns and limits of the basic concept.

They are fairly dated, though. I reread I, Robot after the Will Smith movie came out, and stuff like astronauts on Mercury riding on the shoulders of robots and steering them with the robots' ears was just wacky by that point. Even his Three Laws of Robotics are kind of a charming anachronism in the modern day.

I will also say that I appreciate the economy with which the 50's sci fi guys wrote. I like it when I can read an entire novel within 150 pages.

Bald Eagle
09-21-2012, 06:31 PM
And anything over Neil Stephenson :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

Someone needs to listen to Reason... :)


REASON version 1.0B7
Gatling-type 3mm
hypervelocity railgun system
Ng Security Industries,Inc.

PRERELEASE VERSION鋒OT FOR FIELD USE

DO NOT TEST IN A POPULATED AREA
- ULTIMA RATIO REGUM -

fjtorres
09-21-2012, 07:32 PM
They are fairly dated, though. I reread I, Robot after the Will Smith movie came out, and stuff like astronauts on Mercury riding on the shoulders of robots and steering them with the robots' ears was just wacky

You think 50's era robot-back exploration is wacky?
After watching that movie? :eek:

I'm thinking future generations will be a *lot* kinder to Asimov than to the producers of that particular bit of Hollywood dreck...
(Bridget Moynihan is a fine actress but way down the list of appropriate casting choices for Susan Calvin. And that is the least of brickbats headed their way.)

I will grant that as attrocious as I ROBOT was, it pales before the abomination that was Nightfall (1988).

QuantumIguana
09-21-2012, 07:53 PM
Asimov's three laws are well beyond our ability to implement. To obey the first or third laws requires that the robot be able to recognize when harm is taking place or is about to take place. It then requires the robot to recognize what steps to take to correct or prevent the harm.

The second law, getting the robot to understand what you want when you give it an order is tricky enough as it is.

I didn't think I, Robot was a great movie, but it did seem a possible outcome of the Zeroth Law of Robotics, "A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm." Once you allow the robots to violate the First Law, pretty much anything goes. The robot would free to do anything that it thinks will prevent harm to humanity.

Nightfall, that was a couple hours I wish I could surgically remove from my brain.

taustin
09-21-2012, 07:56 PM
Asimov's three laws are well beyond our ability to implement. To obey the first or third laws requires that the robot be able to recognize when harm is taking place or is about to take place. It then requires the robot to recognize what steps to take to correct or prevent the harm.

And that doesn't even begin to address the issue of who gets to define hard in the first place. And, to put a Star Trek/Kirk hates computers spin on it, how does a robot deal with a masochist? "Not harming me is harmful to me."

The second law, getting the robot to understand what you want when you give it an order is tricky enough as it is.

Lesson #1 in any programming class is the difference between the computer doing what you told it to, and doing what you want it to.

Freeshadow
09-21-2012, 08:17 PM
how does a robot deal with a masochist? "Not harming me is harmful to me."
Infliction of pain is not equal to structural damage. Just a matter of adjustment and methods.
And as it is not unpleasant for the masochist, therefore there is no psychic damage inflicted too.
Easy enough isn't it?

gojisube
09-21-2012, 08:35 PM
Interesting that you bring up Tom Corbett Vis-a-vis Lucky Starr. The Lucky Starr books were conceived as companions to a proposed TV show Asimov was consulting on (Intended to compete with Tom Corbett) and they were intended for what 50's editors viewed as Young Adults. That the science was as "accurate" as it is (for the time) was Asimov going above and beyond the requirements of the effort.

Pulpishness and dated science aside, the books are still quite readable; especially the latter ones where Asimov folded them into his 50 worlds millieau.

Now I didn't know that Lucky Starr was intended to be a TV show. I've been reading the Lucky Starr books for the first time over the past couple of months, and have been finding them enjoyable.

Just thought I should clarify that I didn't mean to imply they weren't worth readin. Just that if a person didn't like Asimov writing for adults, I can't imagine what they would think of him writing for young adults.

OtterBooks
09-21-2012, 08:38 PM
Yes but it was supposed to set in the Distant future and the most advance future tech this so called" visionary" he could imagine was nuclear power.

A Truly Talented Sci fiWriter Like Frank Herbert Wrote Dune in the 1960's its Future tech was way more imaginative as well as his Characters but.... Oh no!!I just mentioned Asimov and Frank Herbert in the same forum post about Sci fi writers
My deepest Apologies to Fellow Frank Herbert Fans.

I loved Dune, but it's maybe not the best example of imaginative science fiction, since it's jihad in space with magical powers. The characters even use the Arabic word for 'dune.' The "future tech" in that book was about on the same level as Star Wars.

fjtorres
09-21-2012, 10:04 PM
Now I didn't know that Lucky Starr was intended to be a TV show. I've been reading the Lucky Starr books for the first time over the past couple of months, and have been finding them enjoyable.


I thought most editions had the story explaining why he used a pseudonym on the series. Here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucky_Starr_series

On 23 March 1951, Asimov met with his agent, Frederik Pohl, and Walter I. Bradbury, then the science fiction editor at Doubleday & Co., who had a proposal for him. Pohl and Bradbury wanted Asimov to write a juvenile science fiction novel that would serve as the basis for a television series. Fearing that the novel would be adapted into the "uniformly awful" programming he saw flooding the television channels,[1] he decided to publish it under the pseudonym "Paul French". Asimov began work on the novel, David Starr: Space Ranger, on 10 June. He completed it on 29 July, and it was published by Doubleday in January 1952. Although plans for the television series fell through, Asimov continued to write novels in the series, eventually producing six. A seventh, Lucky Starr and the Snows of Pluto, was planned, but abandoned when Asimov elected to devote himself to writing non-fiction almost exclusively. With no worries about being associated with an embarrassing televised version, Asimov decided to abandon the pretense that he was not the author (although the books continued to be published under the Paul French pseudonym). He brought the Three Laws of Robotics into Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter, which he wrote in his autobiography "was a dead giveaway to Paul French's identity for even the most casual reader".[2]


Even at his worst, Asimov was always readable, from MAROONED OFF VESTA to his posthumous works.

grumbles
09-21-2012, 10:04 PM
I read the entire Foundation series a few months ago. I had read the original Foundation books back in the mid-sixties (see, that's why I know about slide rules.) I found the that I enjoyed the original books but I found the later books and the attempt to provide background to be just a little flat. It's not that they were bad books, I thought they were worth reading, I just didn't enjoy them as much as I enjoyed the first three.

Heinlein wrote the ultimate time travel paradox short story, "All You Zombies."

I grew up reading all these authors, I watched Tom Corbett, Science Fiction Theatre and others. None of this was great (or even ordinary) literature, as some of my teachers frequently pointed out, but it was great adventure and great fun! It was, and is, great story telling and that is what it is all about.

And an aside to Lbooker. The world is awash with very stupid geniuses.

kennyc
09-21-2012, 10:15 PM
Blasphemy.... :eek: :p

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

JSWolf
09-21-2012, 10:28 PM
Sci-fi should be held to the same standard as all literature.

Not all so-called literature is worth reading. Sure, it may be called great writing, but it can be very dull with nothing really entertaining. To me, reading is about enjoyment. There are a lot of good stories lost in writing that is dated and not easy to read or dull to read given the way it's written.

If the story is enjoyable, it's a good read. If it's not enjoyable, then it's not a good read. Literature is just a term that really is meaningless.

JSWolf
09-21-2012, 10:40 PM
If a book is still read 70 years later, that's an indication that it is a good book. That doesn't mean everyone is going to like it, of course.

Not all books read 70 or more years later are good. They just get read. Look at a lot of the books kids get forced to read for school. A lot of them are awful even though the teacher thinks they are works of literature.

cromag
09-21-2012, 10:42 PM
In response to some of the posts about I, Robot -- the movie. I always thought the only significant contributions made by Asimov's work were the title and the "three laws."

The plotline really seemed to owe a lot more to Jack Williamson's The Humanoids.

Lord Mahoney
09-22-2012, 12:28 AM
I've experienced this syndrome before but certainly not with Asimov's work!

QuantumIguana
09-22-2012, 05:38 PM
Not all books read 70 or more years later are good. They just get read. Look at a lot of the books kids get forced to read for school. A lot of them are awful even though the teacher thinks they are works of literature.

If a book was only being read because teachers were forcing them to read it, sure. But that isn't a reasonable definition of "still being read." Just how many books are there that are only read because they are required for school? Besides, not many kids are assigned Asimov's books to read.

DiapDealer
09-22-2012, 06:05 PM
If a book was only being read because teachers were forcing them to read it, sure. But that isn't a reasonable definition of "still being read." Just how many books are there that are only read because they are required for school? Besides, not many kids are assigned Asimov's books to read.
Jon can't help himself. He's convinced the words "literature," "classic," and "old" need to be stamped out. They make him feel all icky whenever someone uses them in conjunction with "good." ;)

BWinmill
09-22-2012, 06:48 PM
Not all books read 70 or more years later are good. They just get read. Look at a lot of the books kids get forced to read for school. A lot of them are awful even though the teacher thinks they are works of literature.

There are a couple of big reasons why a book read in school may seem awful, even though they are good:


Students are asked to read books that they aren't be interested in.
Students are asked to read books in ways that they aren't interested in.

Teachers also don't have much choice in the books that they are expected to assign, even though they are expected to demonstrate enthusiasm for what is being read. They usually have a short list of titles from which they can choose, or are given criteria which the book must meet.


Asimov is a different story though. As others have noted, science fiction becomes dated quite quickly. Dependence upon technology and science can quickly become a distraction as our understanding of the world changes. Even the books that are focussed on social issues are discussing social issues of the day (e.g. wars come and go). Couple that with a readership that is forward looking, and you are left with a genre that has very little relevance outside of the time that it was written.


If you don't believe that, then read an Asimov book that you enjoy (though Verne is a better example). Count how often words like "quaint" pop into your mind while reading.

Freeshadow
09-22-2012, 07:15 PM
In regard of technical development predictions in SF being partly hits or overshot and partly very behind reality I have already suggested to read as well Verne as Doc Travis some posts ago.
Even so called fututologists are able to epically fail in their prognoses. Why should an author not?
I repeat: Always judge the text with the tech level of its time in mind. Besides... What's currently technically possible and what's available were always two different things it isn't as if artificially slowing down or suppression of progress with the goal to maintain the status quo would be some new idea of the currently big ones in the market.

taustin
09-22-2012, 07:27 PM
Infliction of pain is not equal to structural damage. Just a matter of adjustment and methods.
And as it is not unpleasant for the masochist, therefore there is no psychic damage inflicted too.
Easy enough isn't it?

That depends on the part you snipped out - who gets to define harm. Is it the person who owns the robot, or the one who created it? Certainly there are those who believe the the S&M lifestyle is psychologically harmful to both participants. So whose definition gets used? Because there's no definition inherent in the Three Laws. (I believe Asimov addressed that potential for conflict at one point, in a story, didn't he?)

j.p.s
09-22-2012, 07:35 PM
I still remember the first pocket scientific calculator, the HP-35, and it was over $300 at the time.


395 1972 US dollars, and featuring the much easier to use Reverse Polish Notation.

fjtorres
09-22-2012, 08:50 PM
395 1972 US dollars, and featuring the much easier to use Reverse Polish Notation.

Heh! That was my first exposure to fanboy wars: HP RPN fans vs TI Algebraic notation fans. The blood reached the street a few times. ;)

Jozawun
09-22-2012, 09:10 PM
Jon can't help himself. He's convinced the words "literature," "classic," and "old" need to be stamped out. They make him feel all icky whenever someone uses them in conjunction with "good." ;)

I don't think that's quite right.
I gather that he just wants to re-define "classic" to (a) include anything he likes, including Douglas Adams and Star Shmek, and (b) exclude anything he doesn't like or which he personally finds hard to read.

Freeshadow
09-22-2012, 09:37 PM
In a nutshell: Everything that's different than my way is per definition wrong.
Jon as usual.

Hell, I'd like to have been present at his wedding ceremony: "What do you mean with: 'She has to answer the question too. ' !?" :D

QuantumIguana
09-23-2012, 03:00 AM
There are a couple of big reasons why a book read in school may seem awful, even though they are good:


Students are asked to read books that they aren't be interested in.
Students are asked to read books in ways that they aren't interested in.


When I see 1-star reviews of classic books, I commonly see statements of being made to read it for school. I'd rather schools not try to make students read great literature, as I think it actually discourages reading. If reading isn't enjoyable, people won't read.

I'm reading Moby Dick now, and enjoying it. I recognize that not everyone will like it. On the other hand, I can't get into James Joyce, while others love his books.

That depends on the part you snipped out - who gets to define harm. Is it the person who owns the robot, or the one who created it? Certainly there are those who believe the the S&M lifestyle is psychologically harmful to both participants. So whose definition gets used? Because there's no definition inherent in the Three Laws. (I believe Asimov addressed that potential for conflict at one point, in a story, didn't he?)

Well, if the robots are in your BDSM chamber, they presumably have been informed about what the people involve consider to be harm. It is a tricky subject. I think what you would have to do is to ask what a human would do in a given situation, with incomplete knowledge. Also, you would need to factor in that a robot wouldn't have the same self-preservation needs as a human. For example, if a human is witnessing a mugging, intervening would be optional, as the human would be risking their lives. The robot isn't alive, and the robot doesn't have to worry about safety. The robot is sort of like a super-hero, in having powers greater than normal humans, and the issue is more of judgment than ability.

Asimov had a number of stories dealing with the edges of the three laws. One story allowed robots to harm humans because the robots were programmed with a very narrow definition of human.

BWinmill
09-23-2012, 07:22 AM
When I see 1-star reviews of classic books, I commonly see statements of being made to read it for school. I'd rather schools not try to make students read great literature, as I think it actually discourages reading. If reading isn't enjoyable, people won't read.

As with everything in education, there are conflicting views on why we teach what we teach. There is definitely a view that we should be encouraging reading of any form, to improve literacy (and, arguably, to allow for differences in the needs and interests of individual students). Yet there is also a need to expose students to reading at deeper levels, for information and interpretation.

Asimov had a number of stories dealing with the edges of the three laws. One story allowed robots to harm humans because the robots were programmed with a very narrow definition of human.

Yet that story wasn't really about the robots. It was about the people. By modifying our definition of a person, we are able to slip into our baser instincts and disregard higher principles. (It was the laws of robotics in that case. Presumably he also meant the laws laid down by governments and religions in the more general sense.)

DiapDealer
09-23-2012, 07:44 AM
I don't think that's quite right.
I gather that he just wants to re-define "classic" to (a) include anything he likes, including Douglas Adams and Star Shmek, and (b) exclude anything he doesn't like or which he personally finds hard to read.
Touche. I concede the point.

fjtorres
09-23-2012, 08:57 AM
Asimov had a number of stories dealing with the edges of the three laws. One story allowed robots to harm humans because the robots were programmed with a very narrow definition of human.

And in my favortite Donovan & Powell story, a robot let them get *killed*...
...because it was given a very loose version of the first law and because the "death" was strictly temporary. And even there, the robot was compelled to make the period of "death"...well... interesting...

Not going to spoil it but if anybody ever gets to make a *real* I, Robot (probably as a TV miniseries) Donovan & Powell are going to steal the show.

fjtorres
09-23-2012, 09:10 AM
Yet that story wasn't really about the robots. It was about the people. By modifying our definition of a person, we are able to slip into our baser instincts and disregard higher principles. (It was the laws of robotics in that case. Presumably he also meant the laws laid down by governments and religions in the more general sense.)

Well, if we go with that (perfectly accurate) read, none of the robot stories are about robots. All the robot stories are really about humans and their foibles, from the "Frankenstein complex" of Luddites (the reason he started writing robot stories in the first place), to the sledgehammer message that if *humans* lived by the Three Laws they would in fact be better humans, which he followed up in his latter years by making we-all-know-who the guardian of humanity. (He makes a better Guardian than Multivac, too.)
There are many reasons why his Robot stories resonate so strongly and their veiled ruminations about humanity are just one of them.
For every way anybody can raise about Asimov being overated it is easy to raise several that suggest he is way more *underrated*: as a writer/philosopher.
One could do far worse than to try to live a "Robotic" Three Laws life. ;)

Rizla
09-24-2012, 04:25 AM
Well, if we go with that (perfectly accurate) read, none of the robot stories are about robots. All the robot stories are really about humans and their foibles...

It seems to me that modern robot science-fiction, its editors and readers are sometimes hypocritical. They laud Asimov but damn any new robot fiction that demonstrates robots with human personality. Asimov often broke this rule. His robots were not true robots. They exhibited character. I think that's fine and necessary. Modern editors / readers seem to have forgotten that. Robots are the modern imps. See the drones in Iain Banks.

For that matter, I suppose Asimov's robot torch has been passed to Iain Banks.

Cyberman tM
09-24-2012, 05:24 AM
His robots were not true robots. They exhibited character.
Depends on your definition of "robot", I guess. Asimov's robots had brains that were said to be similar to human brains - including personality.
Some stories even acknowledge that - saying that personality is something only positronic robots have.

tompe
09-24-2012, 06:05 AM
It seems to me that modern robot science-fiction, its editors and readers are sometimes hypocritical. They laud Asimov but damn any new robot fiction that demonstrates robots with human personality.

Can you give some examples of work that they damn? I have not seen this tendency but maybe I have just missed it.

Also, having robots that is like humans does not seem to give anything new to write about.

QuantumIguana
09-24-2012, 01:58 PM
Having some human-like personality traits doesn't mean that they aren't true robots. Even the robots in Karel Čapek's play R.U.R (where the term 'robot' comes from) exhibited human traits. These days, we often distinguish between an android, which has a body and mind which resembles a human from a robot, which has a non-human body and mind. But that's a fairly recent distinction, and an android is really a subset of robots.

If you have a robot who's function is to interact with humans, a physical and mental resemblance to humans is desirable. For other types of robots, it isn't necessary for the robot to look or act like a human. Of course, not every action that we do needs to be done by the robot in the same way. You could have a robot push a vacuum cleaner, but it turns out it is easier to build a Roomba.

GreenMonkey
09-24-2012, 06:02 PM
Well, if we go with that (perfectly accurate) read, none of the robot stories are about robots. All the robot stories are really about humans and their foibles, from the "Frankenstein complex" of Luddites (the reason he started writing robot stories in the first place), to the sledgehammer message that if *humans* lived by the Three Laws they would in fact be better humans, which he followed up in his latter years by making we-all-know-who the guardian of humanity. (He makes a better Guardian than Multivac, too.)
There are many reasons why his Robot stories resonate so strongly and their veiled ruminations about humanity are just one of them.
For every way anybody can raise about Asimov being overated it is easy to raise several that suggest he is way more *underrated*: as a writer/philosopher.
One could do far worse than to try to live a "Robotic" Three Laws life. ;)

Good post :)

Asimov is my favorite sci-fi author by far. I don't even really read sci-fi these days, though...very rarely.

I can understand not liking Foundation to some extent. They are definitely big-concept books...just the argument that individuals rarely matter in the big scheme of things probably gets to some people). Plus the first book and a half or so are really just a compilation of short stories. They're a bit dry.

But the Robot books are genius, especially the Lije Bailey novels.

And my favorite Heinlein book is A Door Into Summer...mechanical drafting machines? Nuclear World War III before 1980 (IIRC). Etc. :) Sci-fi gets outdated, that's how it goes.

Freeshadow
09-24-2012, 07:02 PM
"Door into summer" is IMO a romance story. A beautiful one.

fjtorres
09-24-2012, 07:12 PM
"Door into summer" is IMO a romance story. A beautiful one.

Yes, the protagonist sure loves his cat.
The things he does to recover Petronius...! ;)

Ralph Sir Edward
09-24-2012, 10:26 PM
I just read this thread end-to-end (with Warren Zevon in the background...)

Asimov just wrote and threw it at the wall...And most of it stuck.

Even so... most of it was forgettable. But when he was on, he was ON.

The Ugly Little Boy, It's a Beautiful Day, The Last Question, Liar!, The Fun They Had...

But that is the difference between then and now. No TV, no ability to re-watch a movie, reading was IT for entertainment. And more demand that there was quality product to fill with. And not as much interest in immersing yourself in a long book days on end. An hour or two's read, that was what people wanted. 10-50 pages a pop...Today, you turn on the babble box...

(As to Dune, it fell apart for me when I realized the Arrakis ecology was a mono-culture. What is the one thing you know, beyond any shadow of doubt, about a mono-culture? It is always ARTIFICIAL! And it is unstable! So who made it, and why. And how close to the times portrayed? Not a peep out of Herbert about that, ever... See Joe Haldeman's Mindbridge.)

QuantumIguana
09-25-2012, 11:21 AM
When Asimov was writing, there were other entertainments than reading. Radio was huge, and not just for music, radio dramas were quite popular. People also went to more live theater, live music, sports and movies.

There was no shortage of novel length works in those days. It's just that there was also more of a market for magazines filled with short stories. Short stories fell out of favor, but with e-readers have become viable again.

Anabran
09-25-2012, 11:48 AM
"Dune, it fell apart for me when I realized the Arrakis ecology was a mono-culture. What is the one thing you know, beyond any shadow of doubt, about a mono-culture? It is always ARTIFICIAL! And it is unstable! So who made it, and why. And how close to the times portrayed? Not a peep out of Herbert about that"

I though it was an excellent commentary on the monoculture of our petroleum based society. also on Mass Addiction,

And how all of our presumed alliances or long standing & rivalries are superficial and quickly evaporate& Change when the one thing we all depend on is threatened Like Fiat Currency and fractional reserve lending.
and how private corporations who control banking & the "mono crop"(oil) are the true masters
of our lives ( The Guild & Choam in Dune)

Just like U.S. Federal Reserve and Exxon
and how they Make presidents and even so called Galactic Emperors in Dune Disposable Front men who must represent their interests or be quickly deposed .

One needs to read all the Herbert Dune Books if you have not, and think about our world here to day in late 2012 to see the true timelessness of Frank Herbert's writing IMHO.

its much deeper than predicting what kind of personal computers we would be using in the year 10,000 etc .

JAcheson
09-25-2012, 05:39 PM
You think 50's era robot-back exploration is wacky?
After watching that movie? :eek.

Yes, astronauts riding big-eared robots like howdahs is goofy, to me at least. Though I suppose if you made them more like anime mecha, my objections would go away.

As for the movie, very early on I completely lost track of any connection between it and the source material. I think that was for the best.

Movie Fact: the movie didn't start out as an adaptation of I, Robot at all. It started out as an independent Alex Proyas project, and then they brought the Asimov concepts and intellectual property in during development and bolted them onto their existing storyline.

Ralph Sir Edward
09-25-2012, 11:15 PM
I though it was an excellent commentary on the monoculture of our petroleum based society. also on Mass Addiction,

And how all of our presumed alliances or long standing & rivalries are superficial and quickly evaporate& Change when the one thing we all depend on is threatened Like Fiat Currency and fractional reserve lending.
and how private corporations who control banking & the "mono crop"(oil) are the true masters
of our lives ( The Guild & Choam in Dune)

Just like U.S. Federal Reserve and Exxon
and how they Make presidents and even so called Galactic Emperors in Dune Disposable Front men who must represent their interests or be quickly deposed .

One needs to read all the Herbert Dune Books if you have not, and think about our world here to day in late 2012 to see the true timelessness of Frank Herbert's writing IMHO.

its much deeper than predicting what kind of personal computers we would be using in the year 10,000 etc .

I'm looking at a deeper point. The native Dune ecology was purely monoculture, just one species in a metamorphic cycle. No hint was made that it was made by humans, it seemed to pre-date human discovery.

Who built it? Why? What sort of trap (if it was a trap) was it. Or was it just a crop of coffee (sic) sweetener...And what happened to those creators?

For all the complexity of Dune and it's sequels (Damn the Romans!), the whole thing revolves around a basis just thrown out for convenience, without deep thought. It would serve the purpose, so use it...(Just like the old S/F pulps)

tompe
09-26-2012, 07:32 AM
I'm looking at a deeper point. The native Dune ecology was purely monoculture, just one species in a metamorphic cycle. No hint was made that it was made by humans, it seemed to pre-date human discovery.

Who built it? Why? What sort of trap (if it was a trap) was it. Or was it just a crop of coffee (sic) sweetener...And what happened to those creators?

For all the complexity of Dune and it's sequels (Damn the Romans!), the whole thing revolves around a basis just thrown out for convenience, without deep thought. It would serve the purpose, so use it...(Just like the old S/F pulps)

I do not agree with this. The book was not about who built it and so on. Also the planet fitted in with the whole world building very well so I did not at all get the same feeling you can get from old S/F pulps of something just thrown in there.

teh603
09-26-2012, 09:01 AM
I'm looking at a deeper point. The native Dune ecology was purely monoculture, just one species in a metamorphic cycle. No hint was made that it was made by humans, it seemed to pre-date human discovery.

Who built it? Why? What sort of trap (if it was a trap) was it. Or was it just a crop of coffee (sic) sweetener...And what happened to those creators?

For all the complexity of Dune and it's sequels (Damn the Romans!), the whole thing revolves around a basis just thrown out for convenience, without deep thought. It would serve the purpose, so use it...(Just like the old S/F pulps)One of the prequels mentioned that it had once had a normal-ish ecosystem with liquid water on the surface, and suggests that the sandtrout were actively keeping it dry by locking down any moisture they could find. After all, the monocology had been broken in God-Emperor of Dune before getting mostly restored thousands of years later.

What I had more trouble believing were the dang ornithopters.

5thWiggle
09-26-2012, 09:28 AM
What I had more trouble believing were the dang ornithopters.

Strangely, I had no trouble with those - maybe because I had one of those rubberband bird toys. :D

What I had trouble with was even more nit picky: shield/lasgun explosions. I could see how a laser could make the shield explode; it's repelling or storing engery after all, and its possible to overload it. How could this energy travel back along a laser to explode the gun? :blink:

fjtorres
09-26-2012, 02:41 PM
What I had trouble with was even more nit picky: shield/lasgun explosions. I could see how a laser could make the shield explode; it's repelling or storing engery after all, and its possible to overload it. How could this energy travel back along a laser to explode the gun? :blink:

A type two standing wave effect could cause both to overload.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_wave
Bad design on the lasgun, but still...

Freeshadow
09-26-2012, 04:15 PM
Call it the high-tech way of pissing on electric fence ;)

tompe
09-26-2012, 04:35 PM
Strangely, I had no trouble with those - maybe because I had one of those rubberband bird toys. :D

What I had trouble with was even more nit picky: shield/lasgun explosions. I could see how a laser could make the shield explode; it's repelling or storing engery after all, and its possible to overload it. How could this energy travel back along a laser to explode the gun? :blink:

I thought shield and laser gun caused an atomic explosion or equivalent. That is how I remember the book.

GreenMonkey
09-27-2012, 10:21 AM
Movie Fact: the movie didn't start out as an adaptation of I, Robot at all. It started out as an independent Alex Proyas project, and then they brought the Asimov concepts and intellectual property in during development and bolted them onto their existing storyline.

Yeah.
Asimov would never, ever have wanted his robots attacking people like the trailers for that movie (I never watched it, ugh). It wasn't really an Asimov movie. Try Bicentennial Man instead (at least it gets the spirit right).

Maybe once in a while one runs amok a bit (confusion with the laws). Sometimes they are capable of hurting people (generally when humans fiddle with the first law - generally commentary on people tinkering with the definition of human - parallel with instances that humans do this.)

The whole Zeroth law concept comes up later but never really works that well even for R. Daneel and his cohorts, several millenia later - it's not such an easy concept.

bill_mchale
09-27-2012, 04:51 PM
A type two standing wave effect could cause both to overload.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_wave
Bad design on the lasgun, but still...

I think we need to be careful about assuming that lasgun's work exactly the same way that lasers do now. Shields and essentially much of the rest of the technology of Dune's Universe is built on physics that we have no knowledge of.

fjtorres
09-27-2012, 05:35 PM
I think we need to be careful about assuming that lasgun's work exactly the same way that lasers do now. Shields and essentially much of the rest of the technology of Dune's Universe is built on physics that we have no knowledge of.

I wasn't saying it was.
Just that it wasn't impossible.
In line with *good* SF writing, what he postulated cannot be falsified by current science. And that there is at least one plausible, rationnalist explanation for what he described.
(Even after 40-plus years. Within the context of this thread that's pretty good.)

tompe
09-27-2012, 06:02 PM
I thought shield and laser gun caused an atomic explosion or equivalent. That is how I remember the book.

Found

http://dune.wikia.com/wiki/Shield


However, if a lasgun beam hit a Holtzman field, it would result in sub-atomic fusion and a nuclear explosion. The center of this blast was determined by random chance; sometimes it would originate within the shield, sometimes within the laser weapon, sometimes both.


I did not remember that the center could be in the gun.

Anabran
09-28-2012, 10:04 AM
"One of the prequels mentioned that it had once had a normal-ish ecosystem with liquid water on the surface, and suggests that the sandtrout were actively keeping it dry by locking down any moisture they could find. After all, the monocology had been broken in God-Emperor of Dune before getting mostly restored thousands of years later."


Exactly!! it was suggested on the Sequels/prequels that The worms/sandtrout were not originally native to Dune but indeed were transplanted there by some long forgotten ancient race.

It Dune Chapter house it was proven that any planet that can successfully host sand trout will eventually be come a desiccated desert world inhabited by Worms
(Adult sandtrout)

I dont see how Herbert not exploring this
In detail was a literary shortcoming.

as his focus was Characters and the Societal /political structure
not secret archeological origins.

Andrew H.
09-28-2012, 02:30 PM
In 1968, when Charles Hall tried to apply for a patent on the waterbed he thought he had invented, he found he was unable to do so because Heinlein had already described one in sufficient detail in Double Star (and other places). This impressive bit of technological pre-empting sits neatly alongside the fact that the book is generally cited as the first to use the abbreviation "ET" (or at least, eetee). [snip]

I've heard this before, too. But apparently it's not true:

General Background

2
Hall is the named inventor and current co-owner of U.S. Patent No. 3,585,356 (the '356 patent), entitled "Liquid Support for Human Bodies." Hall filed the application that matured into the '356 patent in 1969, and the patent itself issued in 1971. Upon issuance, the patent was assigned to Innerspace Environments, Inc. (Innerspace), a waterbed manufacturing and sales company that Hall co-founded in 1968 or 1969. Waterbeds became very popular and, as their popularity grew, Innerspace grew also. Indeed, Innerspace soon became the largest retail seller of waterbeds in the U.S., owning and operating over 30 retail stores with annual sales over $5 million. The company's primary focus was on promoting the popularity of waterbeds; during the period from 1969 to 1975, Innerspace spent approximately $1.5 million on retail sales advertising in the California market alone.


From a 1996 patent case.

http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F3/93/93.F3d.1548.96-1021.96-1014.html

Also, according to wiki, waterbeds were actually invented in the 1800's and used for therapeutic purposes.

Re: Asimov, etc. -

Unfortunately, I think our appreciation of sf of the 40's and 50's (and to some extent the 60's) is hampered by the fact that it was predominantly a literature of short stories. There were a few novels produced, but they were very much in the minority. The real action was in the short stories published in the magazines.

Unfortunately, in the late 60's/ early 70's, the economics changed and the novel became the primary form, with short stories becoming increasingly marginalized. Once consequence of this is that the works we tend to be most familiar with from the 40's-50's are the novels, not the short stories; this gives a very limited view of sf in this period. (Of course, some of the sf novels from this period were made up of short stories.)

This explains some of the attributes of Asimov's work pretty well - a brief character sketch is often enough for a short story where the main focus is on a particular idea and its consequences. In novels, though, there is a lot more room and we tend to prefer characters to be more fleshed out.

crich70
02-06-2013, 10:03 PM
Yeah.
Asimov would never, ever have wanted his robots attacking people like the trailers for that movie (I never watched it, ugh). It wasn't really an Asimov movie. Try Bicentennial Man instead (at least it gets the spirit right).

Maybe once in a while one runs amok a bit (confusion with the laws). Sometimes they are capable of hurting people (generally when humans fiddle with the first law - generally commentary on people tinkering with the definition of human - parallel with instances that humans do this.)

The whole Zeroth law concept comes up later but never really works that well even for R. Daneel and his cohorts, several millenia later - it's not such an easy concept.
Yep the movie "I Robot" isn't strictly speaking a direct translation of the book to movie. They used some of the concepts from the short stories in the book "I Robot" as plot points in the movie and invented the Will Smith character as a way of tying them all together.in one a robot loses itself among other robots and in another one envisions himself as the Moses of his people, there's even one where a robot takes over a space station thinking that it's doing the "Master's" will by doing so which has shades of the computer in the movie. As for robots attacking people Asimov's characters speak about trying to deal with the "Frankenstein Complex" that the public seem to have about robots.

Fat Abe
02-08-2013, 02:49 AM
One might say that Science Fiction is an acquired taste. The field is not as exploitative or sappy as romantic storywriting. The number of authors who have made it in SF is actually small, when you think about it. Every one of the writers in Silverberg's anthology, Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964, is well known to me.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Science_Fiction_Hall_of_Fame,_Volume_One,_1929 %E2%80%931964

Certainly Asimov belongs in the same class of writers as Heinlein, del Rey, Bester, etc. Isaac may not be in the same league as Sturgeon, but, that is a matter of personal preference. Because SF does not aspire to the lofty ideals of great literature, the average fan is satisfied with a good plot and mild amusement. SF was not haute cuisine, nor was it nouvelle cuisine. That was the credo Asimov followed, and who can blame him? Was the world ready for esoteric, new wave Sci Fi when he was writing? Yes, and no. Thomas Disch was brilliant and ahead of his time. But not in a commercial sense, meaning he never raked in the big bucks like Asimov or Bradbury. Possibly, the operative word was accessible. Drift a little, but not too far afield. If China Mieville were writing in 1950, he would have been shunned. Incomprehensible, way too avant garde. Could Asimov have altered his writing style over the years? Not after he tasted fame and publicity. That would be like asking Stephen King to pen The Brothers Karamazov. Rather than critique Asimov for what he wasn't, let's just say there are many writers in the universe to read besides this one man. Asimov is neither overrated or underrated. After all, he did not get a Nobel prize, did he? Try other authors, even Doris Lessing. No comment on her. Why? Because it takes a lot of reading to tell how good or important a writer may be, in his/her lifetime.

HomeInMyShoes
02-08-2013, 11:10 AM
I don't know, I'm reading Golem100 by Alfred Bester and its plenty exploitative in a cheesy B-science fiction movie way. I have to say, I picked it for a laugh and it's been a quality selection based on that requirement.

QuantumIguana
02-08-2013, 11:41 AM
As for robots attacking people Asimov's characters speak about trying to deal with the "Frankenstein Complex" that the public seem to have about robots.

His Zeroth Law of Robotics does open the door for this. If Robots may violate the First Law if, in the Robot's opinion, it is necessary to protect humanity, then the robots could do pretty much anything, depending on their definition of harm to humanity.

HomeInMyShoes
02-08-2013, 11:56 AM
All you need to do is redefine humanity and our kettle is cooked. It's been the premise behind a lot of stories and movies.

RDaneel54
02-08-2013, 12:27 PM
All you need to do is redefine humanity and our kettle is cooked. It's been the premise behind a lot of stories and movies.

Wasn't that the purpose of the shibboleth used by a robot in Foundation's Edge? It's been awhile since I read that.

HomeInMyShoes
02-08-2013, 12:38 PM
I want/need to read Asimov. One of these days. One of these days.

QuantumIguana
02-08-2013, 12:40 PM
There were stories where the Robots were programmed with restricted definitions of human. That affects the First Law.

Asimov compared his three laws to tools:

1) A tool must not be dangerous to its user
2) A tool must perform its function
3) A tool must be reliable

We would want an automated drill to stop if there is a person in its way, but as long as the work area is clear, we want the drill to do its job. And we want it not to break down, but that's subordinate. We might need to use the tool even if it breaks it, depending on how urgent the task is. Asimov's Laws are essentially the same idea, we want the Robot not to hurt people, to obey orders so as it can do so without hurting people and to protect itself so long as doing so doesn't harm people or violate orders.

There are tricky things with robots, you probably don't want the robot obeying just anyone's orders. Otherwise, people would order the robot to come home with them. The robot would have to come out of the box prepared to take orders from only its owner (and from customer support). The first law gets tricky. You wouldn't want the robot to restrict voluntary actions, a robot which forbade humans from playing sports wouldn't be a good robot. The Zeroth Law gets really problematic. It is difficult to imagine the horror of the Black Death. But those who survived found that their labor was suddenly much more valuable, and the status of peasants improved. Suppose they had robots that could cure the Black Death. With the Zeroth Law, the robots could decide that humanity was better off with the Black Death than without it. The First Law would require the robots to provide the cure. The Zeroth Law would allow them to withhold it. We might want a robot to interfere with a mugger, even if it hurts the mugger, but we probably wouldn't want a robot to be taking such big matters into their own hands. We benefited from the Black Death, but to choose the Black Death would be horrific.

kennyc
02-09-2013, 08:30 AM
I think James Joyce is more over-rated than Asimov by far!

kennyc
02-09-2013, 08:33 AM
Yep the movie "I Robot" isn't strictly speaking a direct translation of the book to movie. ....

Oh, YOU'RE THE ONE that work up this nicely snoozing thread.... :D

kennyc
02-09-2013, 08:33 AM
I want/need to read Asimov. One of these days. One of these days.

Yes you should.

QuantumIguana
02-09-2013, 11:22 AM
I think James Joyce if more over-rated than Asimov by far!

If only James Joyce had written stories about robots...

kennyc
02-09-2013, 11:37 AM
He did. :snicker:

Andrew H.
02-09-2013, 02:20 PM
Certainly Asimov belongs in the same class of writers as Heinlein, del Rey, Bester, etc. Isaac may not be in the same league as Sturgeon, but, that is a matter of personal preference. Because SF does not aspire to the lofty ideals of great literature, the average fan is satisfied with a good plot and mild amusement.

*Asimov* didn't, and many other SF writers don't - but that doesn't mean that "SF" doesn't, or that no writers in SF do. As for aspiring to the ideals of great literature, you could look at "Gravity's Rainbow," at "The Handmaiden's Tale," at "The Sparrow," at "The Time-Traveller's Wife," at "Never Let me Go", or at "Fahrenheit 451", and at many things written by Ursula LeGuin, and at Ted Chiang's short stories. Whether these works have achieved the lofty goals of great literature is, of course, a different question.

SF was not haute cuisine, nor was it nouvelle cuisine. That was the credo Asimov followed, and who can blame him? Was the world ready for esoteric, new wave Sci Fi when he was writing? Yes, and no. Thomas Disch was brilliant and ahead of his time. But not in a commercial sense, meaning he never raked in the big bucks like Asimov or Bradbury. Possibly, the operative word was accessible. Drift a little, but not too far afield. If China Mieville were writing in 1950, he would have been shunned. Incomprehensible, way too avant garde. Could Asimov have altered his writing style over the years? Not after he tasted fame and publicity. That would be like asking Stephen King to pen The Brothers Karamazov. Rather than critique Asimov for what he wasn't, let's just say there are many writers in the universe to read besides this one man. Asimov is neither overrated or underrated. After all, he did not get a Nobel prize, did he? Try other authors, even Doris Lessing. No comment on her. Why? Because it takes a lot of reading to tell how good or important a writer may be, in his/her lifetime.
I've always thought it interesting that Asimov significantly cut back his SF production in the late 50's, focusing instead on non-fiction.

I don't know, I'm reading Golem100 by Alfred Bester and its plenty exploitative in a cheesy B-science fiction movie way. I have to say, I picked it for a laugh and it's been a quality selection based on that requirement.
Yeah, that was kind of his "comeback novel after 25 years or whatever of not writing SF; I like his earlier stuff better.

elcreative
02-09-2013, 03:43 PM
You can't include "The Handmaiden's Tale" in a discussion involving SF, it isn't SF as Margaret Atwood went to great lengths to say... :rolleyes: :rofl:

QuantumIguana
02-09-2013, 04:41 PM
You can't include "The Handmaiden's Tale" in a discussion involving SF, it isn't SF as Margaret Atwood went to great lengths to say... :rolleyes: :rofl:

She can say whatever she wants of course. But attempting to lift it out of the mire of science fiction, as some people see it, doesn't mean it isn't science fiction. It reminds me of an old joke: how many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg. Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

kennyc
02-09-2013, 04:44 PM
She can say whatever she wants of course. But attempting to lift it out of the mire of science fiction, as some people see it, doesn't mean it isn't science fiction. It reminds me of an old joke: how many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg. Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

:thumbsup:

Jozawun
02-09-2013, 05:44 PM
She can say whatever she wants of course. But attempting to lift it out of the mire of science fiction, as some people see it, doesn't mean it isn't science fiction. It reminds me of an old joke: how many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg. Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

I don't care how people categorise any particular book by Atwood or anybody else, it makes no difference to the quality of the book (though it will probably affect the writer's income).
I merely wanted to point out that your amusing analogy is unhelpful, because it simply begs the question (in the classic sense of that term).

Fat Abe
02-09-2013, 05:46 PM
She can say whatever she wants of course. But attempting to lift it out of the mire of science fiction, as some people see it, doesn't mean it isn't science fiction. It reminds me of an old joke: how many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg. Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

This is the author's prerogative, so why deny them that privilege? There is a tendency in book stores, libraries, and even academic institutions, to categorize works of literature. One can go further and state that this is a habit of human nature, pigeonholing art and people. Science fiction is strong enough as a genre to not need any particular writer or book. No single author or book is so critical to the history of the human race that its loss would cripple civilization. Maybe the Bible or Koran might be considered sacrosanct, but life goes on. Anyway, if we ever get back on topic, I will say that the world is a better place because of Asimov. His books are a welcome addiction to the library of any devoted fan of science fiction. If a reader dislikes SF, then that is their personal choice. It does not render any author's work as insignificant.

QuantumIguana
02-09-2013, 05:56 PM
This is the author's prerogative, so why deny them that privilege?

She has the prerogative to call the book whatever she wishes. I understand that if a book is categorized as science fiction it's less likely to be taken seriously by certain people. But declaring that a book isn't science fiction doesn't mean it isn't science fiction.

applesauce
02-10-2013, 06:14 AM
My husband has read everything Isaac Asimov has written. He is one of his all time favourites. I would rather watch paint dry than read him.

applesauce

kennyc
02-10-2013, 07:41 AM
My husband has read everything Isaac Asimov has written. He is one of his all time favourites. I would rather watch paint dry than read him.

applesauce

Tastes vary. Some like applesauce, some like bran. :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

ProfCrash
02-10-2013, 09:34 AM
She has the prerogative to call the book whatever she wishes. I understand that if a book is categorized as science fiction it's less likely to be taken seriously by certain people. But declaring that a book isn't science fiction doesn't mean it isn't science fiction.

I have read a Handmaidens Tale and fail to see how it could be called Sci Fi

kennyc
02-10-2013, 09:49 AM
It's an alternative society that is one branch of SF.

ProfCrash
02-10-2013, 10:04 AM
Pretty loose connection if you ask me. But that is me.

The Game Theorist in me loves the Foundation Series. Good stuff there.

kennyc
02-10-2013, 10:12 AM
"Alternative history" is the least sf-like to me. :D

BenG
02-10-2013, 01:20 PM
It has a SF premise, but it has a more literary style than genre fiction.

BenG
02-10-2013, 01:25 PM
"Alternative history" is the least sf-like to me. :D
The only reason alternate history is sometimes considered SF is that it is often written by SF authors; like fantasy used to be considered SF because it was written by the same authors that wrote SF and was published in SF magazines.

Andrew H.
02-10-2013, 01:32 PM
I have read a Handmaidens Tale and fail to see how it could be called Sci Fi
It takes place in the future and imagines a future society and culture (based on an extrapolation of existing trends in current society and culture). Like, say, "Logan's Run" or "Stand on Zanzibar."

"Alternative history" is the least sf-like to me. :D
Usually to me, too, although I wouldn't call this alternative history.

kennyc
02-10-2013, 01:33 PM
...


Usually to me, too, although I wouldn't call this alternative history.

Nor did I.

fjtorres
02-10-2013, 01:36 PM
Alternate history requires the same discipline and techniques as SF. Both are examples of world building (roughly) within the range of known science. And both are (at their best) about exploring ideas. If alternate history isn't SF it is so darned close as makes no difference.
And some, like GUNS OF THE SOUTH, AXIS OF TIME, and the 163x series require a SF staple just to get started: time-travel.
One might argue that some steampunk is fantasy instead of SF (AGATHA H, for one) but most alternate history is SF.

BenG
02-10-2013, 01:47 PM
But there are plenty of alternate histories that you wouldn't think of considering as SF.

kennyc
02-10-2013, 02:21 PM
Alternate history requires the same discipline and techniques as SF. Both are examples of world building (roughly) within the range of known science. And both are (at their best) about exploring ideas. If alternate history isn't SF it is so darned close as makes no difference.
And some, like GUNS OF THE SOUTH, AXIS OF TIME, and the 163x series require a SF staple just to get started: time-travel.
One might argue that some steampunk is fantasy instead of SF (AGATHA H, for one) but most alternate history is SF.

I think the contention comes in when the Science is less critical (or non-existent) to the story than the simple differences in history. To me without the science aspect it should not be considered SF.

ProfCrash
02-10-2013, 06:42 PM
I think the contention comes in when the Science is less critical (or non-existent) to the story than the simple differences in history. To me without the science aspect it should not be considered SF.

I agree.

caleb72
02-10-2013, 10:58 PM
Because A Handmaid's Tale reminds me a bit of books like 1984 and A Brave New World. To me, it's sci-fi in the same way that they were. They imagine a future earth should some possibility progress towards its logical extreme.

But this book scared me a little mainly because of the ending. You read through this horrific account of a society with its extreme views towards women and then you're presented with this academic view of the whole thing that echoes the way we sometimes whitewash our own past or present. We apply a level of understanding about distant cultures or history that I think we couldn't possibly apply to that of the main character - because we experience it throughout the novel!

I felt this was the most upsetting aspect of the book and why I thought it was brilliant. And like many novels (such as 1984 etc..), it makes me examine the world around me and start assessing if we're actually that different or whether, in fact, we're heading in a similar direction.

Sorry - this was all outrageously off topic, but I couldn't resist sharing my love/horror of A Handmaid's Tale.

GrannyGrump
02-11-2013, 02:42 AM
I haven't read the whole thread (yet), but one point that may or may not have been mentioned is the aborted attempt to reverse the ghettoization that happened to the genre called "science fiction". I remember many years ago, when some authors and editors were trying to encourage use of the term "speculative fiction" instead, which tried to take off some of the onus of cheesiness. It never really took hold though, and I don't see very many places using the term any more.

And I agree that some of Atwood's writing definitely falls in the speculative mode. Don't foreget "Oryx and Crake", and "Year of the Flood." Both of them are great, but yeah, "Handmaid's Tale" is one of my all-time favorites, I've read it 4 or 5 times, and get something new each time.

applesauce
02-11-2013, 04:17 AM
Tastes vary. Some like applesauce, some like bran. :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

We tho share similar tastes in lots of books. He is our major difference :book2:

For the record I loved A Handmaidens Tale. I did see the sci fi undertones, but techie it was not. So yes I can see some hard core sci fi fans saying it is not sci fi.

But I define sci fi as anything set into the future. I prefer post apocalyptic for my future, my husband Asimov world. Both huge on watching anything Star Trek, but would not read it in a pink fit.

applesauce

GrannyGrump
02-11-2013, 04:50 AM
And why oh why? The local bookstore (and the only place available to buy paper books in English) on the military base where I work seems to think that "sci-fi" is ONLY Star Trek and Star Wars, and their clone cousins, with a few Terry Prachett titles thrown in for variety. I am not exaggerating to say that the sci-fi section is one section 6-feet long by 5-feet high. I assume the buyer is not interested in the genre.

Apache
02-11-2013, 08:09 AM
And why oh why? The local bookstore (and the only place available to buy paper books in English) on the military base where I work seems to think that "sci-fi" is ONLY Star Trek and Star Wars, and their clone cousins, with a few Terry Prachett titles thrown in for variety. I am not exaggerating to say that the sci-fi section is one section 6-feet long by 5-feet high. I assume the buyer is not interested in the genre.

Have you tried talking to the buyer and educating them on how to improve the selection?
Apache

GrannyGrump
02-12-2013, 03:56 AM
Apache, I wish I could. The buyer is located in Texas (we're in Japan), and they don't seem to pay much mind to my comments on their Customer Comments website. Sigh... It's a good thing I happen to enjoy re-reading old favorites from years (decades) past.

crich70
02-14-2013, 12:59 AM
I think the contention comes in when the Science is less critical (or non-existent) to the story than the simple differences in history. To me without the science aspect it should not be considered SF.

Ah but some SF is about how societies are somehow different from our present day. For example H.G. Wells "Time Machine" was more about how things could turn out if the social classes of his day (the elite and the commoners) went their own ways down different paths. The Eloi descended from the elite upper crust of society and the Morlocks were the descendants of the commoners of Wells England. The actual Time Machine was just a vehicle by which Wells set his story up.