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Old 03-18-2011, 06:50 AM   #1
carpetmojo
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Question Whither science fiction ?

Many years ago in my youth, I was enthralled by "science fiction", Ray Bradbury etal, and also recieved many passed-on copies of the US/UK magazines of the time, with their evocative artwork, and low quality "pulp" paper .

(As I got older, I began to sift out those which I felt were basically westerns set on other worlds, but, well, knowing the ending.... )

With my embracing of ebook technology, I can't resist looking at any free or low price offer, a great number of which are, yes, science fiction.
Nowadays, they seem to be about elves etc... ( "Lord of the Rings rip-off area), magic & wizards/ry, ( Harry Potter rip-off area), gore, blood and violence in general on other worlds , times, and on Earth - vampires being a great contributor, it seems to me (TV rip-area) - and ..... Westerns set on other worlds.
Again.

Being entranced by Tolkein well before he became a cult, ditto Ms. Rowling, and not being a great prude - apart from obviously naughtiness and blood & guts for the sake of it - I should be in my element.
Sadly, I am not.
Many of the offerings I have investigated have proved to be, frankly, rubbish - to me, anyway - mainly due to silly plots & characters, bad construction, silly mistakes, and quite honestly terrible writing in general.
The unfortunate thing is, some begin with a vital requirement for a great read - a very good idea, plot, or device.

I suppose 'twas ever thus - but there is now the opportunity for so much more of it ..........
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Old 03-18-2011, 07:06 AM   #2
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Thither.

Actually, science fiction lies yonder, and I think you're looking at the fantasy section instead.

But I don't think there's really that much of a quality drop for either genre. Sturgeon's Law* holds just as much as it used to, only time and the merciful inability of the mind to correlate its contents tends to preserve mostly just the good 10% and gloss over the really bad pulpy stuff when one compares it to today's offerings.

Why don't you suggest some of your favourite authors and themes and maybe people can point you to the higher quality stuff which you might like to give a try?

* "90% of everything is crap." More or less.
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Old 03-18-2011, 07:25 AM   #3
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Was there a question being asked there somewhere?
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Old 03-18-2011, 07:46 AM   #4
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Well, there's a question mark in the title. Close enough?
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Old 03-18-2011, 08:13 AM   #5
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Well, there's a question mark in the title. Close enough?
I guess... but "where is science fiction?" is fairly vague. Does the OP want examples of Sci-Fi that isn't fantasy? Or "free and low priced" Sci-Fi that isn't a Tolkien or Harry Potter clone?

What are some examples of what the OP thinks of as "Westerns set on other worlds?" Besides being entranced by Tolkien and Rowling, what qualifies as "good?"

If "free or cheap" is a requirement... your work is cut out for you. Not that free or cheap automatically means bad, but rather that it exponentially increases the sample size that you have to wade through.

I can only recommend what I think is good -- and price doesn't enter into that:

Guy Gavriel Kay, Tim Powers, Peter F. Hamilton, Dan Simmons, Cherie Priest, Charles deLint, Gregory Keyes, China Mieville, Connie Willis, Neal Stephenson, Robert Charles Wilson, Anthony Huso, Nnedi Okorafor.
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Old 03-18-2011, 08:27 AM   #6
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"Whither" actually means "to what place or state"*, so the OP's post does make a bit more sense in that context, in which s/he seems to think that "downhill from greater glories" seems to be it.

Are there sf clones of Tolkien and Harry Potter? Plenty of fantasy ones, I'd agree, but actual sfnal elves and wizards tend to be fairly rare to begin with.

Anyway, for decent free stuff, if that's what the OP is looking for, I'd recommend starting at the Baen Free Library (once upon a time, I'd have recommended starting at the Tor.com short stories, but they removed the convenient downloadable e-reader-friendly versions of all of those) and working one's way out to various promo giveaways available directly from the author/publisher.

Someone asked for free PDF-format SF over in the Deals forum a few days ago, and she got a good number of replies. Plus, Night Shade Books are running a number of free e-book offers in addition to what they regularly have at their download page, and Small Beer Press have a small but excellent Creative Commons selection.

Out of the freebies, I especially recommend Ted Chiang, Maureen F. McHugh, Lois McMaster Bujold, Peter Watts, & Charles Stross. There are many other good authors, but those are the ones I both enjoyed and consider good enough to unreservedly recommend (sometimes I have inexplicably trashy taste).

And if the OP is really nostalgic for old-school pulp, there's at least one free L. Ron Hubbard story every month offered by a reprint press which is supposedly not funnelling/accepting the money from the Scientology branch of the operation.

* Definition cribbed from the Mac dictionary app.
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Old 03-18-2011, 08:39 AM   #7
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H. Beam Piper's Terro-Human Future History Omnibus is available here:

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=47980

and is highly recommended.

There's six pages of Sci-Fi here:

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/ebo...30&genreid=sff

William
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Old 03-18-2011, 10:20 AM   #8
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Second the recommendation for Baen. Some good science fiction titles there. Not sure about the formats available -- I just read them through Stanza on the iPad
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Old 03-18-2011, 10:25 AM   #9
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I've recently discovered the Spinward Fringe series by Randolph Lalonde. He's an indie author who has made the leap of quitting his day job to write fulltime. The first book in his entertaining sci-fi series is a freebie. It got me hooked. I've gone on to buy the next two books, and I think there are something like seven total in the series. Likable characters, lots of action, etc. I'm really enjoying it.
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Old 03-18-2011, 10:32 AM   #10
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"Are there sf clones of Tolkien and Harry Potter? Plenty of fantasy ones, I'd agree, but actual sfnal elves and wizards tend to be fairly rare to begin with."

The main exception being Warhammer 40,000 - Games Workshop's science fiction, tabletop gaming universe of which there are a huge number of novels available. They vary in quality, though Dan Abnett's stuff is very good.
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Old 03-18-2011, 11:22 AM   #11
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Mercedes Lackey's ``Serrated Edge'' series has elves in a more contemporary setting --- ISTR that there's another series which has literally ``Elves in space'' but am blanking on the name.

Steven Brust's Vladimir Taltos / Dragaera novels are a fantasy series w/ a science fiction back-story. Free short story set in that universe here:

http://www.tor.com/stories/2011/03/the-desecrator

There's also Patricia Kennealy's Keltiad series which is Celts in space.

William

Last edited by WillAdams; 03-18-2011 at 11:35 AM. Reason: add short story link
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Old 03-18-2011, 11:33 AM   #12
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I imagine the issue here is "free." Back then there wasn't as much money to be made as a SF writer. Read some interviews with the old writers and you're shocked at how hard they had to scramble to make a living. There was no chance of a movie contract or the sort of wealth enjoyed by the creators of Harry Potter, Twilight, etcetera.

Good SF is, perhaps, valued more today than ever. Cory Doctorow comes to mind as one of the few good SF authors dabbling with free distribution. Didn't Peter Watts also provide his Rifter trilogy for free?

Most of my SF favorites are not free to read. Neal Stephenson, Neal Asher, Charlie Stross, Vernor Vinge, Richard Morgan, Michael Swanwick, China Mieville (more fantasy steampunkery) and many more are writing mostly-elf-and-vampire-free SF that stirs me.
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Old 03-18-2011, 11:41 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Penforhire View Post
Didn't Peter Watts also provide his Rifter trilogy for free?
Yep.. Picked up all three in mobi format here. He also has "Donate" button on that page and you'll get nice thank you from Peter if you do.
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Old 03-18-2011, 01:40 PM   #14
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It sounds to me as if the OP is less than enamoured with the current evolutionary state of SF and is looking for a discussion on the basis of his perceived grievances (widespread cloning and a proliferation of very basic Westerns-on-different planets story lines), rather than yet another thread full of recommendations of stuff other people think is great.

Personally I'm pretty much in full agreement with the OP, in that we're currently in a period almost devoid of Heinleins, Bradburys and so on. There are a few of them around though and in any case I'm sure it's just a phase, so I'm not unduly concerned. And even if it should turn out to be a lasting state of affairs there are still more than enough great books out there to last me well into an advanced age.

Future generations don't particularly concern me.

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Old 03-18-2011, 02:02 PM   #15
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widespread cloning and a proliferation of very basic Westerns-on-different planets story lines
Can someone explain this further? Some examples of recent works that fall into this perceived stereotype would be appreciated (let's leave Firefly out of it, for now). Either I'm watching the wrong westerns... reading the wrong SF... or both, but I'm not seeing an "abundance of it" in the genre. Either that, or I consider the "Westerns-on-different planets" theme to be part of a larger trope that certainly dominates more than just the Science Fiction genre.

I think the genre is just as diverse and intriguing (if not more so) than it ever has been -- unless we're limiting the discussion to post-hegira type space saga's.

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