A friend of mine has a friend that wants to create a course on the impact of technology on culture as seen through science fiction. Since she knows I’m a Sci-Fi nut, she asked me for author and book recommendations. This sounded like a fun challenge until I started thinking about concrete examples. I wondered if most classic science fiction books and authors from the past still count? When does science fiction go stale?
Does Neuromancer still work to show off the effect of a wired world? Or would Little Brother by Cory Doctorow be more relevant now? What’s a good book about robots? Everyone immediately thinks of Asimov, but his stories are so quaint now that we have real robots. Would Robert Sawyer’s Wake, Watch, Wonder Trilogy be a better story about intelligent machines and what they would mean to society?
What would be a good book for genetics and longevity? I could recommend the movie Gattaca, but what book? What about Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling?
For the impact of technology to deal with global warming and running out of oil, I’d highly recommend The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.
There’s zillions of space travel books but do any of them explore the impact of space travel on world culture? Quite often science fiction is about a technology without being about its impact on society. Think of all the stories about SETI. Contact by Carl Sagan is the most famous, but does it really say much about what it would mean to the people of Earth if we started getting messages from the stars?
How would our lives on Earth be different if humans colonized Mars?
If you think about it, our current society is far more tech driven than any science fiction book I’ve ever read. What novel captures us now? I thought about Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
And should we list books where technology destroys civilization like The Road by Cormac McCarthy? Or what about books that want to rebuild technology after our culture collapses like Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett and A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.?
Are there any technological utopias portrayed in recent science fiction books? 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson is very hopeful I’d say.
I’m sure I’m missing the obvious, but I also believe there are many great books written in the last twenty years that are excellent but I haven’t read them. Tell me about them.
JWH – 12/3/13