Classifying Science Fictional Ideas

By James Wallace Harris, Saturday, October 11, 2014

We like to think that science fiction has no limits. We love to believe that science fiction writers can imagine anything.  But is that true?  Reading your first few hundred science fiction stories, it does feel like the genre has unlimited avenues of exploration.  However, after a lifetime of reading, over a thousand science fiction novels, and countless science fiction short stories, I’ve started feeling the genre is limited, and limited patterns are emerging.  Even if there’s the potential for an infinite number of science fiction stories, there’s always the limitation of demarcation.  We can divide things into what is science fiction, and what is not science fiction.

biological classfication

What if we classified science fictional ideas like biological classification where science fiction would be compared to how we classify life.  What would be the domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species of science fictional ideas?  How would we organize novels into a hierarchy?  Has science fictional ideas evolved out of each other to present an evolutionary taxonomy?  Or are there other structures that we can all agree on?  I’m just opening this idea up for discussion and will present a test classification for consideration.  I’d like to see other classification systems suggested, and amendments to mine.  So post links and suggestions in the comments section.  For instance, Wikipedia offers two classifications:  lists and themes.  Other ideas can be found in their outline of science fiction.

Here’s my first test classification.  [Click to enlarge.]

Classfication of science fiction

I wanted to create the smallest number of domains possible, and I was hoping to find a single highly descriptive word for each.  I flubbed on “Created Beings.”  I’m not really fond of “Humanity” either.  My system mainly thinks of science fiction as stories about the future – future Earth, future humans, meeting aliens, creating new life forms, and traveling through the universe.  Most of the main themes of science fiction would be equal to biological kingdoms – robots, alien invasions, interplanetary travel, post-humans, etc.

Making the classification of science fiction be a perfect analogy to the biological classification of life would be a kluge, but it would be neat if we could map specific novels to be the equivalent of a species.  If we could come up with a successful classification system it should be possible to select any science fiction novel or short story and put it into the structure – assuming we could classify SF stories as being about one topic.

Science fiction novels are usually about many ideas.  For example. The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov.  It could be classified under robots or galactic empires.  However, it’s mostly about robots.  Then again, some people might claim it’s mostly about agoraphobia and space colonies.  And where would we put such a bizarre novel as Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein?  Under my system I’d file it under Humanity, Mind and Philosophy, although Religion might work too.

If you wrote a novel about how intelligent robots create an Earthly utopia, would it be classified under Earth or Created Beings?  There are animals that give biologists trouble when classifying, so we should expect problem novels too.  On the other hand, we could think of a different way of looking at classification.  Think of classifying books for library card catalog systems.  These systems allow for multiple subject entries, but even in libraries, books are shelved under single subject groups.  And I tend to think most writers ultimately think of their books as having a major theme.

Classifying science fictional ideas is an idle amusement, yet it’s a revealing way to think about science fiction.  A way to give a big picture overview of the genre.  Like having the mental ability to instantly distinguish between cats and dogs, such a classification system would define science fiction.  For example, I would never file traditional vampire and werewolves stories into my classification of science fiction.  Even though many people casually dump stories of the undead into the genre because they think science fiction is a dumping ground for anything weird, I believe we need to think of the genre in more precise terms.

We can also think of classifying fiction in general, so that fiction is the highest level, and the genres – literary, mystery, western, science fiction, romance, etc. – are the domains.  This would make Science Fiction one branch off of Fiction.  But if genre is Kingdom, do we need five layers of classification between it and the specific work which would be the Species?  Is Fiction, Genre, Theme, Work enough?  That makes me think of using Fiction, Genre, Theme, Time, Setting, Topic, Work.  That way The Naked Sun would be classified as Fiction, Science Fiction, Robots, Future, Colony World, Conflicting Cultures, The Naked Sun.

Many themes from classifying general fiction can be applied to any of the specific themes of science fiction.  Thus you could add romance or war to almost any of my SF categories.

As you can see, this could lead to all kinds of possibilities.  A classification system really helped understand the organization of biological life.  Would such a classification system help in the understanding of fiction?

[I use Xmind to create the mind map above.  You can get this free program that runs under Windows, OS X and Linux if you want to create your own classification system.]

JWH

Prometheus–Intelligent Design Comes to Science Fiction

The Review

As a Saturday afternoon science fiction adventure I’d give Prometheus a generous B.  I enjoyed the film despite all the illogical thinking and action that drives the plot.  The visuals are stunning.  Great android character, and I always love a good artificial being.  Appealing captain character, good hearted, but a bit clichéd.  Not much other characterization, but the film flowed and kept my interest.  Hope I’m not damning it with faint praise, but it’s that kind of flick.  Fun enough, but don’t think about it too much.  It’s pretty weird when the most appealing character is an android.

Prometheus is set in the same universe as Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986) and all the other sequels, yet it’s not exactly a prequel or a reboot, and for the most part it’s not like the other movies.  Prometheus has a new storyline and characters, with much better special effects.  It does mirror some plotting of the original Alien, even down to some very specific outcomes.

prometheus-movie-image

We don’t get many space adventure movies anymore.  Usually it’s invaders coming to Earth.  I miss movies where we go to alien worlds, so that explains why I enjoyed Prometheus so much, absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Space epics are about as common as westerns, my favorite movie genre.  So if you’re up for a space opera, Prometheus might satisfy you – if you’re not too picky.

Don’t read any further if you haven’t seen the movie, because I am picky, and I’m going to give everything away when I dissect the science fiction in Prometheus.

The Analysis with Spoilers

Science fiction is generally an idea genre, and the story has to make sense to the readers and watchers, even if its about something impossible like The Matrix or InceptionPrometheus is based on the idea that aliens seeded Earth with DNA.  Now panspermia is an old idea, and Prometheus deals with directed panspermia.  As a concept it’s rather farfetched, but I don’t have any trouble using directed panspermia as a plot device.  But other factors in Prometheus hint at Chariot of the Gods by Erich von Däniken, which suggests ancient alien astronauts took a direct involvement with human development and claims that early humans couldn’t have done things without alien help, like build the pyramids.  That I found offensive, so my hackles were up for any sign on von Dänikenisms.  For whatever reason, the aliens that left the maps are dubbed The Engineers.  At this point in the movie, the humans don’t know about the DNA, only the maps, and maybe implied interaction with ancient humans, so why call them The Engineers?

In Prometheus we are told the archaeologists Shaw and Holloway discover several ancient human cultures that have star maps that all reveal the same location.  We aren’t told the nature of these star maps, which are unrealistically vague.  We must infer that:

  • Ancient humans observed spaceships coming from this location in the sky
  • The Engineers caused a certain pattern to appear in the sky that was more obvious than stars
  • The Engineers gave the humans the maps to tell where they came from
  • The Engineers gave the humans the maps so future humans would travel there someday
  • Some Engineers are warning humans about other Engineers.

Clue #1.  We are shown an ancient Engineer seeding the Earth, and we assume it’s before life started.  We are not shown the Engineers appearing to ancient cultures, but isn’t that implied if several ancient human cultures have the same map?

Contention #1.  The archaeological evidence provides enough information to direct modern humans to the star system with the moon LV-223.  This is very bogus and hard to believe from the evidence we are shown.  If all of these ancient human sites held an actual alien star map that we could decipher, then that might be believable.  But several smudges carved in stone like a constellation pattern  is not enough information.

Contention #2.  The Engineers left a map to their home world.  In all first contact stories both aliens and humans are always worried about giving the location of their home world.  At this time the humans of the story do not know the Engineers left DNA seeding the Earth.  All they know about is the maps.  Again, why do they call them The Engineers?  Do they believe the they were ancient alien engineers who built early civilizations on Earth?

Contention #3.  Shaw and Holloway want to meet The Engineers to ask them why?  The implication is its an ontological question.  That they are calling these aliens The Engineers because they created us.  Later on in the movie David asks Holloway why he wants to meet his makers and Holloway replies he wants to ask why.  And David asks why did humans create him, and Holloway replies because we could. Then David asks, will that answer be acceptable to you?  Religious people, and people who believe in Intelligent Design feel humans must have a purpose.  Shaw and Holloway feel The Engineers might reveal our purpose.  I feel that’s both bogus and nasty.  Is there any purpose we can be told that won’t offend us?  Any prescribed purpose will make us a slave.  Do we really want to be the children of superior aliens?

Clue #2.  The map leads the humans to a world where The Engineers were building biological weapons of mass destruction.  This doesn’t make sense either.  Who gives directions to their secret military bases?   Could a group of good Engineers have gone to Earth to warn us about evil Engineers?  This makes sense but the movie never suggests that.  Are they holding back for the sequel?

Contention #3.  The Engineers have DNA that matches ours, and they look like us, and one of them gave his all to seed Earth with his DNA, so they are our makers?  Actually, if you dropped off some DNA strands in a sterile ocean I doubt they would do anything.  Panspermia depends on the initial building blocks of evolution to come from outside of the Earth.  This ain’t that.  Nor is there any reason to believe if they put the starting ingredients in our ocean, that billions of years later humans that look like them would appear on the scene.  Evolution and DNA don’t work that way.

Clue #3.  The reawaken Engineer immediately sees the humans and starts killing them.  If the Engineers seeded many worlds how would they know if humans were from the evil Earth they wanted to destroy or from one of the good planets they wanted to preserve?  Why would a species that looks like us want to kill us?  We assume the target is Earth because the android David discovered how to read their computer system.  If renegade good Engineers created humans maybe bad Engineers would always want to kill them on sight.  But does that make us the cockroaches of the galaxy?  Maybe the renegade Engineers are trying to create the saviors of the galaxy – us!

Contention #4.  The Engineers created H. R. Giger killer alien and they were stockpiling the black goo that would be used to infect the Earth.  How long has the Engineer’s ship lain dormant on LV-223?  Why was Earth up for destruction?  The movie is named Prometheus, and the spaceship is named Prometheus, but are we to assume the Engineer that seeded the Earth is a Prometheus?  Remember your mythology.  Prometheus brought fire to the humans and was eternally punished by his fellow gods by having an eagle feed on his liver.  If the Engineer Prometheus defied his fellow Engineers to bring DNA to Earth, why would any of these ancient human cultures know about the Engineers?  If they seeded the Earth before life existed, it would be billions of years before these ancient cultures even existed.  If the Engineers came back to give them star maps, then the Engineers have been keeping an eye on Earth for a very long time indeed.  Then why do they want to destroy it?  Again this points to two factions of Engineers.

Clue #4.  The Engineers were overrun by the H. R. Giger aliens, so they weren’t smart enough to protect themselves from their own weapon.  The human ship Prometheus is fairly easily able to destroy the Engineer’s ship heading for Earth, so they aren’t all that powerful.  And an ancient Engineer attacks a disabled Shaw but she’s able enough to fend him off long enough to sic the alien octopus on him.  These ancient Engineers aren’t that capable, or they are damn unlucky.

Contention #5.  Shaw and David the android know where the Engineer home world is and know how to fly an Engineer ship to it.  Shaw wants to know why they wanted to  attack Earth with the H. R. Giger aliens.   We won’t know the results of this point until the sequel comes up, but it’s not the conclusion I would have made.  Why didn’t Shaw go, “Fuck the Engineers, we’re flying to their home world to deliver they payload they intended for us.”    Why does Shaw continue to believe the Engineers has something to tell us?  Isn’t finding the plans and munitions to destroy Earth enough of a message?  My gut reaction was much different from Shaw’s. It would have been the same as Lester del Rey’s “For I Am a Jealous People.” Since this is a very difficult story to track down I’ll have to tell you the plot. Earth is under attack by aliens. We learn that God is on their side. So we get mad and go after God and the aliens planning to destroy both, because we are a jealous people.

This movie seems to suggest that the only good alien is a dead alien.  Are there no wise, gentle aliens inhabiting the stars that want to be friends?  We’re to assume that Shaw is making the same stupid mistake about meeting the Engineers as Rafe Spall makes when he treats the alien snake as cute?  Prometheus, Alien, Aliens, and all the rest tell us over and over again aliens from space are dangerous.  Of course, these are horror movies, and like the template for most horror movies, all the victims are stupid and all the bad guys are evil.  I hate this message in science fiction movies and books.  Why wasn’t Prometheus different and had the Engineers be noble?  Prometheus is a very cynical film.

Prometheus also sends another offensive message.  Prometheus is a science fictional version of intelligent design.  Why can’t people accept that life on Earth is an accident of evolution?  This Chariot of the Gods approach has the same problem as theology.  If God created us, who created God?  If the Engineers created us, who created the Engineers?  Why do we need an initial cause for our existence?  Prometheus is anti-science.

Shaw and Holloway want to know why humans are on Earth.  They are the driving characters of the story, yet their characterizations are extremely weak.  This is the first flaw of the movie.  By having a couple, the writers diluted the characterization of each.  Shaw eventually becomes the main character of the movie, but we don’t know that until the last fourth of the movie, and she never gelled as a personality.  Prometheus would have been far more gripping if Charlie hadn’t existed, and Shaw’s obsession was the main focus of the story.

The movie further dilutes the creation of strong characterization with the subplot of Peter Weyland, who wants to find the Engineers hoping they will bestow life extension on him.  If this was revealed at the beginning of the mission, it would have created two strong opposing wills, and that might have worked, but leaving Weyland hidden on the ship till near the end as a “surprise” hurt the story badly.  The character has no purpose and is killed off rather quickly.  Meredith Vickers who seems to run things but isn’t the captain, and who might be Weyland’s daughter, is another pointless character.

Great science fiction needs great characters with a clear goals or desires.  Think about Gattaca, we have Vincent a normal human living in a world of genetically enhanced humans.  Vincent wants to go into space, so how can he possibly have the right stuff when the real astronauts have been genetically engineered?  Prometheus doesn’t have strong characters because it had too many characters – nobody stood out, nobody’s goals drives the story.  Shaw’s goal is rather unappealing – wanting to meet The Engineers to ask them why they visited the Earth.  But isn’t that questioned answered when she discovers they brought DNA to Earth?  Are The Engineers the Johnny Appleseeds of life in the galaxy?

Why does Shaw wear a crucifix without stating her Christianity?  Isn’t this Chariot of the Gods plot in direct conflict with Christianity just as much as Darwin’s evolution?

I can buy The Engineers seeding the planets, but there’s no reason given why or if the Engineers visited ancient civilizations.  Why do these civilizations leave records of star patterns in the sky?  Did the Engineers come by to visit?  Did they help develop these civilizations?  And did they tell the people where in the sky they came from?  Why?  So we could come visit some day?  Then why is the location a biological weapon repository?  Why would you tell people it’s location?  That doesn’t make any sense.  In all first contact stories both humans and aliens are leery of revealing their home world.  If the Engineers repeatedly left maps of where to find them, where would they point to?  And why?  Again, my theory that good Engineers were warning everyone about bad Engineers.

You’d think the Engineers would think like Match.com users and plan to meet in a neutral and safe location.  We could also assume, a la Arthur C. Clarke, that the invitation is test of our readiness to be space travelers ourselves.  It’s a sign we’ve evolved.  The film eventually tells us the Engineers didn’t like how we turned out and planned to exterminate us with a black goo that generates the scary aliens of Alien/Aliens.  Are these the bad Engineers going around undoing what the good Engineers have done?

The Engineers look like us.  It’s implied we are their children.  So why destroy us with H. R. Giger aliens?  Are the monster aliens superior to us?  Are they meant to stimulate our development with adversity?  Are they some kind of punishment?  What did we do?

Peter Weyland has a much more powerful need to meet the Engineers, he wants to keep living.  I would claim seeking out aliens for advanced technology to be a greater driving force than religion and ontology, but it’s never really developed.  In fact, the idea is developed so late in the film, and nipped in the bud so quickly, that I think it’s just filler.

My movie companions did not like how Prometheus tried to mix in religion with aliens.  Neither of the two women I went to the show with are religious, and they just thought a cross wearing space woman was unreal.  Why mix Christianity with von Däniken mumbo jumbo?

Clue #5.  In the end, we movie goers get one thing out of the movie, we know where the H. R. Giger aliens come from and why.  They are a biological weapon of The Engineers.  We assumed they created them, but I supposed they could have found them on a planet and just used them.  Either way, we have answers for past Alien movies in the franchise.

Frankenstein; or, A Modern Prometheus

A reader recommended I read “Is Prometheus anti-science? Screenwriter Damon Lindelof responds.”  The interview gives me further clues about Prometheus.  I had forgotten the full title of Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein; or, A Modern Prometheus.  Lindelof talks about the film as “Frankenstein 101.”  This works on several levels.  It emphasizes that Prometheus is also a horror film, that it’s about science and religion, and it’s about monsters.  From this analogy I have to ask: Who is the monster in Prometheus, and who is Frankenstein?

The obvious answer is The Engineers are Frankenstein and the monster are the H. R. Giger aliens, who appear to be created to thrive on humans.  But if we’re to believe they were created to destroy us, does that make us the monster too?  And what about David, is he a monster, and we’re his Frankenstein?  And who is the Frankenstein that created The Engineers?

These are great literary allusions, but this doesn’t sidestep that the Frankenstein theme is also a form of intelligent design philosophy.  I thought the movie was weakened by too many characters, but I think it’s also weakened by too many monsters and Frankensteins.  That could have been solved by not having The Engineers seed Earth with DNA, and then the ancient human star maps would have been warnings.

However, in the end, even though I give Prometheus an overall B, I do give it an A+ for ambition.

JWH – 6/10/12

Revealing Your Personality With Science Fiction

Rusty Keele over at BestScienceFictionStories.com has invited blogging friends over to write about their favorite SF short story, and I’m one of the contributors.  My post is queued up for tomorrow.  I picked “The Star Pit” by Samuel R. Delany from 1967.  Be sure and stop by and read all the posts this week.  Jason Sanford discusses his love of Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains” from 1950 and John DeNardo picks “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin from 1954, after sneaking in a plea for “Diamond Dogs” by Alastair Reynolds from 2003.

It’s revealing to see what other fans like in the way of short stories, especially when you only get to pick one.  If had mentioned two, I might have included “The Menace From Earth” by Robert A. Heinlein from 1957.

To help refresh your memory of great short stories, look at these lists:

Are you a long time fan of science fiction?  If you study these lists, even in a casual way, they will bring back a flood of memories.  There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of great science fiction stories.  Our pitiful little minds just can’t hold them all our bio-RAM.  I wouldn’t have picked a different story if I had read these lists before I wrote my essay for Rusty, but reading them now makes me realize how hard it would be to pick story #2.

It’s too bad reprint rights are so expensive because it would be huge fun to create my own personal anthology of favorites and publish it at Lulu.com.  Imagine a fad of publishing personal anthologies of short stories, where you wrote forwards and afterwards for each story. Wouldn’t that make a unique way to communicate with new friends?  In the old days you’d introduce yourself to people and leave your calling card.  Imaging leaving your anthology.

Could you define your inner core personality with 12 short stories?  I think “The Star Pit” comes close to revealing a lot of my personal programming.  Picking the next 11 stories would be difficult, but I think I’ll start going through the above lists and make a try of it.  Certainly, it will make a nice blog entry.

Jim

Free Science Fiction

It’s a great time to be poor, tight or miserly because there’s lots of free science fiction offerings on the Internet.  Heinlein was wrong about that free lunch deal.  Just subscribing to two web sites, SF Site and SFF Audio via RSS feeds will keep you informed of more good free SF&F reading and listening than you can handle, even if you’re out-of-work or out-of-school.  All you’ve got to do is read the regular posts and these sites will spot the goodies for you. 

Hell, a couple months ago Tor let people sign up to get 12 free ebooks novels from them, in PDF, HTML and unprotected Mobi formats, which is good for the new Amazon Kindle.  I socked them away for a rainy day when I want to try out some new authors, but I especially appreciated getting a copy of Old Man’s War by John Scalzi because I already bought and listened to it on audio.  Audio books are the best way to fully experience a book, in my humble opinion, but audio books are not so good for reference and study.  eBooks are great for snagging a quote.  I wished all paper editions came with ebook editions for reviewing purposes – but I digress from my main topic.

I don’t know why there is so much free reading and listening on the Internet.  I do know there’s a theory that a certain amount of free promotion helps with sales, but currently there’s enough free promotion to exist completely without buying.

Some writers like Cory Doctorow even offer their latest novels for free, such as his new book Little Brother.  Read the intro in the HTML edition to see just how far his generosity extends.  I’m waiting for the audio edition to show up on Audible.com to buy.  I’ve read Cory’s stories in anthologies I’ve bought, but his name has stuck with me because of his free work on the Internet.  Finding his brilliant “Anda’s Game” made me remember his name as a standout writer.  The same thing happened with Charlie Stross, because of free stories on the net, or stories in anthologies, I’ve gone on to buy his books.

A good way to dip your toe in the free story waters is to read BestScienceFictionStories.com where Rusty reviews standout SF short stories, many of which are on the net to read for free and Rusty provides the links.  He even offers a guide to finding free stories, “Nine Secrets For Finding Your Favorite Science Fiction Short Stories Online,” as well as “The 10 Best Web Sites for Free Online Science Fiction Short Stories.”  When I was a kid I had to haunt musty used bookshops all over Miami to find classic SF stories to read.  Now story hunting is as easy as a mouse-click away.

And these stories aren’t submissions from would-be writers, or trunk stories from published writers, but award winning stories, stories that have appeared in best-of-the-year anthologies, and stories that have appeared on lists like The Top 100 Sci-Fi Short Stories.

For the last decade I’ve been doing far more listening to fiction than reading.  At first audio science fiction was rare, but in the last year there has been a boom in SF&F for your ears, including free productions.  At first free audio featured amateur readers no better than the best student you’d hear when we had to take turns reading aloud in class.  The best professional readers today act out audio books in performances I often find better than those I see in Oscar winning movies.  Free audio productions have a long way to go to compete with professional productions, but surprisingly, they are evolving fast!

The granddaddy of SF audio is probably Escape Pod, currently broadcasting it’s 159th episode.  You no longer have to mess with podcast software to listen to the shows, so go sample its stories with the on-page sound controls.  The production quality is now equal or better to many of the commercial stories I buy at Audible.com.  Escape Pod offers a lot of quality for free.  Again, these aren’t just third-tier stories, but stories that have appeared in professional story magazines like F&SF, Asimov’s, Interzone, Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, Jim Baen’s Universe, and other magazines that SF writers love to sell to.

Also, the above linked magazine sites often offer free stories to read from their for-sale magazines, especially during award times when they want to promote their nominated authors.  Just following the links on this page will keep you up-to-date with what’s going in with the genre of science fiction.  You’ll learn who the famous authors are as well as the new and upcoming writers.

Free audio book novels are showing up but most of them are read by amateur readers, something not to my taste, but if you like free and are patient and forgiving, you might find a lot in these offerings.  I expect this category to grow in the future as amateur actors discover audio books are a way to audition their talents and get their names known.  Digital recording equipment is relatively cheap, but producing a ten-twenty hour novel is quite a commitment, but they are appearing.  Keep an eye on SFF Audio.

And if you want to know about classic science fiction, visit Feedbooks, where you can get ebook novels for free.  Their Science Fiction page offer books from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to George Orwell’s 1984 to Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, the new book mentioned above.  And all the books are nicely formatted for a wide range of electronic reading devices.  Teachers and professors could offer a class on science fiction and their students could get all their textbooks for free on this site.

I don’t understand how all this generosity works.  It’s a hippie dream – a commie’s philosophy come true.  Feedbooks doesn’t even have ads on their page.  It’s a mystery, like WordPress, how do they make their money?  There are even radio magazine shows like StarShipSofa.com, that appear to be the work of energetic individuals unmotivated by capitalism.  It’s like the old days of fanzines, creating a new generation of online fandom, fashioning an audio genzine.

Like I said, it doesn’t take much to join this community, just add the RSS feeds from SF Signal and SFF Audio.  Having online access allows web surfers to join a never ending science fiction convention, again for free, without having to buy a membership or pay for hotels, cabs and airline tickets.  If you follow SFF Audio, links to panels and con speeches often show up too.  And again, it’s all for free.

This makes me wonder about the financial health of the little audio book publishers and small press publishers.  Is all this free competition hurting them?  SF Signal and SFF Audio also link to these commercial sites, so if you want to see them succeed, patronize their online stores too.  The commercial SF&F magazines have been losing paid readership for years – is the Internet partially at fault – either through free offerings, or just a diversion from old fashion pastimes?  It’s all too hard to know, but we do know there were a lot more short story magazines on sale at newsstands before the advent of television, again a system that offered content for free, usually paid for by ads.

The science fiction short story may go the way of poetry – moving out of the realm of commercial sales to exist and be supported by love of the art form and its fans.  I hate to see that, but I sure do love the fact that the art form of the science fiction short story seems to be growing on the Internet.

Learning to adapt to this free medium takes a bit of training and equipment.  Listening to audio via on-page controls is the easiest way to join in.  Just play a story and kick back.  They are nice company for doing the dishes, or pursuing hobbies like modeling or knitting.  Next up is learning to subscribe to podcasts in iTunes and take the stories with you when you run or walk.  If you like to read on your phone, PDA, notebook computer or ebook reader, find you favorite reading software and learn where the best places that offer that format for free.  I’ve barely touched on the free sites available. 

Like I said, I mostly listening to books because I’ve found so many ways to integrate audio books into my routine.  It’s quite wonderful to be walking down the street while classic novels are whispered into my ear.

Jim