“Like any enduring cultural experiment, science fiction has evolved its own codes, its own logic. Some of the genre’s most intense and visionary work talks in a shared language of concepts that can be hard for the uninitiated to penetrate – works Samuel Delaney’s Dhalgren or James Tiptree Jr’s Ten Thousand Light Years From Home, for instance, would be a forbidding place to start. But if you want to catch up with the literature of our shared future then where can you begin?
It would be hard to find a better starting point than Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow. Mankind receives a signal from space, music from the alien world Rakhat. The first to respond are not governments or even corporations, but the Jesuit missionary order, who send a private expedition in a hollowed out asteroid to make contact. The novel is told in retrospect through the eyes of the only surviving crew member, priest Emilio Sandoz. If this scenario sounds at all oddball to you, please put those feelings aside. The story of the first encounter between humankind and alien life that Russell creates is both devastating and an awe-inspiring treatise on man’s relationship to our universe.”
— Damien Walter, The Guardian.
For additional Sci-Fi reading, click here for the entire article and remaining four books.
Although released in 1953, this cartoon was under development and production during 1952, a presidential election year that pitted Dwight D. Eisenhower against Governor Adlai Stevenson. As you may know–and if you don’t, I’m givin’ it to you straight–presidential contests have a way of heightening the fear factor as both political sides of the contest use every trick in the book to motivate you to their way of thinking. (The More You Know…) In 1952, the cattle prod to the voting booth was Communism, more specifically the threat of godless hordes infiltrating our neighborhoods, churches, schools and bowling leagues. (Yes! Bowling leagues!) Much like today’s politics, it was the Republicans in 1952 who consistently championed themselves as the lighthouse in a darkness of evil whilst successfully painting the Democrats as weak-kneed handwringers who couldn’t poop nor get off the john. Beneath this opera of political wills–both national and international–was the quite real and terrifying threat of nuclear annihilation. In November 1 of 1952, the United States detonated in the Pacific Ivy Mike the world’s first Hydrogen “weapon”. Instantly the hopes of surviving your standard fission bomb war went from a maybe to a big fat wet phhht!. The futility of a cold war culminating in mutual destruction is codified in this toon. In Daffy’s Duck Dodgers is the arrogance that our nation brought to this mindless swager before our communist enemies. Who then does Porky represent in this tale? Oh, I don’t know, let’s say…uh, Canada?
Does science fiction have a new sub-genre called ‘cli-fi’, short for climate-fiction? Rodge Glass of The Guardian says:
“Whereas 10 or 20 years ago it would have been difficult to identify even a handful of books that fell under this banner, there is now a growing corpus of novels setting out to warn readers of possible environmental nightmares to come. …There’s an argument for saying this is simply rebranding: sci-fi writers have been engaging with the climate-change debate for longer than literary novelists – Snow by Adam Roberts comes to mind – and I do wonder whether this is a term designed for squeamish writers and critics who dislike the box labelled “science fiction”. So the term is certainly imperfect, but it’s also valuable. Unlike sci-fi, cli-fi writing comes primarily from a place of warning rather than discovery. There are no spaceships hovering in the sky; no clocks striking 13. On the contrary, many of the horrors described seem oddly familiar.”
Thanks to Terri Main at Science Fiction and Mystery Writers for the tip.