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Hi Lee,

Good post, I definitely agree with your perspective on science and science fiction. As a long-time science fiction (and fantasy) reader, I also have enjoyed many of the books you cite. As a suggestion, though, you might want to try Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books. She writes a powerful story with compelling, well-rounded characters and some very interesting speculations on future applications of science. She has written a number of fantasy books as well that are quite good, but I think her science fiction is better. As a note, though, the Vorkosigan books follow a chronology of her main character's life, starting with his parents and through his middle age. It's possible to read the books out of order, but I think as a reader, you get more out of them if you read them in order.

Thanks again for the well-written post!

Sci-fi does not matter.
It doesn't matter to scientists.
When a layman makes something, the scientists don't care for it. They figure, the universe is so miraculous that we don't need a bunch of goofy artists to come along and make it all gee-golly for the public to see the beauty of it.
And they certainly don't want to see all the stereotypes of the geek scientist turned into lovable quirks to be considered the marks of a hero.
I think artists may as well stick to navel gazing.
My high-school physics teacher was a great example. She couldn't stand it when I wasn't working on "those vectors", but instead was lost in some silly poem. And my math teacher hated sci fi, too, and hated my requests for him to explain WHY you do that step at that point in that equation.
Astrophysics isn't something you're supposed to dance to.
It's serious business. The Real Deal.
The filmmakers and animators and sci fi writers and musicians, just dreamers who get in the way of the real gorgeousity. Just little people who want to hang a slogan on something that shouldn't need one.
I think that was the whole point of all those computer programming classes and math classes in which the prof's words never seemed to deliver to me the real Meaning behind it all.
These beautiful things that exist in the real universe are real. Real.
And all the poems and flowery words and strac ballsy space babes who kill aliens... it's just wrapping paper.

Oh, I think the grandest result of science fiction is a reader inspired to follow a career in science as a result.
Don't forget the clunky yet amazing work of Jules Verne and the beautiful & inspirational art of Leonarda da Vinci,
the movies: Bladerunner, Soylent Green & Brazil.

Thanks for all the blog links and author lists, I can't wait to check them out!

That's very true.
I always loved Jules Verne, although I'm not sure if he was himself a scientist or not. Never really checked. But in highschool I was always blown away by the quality of the science in "20,000 leagues..." I don't know if the caustic potash thing would work or not, but he was at least thinking about the nuts and bolts of how to provide breathable air to a sub crew.
Da Vinci, however, was a scientist. He got in some trouble with the church for taking apart cadavers to see just how this tendon fitted to that muscle and this bone. He had a crystalized understanding of concepts like perspective from math and so on. His visual art marks the door way between pretty, but imaginary visual art that preceded him, and a modern rendering of the real world through the basics of what we would now call "3D modelling." He really was a genius. And don't even get me started on the DaVinci glider or the helicopter, not to mention that enormous crossbow design.
(Some physicists and a female pilot actually BUILT the DaVinci glider on Nova once. The sonumbitch FLEW.)

Feminist sci-fi blogs?? GAWD, does PC infiltrate everywhere? (I was going to write "PC drivel" but decided I'd be flogged :) )

Hey, thanks for the recommendation, Heather. I like McMaster Bujold's fiction, but I haven't read these. I'll try to get to them in order. Glad you liked the post.

"It'll be just like starting over...": I think SF does matter, in the same way literature and art matter. The things humans create are just as "real" as the things already here and fiction is just another species of truth. If all that mattered were things we could sense, we'd still be in Plato's cave. I think SF does matter to some scientists, or they wouldn't write it themselves. And as Mari pointed out, it's inspired a number of people to try careers in science. I agree with you about Verne and DaVinci. I'm not sure we've had someone who was as much of a polymath as DaVinci was since. A man far, far ahead of his time.

Gordon: Have you read any of the sites I mentioned? I'm guessing not, because they're not about being PC, which I loathe myself. Don't judge before you read, and if you don't like it, nobody's making you read it. Some of us actually find discussions of the way women are portrayed--positively and negatively--in science fiction interesting, even if you don't.

You guessed correctly ;)

Thank you, Lee.
Being a sci-fi writer, I of course agree with everything you just said.
But in a moment of self-doubt and self-loathing I decided to pummel myself over the head with my own keyboard.
And getting other smart people to argue your points for you is always a fun excercise in ego-gratification that I need to grow out of...

Science fiction is terrific for inspiring scientists, not only provoking interest in a subject, but also for inspiring inventions. I switched from physical anthropology (though I still write forensics novels) to infectious disease epidemiology (much more employable) after reading books like The Hot Zone and Outbreak. And I've always had great fun with my friends talking about the cultural scifi of Niven or Heinlein, the relationship of man and technology (oh cyberpunk, we miss you), and the biological feasibility of scifi ETs - and whether they were accurately represented in Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials.

Hey all, "Science fiction's job, first and foremost, is to tell a good story." Good SciFi writers have one thing in common, they hold your interest. Any good work of fiction needs to be solid basic writing. The beauty of Science Fiction is it gives a writer more tools to entertain. It also allows ideas not necessarily purely scientific to be presented in a forum that can effectively divorce them from the baggage they may carry in say the political or social realms.

A major problem is that too much stuff gets called science fiction.

Star Wars is not but most people think it is. Someone called that new show Past Life science fiction. So for many people SF is anything weird.

But our so called scientists make science too out of touch with reality. It is 40 years after the Moon landing, How can we believe that most scientists can't figure out that planned obsolescence is going on in automobiles? But have you ever heard scientists discuss the subject?

Some science fiction from the 60s was more relevant than today's junk with all of the cyberspace and singularity crap.


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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
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      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
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      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
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      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
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