I’ve written a blog post on Asteroids, and briefly touched on Jupiter, so now it’s time to stretch a little further afield and talk about the multitude of planets existing within and beyond our solar syste
Planets, both real and imagined, are of huge thematic importance in science fiction. Mankind’s exploration of space, whether physical or through the lens of a telescope, has provided an amazing – albeit limited – view of the universe. Although, according to scienceblogs there are ‘at least 200 billion galaxies out there (and possibly even more), we’re very likely talking about a Universe filled with around 1024 planets, or, for those of you who like it written out, around 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets in our observable Universe.‘
As a child, Star Wars and the original series of Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek opened my eyes to the possibility of life on other planets – Dan Dare too. It’s no wonder I’ve grown up believing there is life out there ‘somewhere.’ [divider]
Planets in Science Fiction
Planets within science fiction feature in numerous guises. Kevis Hendrickson’s Roque Hunter series involves Zyra Zanr – the Galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter – travelling the Draeda glaxy with ‘an arsenal of high-tech weapons and her trusty spaceship, the Helship-II.’ Two powerful governments are embroiled in a bitter struggle for power, and Zyra needs to keep her wits about her to stay one step ahead.[divider]
The theme of planets from another perspective can be found in ‘A Space Story – The Journey of a bald little alien named Dean Kilmer.’ Instead of the exploration heading outbound, Dean is searching for Earth, with a view to persuading a human to return ‘home’ with him. ‘Dean’s’ fast-paced storytelling describing his misadventures will appeal to its intended young adult audience. [divider]
O was a tricky letter to find a theme for and I swear I’m not cheating. ‘Online Worlds’ is a theme in its own right according to the Encyclopedia of Science fiction, not only that, but I’ve had the pleasure of reading a couple of books using this very theme.[divider]
So what are Online Worlds?
Without stating the obvious, they’re worlds that exist online, quite often involving role-play with other users and are never ending as far as I can tell.
I grew up on ‘Make your own adventure’ books, closely followed by Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy books. You’d create your character, select your inventory, gather your experience points and make your way through the book, choosing between turning to page 54 or 112. One would lead to salvation (possibly), the other to certain death. Come to think of it, I never did find a safe passage through the world presented to me, there was a monster lurking at every corner, itching for a fight (with the use of dice, a little turn taking and some honesty).
Incidently, I picked one of these books up at a boot sale recently and tried to engage with my gaming-mad eleven and twelve-year-old.
Ha! No chance!
Minecraft, Roblox, Blockland, not to mention online multiplayer console games, EA’s Sims franchise, city building… all of these allow users to engage in creating and living in an online world. Obviously there will be other examples, but these are the ones I know of personally and I’m sure you don’t want this post turning into an epic saga on the subject.
Online world fiction for young readers
Stone Marshall has written a series of books based on the extremely popular Minecraft game. My children, along with most (if not all) of their school friends are crazy about this game. The online world is a landscape of blocks, and as far as I can gather, you design, create and demolish bricks to create your own.
Book one of Flynn’s Log: Rescue Island is highly accurate in describing the loading of an actual game – waking in a strange world with the sun getting ready to dip beyond the horizon, and as I’m sure Flynn will discover, Minecraft at night can be a dangerous place to be – especially if you’re on your own.
The recommended age group for this series of books is 8 to 18, and there are four in the series:
Rescue Island (Book #1)
Thorn’s Lair (Book #2)
The Ultimate form of life (Book #3)
Offline (Book #4)
For older readers (Young adult +)
I came across a series called ‘The Game is life’ a couple of years ago. The first one is still free (which is how I came across it), but I went on to purchase and read all the corresponding books in the series, I just couldn’t get enough of this peculiar world.
- “What if life as we know it was just a game?
- What if, instead of traditional schools, children learned by participating in a virtual reality simulation, one that allowed them to experience “life” from birth to death — multiple times?
- What if one player, on his final play, could change the world forever…?”
The book can be complex at times, and there are moments where you have to stop and think ‘where’ you are, but overall I found this (and the sequels) a highly engaging read. It did have some editing issues when I first read it, but the author has apparently resolved them since then (not checked that yet, but I will do as I fancy another read).
The online world in this book is virtual, and I can’t really say much more than that without giving the book away, but if it’s your ‘cup of tea,’ I would highly recommend grabbing a free copy of The Game.
Nuclear War (and the ensuing ‘winter’)
I was watching a program a while back about adverts that used to appear on our television screens during the nineteen-seventies. One advert was produced by the UK government and carried the slogan ‘Protect and Survive.’ I had absolutely no recollection of this, but my mum informed me that it was a very real threat back then, (and maybe it still is, although I’m under the impression that none of the countries with Nuclear weapons dare fire them, lest it blows our planet to smithereens.
It should come as no surprise then, that Nuclear weapons, wars, fallouts and winters should play an important role within science fiction, be it the post-apocalyptic setting the few survivors live in, the cause of a zombie manifestation, or the sole reason for abandoning our planet.
(And I will add some more to this as I come across books depicting these themes)
As far as I can gather (as this is one of my least favourite sub-genres of science-fiction) Military Sci-Fi uses futuristic technology and weapons, often to negotiate fights with alien civilisations, or conduct battles in space, although I’ve read many a book where the military is used in a present day setting, usually with a near apocalyptic scenario.
Books in this genre appear to have main characters who are, in fact, military personnel, which means that I’ve been writing a novel in a genre I claim not to be keen on (my novel draft has military personnel and most of the story take place on military premises – who knew?)
Space opera is a subgenre of Science Fiction (and a form of Military Sci-fi) involving romance, melodrama and is set mostly in outer space according to the Wikipedia page on the subject. Clearly I’ve not understood this genre at all (until now), as a lot of television shows I enjoyed as a child, and which instilled me with a life-long interest in science fiction, appear to fall under this category: Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who and Blake’s Seven to name but a few.
So, all that talk about this genre being my least favourite means I’ve been clearly misinformed at some point in my life. It’s a genre I read a lot of, and a genre I have chosen to write in, a genre I love in fact…
Or more specifically, Life on other planets.
I do not, for one moment, believe we are ‘alone’ in this universe. Life came into being on our own planet, albeit with a specific set of criteria, but just because we haven’t found proof of other lifeforms, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist… somewhere.
Alien Life Forms
Science fiction is rich with other life forms, and a quick search through Google images reveals just how wide and vast our imagination is when considering other forms of life – little green and grey men with small bodies and elongated or over-sized heads, human shaped aliens, insects, robots, a jelly-like blob… As with the other elements of science fiction I have so far discussed through this challenge, our vision of what constitutes an alien has changed as our own science and knowledge develops.
Books on Indiescififantasy featuring alien life forms:
[show-reviews-in tax=”genre” name=”aliens”]
And yes, this really is the best I can do for K. I’ve spent ages trying to come up with a theme, and besides talking about Klingons or Kyptonite, I didn’t see what else I could talk about.
So, a keep, according to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is the scifi equivalent of a fantasy novel’s ediface (although I often see the term ‘keep’ used in fantasy) and is a ‘walled, gated or segregated community‘ (source), a little like a compound I suppose.
This image is of a science fiction themed compound/keep designed by Cull_the_Cool for one of the Sims game (I’m not sure which one, but it gives you the general idea).
Keeps’ can be made of whichever material is available, they may contain a small society of survivors wishing to live in peace, a heavily fortified military unit, or perhaps a mix of the two, with military personnel protecting vulnerable citizens.
Quite often keeps will be found in remote locations, and will often involve a life and death journey to reach them.
Keeps’ are popular in science fiction, but I’m clearly not as well read on science fiction as I thought I was, because I can only think of one independent book featuring a keep and that appears to have been withdrawn from sale.
I shall return to this post at a later date with some book recommendations. If you know of any that you believe would complement this post, please do let me know. This is definitely the most challenging letter of the alphabet yet for science fiction themes.