Thursday, June 29, 2006

More Old Sci-Fi

Despite my earlier complaining, I do actually prefer Science Fiction over all other genres. I finished the AC Clarke book, and now I've started another anthology of short stories, this time "Imperial Stars" (Volume 1), edited and collected by Jerry Pournelle. Dr. Pournelle is an SF author in his own right; he appears in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia as an ironic accomplice to Larry Niven - ironic, because the aside says he deserves much more than a mere aside, but appears nowhere else in the encyclopedia. He has also collected and edited several series of science fiction and speculative psuedo-non-fiction books, such as "There Will Be War", "War Wolrld" and "A Step Farther Out". You can probably see the pattern of where his SF subgenre interests lie.

He provides a short introduction to each story in most of his edited volumes. I just started reading this book, and in the intro to the first story, "In Clouds of Glory" by Algis Budrys, Dr. Pournelle talks about Mr. Budrys' upbringing as a diplomat's son, of Lithuania in the interwar years. Then he talks about the Helsinki accord, which apparently was an agreement between the USA and the USSR in which the USA would stop agitating quite so much about the Imperial policies of the USSR, and the USSR would promise to behave a little better on human rights. Dr. Pournelle laments this document, as it apparently signalled the end of any hope of national sovereignty for the "captive nations".

This struck me, as I thought about how quickly history can happen - and how it can catch SF authors so completely by surprise. This book is copyright 1986; within four years Lithuania had declared its independence, and was recognised by the outside world (Iceland) in 1991. So much for extinguished hopes.

Despite the frequent shortcomings and instant-irrelevance of SF, I still like to read stories that show me what could be. I like imagining other worlds and other times, that exist as possibilities. I like some Fantasy, particularly those fantasies that include complex, believable characters and exotic-but-not-ridiculous locales. Obviously, that's a pretty subjective category of literature! I have very little interest in the strawman of capital-L Literature, in which overdetailed characters agonise for long periods about meaningless problems and nothing much happens - all characters, no plot, as some would say. Anyways, I'm looking forward to the rest of this book, if only because it's more interesting than doing anything actually productive.

Sorry, no pictures of the book - old SF often seems to have this problem when one goes looking on Amazon.

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