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Worlds Without End Blog

2016 James Tiptree, Jr. Award Winner Posted at 8:00 AM by Dave Post

Dave Post

When the Moon Was OursThe 2016 James Tiptree, Jr. Award, for works of speculative fiction which explore and expand gender, has been announced.

 

 

Winner:

Honor List:

Our congrats to Anna-Marie McLemore and all the Honor List members. You can read more details about each selection on the official Tiptree website.

What do you think of this list? Any favorites in there?

A Distance Too Far Posted at 9:20 AM by James Wallace Harris

jwharris28

In Beyond Earth: Our Path to a New Home in the Planets, Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R. Hendrix propose colonizing Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, and the second largest moon in the solar system. They reject constructing colonies on Mars and the Moon, claiming Titan offers the most resources for creating a permanent human settlement.

Even though I don’t buy their premise, Wohlforth and Hendrix have written a book that nicely sums up the current knowledge on human space travel. What’s damning and depressing is their long litany of obstacles we face living in space. Over the years I’ve read news reports about the various dangerous health effects of space travel, but reading them all in one place makes me wonder if science fiction is completely wrong about the future of humans in space.

Oddly enough, near the beginning of their story, Wohlforth and Hendrix report books on space colonization are never taken seriously by professionals in the space industry. Evidently, such wild ideas are a danger to the careers of real space scientists. Wohlforth and Hendrix say books about colonizing space give amateur space enthusiasts hope, but those folks lie on the fringe, closer to science fiction fans than scientists. I’m a space enthusiast and a science fiction fan, so Beyond Earth is my kind of book, but I couldn’t help taking this news as a slight.

Between what W&H report on the dangers of space travel and the politics of the space industry, it feels like they have damned their own hopes in Beyond Earth to oblivion. The upside of their story is the reporting on private space programs, like SpaceX. That news is very encouraging, if not inspirational.

However, I have a problem with colonizing Titan. It’s a distance too far. Earth’s moon is three days away, Mars is six months. Titan is seven years! Wohlforth and Hendrix do make a case for faster space travel, but even if Titan was only hours away, it’s still too far, too cold, too strange, and, too inhuman. Science fiction hasn’t prepared us for living on Titan like it has for the Moon and Mars.

For the past fifty years, I’ve heard many arguments for colonizing the Moon or Mars. The whites and the reds, you might say. We know those worlds well enough to feel they aren’t so strange. They are barren, not fit for man nor beast, but we have already psychologically imagined ourselves there nonetheless. Titan is too far in distance and conceptualization.

From all the medical studies that Wohlforth and Hendrix review, I’m not sure humans are meant to live in space at all. Maybe our science fictional dreams are flat-out impractical. No matter what hurdle Wohlforth and Hendrix report, they don’t get discouraged, always coming up with hopeful workarounds. I was discouraged. Is it time for science fiction to start speculating about futures where humans never leave Earth? When do we give up? I’m not ready yet, but I do believe we need to start contemplating the possibility.

After reading Beyond Earth I believe we should put all our manned space efforts into building bases on the Moon. We need to test humans living in low gravity for years. We’ve already discovered that living in microgravity for longer than six months causes permanent bodily damage. We’re learning that living in space will eventually cause permanent brain damage from galactic radiation. The safe time limit might be just 1-2 years, and there’s no practical shielding for spacecraft.

We should send robots to the Moon to construct an underground city safe from radiation. Those robots need to mine all the resources on the Moon that’s possible, so we fly the least weight from Earth. Robots should then fill the underground city with plants and test animals. When the robots have created a sustaining livable habitat, then send humans to stay for several years. Only then will we know what happens to our bodies living in less than 1 G. After we’ve gained knowledge from such an experiment, then we’ll know if we should travel greater distances. If we survive living on the Moon, then go to Mars or even Titan.

Wohlforth and Hendrix make a great case that we’re intentionally ignoring medical evidence. That we don’t want to believe that space is ultimately unhealthy. That our gung-ho nature makes us believe we can either use technology to overcome obstacles, or we can push our bodies further than the evidence suggests. I wonder if such optimism is just a way of fooling ourselves because we don’t want our science fictional dreams to come to an end.

I don’t know about you, but Titan is too far for me. What if Mars and the Moon are too far too? As Beyond Earth progresses it becomes more like science fiction than science fact. Anyone who writes science fiction might want to mine it for ideas. On the other hand, this book’s optimism makes me question the optimism of science fiction. Should we expect the future to give us everything we imagine?

Recommended Reading

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Trailer #2 Posted at 10:09 AM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Looks like fun to me. What say you?

2016 Bram Stoker Awards Final Ballot Posted at 1:41 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Hard Light Mongrels The Fisherman Stranded Disappearance at Devil's Rock

The Horror Writers Association have announced the 2016 Bram Stoker Award final ballot. The noms for Superior Achievement in a Novel are:

You can see the complete list of noms in all categories in the official press release. The presentation of the Bram Stoker Awards will occur during the second annual StokerCon aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California on the evening of April 29, 2017.

Congrats to all the nominees! Anything in this list piqued your interest? Any favorites?

2017 Andre Norton Award Nominees Posted at 9:03 AM by Dave Post

Dave Post

The Girl Who Drank the Moon The Star-Touched Queen The Lie Tree Arabella of Mars Railhead Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies The Evil Wizard Smallbone

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have announced the nominees for the 2017 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

Our congrats to all the nominees.

2016 Aurealis Awards Finalists Posted at 1:31 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

The finalists for the 2016 Aurealis Awards have been announced. The nominees in the SF, Fantasy, and Horror novel categories are:

Watershed Confluence Gemina Squid's Grief Stiletto Threader

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

 

Nevernight The Fall of the Dagger Den of Wolves Vigil The Road to Winter Sisters of the Fire

BEST FANTASY NOVEL

 

Fear Is the Rider My Sister Rosa The Grief Hole

BEST HORROR NOVEL

 

See the official press release for the all the nominees in all categories.

Winners will be announced in an awards ceremony during Swancon 42, April 13-17, 2017 in Perth, Australia  For more, see the official website.

 

2016 Nebula Award Nominees Posted at 12:52 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

All the Birds in the Sky BorderlineThe Obelisk Gate Ninefox Gambit Everfair

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have released the final ballot for the 2016 Nebula Award.  The noms in the Novel category are:

Locus has the complete list of nominees in all categories.

2016 BSFA Shortlist Posted at 7:51 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Daughter of Eden A Closed and Common Orbit Europe in Winter Occupy Me Azanian Bridges

The British Science Fiction Association has announced the shortlist for the 2016 BSFA Awards.

See the press release for the complete shortlists in all categories. The Awards will be presented at Innominate, the 68th Eastercon, which this year is taking place at Hilton Birmingham Metropole from 14th-17th April 2017.

New List: Science Fiction by Women Writers Posted at 6:53 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Hello everyone!  We’ve just added a new “best of” list to Worlds Without End (#33!) that we think you’re really gonna like: Science Fiction by Women Writers.

This list comes to us from WWEnder and Uber User, the King of Lists himself, Mr. James Wallace Harris and his compatriot Mike Jorgensen.  Jim and Mike created this new list using the time tested method that gave us the much revered Classics of Science Fiction list.  Basically they reviewed every damn list they could find (65 in all!) and picked the books by women writers that made it onto at least 4 of those lists.  The result is a who’s who of women in genre fiction and a great place to find some great reads.  Be sure to check out the Classics of Science Fiction website for the source lists and essays.

This new list is an excellent addition to the other women-centric lists we feature on WWEnd including Ian Sales’ popular SF Mistressworks, David G. Hartwell’s 200 Significant SF Books by Women, and WWEnd’s own Award Winning Books by Women Authors.  If you’re ready to explore more works by women authors these lists will take you far along that road.

And as long as you’re at it join us for the 5th annual WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge!  This year’s iteration has reading levels from just 6 books, enough to get your feet wet, all the way up to 48 books, for those looking to dive deep.

Our thanks to Jim and Mike for building such a great list and sharing it with us on WWEnd!  Let us know what you think about the new list in the comments below.  Read on!

When Did You Discover Time Travel? Posted at 1:46 PM by James Wallace Harris

jwharris28

How old were you when you first encountered the concept of time travel? I used to believe it was when I first saw the George Pal version of The Time Machine which came out in 1960, and I didn’t see until 1962 or 1963 when I was ten or eleven. Memory is a highly unreliable resource, especially for dating. I vaguely remember that seeing the movie made me get the book from my school library the next day. What’s weird, is I don’t remember being blown away by the idea of a time machine at that time. And time travel is certainly a concept that was mind blowing. What I remember, was being blown away at the idea that humans could mutate into new species. Now that was something to think about.

My guess is I already knew about time travel. But when did I first encounter the idea?

In past decades I assumed all the great science fiction concepts like aliens, robots, time travel, interstellar travel, artificial intelligence came from reading science fiction. But in more recent years, as I wrote about my past, struggling to get the facts right, I realized that assumption was wrong. This line of thought started when I tried to remember when I first learned about dinosaurs. I wondered why little kids love dinosaurs, and if they understood dinosaurs existed millions of years ago and are now extinct. Those are heavy concepts too – vast times and extinction. I remember having dreams about dinosaurs when I was four or five, well before I could read, or attend school. And I don’t remember my parents telling me about dinosaurs. How did I learn about them?

Finally, I assumed I was introduced to all the far out ideas of science fiction via television, even though I grew up in the 1950s when television was primitive. That’s why I’ve felt I’ve always known about outer space, robots and traveling through time. Hell, I might have been exposed to time travel before I could tell time.

Evidently, childhood was a phase when my mind was a mass of proto-concepts gathered from television – like Pangaea before splitting into distinguishable continents. Reading science fiction shaped those vague impressions into precise concepts. Although reading Time Travel by James Gleick made me realize that time travel is a tremendously complex subject that we continue to refine.

Now here’s the thing I really want to talk about. In this age of alternate facts, should we be raising kids by stuffing them with fantasy and fantastic beliefs before they understand the nature of reality? We believe that make-believe is perfect for young minds, but is that true? Can you imagine a different way, where we taught kids facts first, and then later introduced them to fantasy?

Can you imagine growing up only seeing science shows that carefully explained what we know and how we know it? How would that change society? Would a fact-based early childhood education make us more realistic about reality? Is fiction the driving force that makes us constantly reshape reality with alternative facts? Does fantasy consumption encourage fantasy viewpoints? What an idea for a science fiction/fantasy novel! Imagine our world without science fiction and fantasy.

Let’s consider one more thing. What if we raised kids without fiction — at what age would they invent time travel on their own? When would they imagine building robots that could think like people, or traveling to Mars? Do we cheat our kids by telling them about all the far out ideas before they could invent them on their own?

Science fiction is a technology for transmitting speculative ideas, ones that writers have predigested for us, sort of like when Neo in The Matrix is taught martial arts with a program injected into his brain. I’m just wondering if we’d have more grit if we acquired our concepts through working out ideas ourselves.

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