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I think I have to deal with another question first, namely, the question as to what science fiction (SF) is in the first place. But there’s no way I can do that without getting really pedantic and totally mired in obscure details. To begin with, not all F/SF appeals to me. (Not all of anything appeals to me.) In fact, it’s only a few select writers and a few select novels that have had any kind of affect on me. Along the way I’ll mention a few and try to point out what it is that they have that “calls to me.”
Ambrose Bierce – especially “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (published in 1890 and replicated in various other media, including an episode of Twilight Zone): Not only do I like the way he tells a story with surprising twists and a dark, moody flavor, I like the fact that he worked with his experiences during the Civil War.
Harlan Ellison’s “A Boy and His Dog”: It’s a short story in his Cycle series and he later turned it into a novella – then it was made into a film. It’s dark and depressing and you can feel Ellison’s anger. I was impressed with his willingness to “go where no other SF novel had gone before.”
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road: It’s not in any way science fiction. It’s a story of self-discovery along with the discovery of the soul of America – a “road” story. His characters are what catch me…not so much the story itself. Deane Moriarty – one of his major characters — is based on one of his friends, Neal Cassady. Yes, writers DO construct characters from real-life persons they know. I like that!
Charles Bukowski in Tales of Ordinary Madness shows that you can write about the most brutal and seediest parts of life and make it poetic….not the life…but the words about it. He treats his fiction as poetry, and that’s what I find fascinating.
Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land is a kind of utopian novel. In this and all of his writings, he builds his own ideology into it – and not too cleverly! It’s far too obvious and it detracts from his stories. I can see, by this, what to avoid — preaching!
Author C. Clark: In almost all of his novels that I’ve read, the aliens are either only indirectly suggested – 2001 A Space Odyssey – or presented as totally different in kind from we humans, Childhood’s End (even though they look like something familiar to us). He doesn’t give us a bar scene like in Star Wars or a variety of “humanoids” as in Star Trek.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula – a perfect novel in the sense that he allowed the story telling to shape the form of the novel.
H.G.Wells’ Time Machine is the essence of a perfect time-travel story. He tries to make it conform with logic. The attempt must be made.
Well, I’m not sure I’ve answered your question, but perhaps by “skirting” it, you can see a kind of answer within this list: It’s not anything about science fiction that attracts me – it the writing of some people that attracts me, regardless of their genre.
About the Author:Robert Pielke, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, now lives in Claremont, California. He earned a B.A. in History at the University of Maryland, an M. Div. in Systematic Theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, and a Ph.D. in Social Ethics from the Claremont Graduate School.
He taught on ground and online for countless years at George Mason University in Virginia, El Camino College in California and online for the University of Phoenix. Now happily retired from “the job,” he is doing what he always wanted to do since he wrote his first novel at ten in elementary school. It was one paragraph, three pages long and, although he didn’t know it at the time, it was alternate history.
His academic writings have been in the area of ethics, including a boring academic treatise called Critiquing Moral Arguments, logic, and popular culture. Included in the latter is an analysis of rock music entitled You Say You Want a Revolution: Rock Music in American Culture. He has also published short stories, feature articles, film and restaurant reviews. His novels include a savagely satirical novel on America and its foibles, proclivities and propensities, Hitler the Cat Goes West, and an alternate history, science fiction novel, The Mission.
Most recently, he has updated and revised his book on rock music, which is being republished by McFarland & Co.
He swims daily, skis occasionally, cooks as an avocation, watches innumerable movies, collects rock and roll concert films, is an avid devotee of Maryland crabs and maintains a rarely visited blog filled with his social and political ravings. His favorite film is the original Hairspray; his favorite song is “A Day in the Life”; his favorite pizza is from the original Ledo Restaurant in College Park, MD; and he is a firm believer in the efficacy of “sex, drugs and rock and roll.” Somehow his family and friends put up with him.
Find the author online at
Robert G. Pielke’s Web Site: http://www.robertgpielke.com/
Robert G. Pielke’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/robert.pielke
Robert G. Pielke’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/rpielke
Robert G. Pielke’s YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/rpielke
Robert G. Pielke’s Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/990626.Robert_G_Pielke
Noam Chomsky argues that communication with aliens would be impossible. Stephen Hawking argues that it would be extremely unwise even to try. What if it were absolutely necessary to do so? This question arises with extreme urgency at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, in this time-travel, alternate-history trilogy, A New Birth of Freedom.