J.D. Robb discussion

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message 1: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Goldin (stephengoldin) | 43 comments I suspect a large percentage of the ID readers, when asked, would probably say, "Oh, I don't read science fiction." But the ID books are science fiction to the core, in addition to being fine police-procedural mysteries. Being set about 50 years in our future (and even further away when Roberts started writing them), they feature space colonies, flying cars, droids, cloning, virtual reality, important societal changes, and many other science fiction elements as key ingredients in the stories.

Since I'm a science fiction writer by trade, Vanessa McNamara suggested it might be interesting for me to start a thread about this. If anyone has any questions about these elements, things Roberts mentions as throwaway lines that you don't understand or want further elaboration on, please ask here and I'll be happy to go into more detail about them, explain how such concepts are traditionally used in other science fiction works, maybe some of the science behind them or how they might come about in the world of Eve Dallas's time.

If no one has specific questions--and remember, the only stupid question is the one you don't ask--I'll probably ramble on at random until you get so sick of me that you'll ask Vanessa to bar me from the group.


message 2: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa (Vanessamc) | 646 comments Nicely done Stephen. I would also like to encourage everyone to use this thread just to make observations or comments. Perhaps you like the humor these aspects of the story provides, such as Eve and the problems she has with the vending machines.

Anyway, it's a broad topic and anything is welcome.


message 3: by Vanessa (last edited Dec 05, 2010 04:51PM) (new)

Vanessa (Vanessamc) | 646 comments Possible Spoilers

Right now, I'm listening to Possession in Death, and there's some very strange things happening to Eve. I don't have any problem with this, as I find the topic interesting and perhaps it will lead to some further character development for Eve.

But is the occult part of science fiction, or perhaps it's is a separate topic altogether?

This is her most recent book; one of her short novels, and can also be discussed under the book topic thread recently started by Alyssa.


message 4: by Stephen (last edited Dec 06, 2010 10:38AM) (new)

Stephen Goldin (stephengoldin) | 43 comments There's a debate in the field of science fiction literature about the occult. Some purists want to draw a line between "science fiction" and "fantasy," with the occult falling into the latter category. Me, I'm easy (as many ladies I know could tell you). I'm willing to lump it all under an umbrella designation such as "speculative fiction" or "imaginative fiction." As far as I'm concerned, everything that isn't part of hard-edged here-and-now will qualify.

I just yesterday finished Visions in Death, which includes psychics and sensitives. I have no problem with that.


message 5: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa (Vanessamc) | 646 comments Good answer Stephen. When I try and put books into a genre, I generally lump Science Fiction and Fantasy together because there is such a cross-over in a lot of books. I'm not a big fan of a lot of the vampire books out there, but I enjoy the psychic angle very much. I've never heard terms like "speculative" or "imaginative fiction". I think I like the "speculative" term better. Imagination is great, but you never know when imagination can become reality.


message 6: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Goldin (stephengoldin) | 43 comments I like "speculative fiction" too, and if you're in an abbreviative mood you can say spec-fic, which is so much better than "sci fi". (A word of warning: old-line science fiction people like me detest the phrase "sci fi" with a purple passion; no matter how respectfully you mean it, it comes across emotionally the same as "nigger." Harlan Ellison put it delicately that "sci fi" is the sound of two crickets fucking.)

As for "imaginative fiction"--well, one writer pointed out that, after all, all fiction is imaginative, isn't it?


message 7: by Jennifer (last edited Dec 07, 2010 08:32AM) (new)

Jennifer Kronk Okay, I don't normally get political on Goodreads but are you kidding me, Stephen?! Did you really just compare using the term "sci-fi" to use of the "n-word?" How are they comparable? How? Has the use of the term "sci-fi" ever been used to justify the brutal oppression of an entire race of humans? Are you so emotionally fragile that for someone to call something sci-fi makes you feel like the other person considers you less than human? Because that is what the n-word means. It means that someeone considers you to be trash.
I like the term sci-fi. I'm proud of my sci-fi fandom. I am also aware enough of my own privilege that I would never compare whatever geek-like embarressment that I might sometimes feel when I'm reading a Star Trek novel with what it feels like to be a person of color who has been called the "n-word."
Your post offends me, deeply. If you want to call sci-fi "speculative fiction" go right ahead. But please consider your words and check your privilege.

Edited for spelling.


message 8: by Stephen (last edited Dec 07, 2010 09:41AM) (new)

Stephen Goldin (stephengoldin) | 43 comments Jennifer wrote: "Okay, I don't normally get political on Goodreads but are you kidding me, Stephen?! Did you really just compare using the term "sci-fi" to use of the "n-word?" How are they comparable? How? Has the..."

Jennifer, I'm glad you don't feel offended by the term "sci fi." But it has been and is used as a slur and a put-down. "Oh, it's just some of that sci fi stuff." It is derogatory and belittling, both to an entire field of literature and to me, personally, as a purveyor of it. If I were a more sensitive type, I could get up on my high horse and say, "How dare you presume to tell me what I should feel offended by and what I shouldn't?" To me, and to many other writers, being called a "sci fi writer" is like getting slapped in the face with a cold, dead fish.

I remember a story Dick Gregory told about an incident when he and his wife were in a movie theater. They were joking around, calling one another nigger with lighthearted affection. A white man behind them tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Pardon me, but I hear you calling one another nigger without any problem, but if I called you nigger, you'd be hurt." To which Gregory replied, "No, if you called me nigger, you'd be hurt."

You can say "sci fi" all you want, Jennifer. Just don't expect it to ingratiate you with me or make me feel good.


message 9: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Kronk I'm not sure what point you are making here but I am pretty sure you missed my point entirely. You can be offended but whatever you wish to be offended by. However, to say that dismissing something as sci-fi is in any way comparable to someone being dismissed as a n***er shows that you lack historical perspective and a whole lot of compassion for human suffering. And trust me when I say that ingratiating myself to you is in no way a goal of mine.


message 10: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Goldin (stephengoldin) | 43 comments The point I'm making is that there are people who are insulted by the word "nigger," so it shouldn't be used casually or unthinkingly in conversation. It can have an emotional impact way beyond what the user intended. You are a case in point. It has a very strong emotional impact on you, to the point where you feel the need to use asterisks rather than spelling it out. You're entitled to those feelings, and I respect them. The same applies to "sci fi" and me. There's a whole aspect of literature, of human thought, that is denigrated by that dismissive term. It's something that's part of me and very important to me. Instead of someone saying "The color of your skin makes you inferior," people who use it are saying, "The way you think and view the world is inferior."

People have been killed and suffered because of the color of their skin. I'm well aware of that. People have also been killed and persecuted because they see the world in an alternative way, a way that was more fanciful than their local contemporaries could imagine. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake and Galileo was placed under house arrest for the last years of his life for professing unorthodox ideas. Soviet authors and artists were killed or exiled for expressing unauthorized views. There's been plenty more human suffering caused by people who can't tolerate alternative thought. Do you lack historical perspective and compassion for that? I don't really believe that, I just don't think you've considered it in those terms.

Bigotry is ugly in all its forms, whether it's bigotry against skin color or bigotry against a method of thinking. Family newspapers and magazines will use the term "sci fi" in a casual way they'd never think of using the word "nigger." But intellectual bigotry is still bigotry, and it still hurts--and I'd like to do what I can, in my small way, to make the world a little bit cleaner place. I invite you to join me.


message 11: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Kronk You are not making the world "a little bit cleaner" of a place by claiming victimization by some systematic oppression that simply does not exist. But you won't learn. I doubt you would want to learn any facts that would detract from your indulgent self-pity. So you keep telling yourself that you are oppressed and put-down because you write stories. You must gain something from this belief. As for me, I recognize that there are real problems that need solving and I'm moving on to them.


message 12: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Goldin (stephengoldin) | 43 comments I see. It's all in my head. Yes, we sci fi types are always making things up, aren't we? Too much imagination, that's the problem. No oppression exists except what you choose to acknowledge. Well, you can fight your dragons in your way, and I'll fight mine in mine. There are certainly plenty of dragons to go around. Best of luck to you.


message 13: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Goldin (stephengoldin) | 43 comments FLYING CARS

Few things say "science fiction" better than flying cars. Since at least the early 1930s, sf books and movies have imagined cityscapes with individual cars flying through the air. Probably the best cinematic portrayal I've ever seen was in The Fifth Element, where Bruce Willis was a taxi driver flitting madly through a riotous river of aerial traffic. I've even been guilty of using flying vehicles in some of my own books.

It's very tempting. It's the ultimate freedom in personal transportation. You can go virtually anywhere at great speed. What's not to love?

But I'm afraid reality isn't going to catch up with this vision anytime soon--for very practical reasons. Think about it for a minute. How much trouble can drivers get into and cause right now, when they're limited to 2 dimensions? How much more chaos will there be when they can go up, down, and slantwise as well, when they're not limited by curbs and sidewalks and painted lines?

George Carlin had a hysterical routine about how all other drivers are either idiots or assholes. The idiots are all behind you and the assholes are all in front. You look in the rearview mirror and think, "What's that idiot doing back there?" Then suddenly a driver ahead of you makes a stupid maneuver, and you yell, "Hey, watch out, asshole!" Now imagine that in 3 dimensions, with people above and below you as well.

Just think of all the sweet-spoken compliments Eve engenders when she suddenly takes her vehicle vertical. Plus, Nora Roberts mentions everyone needing privacy screens on their windows to keep other people from looking into your upper-story apartment.

Even today, the occasional vehicle veers off the street and crashes into a building. How much worse would it be if they flew into office towers? There'd be mini-9/11s every day! Even with sober drivers. Just imagine what you'd get from the drunken ones.

No, I don't expect flying cars as part of our cityscapes anytime soon--not until we get much better computer controls.

But it's still a fascinating image.


message 14: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa (Vanessamc) | 646 comments Stephen,

I always thought about flying cars in the realistic sense as well. While I love the idea, the practically has to considered. Although, when I listen to the "In Death" series, they're just there and part of the plots. Mostly, I love the humor they generate. I don't object to their inclusion or think of them in a negative way in other Science Fiction books or movies if the story is good.

By the way, I loved The Fifth Element. I've watched the movie several times, and absolutely love that scene. I also like the one in one of the Star Wars Movies. I think it's the 2nd one in the newer trilogy. I don't know if this is the correct spelling, but Annikan is driving Ben in some kind of pursuit scene where he's diving and going around and through buildings. Ben is going a little white and bitching at him the whole time.


message 15: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Goldin (stephengoldin) | 43 comments Vanessa wrote: "Stephen,

I always thought about flying cars in the realistic sense as well. While I love the idea, the practically has to considered. Although, when I listen to the "In Death" series, they're jus..."


Yeah, it makes a great video game. But given some of the drivers I've seen on the road, I'm just as glad they can't fly.


message 16: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa (Vanessamc) | 646 comments LOL, that's for sure!!


message 17: by Brenda (new)

Brenda | 26 comments Eve is bad enough...LOL


message 18: by Dee (new)

Dee Sauter (InDeathAddict) | 1061 comments This is cool I just saw this thread for the first time. Why does Robb call watches wrist units when you know that it is a watch. Or a link instead of a phone. I know there are others, but I can't think of them right now.


message 19: by Brenda (new)

Brenda | 26 comments Because it's all in the future, so an ordinary watch couldn't be just a watch, or a phone....has to be very futuristic;D


message 20: by Sara ♥ (new)

Sara ♥ (saranicole) | 1038 comments Well I imagine a futuristic watch does so many other things, the term "watch" is insufficient. Link? I can't explain that one as easily... ;)


message 21: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Goldin (stephengoldin) | 43 comments But it's not just a watch--it's a computer, too. Why not have the two devices combined? In some of my own books I call it a com. I'm surprised they have separate "links," since you could easily put the phone function inside the wrist unit, too--but smart phones weren't around when Robb started writing the series. There've been tremendous advances in electronics since the late 90s.


message 22: by Sara ♥ (new)

Sara ♥ (saranicole) | 1038 comments Good point! I just re-read Treachery, and one of the characters has a music disc collection, and I was like, "Huh.... we're going to go back to discs?" It seems like we're trending toward internet downloads.


message 23: by Jonetta (new)

Jonetta (Ejaygirl) | 9071 comments Mod
Stephen wrote: "But it's not just a watch--it's a computer, too. Why not have the two devices combined? In some of my own books I call it a com. I'm surprised they have separate "links," since you could easily put..."

I think it was Treachery but Roarke gave Eve a new wrist unit that includes a link. She's caught up.


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Books mentioned in this topic

Possession in Death (other topics)
Visions in Death (other topics)