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General SF&F Chat > SF about effects of longevity increase

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message 1: by G33z3r, The Old Guy (last edited Nov 27, 2012 05:49PM) (new)

G33z3r | 7686 comments I'm interested in finding science fiction that speculates on the effects of increased longevity on society, psychology, politics, economics, whatever.

I can think of two series that at least touch on the topic, though neither treats it as the major theme.

Elizabeth Moon's Heris Serrano / Esmay Suiza (1993) Familias Renant starfaring civilization has a relatively new rejuvenation treatment, which with medical advances has become ever more repeatable, allowing healthy lifetimes of many centuries. This has several effects: population increase with concomitant increase in demand for natural resources. Social and political unrest because the treatment is expensive and available only to the relatively wealthy. It also suggests how the long tenure of long-lived leaders (business, political, military) closes off career paths for the young and ossifies society and politics. Mostly, this series just cite these ideas as a cause for the various plots and invasions that are the true focus of this military space opera. The actual longevity is mostly an aside.

Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars has a cellular regeneration process developed on Mars originally as a cure for long-term radiation damage (Mars has thinner atmosphere and no magnetic poles and Van Allen radiation belt to deflect cosmic radiation.) The increased longevity on Earth is only alluded to as one reason for increased demand on mining natural resources from Mars. (I suspect Robinson introduced the longevity treatment mostly as a way to keep some of his original cast around for over a century of Mars colonization.)

(I've also read books such as Heinlein's Lazarus Long stories ((Methuselah's Children, Time Enough for Love, etc), but those deal with a single immortal rather than a general increase in lifespan. I'm ignoring vampire stories for much the same reason.)

I'm looking for SF novels that deal a little more directly with the consequences of longer lifespans.


message 2: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1740 comments Immortality, Inc. by Robert Sheckley, had extended lives, but was more about... hmmm... hopefully someone else remembers better. It's kind of mixed up with the movie "Freejack" for me. Might fit.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman takes people far out of time. They don't live longer, but time dilation pushes them out of their time with some interesting effects.


message 3: by Xdyj (last edited Nov 27, 2012 07:21PM) (new)

Xdyj | 418 comments Nancy Kress's trilogy beginning with Beggars in Spain is about the social consequences of a few people achieving biological immortality & the ensuing caste system & disastrous class struggle.


message 4: by G33z3r, The Old Guy (new)

G33z3r | 7686 comments
Jim wrote: "Immortality, Inc. by Robert Sheckley, had extended lives, but was more about... hmmm..."
Thanks, Jim, I'll check out Immortality, Inc..

Jim wrote: "The Forever War by Joe Haldeman takes people far out of time. They don't live longer, but time dilation pushes them out of their time with some interesting effects."
I remember that classic, thanks.

Anne McCaffrey's Generation Warriors has a character who has "skipped through time" via cryogenic cold sleep (rather than relativity.) And now that I think about it, Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon and sequels has characters skipping through time by having their memories/personality stored in memory cores that can be "re-sleeved" in other bodies later (possibly after transmission to another planet.) It's a form of practical immortality, though only tangential to the main story.


message 5: by G33z3r, The Old Guy (last edited Nov 28, 2012 05:25AM) (new)

G33z3r | 7686 comments
Xdyj wrote: "Nancy Kress's trilogy beginning with Beggars in Spain is about the social consequences of a few people achieving biological immortality & the ensuing caste system & disastrous class struggle."
Thanks, Xdyj. And Beggars in Spain was already on my to-read list. I'll have to move it up higher!


message 6: by Brenda (last edited Nov 28, 2012 07:36AM) (new)

Brenda Clough (BrendaClough) | 330 comments WELCOME, CHAOS by the great Kate Wilhelm. Someone discovers a longevity serum. The catch is that it kills nine out of ten people who take it. The inventors, knowing that chaos will ensue, try to keep it secret. Hijinks ensue.


message 7: by G33z3r, The Old Guy (last edited Nov 29, 2012 05:25AM) (new)

G33z3r | 7686 comments Welcome, Chaos sounds interesting, and not a Kate Wilhelm books that I've read. The only "in print" version I found was actually an audiobook; (Turns out with Audible's one day "BOGO" ("buy-one get-one free") sale, it was a big day for buying SF at Audible for me!)

Thanks, Brenda.


message 8: by Outis (new)

Outis Lots of SF touches on that.
Out of the stuff I read recently, Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space series and WJ Williams' Aristoi touch on that. Aristoi touches on it less tangentially and has interesting world building in general so I recommend you check it out.
The Dune series is perhaps the most famous of those dealing with the issue and a lot of the fourth installment in particular is concerned with the issue... but I'm not sure it's what you're looking for.
There's even more short fiction dealig with the issue obviously.

Lots more SF touches on people aging slower than the rest of the world due to relativistic effects but I don't think that's what you're interested it.


message 9: by Stephen (new)

Stephen St. Onge | 117 comments         Lois Bujold's Cryoburn sorta deals with the subject.  And one of Elizabeth Moon's novels, either Change of Command, or Against the Odds deals with that issue.


message 10: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (BrendaClough) | 330 comments CRYOBURN, and in fact the entire Vorkosigan series, runs through many of the implications of life extension. They can extend your life -whether you want it or not-, for instance. There is an implication at the end of CRYOBURN about how this could play out (I will not spoil it for you) and how to foil it.


message 11: by G33z3r, The Old Guy (new)

G33z3r | 7686 comments
Stephen wrote: "Lois Bujold's Cryoburn sorta deals with the subject."

Brenda wrote: "CRYOBURN, and in fact the entire Vorkosigan series, runs through many of the implications of life extension."

Thanks, Stephen & Brenda. I've only just started with Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga by reading Shards of Honor. But once I've read my way through the intervening other dozen, I expect to get to CryoBurn.

Bujold can certainly turn an interesting phrase. In Shards of Honor I especially liked "an orrery of betrayal"; such a great metaphor in a space opera! (I also got a good laugh when every time a character mentioned the President of the Beta Colony, some other character would chime in with "I didn't vote for him.")


message 12: by Stephen (new)

Stephen St. Onge | 117 comments G33z3r wrote: "Stephen wrote: "Lois Bujold's Cryoburn sorta deals with the subject."

Brenda wrote: "CRYOBURN, and in fact the entire Vorkosigan series, runs through many of the implications of life extension."
T..."


        I'm glad you're enjoying Shards of Honor.  And yes, Lois is very funny when she wants to be, which varies with the story.  A Civil Campaign and Captain Vorpatril's Alliance are especially hilarious, but almost all of them have extremely funny moments.


message 13: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (BrendaClough) | 330 comments Bujold is enormously popular. I have warned people, not to read all her books too fast, however. She doesn't write anywhere near fast enough to meet demand.


message 14: by Stephen (new)

Stephen St. Onge | 117 comments Brenda wrote: "Bujold is enormously popular. I have warned people, not to read all her books too fast, however. She doesn't write anywhere near fast enough to meet demand."

        Don't I know it.  I'm about to start rereading them, 'cause I need my fix.


message 15: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (BrendaClough) | 330 comments You get no sympathy from me. I just brought CRYOBURN back up to the re-read pile.


message 16: by Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) (last edited Dec 04, 2012 04:35AM) (new)

Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) | 0 comments The Lois McMaster Bujold books published by Baen—if you are looking for ebook versions likely will have to get directly from publisher at http://www.baenebooks.com/ .

(Direct link to aeries is http://www.baenebooks.com/c-45-the-vo... )


message 17: by Tam (new)

Tam Linsey (TamLinsey) | 5 comments In Botanicaust there are four factions, one of which has found the secret to immortality. However, the secret is immortality of the body - the telomerase enzymes do not allow nerve tissue to regenerate, so after 400 years, the Fosselites, as they are called, are fighting dementia.
I don't want to give away spoilers, but there is a solution to their problem, and of course it is horrendous.


message 18: by G33z3r, The Old Guy (new)

G33z3r | 7686 comments Brenda wrote: "WELCOME, CHAOS by the great Kate Wilhelm. Someone discovers a longevity serum. The catch is that it kills nine out of ten people who take it. The inventors, knowing that chaos will ensue,..."

Thanks for that. I read Welcome, Chaos Recently I knew it was a good read. (In this case, the most interesting feature of the "longevity treatment" seems to be the relative immunity to disease.) Is it possible to use a word like nostalgia when talking about the Cold War?


message 19: by Dee (new)

Dee (hatcherdee) | 12 comments There was a book that came out last year, 2030 The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks, which I would classify as "speculative fiction" rather than SciFi. I read it for BookBrowse, but had difficulty getting through it because it was so poorly written. But the whole premise of the story was a conflict between the "Olds" and the young people who were obligated to take care of them.


message 20: by G33z3r, The Old Guy (new)

G33z3r | 7686 comments Dee wrote: "There was a book that came out last year, 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America to America by Albert Brooks...."

So, it's on the right subject but it's badly written? I guess I'll take that under advisement :) Thanks.


message 21: by Dee (new)

Dee (hatcherdee) | 12 comments It is my opinion that it is badly written. You must judge for yourself. At my age, if it doesn't grab me by thirty pages or so, I move on. My criticism of the book is: no character development; character names are so vanilla that I couldn't remember who is who and after a while I just didn't care.


message 22: by G33z3r, The Old Guy (last edited Jan 14, 2013 12:01PM) (new)

G33z3r | 7686 comments While I was looking through back issues of magazines from 2012 (trying to decide on my favorite stories of the year), I was reminded of two splendid examples of stories about increasing longevity, both from Ken Liu:

"Arc", which appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sep 2012, is a biography of sorts a woman who needs some of that extra time to sort herself out.

"Waves", which appeared in Asimov's, Dec 2012, to an even broader and longer-term view, starting with some would-be colonists to another star on a generation ship who must seek how to balance newfound longevity with the ship's limited resources (a surrogate for the Earth, in miniature.) The story doesn't stop at mere changes in human longevity, however.

Both are excellent, and is common with Ken Liu's fiction, both are full of interesting ideas and loaded with plenty of emotion. I hope Mr. Liu will be publishing an anthology of his works sometime soon.


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