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SF/F Book Recommendations > Looking for Optimistic Sci-Fi

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message 1: by Angie (new)

Angie | 66 comments HI, all.

I am looking for something pretty specific, but I'm not quite sure how to articulate it or where to look. I'm looking for science fiction that, for want of a better term, has a sense of optimism to it. Think early Star Trek - encountering new lifeforms, going boldly, blah blah blah. No "alien invasion" or anything like that.

If this post made ANY sense whatsoever, I would appreciate recommendations. :)


message 2: by Cat (new)

Cat | 343 comments Hmmm, I can't think of any really early Star Trek style ones. I can think of some which are generally optimistic in tone. None of them are really get out and explore the universe books, but they are sci-fi setting if that makes any sense. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a feel-good book. The Crystal Singer series is a bit older, but a might more sci-fi-y. Maybe Dreamsnake?

Good luck!


message 3: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments I compared our books & we have a lot in common both in titles & ratings.

Heinlein's juveniles would fit the bill: Have Space Suit—Will Travel, Double Star, The Star Beast, Tunnel in the Sky, Starman Jones. They're not just for kids. I'd stay away from his books from published 1970 on.

Linesman is the first of a series that's good.

Lord of Light is one of my favorites of all time. It's SF, but reads as if it is a fantasy.


message 4: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 2664 comments Jim wrote: "Lord of Light is one of my favorites of all time."

Not sure I'd describe that one as feel good though :)

Maybe Pern by Anne McCaffrey? There's no alien of the day, but the people have a pretty positive view of colonizing their planet. Especially if you read Dragonsdawn to get the exploration part instead of the well established part.

Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series? Guy from Earth gets transported to Mars, discovers whole society living there, there's almost a new race of the day in each book.

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke, it's a different kind of alien invasion, not what you expect and has a more positive vibe though sad too.

After skimming through my SF shelf that's pretty much all I found (well there's A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy but while that's humour it's cynical). I don't have a huge SF shelf being more of a fantasy reader, but the only things I had on that shelf that really matched what you described were my Star Trek books LOL


message 5: by G.R. (new)

G.R. Paskoff (grpaskoff) | 19 comments Perhaps it would be beneficial if you differentiated whether you were more interested in "optimistic" versus "light-hearted." For example, although now dated, Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and Keith Laumer's Retief series are light-hearted and full of clever, quirky characters and dialogue. But if you are looking for something that is more about finding hope for mankind, I might recommend something like Contact by Carl Sagan and I would concur with Cat's recommendation of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.


message 6: by Angie (last edited Dec 16, 2018 01:14PM) (new)

Angie | 66 comments Thanks all! These are some great suggestions.

Cat - I will definitely try The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. It looks like the kind of vibe I'm looking for. Thanks for the recs!

Jim - I didn't even think about Heinlein's juveniles. Those sounds like great options. I've never heard of The Linesman, but it looks promising. Thanks!

Andrea - Thanks for suggesting the Pern books. I've been eyeing them for a while, but maybe it's time to take the plunge. Also, I'm about to break out some of the old Star Trek books, lol.

G.R. - Pretty much "finding hope for mankind" (though I love light-hearted stuff, too). I will check out the Sagan book. I have one of the Discworld books on my list for next year, so I'll definitely be looking at those. Thanks!


message 7: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments I'll second Laumer's Retief series. It is fun & he meets a lot of different aliens. Laumer has a lot of other good books, too. Most of those that come to mind have rather sad, but good endings. An exception is his Bolo series. It can go either way, deals with artificially intelligent tanks, & there are some anthologies where other authors got into writing them. It's a great way to find other SF authors.

Birth of Fire by Jerry Pournelle is a good one. Revolt on Mars. Well done.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Jim wrote: "I'll second Laumer's Retief series. It is fun & he meets a lot of different aliens..."

Anderson's Flandry books might work as well.


message 9: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 1142 comments The Ship Who Sang
The Ship Who Sang (Brainship, #1) by Anne McCaffrey
Most of Anne's are optimistic, this one especially so.


message 10: by Angie (new)

Angie | 66 comments Thanks Jim and G33z3r for the great suggestions!

Clare - Thanks! I don't think I've ever heard of that book. I'll check it out. It looks like a good one.


message 11: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 1142 comments Welcome!


message 12: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments Clare wrote: "The Ship Who Sang
The Ship Who Sang (Brainship, #1) by Anne McCaffrey
Most of Anne's are optimistic, this one especially so."


That's a really good one. Restoree is another by her, more of an SF romance. IIRC, she started as a romance writer & this was her first SF book.

You're welcome, Angie. There's nothing SF nerds like better (at least this one) than paging through their books in searches like this, except reading them.
:)


message 13: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 253 comments Sector General (Sector General, #5) by James White Sector General

A great series dealing with a multi species hospital in space.


message 14: by Kivrin (new)

Kivrin | 460 comments The first thing that came to my mind is Lucifer's Hammer. It's a disaster book (giant asteroid), but I remember how very proud and happy I was of the survivors at the end of the book!

The Martian is also a very positive book...makes you laugh when you're not holding your breath!


message 15: by Angie (new)

Angie | 66 comments Jim wrote: ".You're welcome, Angie. There's nothing SF nerds like better (at least this one) than paging through their books in searches like this, except reading them.
:)"


Jim, you're right about that!

V.W. wrote: "Sector General (Sector General, #5) by James White Sector General

A great series dealing with a multi species hospital in space."


That sounds like a lot of fun. I love the cool stuff you guys are unearthing.

Kivrin wrote: "The first thing that came to my mind is Lucifer's Hammer. It's a disaster book (giant asteroid), but I remember how very proud and happy I was of the survivors at the end of the book!..."

I'll check those out. I've heard that The Martian is a blast, and I love survival stories, so these both sound really good to me.


message 16: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 1142 comments Grand Central Arena
Grand Central Arena (Grand Central Arena, #1) by Ryk E. Spoor
by Ryk E. Spoor

Has a lot of tension and conflict but that is between humans and a species of alien, while other aliens are non-hostile. Ultimately this is co-operation and teamwork to the fore. A good read.


message 17: by Angie (new)

Angie | 66 comments Clare wrote: "Grand Central Arena
Grand Central Arena (Grand Central Arena, #1) by Ryk E. Spoor
by Ryk E. Spoor

Has a lot of tension and conflict but that is between humans and a species of alien, while..."


Thanks! Sounds really interesting. I'll check out it. :)


message 18: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 1142 comments I do recommend it, Ryk is a good writer and strong on engineering, which is relevant in this book. I must get the next in the series myself....


message 19: by Laura (new)

Laura | 12 comments Maybe not so much 'optimistic' as 'silver linning in every cloud', but Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World was surprisingly uplifting. It's a collection of short stories, and there are alien invasions and end-of-the world stuff... but then in one story the aliens were apologetic and trying to fix things, or in another life as we know it has ended, but that just means something new has begun. I don't know, I loved it and even in its darkest points it was still sweet and hopeful.


message 20: by Alan (new)

Alan Denham (alandenham) | 146 comments I have been putting off contributing to this thread - I thought I had nothing much to offer, then I saw that everything I might have come up with if I had really worked on it has already been suggested by someone else . . . (particularly the Zelazny, the McCaffrey, and the James White).
Sadly, I must put in a negative note. All the best suggestions above go back at least 20 years, some of them nearer 50. Where is the recent optimistic (or even light-hearted) work? There's Terry Pratchett, of course, but that is fantasy & humour before it is SF. And there is quite a lot of YA coming-of-age work that is on the fringes of your wish list (try Janet Edwards) - but current Fantasy, and to a lesser extent current SF seems to me to have taken a wrong turn. Fantasy even revels in its mistakes by labelling it 'Grimdark' and praising it as a subgenre. Sorry, it is not praiseworthy. Exceptionally good writing can make it readable (Lies of Locke Lamorra is a good example), but on the whole, it is a mistake.

So I'm with you - where is all the optimistic SF of the last 20 years? More suggestions welcome.


message 21: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 2664 comments Alan wrote: "So I'm with you - where is all the optimistic SF of the last 20 years? More suggestions welcome. "

You know, even Star Trek itself has gone grimdark, I watched Discovery with my mom and we basically agreed it was ok SF, but we could only really enjoy it if we didn't consider it Trek. I wonder what Roddenberry would have thought about it, after all he really wanted to promote that positive image of the future.

Maybe in the case of SF we've become jaded with what technology actually gave us. We now have people addicted to their phones, enough NASA shuttles blew up that they got grounded, (not that I'm saying it's ok for them to explode, but where did we require that space exploration also be safe? It's not going to be any time soon and that will prevent any real exploration...imagine if we have to wait to go to Mars until we can guarantee that everyone who goes will come back safe and sound? We'll never go...well, unless there's money in it which is pretty cynical too), we never even got the flying cars every kid wrote in their essay about what the future would be like when they grew up and so we're kind of disappointed in those promises/dreams that never came to be.

Also, even though we continue to explore space by sending out probes, they don't get much news coverage. We sent that one to Pluto, but I have yet to come across anything reporting what we found (without having to go out and dig for it, imagine if the moon landing got a 10 second coverage at the end of the News broadcast, you know in that "feel good" time slot - "Oh, before we go, someone landed on the moon, have a good evening and watch us at 11"). It's like they think people aren't all that excited about it...are they right?

We know now that technology is more likely to hurt us than help us and some of that is probably reflected in our SF. It's hard to be optimistic of self-driving cars when now we know that they will probably just be the next target for hackers (great way to kidnap someone? Or shut down rush hour for ransom. Or track where you go...oh right, they can already do that with your phone...sigh) We see the flaws now in the great ideas earlier SF writers used to get us excited about.

I think we need some positive SF written before we all just crawl back into bed and pull the covers over our head to hide!

At least if Star Trek won't be lighthearted, we have The Orville (though even that deals with serious issues, but at least you can laugh! I mean the crew at least isn't out to kill each other!!)


message 22: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments New, optimistic, & fun is Scalzi's Agent to the Stars.


message 23: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 1142 comments Ryk Spoor is relatively recent and there are other authors who write for amusement, like James Austin McCormick.

Many women, though, have turned to writing urban fantasy and shapeshifter romances (which may or may not be crime stories too) not involving tech. I have bemoaned the fact that most YA SF is now dystopian, like Divergent, sometimes horror as well like Maze Runner. Many men and some women are writing military SF. Dystopias and threat by AI feature largely in near future tales. I'm not even going to go as far as the zombie and flesh-eating bug stories, which I do not read.

So I agree with you that a great deal of today's SF writing is bleak. The economic recession and impoverishment of middle classes, the natural disasters caused by climate change, and human depletion of biodiversity have a lot to do with this, in my view.

SF has always been not just about exploring, but warning. What might the world be like with electronic surveillance? With wage slaves and climate change forcing poorer choices and lower standards of living? With no way to leave the planet in the face of humanity-killing disaster?

Bleak SF, like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? needs to be written and read. However, I don't need fiction for bleak reading. Factual reading about the environment gives me that. So lighter, enjoyable fiction can provide a break. One which helps us keep our sanity and gives us a reason to keep striving for better.

While my own books are set in a future which some readers call dystopian, I try to highlight the good points of life, like friendship, love, learning, helping others, enjoying literature, personal successes. I'm certainly not the only one. Try:
Dragon: Smuggler Tales
Dragon Smuggler Tales by James Austin McCormick


message 24: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 1142 comments Or we could just build a Dyson sphere. Fun little video (with an ad at the end).

https://io9.gizmodo.com/this-video-ex...


message 25: by Book Nerd (new)

Book Nerd (book_nerd_1) | 154 comments Andrea wrote: "You know, even Star Trek itself has gone grimdark, I watched Discovery with my mom and we basically agreed it was ok SF, but we could only really enjoy it if we didn't consider it Trek."
Battletrek Galactica? Nah, I'll stick with the Orville. At least they started their own show rather than just riding the name of Star Trek.


message 26: by Alan (new)

Alan Denham (alandenham) | 146 comments Thinking about this: As I said earlier, its not easy to find recent work that fits these criteria, but some older work might be suitable if you haven't read it already . . . . Cities in Flight by James Blish. It is actually a series of four books, but often found in a single volume.


message 27: by Hillary (new)

Hillary Major | 436 comments On the newer & lighter side is Catherynne M. Valente's Space Opera (kind of an alien invasion, but one that leads to a galactic song competition).

I also think of Rachel Bach's Paradox trilogy, starting with Fortune's Pawn. It has a lot of the action/stakes & other tropes of military sf (the protagonist is basically a mercenary space marine), but I just found the overall tone to be lighter.


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