The Evolution of Science Fiction discussion

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SF Themes: Discussions & Reads > Evolving Theme-based Group Reads

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message 1: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3967 comments Mod
I'd like to come up with some themes that we can follow through the ages of SF (pre-1920 - present day) & watch them evolve. Ideally, I'd like to do a book per age or more if there is a big difference in how they're handled between decades or factions.

I'm thinking something that might be considered a subgenre but probably a little more specific than that. IOW, not the military SF subgenre as a whole, but within that such as how the common soldier, opponent, &/or tech is portrayed. That might be too specific, though.

I'm not sure how we'd read these as a group. They might be side reads in addition to our group reads or we might decide there's enough interest to make them the monthly group reads. It's another point to keep in mind, but I definitely don't think we should include any books we've already read as a group. After all, we've only read 100 & there are millions available.

Anyway, let's kick around some ideas & see what we come up with.


message 2: by Cheryl (last edited Apr 10, 2019 02:37PM) (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) One source of ten popular tropes/themes is here: https://io9.gizmodo.com/ten-tropes-yo...

What's nice about that list is that there are at least three examples, from different eras, for each trope. Some are not books, but it's still a helpful and interesting article imo.


message 3: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) For the record, the themes there are:
Robots
Interstellar Travel
Time Travel
Superpowers
Bodily Transformation
Parallel Universe
Alien Invasion
Immortality
Post-Apocalyptic
God-like Aliens


message 4: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) There are *so many* themes. For example when I first started brainstorming yesterday the first three themes that came to mind were Time Travel, Dystopia, and Generation Ships. Ok, that author has TT and Interstellar Travel of which Gen. Ships could be a subset, but it doesn't have Dystopia, or Utopia for that matter, at all.

This is going to be an interesting discussion!


message 5: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3967 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "There are *so many* themes..."

There are! Those are fantastic ideas & a really great site. Another that comes to mind is 'futurism' or what the future might be like. I started to read Out of This World: Science Fiction but not as you know it which you reviewed not long ago & that's one of the criteria it suggests as being a defining piece of SF.


message 6: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3967 comments Mod
Early periods for theme-based reads might be tough to ferret out. The word 'robots' wasn't around until R.U.R. (1920) & those weren't really robots, IMO. Robots are metal & plastic to me (You might disagree.) & Capek's were artificial biologics, so there are 2 issues with defining the theme right there. Still, nothing is written in a vacuum. RAH might have come up with the first powered armor in Starship Troopers (1959), but there were others that led him to that idea.


message 7: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3967 comments Mod
Robots:
I don't think we should go too far back in history for robots. Arguably, Pygmalion made one & the golem is of the same sort, but I don't think we should limit robots to metal & plastic.

- Can we safely stick to the 19th century & up?
- Novels only or do short stories count?
- In either case, it must be readily available in English.

I'm starting to work up a list of novels based on this Wikipedia article:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robots_...

The Huge Hunter, Or, the Steam Man of the Prairies (1868)
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7506

Tik-Tok of Oz (1907)
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/956

R.U.R. (1921) was already a group read.
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

I, Robot (1950) was also a group read.
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

That's all in that article, but there's also a list of robots & androids which is much longer here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...
These are just characters & might not be central to the theme. Some might be good to include.

Martha Wells's Murderbot series (2017) are worth including & may be the culmination of the discussion.

Please help fill in the blank spots &/or work on another theme.


message 8: by Marc-André (last edited Apr 12, 2019 06:39AM) (new)

Marc-André | 298 comments The evolution of cyberpunk couldbe interesting. We already read The Stars My Destination which is supposed to be early cyberpunk. I'd be curious to see what the new wave of the 60s-70s hold for it and were it leads after Neuromancer. And if there was anything before Bester's novel.

Cyberpunk is still an very influencial genre today, it is worth exploring its evolution.


message 9: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3967 comments Mod
That could be interesting. We've read 'Stars' & 'Neuromancer', also some others later on as a group, but haven't really explored the theme.

Would we concentrate on cyberpunk only or how it led to all the other 'punks' such as steampunk? What makes them 'punks'? Is it just a handy way to name subgenres?


message 10: by Marc-André (new)

Marc-André | 298 comments Jim wrote: "That could be interesting. We've read 'Stars' & 'Neuromancer', also some others later on as a group, but haven't really explored the theme.

Would we concentrate on cyberpunk only or how it led to all the other 'punks' such as steampunk? It can be whatever the group wants. My first concern is about form. We can't read that many book at the same time. One short story and one novel a month is already a lot for readers and mods.

Are we supposed to read another book every month for a year to analyse a genre or subgenre? For six months? Two or three novels a month? One novel a month for a year seems like the easy way to do it. Once that is determined we can talk about what we read.

What makes them 'punks'? Is it just a handy way to name subgenres? "Don't get me started. Originally the "punk"was for marginalized individuals by technology featured in the novels. It was sort of a dystopic genre. Now it is to be cool. So you have solarpunk which is utopian. Or hopepunk which is I'm not sure what*. It has lost all meaning.


*Well I do, I'm being snarky.



message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3967 comments Mod
I wonder if we could slide them in as part of the regular group reads.
Possibly just make a topic & discuss them that way, catch them as we can. I think if we get a list together, that might give us some direction.

Your comments on the 'punk' naming of genres fits with what I've observed. So, we'd probably just want to stick to cyberpunk? Steampunk is the only other one that I can think of offhand that might be worthy of tracing.


message 12: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) Jim wrote: "I wonder if we could slide them in as part of the regular group reads.
Possibly just make a topic & discuss them that way, catch them as we can. I think if we get a list together, that might give..."


That's a discussion for the other thread... :)


message 13: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 1826 comments Mod
Marc-André wrote: "Are we supposed to read another book every month for a year to analyse a genre or subgenre?..."

It's all up in the air for now. I recommend making a "challenge" shelf with books on one topic from different years. And one discussion thread for that topic. People can read as few or many of the books from that shelf as they want during a designated time and discuss together. The books or stories could include some we have already read as a group; it doesn't matter.

Basically, it gives a place for people to talk about a common theme even if they don't necessarily all read all of the same books.


message 14: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3967 comments Mod
I've created a new folder for Group Themes & moved this topic there. I've also changed my message about Robots into one of the first new topics. If you want to create a topic on another theme, please do so.

I think there are a lot of questions about each theme that we need to discuss as we work on a list of books showing the evolution of the theme through SF.


message 15: by Marc-André (new)

Marc-André | 298 comments Jim wrote: "So, we'd probably just want to stick to cyberpunk? Steampunk is the only other one that I can think of offhand that might be worthy of tracing."

Biopunk could be interesting and different enough. The group already has read The Windup Girl.

For the past, the group has read The Island of Doctor Moreau and We. Whether they have influenced biopunk, that could be a conversation by itself.


message 16: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) Ooh, I like those ideas, Marc-André.


message 17: by John (new)

John Ackerman | 12 comments Cheryl wrote: "For the record, the themes there are:
Robots
Interstellar Travel
Time Travel
Superpowers
Bodily Transformation
Parallel Universe
Alien Invasion
Immortality
Post-Apocalyptic
God-like Aliens"


Time Travel:
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is excellent. I give it a 4.5
11/23/63 by S.King is superb, I give it a 5


message 18: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 3967 comments Mod
I'm reading Dark Matter right now & am about halfway through. The point was just made that it isn't time travel, but dimensional travel - same time, different probability - so I would place it into 'parallel universe' unless something changes toward the end.


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