Science Fiction is just like Metal
Danger Will Robinson! Bad puns and clichés about space and Sci-Fi are ahead.
Science Fiction is a lot like Heavy Metal really. Both have incredibly devoted niche audiences supporting the sub genre of a genre of an art form. A world filled with sub, sub genres, deep and ageless symbolism, stereotypes and tropes, its own language and many gatherings of the faithful. And with all that seriousness it is awfully easy to take the piss
Now on occasion I listen and enjoy metal. But I don’t make it a habit. And ditto with reading Sci-Fi
I have read hundreds of books but I don’t think I have read more than ten that would be classified as Sci-Fi. I am sure I am not alone. I only know one person who regularly reads Sci-Fi. Obviously those who read Sci-Fi must read a lot of it. Indeed I suspect they read nothing else.
I don’t know why I haven’t got the bug. Lets face it, it is a genre where you could learn a lot more about what the future might be really be like rather than reading other genres like Westerns or Romance novels.
For me, I think like horror there seems to be an awful lot of hacks and copycats producing shit work. There is often that cross over too with fantasy where invented worlds and languages, multiple characters and back history do your head in. Tolkien did it best so let’s move on I say.
If you had never read horror and you wanted to break that drought you would, I am sure, be directed to one of the works of Stephen King 9 times out of 10. And fair enough too.
But who is the go to science fiction writer?
I think as with Metal where there are sub, sub genres like Norwegian Death, Speed Metal, Sludge metal etc., in Sci-Fi there are writers specialising in robots, space opera, time travel to name just a few of the galaxies in the Sci-Fi universe you could travel to.
Too me it is just too confusing and hard to sort the gold from the gravel or should I say the inhabitable worlds from the lifeless rocks.
Maybe like Horror, it is movies and TV that serve the genre better with their ability to incorporate more of your senses in the story telling. The interiors of 2001 Space Odyssey’s craft to the Moon, the long tracking shot of the tug Nostromo’s exterior in Alien, the sounds of rockets blasting and door locks sealing provide a feast for all the senses.
But wait; is Alien a horror movie or a Sci- Fi? Isn’t Alien 2 a war movie set in space?
There have been some good Sci -Fi movies about in the last few years. Gravity, Interstellar, Elysium, District 9 and The Martian were all quality films but did they come from books?
Interestingly only one, The Martian was adapted from a novel. The others were original screenplays.
So my point is that in science fiction no one has really rocketed out of the genre and regularly sold shit tons of titles to people like me who would not know an Asimov novel from a Le Guin.
But I can now report I have found one writer who I think deserves to be the Stephen King of Sci-Fi. The one who smashes down the walls between our worlds and in the future unites us.
His name is Kim Stanley Robinson and the book I read is Aurora.
Other than the blurb on the back I knew nothing about the book and had never heard of Mr Robinson but when I picked it up it looked right. The reviews read well and the plot summary did not begin with something like “When in 2449 New Earth Time, the lost exiles from Planet Hatren crash landed on Uranus no one expected the etc. etc.”.
He is a class writer and the concepts he explores in the story of planet colonists on a one way 170 year trip to their new beginning are all about being human and not. It is often stirring and sad, filled with cool science that lies just passed our current event horizon. His characters including the starship itself are like us and yet have something extra to them. They know stuff we don’t and yet when trouble and division erupt they behave in the same ways we are behaving in our world right now.
He is also a political writer for in Aurora there are lobby groups and in some ways haves and have nots. And there are opposing groups on key questions that the colonists must resolve. There is adventure, exploration, forbidden friendship, family drama, romance and coming of age. Shit, what can I say? It’s all in there in one chunky book.
It turns out that in the world of science fiction Kim Stanley Robinson is very highly regarded as a writer and pretty prolific. With no tentacled aliens drinking in bars, convenient time wormholes, boring utopias or passive aggressive robots in sight this is science fiction for those who don’t like science fiction.
I will be reading more of his books and I think you should too.
For the record I think Alien is a horror movie and Alien 2 is a war movie despite their future and space settings.
And while I can’t say Metal is my favourite music genre I do admire the musicians abilities. But they could lighten up a little.
Feel like journeying to the Metal world?
Start with any record from the following.
Want to go into deep space? Try