Emphasis on the science

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Emphasis on the science

Dez 2, 2018, 8:41 pm

Hi all--

I don't come here very often, but wanted to consult the hive mind. I have a friend who is a scientist, currently taking a science oriented masters and even her email has the word science in it. She asked me for science fiction recommendations. First that came to mind is the Red Mars series, but I was looking for other options as well.

Thanks in advance !

Dez 2, 2018, 9:45 pm

You can check out the authors and the works that have been tagged with hard sf. Have a browse, see what they might like. I myself enjoy Alastair Reynolds and especially Charles Stross.

I'd go for more recent authors/works who, in my (admittedly limited) experience, handle the writing part of things (worldbuilding, character arcs, prose skills, social issues) better than people writing thirty, fourty years ago. And of course, Science Marches On.

Editado: Dez 3, 2018, 2:20 am

As a scientist who reads science fiction, I second Alastair Reynolds. I also recommend Iain Banks and Kim Stanley Robinson, as well as David Brin, Stephen Baxter, Gregory Benford, Greg Bear and CJ Cherryh. My favorite book is Dune, which I recommend to anyone asking for a good book.

I agree with >2 Petroglyph: (with the exception of Dune).

Having been to grad school myself, I don't think she will have much time to read a lot of science fiction though.

Dez 3, 2018, 3:10 am

>3 daxxh: You won't find much science in Iain Banks's Culture novels. They're space opera, albeit New British Space Opera. Or Cherryh, for that matter, Baxter is a good call, but also worth trying are Linda Nagata, Chris Moriarty, Anne Charnock or Ken MacLeod.

Dez 3, 2018, 3:29 am

I'm also thinking of Yoon Ha Lee, but I have no idea if that is real science...

Dez 3, 2018, 5:10 am

Alastair Reynolds and Ken MacLeod are the top two I would recommend.

Dez 3, 2018, 7:15 am

>1 PokPok: Cool! What kind of science?

For biology, there's also Gwyneth Jones's Life.
For experimental psychology and also the ethical treatment of animals, there's Karen Joy Fowler's We are all completely beside ourselves.
For math geeks, I understand that there's lots of it implicit in Hannu Rajaniemi's Jean le Flambeur books, which start with The quantum thief.

Dez 3, 2018, 8:12 am

A lot of SF writers are scientists: Gregory Bear, Greg Egan, Fred Hoyle, Carl Sagan etc.

Editado: Dez 3, 2018, 11:08 am

>8 justifiedsinner: I second Greg Egan. His older books lean more toward the philosophy of quantum mechanics, a subgenre I like to call Quantum Opera, but there's a lot of interesting stuff there. I've been holding off tackling his latest novels until I get around to teaching myself general relativity.

Carl Sagan only wrote one novel, and ISTR reading that someone had to be brought in to doctor Sagan's manuscript into something readable.

Dez 3, 2018, 11:08 am

I also strongly recommend Hal Clement, who structured stories mostly around chemistry and Newtonian mechanics. Star Light, for example, is largely built around the phase diagram of water-ammonia mixtures, and an absorbing read it is. I think Clement was a much better writer than he's usually given credit for, too, at least in his later books.

Dez 3, 2018, 11:09 am

First, make sure that what she really wants is science-heavy. When I was getting my PhD (in astronomy), the last thing I wanted was Greg Egan-style ultra-hard SF; if I wanted completely accurate science, I'd read the journals. She may actually want something a little fuzzier on the science, with humanoid aliens and FTL drives and characterization, rather than someone who's worked out all the details of the general relativity.

Dez 3, 2018, 11:10 am

Greg Egan also does a lot with philosophy of mind. If your mind is uploaded to a computer, is that really you? Permutation City has an approach to these questions that I've seen nowhere else.

Dez 3, 2018, 12:43 pm

>4 iansales: All those are good recommendations. I recommended what I liked, as a scientist (Ph.D. Chemistry). As >11 lorax: mentioned, when I read fiction, I just want to read something fun since I read enough technical journals - chemistry for work and astronomy for fun. When I was in grad school, what little time I had to read fiction, I spent reading space opera. Most of us had very little leisure reading time and few of us nit picked on the accuracy of the science fiction we read, unless it was chemistry related. Most of my scientist coworkers at my current job prefer epic fantasy. I guess I was making the assumption that just because she's a scientist, she may not necessarily want super high tech, hard science in her leisure reading, as most of my scientist friends just want a good story.

Dez 3, 2018, 3:39 pm

Thank you all!! I should have noted that I am also a scientist, and a number of those you noted above (esp Greg Egan) are on my TBR. I went out of a sci fi phase awhile back, but this had me thinking more about it.

Regarding not having time to read...she's looking for something while on break. I very well remember having to 100% cut myself off from pleasure reading until vacation came, then I'd devour all I could, until the next break.

Dez 3, 2018, 3:42 pm

As a Biochemist with a job auditing technical writing, I 100% agree with all of what you said... I myself just want a good story.

And the other book(s) I recommended to her was Ender's Game followed by Speaker for the Dead. EG is of course space opera (with a bit o' Matrix thrown in), whereas SFTD had other sci fi/xenobiology elements. Plus I love the concept of the SFTD. I usually can't stand super high tech stuff--either I'm picking apart the science or I'm picking apart the writing (ie. its too technical) or it's too much like work.

Dez 3, 2018, 4:08 pm

>14 PokPok: You took vacations?!


Dez 3, 2018, 5:09 pm

>11 lorax: and others: be careful with Greg Egan. As someone else said, "Egan doesn't just write hard science fiction, he writes BLOODY DIFFICULT science fiction!"

Dez 3, 2018, 5:18 pm

>17 RobertDay: I believe that it was originally lorax who brought up Egan on another thread, mentioning him as appealing to people who like math. I am forever grateful, and I've only touched the earlier works so far.

Dez 3, 2018, 8:32 pm

>16 dukedom_enough: dukedom_enough

Ah, that's too close for comfort!! But actually, I meant school holiday...though I also did summer school some sessions and had to work to pay for the thing so....

Dez 4, 2018, 3:39 am

>8 justifiedsinner: I don't think Bear and Egan are scientists. Greg Benford used to be one but is a university lecturer now, I think. Geoffrey Landis works for NASA, but is more of a short story writer (only one novel, AFSIK, Mars Crossing). Hoyle is really dated - his last sf novels were published in the 1970s.

>7 karenb: I considered recommending Life - it's an excellent novel - but decided it was more about doing science than science fiction based on accurate science. If you know what I mean.

There's also Paul J McAuley, who writes very hard sf. Some of Justina Robson's earlier novels also qualify, particularly her first four. As do some of Tricia Sullivan's (although I'm not sure which).

If linguistics counts as a science, then you've got Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin and its sequels.

Editado: Dez 4, 2018, 7:56 am

>20 iansales: Being a university lecturer and a scientist aren't mutually exclusive... in fact they often go hand in hand! Benford is Professor Emeritus of Physics & Astronomy at University of California, Irvine. Google Scholar says he just had a co-authored article come out this year about black holes as gravitational wave transmitters, so it looks like he's at least partially active.

Dez 4, 2018, 8:47 am

I remember liking Joan Slonczewski's A door into ocean. She's a career microbiologist. Boris Strugatsky, if memory serves, was a practicing astrophysicist (?) at least for a while. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, rocketry pioneer, wrote some sf stories. Yevgeny Zamyatin was a nautical engineer.

I suppose sf writers with scientific and related degrees or education, if not lifelong careers, are easier to find. Asimov, Clarke etc. Not sure how much that enhances the work, tbh. To my mind, the most compelling writer of "cosmic" concepts was Douglas Adams... English major.

Dez 4, 2018, 12:25 pm

>20 iansales: I think I read that Egan had a maths paper published just recently. I don't think he's employed as a mathematician as such, but he seems to keep his hand in.

Editado: Dez 4, 2018, 12:57 pm

>23 mart1n: Here's the link to the announcement of it, and it's completely fascinating. Well, to me, it is.


ETA: As long as I'm providing information on Egan, I thought I'd include this recent (2015) overview of his work.

("The brilliant ideas and radiant visions of reclusive SF author Greg Egan")

Dez 4, 2018, 1:09 pm

>24 Lyndatrue:
thanks for that link to the 4chan & Houston & Egan article. Fascinating, indeed!

Dez 4, 2018, 1:25 pm

Benford's Timescape is only SF book I've seen that had a relatively accurate scene involving a dissertation defense.

Dez 4, 2018, 1:31 pm

RobertDay (#17):

I believe I mentioned, in the post to which you are responding, the specific circumstances under which I avoided Egan for a time. Your condescension is not required.

Dez 4, 2018, 6:40 pm

Julie E. Czerneda is a biologist. She does really cool aliens. (And fun stories.)

Dez 5, 2018, 3:40 am

>22 LolaWalser: Seconding Joan Slonczewski! I really liked all her books that I've read.

Dez 5, 2018, 7:27 am

>29 karenb: I have A Door into Ocean on the TBR, but I consider her The Wall Around Eden a masterclass in sf novel-writing.

Dez 5, 2018, 8:17 am

>27 lorax: That wasn't my intention, and if you felt it was, then I apologise. My comment summarises my own position on Egan, pretty much. But I intend to persevere.

Editado: Dez 5, 2018, 11:21 am

>1 PokPok: My contribution to this list is Jack McDevitt

You don't mention what your friend's interests are... that would help narrowing down choices for her.

Dez 5, 2018, 12:36 pm

>1 PokPok: Lynxear

I'm not certain I can say what her interests are; her career/Masters are both in biotech/biochemistry. But she's also a naturalist (walked the entire Pacific Crest Trail by herself) and passionate for most types of science. I'm not certain if physics/math are her bag, but on the other hand I discussed my love of Sagan and astronomy with her. Whether she wants to dive as deep as math based science in her pleasure reading, I'm uncertain.
I left it open intentionally, so as to not bias. :) I am like a few of the people above, where I want a good plot and "science" that doesn't make me scream in pain because it's so incorrect, but otherwise I'm reasonably forgiving. I'm not certain if she is or not.

Dez 5, 2018, 12:37 pm

PS: It's been a long time since I've done LT; clearly I'm not doing the touchstone thing correctly. I thought it would type "Lynxear" above, not PokPok....

Dez 5, 2018, 1:14 pm

PokPok (#34):

clearly I'm not doing the touchstone thing correctly. I thought it would type "Lynxear" above, not PokPok....

If you want the magic link to an earlier post (which isn't a touchstone), you just need to type the greater-than sign (>) followed by the number of the post, without a space; the name and link are generated automatically. Be aware that this link is subject to breakage if the person you're responding to decides to delete their account and choose the "delete all my posts" option, so you may want to avoid it in favor of cut-and-paste quoting if there's context you're worried about losing.

Editado: Dez 5, 2018, 1:34 pm

>34 PokPok: Not touchstone, attribution. You type a > character followed by the number of the post you are replying to, that's all. ETA: Ah, it seems I had had this tab open for some time.

Dez 5, 2018, 2:16 pm

>33 PokPok: If your friend has a preference for thing bio then Ken MacLeod is the author for her. Night Sessions may appeal, and Intrusion.

Ago 16, 2021, 12:17 pm

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir is my go-to.
What area of science does your friend hold interest in?

Editado: Ago 16, 2021, 10:51 pm

I like Arthur C. Clarke for his attention to the science details. I remember reading his A Fall Of Moondust and really appreciated his consideration of how the science affected the rescue.

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