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18 Non-Fiction Essays by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers

Amazon has had these non-fiction essays available for a while now, but these 18 shorts just popped up in feeds. I didn’t realize there were so many, and there are probably more…but for now, here’s a list of 18 of them with their descriptions. They are available in full for fifty cents each from Amazon.

by Robert Silverberg.

During my fifty years as a science-fiction writer I’ve often ventured into the invention of alternative worlds of possibility – history that never happened, but perhaps should have — which I find opens up the sort of infinite ranges of speculative thought that have made s-f so much fun for me. In this piece I explain what the science-fiction genre of :”alternative reality” is all about and show, step by step, how I went about creating the alternative world that was the basis of ROMA ETERNA, my most ambitious work in that form.


by Gardner Dozois.

After nearly 30 years spent editing Best of the Year anthologies, this essay is an examination of what such anthologies are and what they need to do to be successful, as well as the specific problems, pitfalls, and challenges included in putting together such an anthology, and how such problems may or may not be overcome. The essay also includes a methodology for putting such an anthology together, as well as some reflections on the values of such a book, and what larger, long-term benefits may be gained for the Science Fiction community at large from such volumes.

by Terry Brooks.

This is yet another attempt to explain why I write what I write and why people in general sometimes have trouble understanding my reasoning. I have been doing this verbally and in writing since I first published Sword of Shannara. I guess I keep doing it because I feel so strongly about what I do. I want readers to look beyond preconceptions and first impressions. I want them to be open to what fantasy can be and how much fun it is to be a part of it. The funny thing is, I didn’t set out to write fantasy. I just found my way there by trial and error. I have decided that it was fate that took me on that journey, and you never want to argue with fate.

by Joe Haldeman.

I wanted to show how my last three novels use the study and enjoyment of history, in different ways, to tell their stories and pull the reader along. Science fiction is “knowledge” fiction, and history is a body of knowledge everybody knows something about. Some of them don’t know how much fun it is, and maybe I can do something about it.

by David Brin

Is it a fundamental trait of human nature, to assume that your neighbors are fools? And for them to think the same of you? The cynical way of viewing society and the world has real attractions. After all, contempt is the surest way to feel good about yourself. And yet, is contempt pragmatically helpful? Does it accurately reflect the faults and potential of a vivid and complex civilization? A simple exercise help any honest person appraise whether this seductive temptation has caused a kind of blindness. Probably the most widespread vice in society today, cynicism has lately made a mockery of the word citizenship.

by Kim Stanley Robinson.

This is a personal essay about the last decade or two of my life as a novelist, about how and why my books have so often been about environmental issues, and about how the recent paradigm shift in climatology, recognizing the reality in the past and probably the future of abrupt climate change, became a central feature of the new trilogy of Utopian novels I am writing.

by David Brin.

The first part of the 21st Century has been framed by terrorist attacks and natural disasters that tested our competence at two basic skills anticipation and resiliency. Do lessons from 9/11 and Katrina show us becoming better prepared? Or worse with each passing day? While much attention has focused on failings of the political caste, this article is not about politics as it is normally perceived, along a dismal left-right axis. There is another way to view recent calamities, one that exposes a growing tension between citizens and their professional protectors. It may be time to talk about how competence sometimes works and why it often doesn’t. (All profits from sale of this article will go to programs that stimulate citizen empowerment.)

by David Brin.

The accelerating pace of change, especially technological progress, may be a big reason that millions now yearn for simpler times. At the opposite extreme, others perceive a chance for much longer, better lives–eager to plunge toward an epochal, transforming event called the Singularity. This term stands for a kind of scientific rapture, an onrushing moment when humanity may earn a higher type of existence through knowledge and skill, instead of faith and prayer. What goes unspoken is how similar these two groups appear to be, at a deeper, emotional level. Both tech-zealotry and reaction are part of a broader tradition that goes back at least 4,000 years. Meanwhile, the rest of us face the practical problems of dealing sensibly with change. Can progress be guided? If so, should we already be planning its path into an uncertain tomorrow?

by Gregory Benford and Michael Rose.

This is the first of a series of essays on how proper use of space can ensure our future for centuries, maybe millinnea. It outlines several ideas that we’ll treat in detail later, and lingers a bit over one of them. Will we have a future in space? Only if we think large. Opening up the solar system probably demands huge spacecraft driven by spectacular engines. The true long term goal of civilization should be the uplifting of all humanity to a decent standard of living. The payoff will be vast, and it demands the use of space-or else we all face long term poverty, both material and spiritual.

by Gregory Benford.

How apt is the common analogy between America and Rome? Certainly some traits, like faltering political will and neglect of social basics, seem to be similar. But as Rome failed at its frontiers, so has the USA neglected and cynically managed its space program. For 30 years it has done little at great cost. Fixing NASA gives clues to how we might save America.

by Gregory Benford.

The problem with the debate about natural selection versus Intelligent Design is that neither is visible. If we were visited by a supremely powerful being, say, like an smart Oprah Winfrey with command over Earth and all its creatures, that claimed to have made us, in a voice rolling from the sky then ID would be obviously true. Even if such beings visit us from outer space every few hundred thousand years or so, they might have left some debris behind, perhaps in orbit around Earth. We haven’t found any. But whatever our maker(s) is (are), they aren’t immediately visible. Evolution by natural selection also does not announce its working for all to see. But it is one of the most powerful of all scientific theories, with a wide range of indirect evidence supporting it. Its main difficulty is that it is not warm or cuddly, unlike God or Oprah.

by Gregory Benford and Michael Rose.

Global warming cant be plausibly solved by minor cutbacks like those promised by the Kyoto Accords. We are ignoring two methods that we can deploy fairly quickly, and even cheaply. First, start storing carbon away, so it cant return to our air as carbon dioxide. The best place to put it is probably in the deep oceans. Second, start reflecting more sunlight back into space, natures historical solution. We can do this by lightening our roofs and highways, right now. Soon we can produce clouds over the oceans (which absorb most of the sunlight). These are obvious and so far ignored. We do so at our peril.

by Gregory Benford.

In the late 1960s, one of us (Gregory Benford) noticed that the early DARPANet had a biological analogy. This led him to create and write about the first computer virus. Nobody paid much attention, until viruses and other pernicious forms became a major problem and defending against them an industry. They tell us something sad about our species. This analogy still holds, and can still make predictions.

by Gregory Benford.

Cryonics companies suspend their dead patients in liquid nitrogen. Bringing them back is not obviously impossible, but research to make it happen will probably take half a century or more. This is a long shot chance to see the future, utterly American. Scientific issues might be overcome, but social impediments are large, too. At least cryonics makes it possible for you to die with some hope, however small.

By Gregory Benford and Michael Rose:

As we turn to a new millennium, futuristic thinking from the 20th Century is starting to look extremely dated. The commonplace assumptions of science fiction, newsweekly journalism, and professional futurists themselves have hardly been borne out. A very different beast has emerged since then–a new future at once more rapaciously cold in its capitalism, more dominated by moral or religious issues, and less certain of further technological progress. Where do we go from here? The role of science in our future has changed enormously. Politicians of all kinds used to think that natural science would magically solve problems like the economics of energy, the burgeoning numbers of elderly, and the conquest of outer space. Science sat on a pedestal. No more. Jeremiads like The Limits to Growth shocked many in the mid-1970s. Few realized that such dysphoric fashions would soon become dominant. Whole political movements like the Greens have emerged, heady blends of bad science and Marxist nostalgia. The Future has changed from technocratic playground to theatre of conflict. Science has had its gleaming white coat splattered with the blood and feces of various angry groups. We assert the right, and the responsibility, of scientists to offer well-considered opinions about the major issues of the new century. We cannot stand aside, comfortable in our labs and seminars. We offer a clear vision of science in our future, as opposed to the hysterical distractions that the media now spews. We bring a tough-minded attitude to the ongoing squabbles. We debunk the irrational, the sanctimonious, and the posturing. We will focus on three major theaters of conflict and give them a solid going over, thinking about the huge prospects before us: 1) The use of our solar system for human welfare, including Planet Earth. 2) The 21st Century revolution in biotechnology of medical value. 3) The relationship between science and contemporary culture.

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

1 Comment on 18 Non-Fiction Essays by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers

  1. wow you rock

     

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