SF/F Saturday: The Culture

For all its virtues, Star Trek was a series that often failed to do justice to its own ideas. We're told that Starfleet is just one small part of a vast, advanced utopian civilization, but that means that the settings and characters of the various TV shows were atypical representatives of the Federation. We only ever saw brief glimpses of what ordinary life in such a society would be like.Iain M. Banks, who died tragically early in 2013, did better with his Culture sci-fi series. Like the … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: The Half-Made World

Something I've often wondered is why so many great or classic fantasy stories are set in a real or fictionalized Europe. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, Robert E. Howard's Conan series, Terry Pratchett's Discworld, The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell... the list goes on and on. And it can't just be chalked up to European fantasy authors being more popular, since some of the authors of these … [Read more...]

SF/F Sunday: Goodnight Stars

Earlier this week, I posted about the "Sad Puppies'" reactionary campaign to hijack the Hugos. I have an addendum to that: two nominated authors, Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos, have announced that they're withdrawing their works from consideration.Both Bellet and Kloos were part of the Sad Puppies' slate, although neither sought out that support. In respective public announcements, they both stated that they don't wish to be associated with the SPs' campaign, nor do they want anyone to harbor … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Terry Pratchett’s Death

I was devastated to learn that Terry Pratchett, the renowned fantasy author, died this week at the unfairly early age of 66. Pratchett had been suffering from early-onset dementia for several years, and while he was a vocal advocate of assisted dying, his own passing was natural. (He also worked almost right up to the end: his final Discworld book, The Shepherd's Crown, is set to be published posthumously this year.)The sad news was broken by family on his Twitter account, in a form any … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: The Years of Rice and Salt

I've been getting into alternate history novels lately - The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove, Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp - and one of the better ones I've read is Kim Stanley Robinson's 2002 book The Years of Rice and Salt. I've read Robinson's Mars trilogy, which I thought was interesting but lacked a strong central concept to drive the plot, but this book is an accomplishment.The classic strategy of alternate history is to pick some important historical event, assume … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: The Long Earth


Terry Pratchett is famous for his Discworld fantasy series, but he's tried his hand at science fiction as well. His most recent effort in this vein, in collaboration with the author Stephen Baxter, is The Long Earth, which is based on an idea that predates the Discworld books and that he's only now decided to bring to life.The premise of The Long Earth is humanity's invention of a device called the "stepper", which makes it possible to travel to parallel universes. But these universes come … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

"Can a magician kill a man by magic?" Lord Wellington asked Strange.Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. "I suppose a magician might," he admitted, "but a gentleman never would."Since I've just heard the welcome news that it will soon be a TV miniseries, this SF/F Saturday presents a good opportunity to write about one of my favorite modern novels.Published in 2004, Susanna Clarke's debut novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is an alternate-history fantasy set in … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: His Dark Materials

There's a lot of fantasy fiction that I enjoy in spite of its religious themes - C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, or Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. But sometimes I'm in the mood for fiction that takes an explicitly atheist and humanist point of view, which is why I've lately been rereading one of my favorite series, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.The first book in the series, The Golden Compass (published as Northern Lights outside the USA), is set on an alternate Earth that … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Doctor Who


I'm mostly going to do book reviews for SF/F Saturday. But today's an anniversary that it'd be a sin to pass over!Fifty years ago today, a low-budget TV show debuted on the BBC in an unspectacular time slot. It was originally intended by the network to be a children's educational program, and even that modest goal was overshadowed by the news of President John F. Kennedy's assassination the day before. That show was called Doctor Who, and its creators could never have guessed the cultural … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Anathem


I found out this week that my books have been getting ratings and reviews on Goodreads, without any prompting or even knowledge on my part, which is pretty cool. So, I now have an author page on Goodreads, which you can use to shower accolades upon my literary endeavors. (Or just add me as a friend. Either way.)This is a good chance to kick off a new post series on Daylight Atheism, SF/F Saturdays. Since I'm going to be publishing more fiction in the future, I've been wanting to talk more … [Read more...]