A week or three ago there was a brief conversation on Facebook about fantasy and science fiction. Someone said something about not liking the direction that a lot of modern fantasy is going. I responded, saying that I don’t read a lot of fantasy but that the same was true of me and science fiction. But then, later, I thought, “Why did I say that? Is that really true?” I was thinking of some of the near future sci-fi and “hard” sci-fi (No FTL) that I’ve seen in recent years and which critics seem to be saying is “the future of science fiction,” the direction it’s going, and some of that is really good, but more often I’d rather just read some good old fashioned space opera. Damn the scientific plausibility and just entertain me!
If you ignore the critics and the hard “SF” nerds and really look at what’s out there, you see that there are books to take you in any direction you want to go. One of the first authors I thought of when I was rethinking my comment on Facebook was Neal Asher. Definitely original, what you could call “a new direction”, and yet, at their heart, his stories are good, old fashioned space opera, with strange planets, weird aliens, and FTL to get you there in less than one lifetime.
Independent and self published books are becoming more common. I have mentioned a few of these before: A Door to Truth by J.S. Johnson and The Last Revolution by R.T. Carpenter, to name just two. These authors have been inspired by the same books, movies and TV shows many of us have loved and they have their own original ideas so you get some really good stories (in spite of the fact that some of these authors really need to improve their proofreading skills) that might never have made it into print if they had been stuck trying to get past the traditional gatekeepers.
But what I really wanted to talk about is the book I just finished reading and one that I am eagerly anticipating. Let’s start with the one I just finished: Space Chronicles: The Last Human War by Dean Sault. The story begins some 300(?) years after Earth was completely destroyed in a war between several interstellar empires. The surviving few thousand humans are living in benevolent slavery on the planet Tanarac. The Heptari, a reptilian race, have apparently just discovered that there are still a few humans left alive and want to kill them all. Or at least they’re using that as an excuse to attack Tanarac. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot so I’ll just say, if you like space ships and especially epic battles between space ships you must read this book.
I have two more sci-fi novels and a non-fiction book (no wait… two of those also) in the queue, plus all those classics that I’m going to read someday, and I’m not sure what I will read next. But the big important one that I’m waiting on – and I have to wait until November for it – is Stardancer. I have been reading Kelly Sedinger’s blog, Byzantium’s Shores, since 2002, I think, and I have read some of the short stories he has posted there, and I think I know something of his taste in fiction, so I know this will be good. I’m going to try to time my reading to be done and ready for Stardancer when it comes out but if I’m in the middle of something at that time I will likely drop it to read Stardancer immediately. I don’t seem to be very good at reading two books at once. I usually end up dropping one even if I don’t intend to.