Tag Archives: science fiction

Ep078 – 2021 Hugo Awards for Best Short Story



2021 Hugo Awards for Best Short Story

The nominations for the 2021 Hugo Awards for Best Short Story

  • “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse”, by Rae Carson (read on Uncanny Magazine)
  • “A Guide for Working Breeds”, by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (read here)
  • Little Free Library, by Naomi Kritzer (read on Tor.com)
  • “The Mermaid Astronaut”, by Yoon Ha Lee (read on Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
  • “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”, by T. Kingfisher (read on Uncanny Magazine)
  • “Open House on Haunted Hill”, by John Wiswell (read on Diabolical Plots)

Discussed this Episode

  • What makes a short story award worthy?
  • Ho each of the above stories stand out.

Ep065 Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey



Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

Isaac and Reid dig into the legendary world of Pern. Dragonflight put Anne McCaffrey on the radar of science fiction and fantasy, and introduced the world to Pern. Made up of four stories – the first of two which were published previously as separate short stories – Dragonflight is a story of dragons, time travel, and how to blend the line between science fiction and fantasy. Anne McCaffrey is a well decorated author and among other awards was name the 2005 Grandmaster of the Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America.

Discussed this Episode

  • The world of Pern. How Lessa goes from being a woman who wanted to inherit her birthright hold to the dragonwoman of Pern. The “thread” and the need for dragons to stop this thread from burning the world.
    • How this is not your expected dragon story. Dragons were engineered to protect Pern. Pern is strictly unique. Dragons can time travel. How the discussion of “the between” allows for a lack of show when time travel is introduced.
    • Expectation vs Reality. The Prologue to the story does borderline more work than the actual story itself. The Prologue builds the world, sets the tone, but the actions and scenes carry a weight that does not necessarily build the world. Dragonflight focuses much on the politics. And the dragons themselves don’t make much of an appearance.
  • The importance of: who is talking, where are they, why do I care?
  • The Level of Inaccessibility. The lore of the world is deep. Names are similar. Keeps and holds can mix. There are segments of the book where you can go pages where there are only proper nouns deep in the lore of Pern. On one side this allows for a deep world to get lost in, but there is a steep learning cure in order to get lost in the fantasy experience.
    • Are the characters worth it? Isaac and Reid would say no, that the characters stand on each of their sides, but there is not much if any change in the characters.
    • Fax was a bad guy, but we never see how awful he was. We see through F’lar’s eyes a ruler who is not keeping up traditions. We see through Lessa’s eyes someone who took the keep from her; but, we do not see the horrors of Fax being an awful ruler.
    • The divide between F’lar’s perspective of how to utilize dragons and get his way is one that is set in stone, and he wins. There is not growth.
  • Perhaps due to the time this story was written, it feels like it is unfair to criticize Dragonflight on its lack of depth of character and being compared to contemporary stories.
    • Constantly while read we were asking ourselves: who is talking? where are they? why do we care?
  • There are iconic moments, especially the moment of Lessa traveling back in time and speaking with the past dragonriders. The conversation of how dragonriders have a purpose when the thread is falling, but do not feel the purpose if there is not a danger of the thread.
    • The question of, is it worth it to get to these powerful moments? And that is tough. Luckily the prose reads easily.
  • We understand there is plenty of love for Dragonflight, so we focus in on the elements that just didn’t work for us.
    • The characters. Lessa has a tragic backstory, but she stays flat as needing to prove herself and seeking out an enemy that isn’t there. And the blatant sexism of how she can’t do anything unless F’lar allows it. Which leads to the discussion of F’lar and his savior syndrome.
    • The Queen Dragon Chase. The lack of romance between F’lar and Lessa, and how there is an animalistic chase that then becomes this just justified reason for these two people to be together. Can you compare this story to modern or contemporary stories? Could this problematic relationship have been explored? (Remember that The Left Hand of Darkness was published a year later.)

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Ep042 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy



Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Originally a collection of radio plays, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is Douglas Adams’s adaptation of these audio stories into a novel format and its subsequent sequels. The Hitchhiker’s Guide follows Arthur Dent as he becomes a hitchhiker in the galaxy. Through Arthur we meet a cast of character, alien and human, in a variety of stressful and comedic circumstances.

Discussion

  • Comedy in a written form: the callback (mention and return). For example Arthur Dent’s house being demolished for a highway with the plans available for review and comment in the local planning office; and then the return at a grander scale as Earth is being demolished and that the Earthlings could have commented on the plans via a location orbiting another star.
  • Comedy in a written form: absurdity. The infinite improbable drive. The use of randomness and absurdity to change the story.
  • How Punch lines, reveals, and twists can be used in either of these comedic settings and when used in a different tone make for general beats in story structure.
  • The “quality” of the story. The book lacks character growth, over-arching conflict (due to the episodic nature), and other fundamental story elements. However, this was an intensional choice, and allows the author and reader to focus on the other elements of the story.
  • The answer to the universe is 42, and how the use of bathos is used as humor. Bathos is the use of anticlimax. There is an intentional buildup of interest and suspense around the answer to the universe and similarly around the question of the universe. When we get to the answer it is a punchline and intentional disappointment.
  • The fine line between horror and comedy. How without the humorous levity, Arthur’s story could be seen as a horror story.
  • How the book is a social commentary on our society more than a commentary or satire of science fiction. This plays into how adaptations of the story can be difficult, as the work needs to build the universe, build the norms of this universe, and then provide commentary, as opposed to a strict satire like Space Balls or Galaxy quest where a world (in contrast) is already built (outside of the work itself).
  • The joy of reading books together.
  • The use of narrative voice, and the exemplar nature of a comedic voice throughout the story.

Other Works Mentioned

Black Lives Matter

Leave It To The Prose stands with Black Lives Matter. Locally and globally demand justice. Resource can be found at blacklivesmatter.com  Additionally read, listen, and follow BIPOC authors in the science fiction and fantasy community including: Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Tomi Adeyemi, Marlon James, Jennifer Marie Brissett, and so many more.

 

 

 


Ep036 Asymmetrical Warfare



Asymmetrical Warfare by S.R. Algernon

A first contact, alien-invasion flash fiction story, Asymmetrical Warfare is part horror part game work that conveys the fast difference, and unknown of what alien life may be. Isaac and Reid jump in to discuss the horror beat of this story and compare the similarity between horror and comedy beats.

 

 

 

 


Ep027 Red Rising



Red Rising by Pierce Brown

The story of a red, the lowest of the low classes, as he impersonates a gold, the gods of the future, and seeks to overthrow the hierarchical society that has conquered the solar system. Isaac and Reid discuss how Darrow the red rises from his small mining community to take part in the fierce competition found at the academy, the training ground for the future rulers of this brutal society. Characterization, tone, and subtlety of storytelling all play a role in this fast paced space opera. Join us as we discuss one of our favorite books.


Ep020 – Micromegas



Micromegas by Voltaire

Perhaps the first popular work of Science Fiction in Western Europe, Micromegas was published in 1752. Reid and Isaac dive into the satire and proportions brought up in Voltaire’s work. Micromegas is the story of two aliens, one from a planet orbiting Sirius and another from Jupiter, who travel from their home planets to Earth. The conversation between the aliens and the humans of Earth bring up not only what makes us different, but also what makes us all so similar. Voltaire lays out his thesis that humans are not at the center of the universe against a backdrop of proportions and the known science of the time. We discuss proportions not only in their physical sense, but also how proportions might be applied to human knowledge.

Note: Reid mixes up the planet from which the second alien introduced is from, Reid says Jupiter when in fact it is Saturn. Please excuse his Jupiter-centric perspective of the universe as we like to imagine Micromegas would eventually forgive humanity for their Earth-centric view of the universe.

Works Mentioned

  • Micromegas by Voltaire
  • The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin.
  • 1 Kings 7:23 (King Solomon’s temple and a reference to pi)
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

 

Satire an Origin of Science Fiction

Dystopia is a popular sub category of Science Fiction, and at its core dystopia can be thought of as satire. Whether it is Fahrenheit 451, 1984, or Micromegas the ideas presented in science fiction carry a social commentary on the world we live within. To show that Earth, and those humans on Earth specifically, are not at the center of the universe, Voltaire decided to look towards the stars and show just how small humanity is in the cosmos, quite literally. To construct a statement on the human condition a world has to be built in which to make the ideas shine. In order to make the contrast emerge as conflict the world must be created – and often a fantastical world – that will put the character in conflict with the themes at play.

 

 


Ep016 Modes of Storytelling



Modes of Storytelling

Books, graphic novels, movies, television, and more. There are many mediums in which to tell a story, from strictly visual and auditory, such as the opening of Up, to verbose sentences in Russian classics. Isaac and Reid discuss a the variety of storytelling modes: ranging from the long form visuals of Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame; to the choose your own adventures of video games such as The Witcher and Until Dawn; to musical; to graphic novels. We discuss that the mode often determines what is in and out of bounds, as well as the knowledge and adherence to the modes will ultimately determine the success of a work.

Spoilers

  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Game of Thrones Season 8
  • The Legend of Zelda – Twilight Princess (mild)
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (mild)
  • Lord of the Rings (movie series) (correction, Return of the King only received 11 academy awards).

Other Works Mentioned

  • Up (Disney/Pixar)
  • Dungeons and Dragons
  • The Witcher
  • Telltale Games
  • Choose Your Own Adventure Books
  • The Wolf Among Us
  • Until Dawn
  • The Stanley Parable
  • Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Star Trek Films
  • X-Men
  • Funhouse
  • Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee (Stan Lee Autobiography)
  • Dear Evan Hansen (musical)
  • Anna Karenina (Book and 2012 film)
  • A Song of Ice and Fire books
  • Ready Player One
  • Watchmen (the graphic novel)
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Scythe

 


Ep015 The Fifth Season



The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin

NK Jemisin has taken the science fiction and fantasy world by storm by winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a row, one for each book in her Broken Earth Trilogy, of which The Fifth Season is the first. In this episode we discuss the story and the narrative craft. Time skips and the use of second person at times pulls us from the story but also makes us wonder how stories are told. As our conversation unfolds we dig deeper into the horrible and fantastical elements of the Stillness, and we discuss how this is what makes science fiction prose some of our favorite works to read.

Spoilers

  • The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey (mild)

Other Works Mentioned

  • Westworld (HBO Series)
  • X-Men
  • Shinsekai Yori (Anime)
  • Short Story by NK Jemisin we forgot the name of: The Storyteller’s Replacement

Storytelling Methods

NK Jemisin chooses several bold storytelling methodologies. The use of second person, stories separated by time instead of by character, these narrative methods push science fiction / fantasy into an experimental realm. NK Jemisin ultimately pushes the genre into a new perspective. But speaking of genre, The Fifth Season (and The Broken Earth Trilogy) blends the genre of science fiction and fantasy. At points elements of magic are simply science, and similarly science might in fact be magic.

The Fifth Season exemplifies the type of story we like to discuss on our Science Fiction and Fantasy Podcast. A solid story mixed with pushing the boundary on narrative craft. Join us in this episode and others as we have book discussions on science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction.


Ep010 – Tideline



Tideline by Elizabeth Bear

A machine near the end of its life and a curious boy come together and create a relationship that will honor the past and lead into the future. Tideline is a science fiction, award winning, short story by Elizabeth Bear. In this episode of Leave It To The Prose, Reid and Isaac discuss the ethics of robotics and the characteristics of great characters. The story leaves us with many questions off the page, including what machine cognition is like, and if it is possible for a machine to act against its self interest.

Spoilers:

  • Tideline by Elizabeth Bear
  • Bicentennial Man (movie)
  • Born in China (movie)

Science Fiction Robots

Machines are portrayed in many different ways across science fiction, from “WALL-E” to “I, Robot” there is no one vision of the future of our mechanical contraptions. As artificial intelligence continually advances, there is no knowing what the future of robots would look like. Despite all of these different types of robots that could be, the ones that stay close to our hearts are the ones that remain like us: emotional, contradictory, empathetic. The robot of Tideline is one that will steal your heart and make you question what robots could be in the future.


Ep009: The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas



The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursela K. Le Guin

A short story with huge ideas. The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas is a short sketch of a town with a thought-provoking secret. Ursela K LeGuin asks us to think for ourselves as she describes a town where happiness for everyone is at the expense of one. In this episode we discuss the ethics of sacrifice and the utilitarian principles of maximizing happiness for all. This science fiction / speculative fiction short story is meant to make you think, and think you will.

Spoilers

  • Descender (Graphic Novel Series) by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (mild spoilers)

Other Works Mentioned

  • Very Far Away From Anywhere Else by Ursela K LeGuin
  • A Wizard of Earthsee by Ursela K LeGuin
  • Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal ElMohtar

Philosophy and Science Fiction

Science fiction allows for thought experiments to become realized. What if everyone could be happy at the expense of one soul? Would it be so bad? Would you stay in Omelas and experience the joy, or would the guilt become too much?