August favourites #6: science fiction

August 6, 2018

As I prepared to post this, I noticed that today is Hiroshima Day. Appropriate.

I’ve read so much science fiction in my time, particularly since I researched it for a higher degree; a lot is tosh, as the venerable Theodore Sturgeon noted (in rather pithier language, too) but there’s a lot of good stuff. I tend to go for the utopian end, which I may write about later, and the dystopian, too, as well as encounters with alien intelligences. I first came across Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz as a teenager, and have returned regularly to it ever since. It’s a dystopia, set in a wasteland United States after a nuclear war. An order of monks helps preserve the knowledge of the past, and seeks out lost information among the ruins; the pace is slow as over centuries humanity gradually rebuilds itself and creates a new ‘technological’ civilisation, only to fall into the same mistakes and repeat the catastrophe a second time. It fits the pessimism and dark days of the Cold War, but seems peculiarly relevant to me nowadays as once again I find myself reflecting on our species’ inability to learn from our past. It’s a very well-written story, a classic both of its time and the genre.

I’m doing something different for the holiday month of August, writing about some of my favourites: poems, plays, music, art and other things, a short piece on a different topic each day. The categories are random, as are the choices within them, meaning that’s my favourite that day, and is subject to change… And I will try and explain why each choice is special for me. As always, I look forward to your comments.

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