Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reading List

Now that Denvention is over, I'm starting to prepare for my teaching semester in Leipzig. One of the courses I'll be teaching is science fiction. I've been told that since the students will be reading in English, and since German university students carry a heavier load of courses than American students, I should restrict their reading to about 150 pages per week. This doesn't leave too much room for very many books. The theme of the course is "constructing future societies," with a political as well as a social slant. Thus, my reading list for the course is:

RED MARS -- Kim Stanley Robinson -- in which colonists on Mars get into wars trying to construct societies

THE DISPOSSESSED -- Ursula Le Guin -- in which anarchists don't get into wars constructing a totally new society

HOLY FIRE -- Bruce Sterling -- which imagines future societies of Europe

THE BEST OF THE BEST -- ed. Gardner Dozois -- with a variety of short fiction to supplement the novels

There are any number of excellent books I could have chosen for this course, but I think these will at least start some interesting discussions on man as a social animal.



Steven Francis Murphy said...

All of those are good choices, Nancy. Though I'm no fan of KSR, you can not avoid the impact Red Mars had on science fiction in the 1990s. Of the three in the trilogy, Red is probably the best, Blue the worst.

The Dispossessed is also a good choice. Everyone talks about how The Left Hand of Darkness is LeGuin's best (I fail to see what makes it so interesting) but Dispossessed appeals to me because of the echoes of the Cold War. It also doesn't hurt that her Utopia is hardly perfect. It is a flawed society in many respects and I find that refreshing after so many other more run of the mill Utopia style stories.

A possible suggestion might be Alas, Babylon. A post apocalyptic classic, though it may strike your German students as a bit too nationalistic.

Northtown, Missouri

cd said...

I love the idea of HOLY FIRE. I thought that book had a surprising but plausible vision of the social effects of the advancement of health care, and a really nuanced view of a future Europe. I'd be interested to hear what the Germans think....

A.M. said...

I love Red Mars (in that special way where I hated all the characters, but thought that the concepts were so awesomely interesting I read the whole trilogy) but the moment you said reading page limit, it just seems like a terrible idea.

How about Brave New World or the Moon is a Harsh Mistress?

Sorry to be critical on my first comment. :( I've been loving your blog since I found it a month or so ago!

Skeletor Dongle said...

Think about assigning excerpts of Red Mars instead of the whole book. There's a lot about the Martian landscape and the science of terraforming that isn't much about constructing societies.

Karl Schroeder's Lady of Mazes goes to the heart of the course topic in a contemporary and meta-analytical way. Highly recommended for sparking discussions. Again, you could assign excerpts.

Norman Spinrad's planet of Edoku (in his novel Child of Fortune) is the ultimate expression of a synthetic society maximized for pluralism, variety and sensory stimulation.

Holy Fire is an incredible book. You could also consider Sterling's short story, Taklamakan.

There are many, many parallels between the science fiction author's work of world-building and the constructing of community.

Mark said...

Heinlein's always good for social speculation:-) Holy Fire, Red Mars: I loved them both, characters, world-building. They made me feel like I was visiting an actual place.

Since I don't see it posted yet I must then add Oath of Fealt by Niven & Pournelle. I can't remember the actual length offhand (it may even have been one of this dynamic duo's longer collaborations), but it was a quick read:-)

Mark S.
Mesa, Az.

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy Kress said...

Thank you all for your comments. I wish I could include more books! OATH OF FEALTY would certainly lead to some interesting discussion, for instance, despite a weak ending.