My favorite part of the recent movie Interstellar (semi spoiler alert) was the character development when time started passing differently in the plot. Nothing terribly new about this in SF, but capturing the stark emotional realities of time in human space travel – this I found utterly moving (well, nearly exhausting after a 169 minute movie, plus previews). So this week we’re taking on the time and generational mission trope, and here are some gems to consider:
THE CLOCKWORK ROCKET
Yalda lives in a universe distinctly unlike our own. Light operates differently, as do sexual reproduction, birth control, writing, and much much more. When Yalda’s world faces a mysterious and immediate threat from above, only a sufficiently fast ship can put time on Yalda’s side. Winner of the 1995 Campbell Memorial Award for his book Permutation City, Greg Egan puts the difficult in Hard SF, with even a few graphs and formulas throughout our text. Any lovers of physics, believers in more women in science, or fans of The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov – this book is for you.
THE FOREVER WAR
If only an impending war in deep space were the major trial for former physics student and newly conscripted solder, William Mandella. The true rub is returning home afterwards to an Earth 12 whole centuries older. In few works of SF is the emotional strain on a character from time dilation so sharply portrayed. More that merely military SF, the Forever War has extremely well developed characters (of course they should be after 1200 years) and was a Hugo, Locus, and Nebula award winner. Next in series are Forever Peace and then Forever Free.
This one I loved. Lagarto was supposed to be Earth’s newest colony, and à la Interstellar, a way to take pressure off severe resource depletion back home. Settlers take generations to arrive, but when the trade and immigration route through space later fails, Lagarto cities become rainy jungles filled with mud, lizards and crime. Juno Mozambe is the best thing about this blend of SF and noir. He’s a detective for the terribly corrupt Lagarto police, and his story of personal conflict in the gray areas of morality was darkly alluring. Next in series are Ex-KOP and KOP Killer.
Here’s a former winner of the Hugo, Locus, Nebula and Campbell Memorial awards, a book I hope you have or will read soon. An ancient civilization has left behind an asteroid housing 1000 ships with preprogrammed destinations, but where do they all go?Robbie Broadhead tries his luck, but one mission leaves him emotional devastated and considering the finer qualities black holes on the couch of an unusual psychotherapist. Some near parallels to Interstellar, but only if the movie had ended 30 minutes earlier.
What about some nonfiction? Kip Thorne was the advisory physicist to Christopher Nolan in the making of Interstellar, and his book THE SCIENCE OF INTERSTELLAR may have some context for some of the denser plot twists in the film. Or maybe check out Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s views. A great companion to SF that’s heavier on the science is called Time Travel and Warp Drives: A Scientific Guide to Shortcuts Through Time and Space. Unlike the movie, the soundtrack for Interstellar is available for holds, and I can hardly imagine that cinematic experience without Hans Zimmer‘s hauntingly beautiful music.