Yesterday I expressed my misgivings about Steve Gibson being allowed a vehicle to hold forth on his favourite SF books, particularly given his past record. I have now listened to Episode 333 of Security Now!, entitled “Our Science Fiction Special”, and it wasn’t as bad as I feared.
Leo and Steve started with a review of the all time SF classics and between them did a pretty good job. Steve picked the Asimov robot series; The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, etc. Of the four in the series I have only read The Naked Sun and it is a favourite of mine. I first came across it as an Out of the Unknown TV adaptation by the BBC but only later realised it was based on an Asimov book (upon happening to read the book and recognising the story). As mentioned in the Wikipedia article on The Naked Sun, both that book and its predecessor, The Caves of Steel, draw inspiration from E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” which was also adapted for the BBC’s Out of the Unknown TV series.
So far so good, then, and Leo threw in the Foundation series for good measure.
Steve’s next pick was another of my favourites, Protector by Larry Niven. Who could forget Phssthpok the Pak? Leo picked Niven’s best known work, Ringworld, which I have read several times along with the various sequels and is set in the same universe as Protector. Both Leo and Steve mentioned The Mote in God’s Eye, by Niven and Jerry Pournelle, which I agree deserves its place among the classics even though it comes across as a bit dated now, as Leo went to pains to point out.
Philip K Dick won a mention for the various stories which have inspired films, such as Minority Report and Blade Runner. Again, no argument from me. Leo’s pick of Dick’s work was The Man in the High Castle (shame on me, I have not yet read it) but acknowledged it might not be Steve’s cup of tea being set in a parallel universe.
Much was made of Steve’s insistence on hard sci-fi, eschewing more speculative ouevres and in particular fantasy. Leo could not allow Frank Herbert’s Dune to go unmentioned but excused Steve’s evident lack of enthusiasm for it by describing it as fantasy, not SF. I can see some echoes of the fantasy genre in Dune; fantastical creatures (sandworms), a feudal society, witches (Bene Gesserit), absence of typical SF hi-tech, immortality (or extreme longevity) and the power of prophecy. However it is definitely a denizen of the SF realm, set as it is in the imagined far distant future of our universe, not an invented universe or a distortion of ours.
Along the way a few classic SF films were drooled over, such as The Day the Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet. Surprisingly, 2001 A Space Odyssey was glossed over but Arthur C Clarke was not forgotten; Leo mentioned his iconic SF book Childhood’s End. I read and enjoyed it but it may have been too speculative for Steve, even though I tend to think of Clarke as an archetypal hard sci-fi writer.
Steve then went on to extoll once more some of his recent favourites such as Michael McCollum’s Gibraltar series which I commented on in my previous post. Steve still swears by Peter F Hamilton’s Fallen Dragon but now seems less enthusiastic about the Void Trilogy – he might have mentioned that before I wasted an Audible credit on The Dreaming Void. From the discussion, I might have done better to start with Pandora’s Star and may yet give that a whirl if I survive Fallen Dragon.
Steve is also starting to tire of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, but only by book 10. I was sick of it by page 10.
Taking the episode as a whole, Steve did make some amends for the worst of his past SF tips. Having said that, Leo has by far the more sophisticated and rounded taste in SF.