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6 Impactful Science Fiction Novels of the Twentieth Century

I've long been a fan of classic science fiction novels. There's something ineffable about a book that sticks with generation after generation of new readers. It's the closest thing we have to time travel, and the stories that have aged well are worth remembering, and even revisiting from time to time.

This guest post from Emmanual Nataf, co-founder of author services marketplace Reedsy, reviews six of the most impactful science fiction novels of the 20th century from a 2019 point of view.

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July-August writing challenge finished

Did anyone else notice it was nearly the end of September? Good grief.

Despite the late date, I wanted to return to the subject of the July-August challenge briefly and review the results. I always get mad at myself when I don’t close the box on goal-setting exercises like this, so here we go.

My goal was to write four short stories in July. This got bumped by other project back to August, hence “July-August Challenge.”

I managed to write only 2 of the four stories—a 2k word story and a 8k word story…

  • The Road Is Three (2k) – Read it here.
  • Make Like The Roaches And Survive (8k) – Still in editing

Would I rather have gotten 4 complete stories out of the challenge? Of course. But sometimes you’ve got to be flexible. Life intervenes, like the vacation I took in June. Then finishing a cowriting project took priority through July and into early August. And after I finished two stories in August, I had to switch gears in order to get through the Translocator 3 outline on time.

The way I look at it, I got 2 new stories out of the challenge and a nice break between novel projects.

So that’s a win in my book.

Have you done any writing challenges this summer? I invite you to share your own experiences with writing challenges in the comments section.

The Alien Element – Chapter 3

“Reuben!” Amon shouted over the electric thrum of the Translocator.

The clamor of a forklift offloading boxes with a metallic clatter swallowed his voice even through his earplugs. The boxes crashed and clanked as two engineers wrestled them onto the platform, through the gap in the concentric sphere of blue-green alloy rings. Filled with steel arms, screws, nuts, rubber wheels, and other tools, the parts would be used to assemble the last of the fabricators for the lunar base.

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Reading: The Prometheus Project

The Prometheus Project by Steve White (Science fiction, 2005)

I loved the cover, so I bought it. More proof that good covers sell books. Never heard of Steve White before, just exploring sci-fi based on artwork and concepts that appeal to me.

The Prometheus Project opens with a scene where the newly elected president meets the sitting president to discuss the transfer of power. There’s a lot of smoldering enmity. After the banter, the sitting president says, there’s something you need to know…we’ve already made contact. Aliens exist. And now you must safeguard this secret.

I couldn’t help but laugh. I read this right after Trump’s uncanny inauguration, so of course it was top of mind for me — but the roles are reversed here. The democrat in this book is the newly elected president, the opposite of the most recent US election, but the roles could easily have been reversed. It gave me some perspective. Two parties are like two sides of the same coin in American politics. I couldn’t help but imagine Obama telling Trump about the aliens.

Just picture the look on his face.

Anyway, from there, the story hops back to 1963. Private security agent Bob Devaney was escorting a mysterious woman named Novak to the White House when they were ambushed by gunmen. When Novak uses an invisibility cloak to make an impossible escape, she gets ready to terminate Devaney for knowing too much—until her boss orders her to bring him into the fold instead.

Devaney is then recruited for The Prometheus Project—the white-labeled men in black. What follows is a rollicking adventure woven into a star-traversing journey. The man is valuable for his action hero abilities (so he thinks), but he’s there on the request of the mysterious and infrequently seen Mr. Inconnu.

You can tell this book was inspired by mid-century sci-fi classics, but it’s written in a modern voice I found compelling. A familiar story, but the character relationships kept it interesting and new for me. I always love to see authors invent new societies and cultures, and then put confused humans there to see how they’ll cope. My kind of fiction.

The Prometheus Project is worth the read if you like aliens and action in your sci-fi. What happens to the President-Elect at the end will make you laugh.

The Alien Element – Chapter 2

Eliana hurried across the campus of the University of Texas, sweat gathering at her collar of her blouse and under her arms. Today was the day of her final guest lecture at the University, and she was late for her own class.

The leather messenger bag she purchased when she had been offered the guest lecturer position at her alma mater earlier that year swung at her side, rubbing against the bare skin of her legs below her shorts. After a single semester, it was still not broken in, and the edges were sharp.

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Copyedits in for The Alien Element

Yesterday afternoon, my editor got back in touch with copyedits for The Alien Element. Right on schedule!

I hustled to get them all entered today. This is a simple but slow process where I take the changes back in to Scrivener, which I’ll use to produce the ebook version.

It was after dinner, nearly 11pm before I was done. Then I went out for a long walk to stretch my stiff back and legs.

A solid day. Tiring, but productive. Good to know I can do copyedits (and some minor revisions) for a full length novel in a day.

Tomorrow I’ll format the ebook and get it out to ARC readers. If you’re on my ARC list, look for an email in the next day or so! If you want to read this book early in exchange for an honest review, get in touch with me by email or leave a comment here.

Teasers for the book are starting to come out, too. Read Chapter 1 of The Alien Element on the blog there.

In the home stretch now!

Reading: The City and The Stars

The City and The Stars by Arthur C. Clarke. Science fiction, 1956.

I’m still on a kick to catch up on the mid-century masters of science fiction—stuff that, by choice or by chance, I’ve never been exposed to. When I saw this one in Half Price Books with the awesome cover I had to have it.

Appropriately aged, don’t you think? 

It took me a while to read this book, and even longer to write about it. It’s good. I just needed time to let it all sink in. 

Here’s the thing. It starts slow. A billion years has passed and Clarke is painstakingly laying out for you reader how society has changed in all that time—a time your brain can hardly quantify.

It takes some getting used to. But there’s a pace shift about a quarter of the way through that will absolutely blow your mind.

Once exposed, the sheer scale of the concept that powers this book is impressive. This is a high concept novel. Relatively short in length, but on a massive scale.

What’s most astonishing is how well the story has aged. Technology has advanced considerably since Clarke wrote this and his vision of the far-future society remains perfectly plausible if we look at it from today—again, that scale.

It almost feels like the story is more relevant today than it was when he wrote it. Some of the language is very mid-century, but if you can get past that, I think you might like this science fiction epic, The City and The Stars.