Category Archives: Science Fiction

Diversity in Science Fiction 2nd Titles

These are the write-ups of Science Fiction second titles received so far! Please submit yours if you haven’t done so yet!

Diversity in Romance details, readings, and second title suggestions, coming soon!

bintiTitle: Binti

Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Main Appeal Factors: Optimistic tone, Strong teen female character, African culture
Science Fiction
This is a novella (won 2016 Hugo and Nebula awards.) It is primarily a young adult book, coming of age, of a young super-intelligent African girl who leaves her tribal community to go to university on another planet. She turns out to be the one who can communicate with a violent species and find a way to bridge the gulf between them and the “white” people of post-apocalyptic Earth. The pace is neither fast nor slow, but then it isn’t a long story. Binti is a very sympathetic character which helps, since she is the narrator and we only see the worlds from her point of view. A 2nd book is coming out soon.

devils_wakeTitle: Devil’s Wake
Author: Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due
Main Appeal Factors: Suspenseful tone, steady pacing, post-apocalyptic frame
Science Fiction
Kendra Brookings is an African American teenager who is celebrating her sixteenth birthday by going with her parents to get a flu shot. She is not thrilled about getting the shot because she has heard that because there have been reports that some people have gone “crazy” after getting the flu shot. Kendra’s misgivings prove to be spot on. Her family is killed by freaks. Freaks are the people that go crazy after the shot. So Kendra tries to escape the freaks. She meets some other teens who are trying to avoid the freaks. They decide to try to get to an island called Devil’s Wake. Kendra has dreams and seems to have some power to know what will happen. The pacing is steady as incidents arise as Kendra and her companions travel in a blue bus in the North Pacific of the country to get to safety. The characters are likable. Tone is suspenseful.

Title: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universehow-to-live-safely
Author: Charles Yu
Main Appeal Factors:
frame (near future, book within a book), wordplay, time travel, irony
Genre: Science Fiction
Annotation/Thoughts: The metafictional frame of this science fictional book by Charles Yu about the science-fictional universe lived in by a directionless slacker named Charles Yu would appeal to readers of humorous/literary science fiction such as Ringworld by Larry Niven, although the pacing is slower and the action is very localized on the main character, whose job repairing recreational time travel machines in the homes of customers of corporations such as Time Warner Time gives him too much time to think, especially about his fractured relationship with his tinkerer father who disappeared in a time machine when Charles was just a teenager. Many references to the paradoxes of time travel and other tropes from science fiction and sci-fi movies give this book some of the same geeky appeal as Ready Player One by Ernest Kline, but the protagonist is older here and more cerebral.


Title: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
Author: Anna North
Main Appeal Factors: character centered, thought-provoking, psychological
Literary Fiction
I missed the SF part of this assignment as this book is not SF but it does includes diverse characters in terms of a LGBTQ relationship. This book is a winner of the 2016 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Fiction. We learn about Sophie Stark, the main character, through the viewpoints of her lover, her brother, a boy she had a crush on in high school, her producer, and her husband. Sophie becomes a creator of films when she is in high school. She meets her lover Allison when she makes her second movie and has Allison star in the movie. Their relationship seems to be one of the main themes of the book or more exactly, both Sophie and Allison have an extreme attraction to each other which is rekindled years later when Sophie makes another movie with Allison as the main character. We learn that Sophie is a bit eccentric, aloof and manipulative and she tends to draw certain people into her orbit. I found the book to be a difficult read and did not come away with a positive feeling as it seemed very dark. The pacing was fairly steady, the multiple points of view of the different characters who describe their relationships with Sophie gives us a fairly good idea of Sophie’s character and the arc of her life.

The Three-Body ProblemTitle: The Three-Body Problem
Author: Cixin Liu
Main Appeal Factors: Science-heavy, includes lots of info about China’s cultural revolution, video games, ethical issues facing humanity
Genre: Science Fiction
The Three-Body Problem is like nothing I have ever read. The story itself is mind-boggling: many of China’s top physicists begin committing suicide, and it is linked to a mysterious virtual reality video game called Three-Body. Something that I found in turns appealing or cumbersome was the different cadence of dialogue between characters. Possibly just a cultural difference between English and Chinese speakers or possibly a result of translation, but it gave the entire book a distinctly different “sound” from those written in English or even those translated from other languages. Very interesting, and something I would recommend to adventurous Science Fiction fans or those looking for a literary challenge.

Title: Woman on the Edge of Timewoman-on-the-edge-of-time
Author: Marge Piercy
Main Appeal Factors:
character driven, issue oriented, leisurely paced, dramatic atmosphere
Genre: Science Fiction
Annotation/Thoughts: Woman on the Edge of Time is a time travel story set in New York City and Mattapoisett, Massachusetts about 100 years in the future. The main character Hispanic Connie Ramos has been committed to a mental hospital in New York City for assault and child abuse which may or may not be her fault. She spends her time plotting escape and reunion with her family with help from fellow patients. While there she is subjected to neurological tests and brain surgery. Connie may or may not be hallucinating a bi-sexual, multi-racial transgender person named Luciente who is from the future. He/she takes her to visit for short periods of time to visit an holistic, artistic, agrarian and low tech community in Mattapoisett, Mass. She is welcomed and embraced by a society consisting of three parent families raising test tube children with no strict gender or racial roles. All of these issues are integrated in a believable manner if you like utopian fiction. This story has plenty of diversity and something for everyone, especially Massachusetts residents. I read the copy from the Mattapoisett Library.


Diversity in Science Fiction Discussion Dec. 7, 2016

Book cover imageThe Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable (SE-RART) group met at the Carver Public Library on Wednesday, Dec. 7, to talk about Science Fiction with a focus on diversity, i.e. science fiction written by authors with perspectives that are often underrepresented both in library collections and in the publishing world in general.

We talked about the Science Fiction chapter in The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed. by Joyce Saricks and two online readings:

Library Journal: Imagined Multiverses | Genre Spotlight: SF/Fantasy

Publishers Weekly: Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014: How Multicultural Is Your Multiverse?

“Knowing something about Science Fiction, even if we have only read one or two books, makes us more comfortable talking to fans and makes them more comfortable relating to us. They see that we understand what it is that they love in this genre.” – The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed.

We talked about why it is important to read authors from diverse backgrounds and how “core” science fiction authors – while often including diverse characters in their work and having a couple of well-known examples of “diversity” to point to (i.e. Octavia E. Butler and Samuel R. Delany) have been a group of white men. We talked about how science fiction appeals to the intellect and can analyze relevant societal issues at a remove. We discussed the importance of world-building, creating a believable universe for the story.

“Setting is crucial and invokes otherness of time, place, and/or reality. Both the physical setting of the story and the inherent technical and scientific detail create this essential frame.” – The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed.

Our discussion questions for the readings are posted here.

Parable of the Sower, a near-future dystopian novel published in 1993, was our benchmark title for Science Fiction. We talked about it terms of appeal factors (dystopian story and philosophical tone) and its themes of race relations, political climate, and environment. (“Octavia Butler is like Nostradamus!”)

Possible Readalikes for Parable of the Sower 

  1. Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
  2. A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
  3. The Water Knife by Paulo Bacigalupi
  4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  6. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

We had several science fiction fans in the group, so we all came away with an appreciation for the genre, as well as some must-read titles, such as The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin and Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler – the conclusion of the story begun in Parable of the Sower.

We certainly didn’t cover anywhere near all aspects of diversity in our meeting, so we will continue our collection of recommended authors and can post additional suggestions as we get them.

Second titles will be posted soon, so please submit any that you would like to share with the group, even if you weren’t at the meeting!

Our next meeting will be in the afternoon at the Brockton Public Library, 304 Main St., on Monday, Feb. 13, 1-3 p.m. (Snow date Thursday, Feb. 16, 10-12) Come talk about diversity in Romance with us, and don’t forget to register on the MLS Web site!