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Kruiser's (Almost) Daily Distraction: Taking Refuge in Classic Science Fiction

(Kruiser’s Permanote Description: This column is intended to be a lighthearted, short-form way to frequently connect with our cherished VIP readers. Sometimes it will be serious. Sometimes it will be fun. Sometimes it will be a cornucopia of intellectual curiosities and fascinations. OK, maybe not so much the last one. Anyway, as this is a departure for me, I’m including this explanation at the top of each post for a while. Also, non-subscribers can see the first couple of paragraphs so I am in desperate need of filler until we get to the private stuff (subscribe here). Please remember that there is a standing invitation to ask me anything in the comments. Once a week, I’ll answer.)

Let the Asimov Begin!

I had a rant all ready for this one today, then decided to move it elsewhere in the Kruiser VIP oeuvre somewhere this week. There’s plenty of ranting to go around.

I’ve been reading science fiction for all of my adult life. As far as I can remember, I didn’t read much of it when I was a teenager, which is when most sci-fi fans are minted. In my very early twenties, however, I stumbled upon Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and the genre hooked me for life. Asimov led me to Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and, of course, Frank Herbert.

Being a sci-fi fan these last couple of decades hasn’t been very satisfying. Far too many authors in the genre abandoned entertainment as their primary goal and opted for preachy climate alarmist fare. It got so bad that I stopped reading any of it for a while. I have found some modern writers whom I will recommend at the end of the column but first I want to get to what I mentioned in the headline.

I am currently five or six stories into The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964, an anthology that features all of the above-mentioned stalwarts (except Herbert) as well as twenty other authors whose work I wasn’t that familiar with. 

As I write this I’m only as far as stories that were published in the 1940s. A couple of things struck me as the authors took me on a trip from the ’20s to that point. The first, obviously, is that it’s refreshing not being beaten over the head with woke climate fear-mongering.

The second — and more important — was how much more imaginative and fun sci-fi was before they knew as much of the science as they do today. Most of the stories are really about the human condition. That’s true of modern sci-fi, too, but a lot of paragraph space is devoted to showing off the author’s research. That doesn’t always lend as much to the stories as those writing them believe.

The anachronisms that were staples of early twentieth century sci-fi are delightful. Martians inhabited Mars. Touchscreens weren’t known of, obviously, so all of the futuristic gadgets in the stories are controlled by knobs and dials. Mankind was still considered awful, but we were ruining Earth and civilization with war, not light bulbs.

One thing that’s not so charming: in many of the stories written in the early twentieth century “the future” was 1995 or 2010.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a lengthy review. I am enjoying this anthology so much I wanted to share the news with you, dear VIP friends. The storytelling is exquisite and the book has been a nice respite from the real world. I honestly think that even people who don’t consider themselves sci-fi fans will find most of this enjoyable.

I was going to reel off a list of some of my current favorite sci-fi authors and books but have decided to just give you two and save some of the others for future Daily Distraction columns.

By far, the best of the near future, post-apocalypse fare is Joshua Gayou’s Commune series. These books are a survivalist sci-fi fan’s dream

The second is a book series that I got into well before it became a popular television show: The Expanse, which is written by two authors under the pen name James S.A. Corey. The Amazon show does do the books justice but, as always, the books are better.

Hit me with any of your faves in the genre. And don’t forget to AMA! I could still use another question or two for Friday.

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PJ Media Senior Columnist and Associate Editor Stephen Kruiser is the author ofDon’t Let the Hippies ShowerandStraight Outta Feelings: Political Zen in the Age of Outrage,” both of which address serious subjects in a humorous way. Monday through Friday he edits PJ Media’s “Morning Briefing.” His columns appear twice a week.