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  1. Themes : Cold War : SFE : Science Fiction Encyclopedia
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Set up that mirror 50 years into the future and today's confusions become clearer. Of course, this tends to imbue SF with a moralising tone. In the past, SF stories sometimes took the place of 18th-century sermons; particularly in the Sixties, when we were professionally gloomy about nuclear war and overpopulation. Nowadays, much SF, as it addresses a wider audience, becomes more the equivalent of technological fairy stories.

But generalising is dangerous. SF is far from homogeneous; there are as many approaches as there are authors. One thing any writer should do is question - question the society in which he lives, and the rules under which that society lives. For instance, we may believe that the West flourishes, as indeed it does, by taking economic advantage of the rest of the world. Doubt is a costly luxury; but a lifetime of reading and writing SF has persuaded me that doubt is a necessity and conviction an enemy.

Always believe in change, even if it comes in the shape of a spaceship. Fantasies about getting to other planets and about weird creatures living on them are of considerable antiquity. But modern SF begins, appropriately, after the Napoleonic wars have speeded industrialisation, in the heart of the Romantic movement, when young Mary Shelley wrote her astonishing novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus published In that novel, for the first time, mankind by scientific means usurps the power of God in creating life.

Her novel marks an end to superstition, an end to mindlessly following the dicta of previous generations. It speaks, as she says, "to the mysterious fears of our nature''. Mary Shelley confirmed her futuristic bent by going on to write a novel with the ominous title The Last Man , a disaster story in which the human race is destroyed.

We see in The Last Man , disguised, the events and loves of Mary Shelley's own life, just as Mary is her own rejected monster in Frankenstein. Literary critics tend to forget that not everything in a book comes from other books: by setting their stories in future time, as HG Wells did later, authors can distance themselves from the events of their personal lives. What is the essential difference between a SF story and the contemporary or domestic variety? SF is far less inclined to look back on the recent past with nostalgia - as does, say, John Betjeman's poetic Summoned by Bells , with his cloying love of his teddy and the suburbs, and the minute social differences between his family and the neighbouring one.

SF aims higher than that - even if, in aiming higher, it shoots itself in the foot. It prefers to talk about the consequences of Now, stretching its long shadows forward, not back. I had intended not to utter a paean of praise for SF, but the thought of Betjeman's cosy-wosy world, and of all those snug, safe modern English novels featuring parsons and Agas and pet dogs and respectability - and no sense at all that we live through a crisis, intellectual, economic and climatic - rouses me up to give a hearty cheer for the outsider literature of science fiction.

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Themes : Cold War : SFE : Science Fiction Encyclopedia

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The deterrent role is taken over by long-range nuclear-powered cruise missiles. Cold war tensions between the two super states provide the in-between plot direction.

There are several sub-plots — the exploration of the new world by both superpowers forms much of the major plot. Yuri Gagarin captains a huge, nuclear-powered Ekranoplan on behalf of the Soviets, whilst the US launch cruise liners filled with colonists for distant islands. On one such island, Madelaine Holbright initially a housewife begins an affair with John Martin, an entomologist who is almost fatally stung by native termites which begin to display signs of intelligence.

During his travels, Gagarin turns up further examples of "Earths" far away from the currently inhabited areas, with cities that have clearly been destroyed in nuclear war in the distant past. A character named Gregor Samsa seems to be highly connected with the US Government, and is later shown to be in fact an advanced alien termite with pheromone control, and is guiding the transplanted humanity towards nuclear destruction, to clear the path for the "mock aboriginal termites" that have previously stung Martin.

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Eventually Gregor is successful, and humanity is destroyed in a nuclear exchange — Gregor's intelligence is saved and it is heavily implied that not only has this happened before, but that it will happen again, supporting but not actually confirming the second two of the suggested theories. Publishers Weekly described the novella as a "blend of s H. Wells and s propaganda, updated for the 21st century in the clear, chilly and fashionably cynical style that lets Stross get away with premises that would be absurdly cheesy in anyone else's hands.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the novel.


For the military concept, see missile gap. Publishers Weekly. Bibliography of Charles Stross. Singularity Sky Iron Sunrise