Ted Chiang on Scientific Method

‘‘I consider most of my work science fiction, even the stories that look like fantasy. To me, what makes a story science fiction is not whether the universe has the same laws as our universe or not, but whether it is a universe in which the scientific method works. That is a more interesting distinction for me. By that criterion, ‘Exhalation’ is a science fiction story, even though its universe bears no resemblance to ours. The same is true for ‘72 Letters’, and for ‘Tower of Babylon’.

‘‘’Exhalation’ is about conceptual breakthrough (to use the term from The Science Fiction Encyclopedia). It’s a way of describing scientific discovery and the experience of gaining a greater understanding of the universe. Recapturing the experience of conceptual breakthrough, dramatizing that, is one of the things science fiction is good at. You can just as easily do that in a completely made-up universe with a totally different set of physical laws. The underlying process is the same, and I still think of it as scientific investigation.”

Read the complete interview, and biographical profile, in the July 2011 issue of Locus Magazine.

Nova Mob, 1st Sept: Perry Middlemiss on Australian Futures

Perry Middlemiss on two 2020 novels of Australian futures: Of birds and beasts!

The Animals in that Country, by Laura Jean McKay
and The Rain Heron, by Robbie Arnott


2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Literature – Winner 

2020 Aurealis Awards’ Best Science Fiction Novel – Winner 

2021 ABIA Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year – Winner 

2021 ALS Gold Medal – Short-listed 2021 Arthur C. Clarke Award – Short-listed 

2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award – Long-listed 

2021 The Kitchies’ Golden Tentacle Award – Short-listed 

2021 The Stella Prize – Short-listed 

2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction – Winner 

2020 The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction – Short-listed

“As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, Jean realises this is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals — first mammals, then birds and insects, too. As the flu progresses, the unstoppable voices become overwhelming, and many people begin to lose their minds, including Jean’s infected son, Lee. When he takes off with Kimberly, heading south, Jean feels the pull to follow her kin.

 “Setting off on their trail, with Sue the dingo riding shotgun, they find themselves in a stark, strange world in which the animal apocalypse has only further isolated people from other species.”

💥 💥 💥

THE RAIN HERON, by Robbie Arnott

Shortlisted, Miles Franklin Literary Award, 2021

Shortlisted, ALS Gold Medal, 2021

Shortlisted, Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year, 2021

Shortlisted, Age Book of the Year, 2021

Longlisted, Not the Booker, United Kingdom, 2020

“The Rain Heron is set in an unidentified country in which a military coup has recently occurred. The first section of the novel proper (the opening story is headed ‘Part 0’, placing it outside the main narrative structure) is told from the point of view of a woman named Ren, who has retreated into the wilderness. She lives alone in a cave on a remote mountainside, where she subsists by hunting and foraging and growing a few vegetables, occasionally venturing into the lowlands to barter with a fur trader and his son. 

 “One day she encounters some soldiers, who are searching the mountainside for the mythical rain heron. Their leader, the efficient and cunning Lieutenant Zoe Harker, questions Ren about the bird’s whereabouts, but Ren denies all knowledge…”

Topic: Nova Mob 1 Sep: Perry Middlemiss on Australian Futures
Time: Sep 1, 2021 8 PM Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney; 7:30pm Adelaide

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 417 758 3193
Passcode: nova

Critical mass, August 25th

We will meet via Zoom at 6:30pm;
We will also meet in person at Kappy’s from 6:15pm. [confirmed 25 Aug]

We will continue our discussion of the final two Hugo nominees for best novella:

  • Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom)
  • Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tordotcom)

At the end of the meeting, we will “predict” which work should win.

Zoom details:
Time: Aug 25, 2021 at 6:30 pm Adelaide; 7pm Melbourne

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 821 6779 6217
Passcode: 784499

50 favourite sf books of the past decade

NPR (National Public Radio) announced “Your 50 Favorite Sci-Fi And Fantasy Books of the Past Decade”, a list with a top 50 selected by Amal El-Mohtar, Ann Leckie, Fonda Lee, and Tochi Onyebuchi. Titles are separated into categories, such as “Worlds To Get Lost In” and “Will Mess With Your Head”, and include a range of subgenres and interests.

For the complete list, see the NPR website.

Space Opera Story Bundle!

The Cosmic Visionaries Bundle, curated by Robert Jeschonek

What is it about space opera that makes us love it so much? The action, the exotic settings, the colorful characters, the alien species? The promise of countless adventures in the face of the great unknown? The excitement of imagining what humanity may someday become and accomplish in the vast reaches of the final frontier?

Whatever your reason for loving the genre, this bundle has it in abundance. The ten books I’ve selected (one of them a five-book set, actually) are jam-packed with space opera goodness that will propel you out to the furthest reaches of the universe and give you all the best feels while provoking plenty of deep thoughts along the way. – Robert Jeschonek

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Star Smuggler by T.S. Snow
  • Space: 1975 edited by Robert Jeschonek
  • Maelstrom by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • The Earth Concurrence by Julia Huni

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus six more books (including two StoryBundl exclusives), for a total of 10!

  • Project Charon 1: Re-Entry by Patty Jansen
  • Galactic Capers of the Amazing Conroy by Lawrence M. Schoen
  • Ardent Redux Saga Boxed Set – Complete First Season by J.L. Stowers
  • Ball of Confusion by Dean Wesley Smith (StoryBundle Exclusive)
  • Krimson Run by Craig Martelle and Julia Huni
  • Encounter at Vilahana by Blaze Ward (StoryBundle Exclusive)

The bundle is available until sept 8th

At Last Dangerous Visions!

J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers August 12th that The Last Dangerous Visions has been finished.

THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS has at last been completed. The final draft went off to the agency that will be handling the sale about fifteen minutes ago. This has been a massive effort…112,000 words…tracking down the estates of the original writers to be included in the book, and nailing down some newer A List writers; fans of Harlan’s who wanted to be a part of TLDV. (And for the record, Harlan continued to buy stories for the anthology right through the 90s, and stopped only due to illness. He saw TLDV as a living document, and fought to keep it relevant when some stories became less timely or were supplanted by real world events.)

I will have more to say about the contents at a later date, but suffice to say that they include some of the most visionary writers in the science fiction genre over the last 48 years.


Marvel’s new What If…? animated series takes us back to the beginning with a rewrite of Captain America: The First Avenger. In this version, it’s Peggy Carter who takes up the Mighty Shield—and the shield has a Union Flag on it.

I have to say I think this is the most pure fun I’ve had watching any of the Disney Marvel series so far?

— The Sheer Bloody Fun of What If…? “Captain Carter Were The First Avenger” by Leah Schnelbach at tor.com
Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Ideal Utopias

The novel is usually regarded as a realist art form, and I’d go even further: By telling the stories we use to understand our lives, the novel helps create our reality. In novels, things go wrong—that’s plot. People then cope. That’s realism.

Utopia, on the other hand, is famously “no place,” an idealized society sometimes described right down to its sewage system. In utopia, everything works well—maybe even perfectly, but for sure better than things work now. So utopias are like blueprints, while novels are like soap operas. Crossing these two genres gets you the hybrid called the utopian novel: soap operas put in a blender with architectural blueprints. It doesn’t sound all that promising.

Then came Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. Published in 1975, this was the first great utopian novel, and it demonstrated just how good the poor, misbegotten hybrid can be. Of course, there’d been earlier utopian novels, like William Morris’s News From Nowhere, or H.G. Wells’s A Modern Utopia, or Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, or Aldous Huxley’s Island. These were all interesting efforts. But Le Guin’s book was a triumph. What she showed is that by describing a utopian society in a moment of historic danger, you create for it all kinds of problems that its characters must solve. It will get attacked from the outside, corrupted from the inside; things will go wrong, and so you have your plot. Le Guin combined an intriguing utopia with a compelling novel, and the result was superb. The people on her habitable moon, Annares, have formed an alternative society to the imperial capitalist world, Urras. They devised a system that is feminist for sure and either democratic socialist or anarcho-syndicalist, but in any case in a state of flux, its people doing everything they can to keep what’s best about their system while also fending off impositions from the home world. It’s political fiction at its best.

— “The Novel Solutions of Utopian Fiction,” Kim Stanley Robinson, The Nation, Aug 2nd