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In science fiction: apocalyptic classics, utopian visions and more

December 1, 2008 | 12:25 pm

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At io9, Joshua Glenn has come up with a detailed list of The 10 Best Apocalypse Novels of Pre-Golden Age SF. (Glenn has been detailing the evolution of science ficiton through its early years on the site -- why he defines "Pre-Golden Age" as 1904-1933 is explained in another post). Topping his list is "Last and First Men: A Story of Near and Far Future" (1930) by Olaf Stapledon, which not only includes multiple apocalypses but foresees an upcoming war, the emergence of the U.S. and China as economic powers, and the eventual exhaustion of natural resources. A few very famous authors -- Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells, Jack London and Arthur Conan Doyle -- make the list for their less-famous works. In Jack London's case, it's for "The Scarlet Plague," a plague novel set in San Francisco; the survivors scorn intellectuals. Pretty grim for a Monday, but hey, we're talking apocalypse here.

If you prefer your news to be more utopian, you're thinking like ABC. ABC News is asking for "solutions for change" videos for its show "Earth 2100." Meghan McCarron, a young science fiction writer, urges submissions from writers and readers, saying, "It's a really awesome opportunity to increase the visibility both of SF and of the types of debates we've been having around these here internets for years now."

Author Brian Francis Slattery ("Spaceman Blues") declares "Ys," the CD by Joanna Newsom, "the best fantasy novel you've ever heard." He writes, "'Ys' is about as literate as music gets. Its lyric booklet runs to twenty-seven pages of dense, hyperarticulate verse that swings headlong between beauty and violence."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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