Thursday, 18 April 2013

Attention-Grabbing Ideas

Robert Heinlein first caught my attention with his "generation ship" (slower than light multi-generation interstellar spaceship) idea. I read Orphans Of The Sky long before I knowingly read anything else by Heinlein. I had already read Starman Jones in a large format illustrated omnibus collection of juvenile adventure novels by different authors but I did not notice authors' names that far back.

I associated Heinlein only with the "Universe" of levels of corridors so it was a wrench later to read works of his in which characters inhabited the familiar environment of a planetary surface. (The characters in Glory Road once visit not a planet but a place in a different kind of universe.) Generalising from a single instance, I imagined that this Heinlein had written very few, quite short works of uniformly high quality, the exact opposite of the truth.

Of course, I did not yet know that Orphans was the concluding volume of a series called the Future History although I soon became sold on science fiction future history series.

James Blish first caught my attention with his flying cities. I read Earthman, Come Home, not yet knowing that it was one volume of a future history, then "Bridge," which ends with the invention of the spindizzy, a basic prop of Earthman, then Year 2018!, which not only incorporated "Bridge" but also ended with the Chronology of Cities in Flight. It was a wrench later to read Blish works in which the characters traveled in mere spaceships, although an enormous ship is necessary to take a crew of just three on the Mission To The Heart Stars.

Generation ships and flying cities are two, very different, means of interstellar travel.

One of Heinlein's juvenile novels is The Star Beast. This and others of his juveniles contain a menagerie of alien animals and pets. Blish has some in ...And All The Stars A Stage and The Triumph Of Time. Superman had an alien zoo in his Fortress of Solitude and Dan Dare had Stripey but alien pets are not an idea that I will be writing any more about.

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