Galaxy’s Edge Sci-Fi Book Review Roundup: January, 2022

The new year brings with it a new issue of Galaxy’s Edge Magazine! This month’s lineup includes authors Harry Turtledove, Effie Seiberg, Galen Westlake, Wang Yuan, and more!

Plus, Jean Marie Ward sits down for an interview with prolific sci fi legend, John Scalzi.

And Robert Chwedyk is at it again with another round of sci fi book reviews, this time including:

  • Perhaps the Stars by Ada Palmer
  • Noor by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Needle by Hal Clements

Check out what he had to say about these books below!

Perhaps the Stars

by Ada Palmer

Tor

November 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7806-4

sci fi book review perhaps the stars

This was the work I was most hoping to get my hands upon when I entered the dealers’ room. It’s the “culmination” (it says so on the cover) of Ada Palmer’s massive tetralogy, Terra Ignota. And it fulfills the promise of the earlier books, Too Like the Lightning, Seven Surrenders and The Will to Battle. This is science fiction conceived of as a “literature of ideas,” and then raises the stakes to something that seems to dwarf such terms as “literature” and “ideas.” It’s a novel that not only contains the heart of a person or group of persons (a cast too numerous to even hint at), it contains the heart of an entire age. An age to come.

That age, to the surprise of some, is a renaissance transported centuries ahead of our time.

And why not? Writers like John M. Ford and Jack Dann have transported science-fictional concepts and sensibilities to alternate versions of the Renaissance. Why not the other way round? It was an age of great discoveries and brutal struggles for power and influence. It was era of great art and murderous passions. It was an age marked by both progress and the threat of ultimate calamity. Describing it that way, it sounds like the milieu of an Alfred Bester novel, or Cordwainer Smith with a crueler streak. And that’s not a bad way to summarize Palmer’s Terra Ignota milieu, except that Palmer raises the stakes a few nth degrees. Palmer’s world reinvents and somewhat refines technologies that have existed for centuries, were lost, and invented yet again. More important than technologies in some ways are the reinventions of ideas, like humanism, since the Renaissance can also be considered to some degree a humanist revolution.

It was also a most forward-thinking era. An impressive number of its luminaries could be mistaken for science fiction writers (and very often are). Also very much present in Palmer’s imagined future is the presence of the classical myth and epic imagery which energized and inspired the historical renaissance.

Those are just some of the aspects of renaissance culture Palmer so splendidly re-tools and extrapolates to thrilling effect, which may sound strange, since much of her prose is dense in texture. It is not, however, impenetrable. On the contrary, it draws you in and sustains your attention.

No matter how alien (in the widest sense) and far-out her scenarios and speculations may get, there is something familiar about them that we can connect with. Science fiction is often complimented (and also castigated) as a literature of ideas. Palmer is one of those writers who can bring those ideas to life in myriad, and fascinating, ways. It is more than intellectual exercise. In her hands, it’s emotionally compelling too. The novel pulls you in and sustains your interest throughout.

There is no one else in the field now (or at any time before) writing like Ada Palmer, which some readers may think a pity and others a blessing. The good news is that one Ada Palmer is sufficient (and necessary), and we’re very fortunate to have her.

Noor

by Nnedi Okorafor

DAW

November 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7564-1609-6

sci fi book review noor

Of recent, Nnedi Okorafor has branched out into writing comics and screenplays, but what I still love best are her novels. She has not only invented a whole new way of looking at science fiction, but in doing so not only invented a voice, but a new kind of voice. Her worlds are as distinct in their own Africanfuturist (which Okorafor distinguishes from “Afrofuturist”) way as are the worlds of a Cordwainer Smith or an Alfred Bester or a R. A. Lafferty or a James Tiptree, Jr. are to theirs. I know, she has received much acclaim already, but I think her contributions are still undervalued to the field because, simply, so many of us are still learning how to read her.

Her most recent work has us following Anwuli Okwundili, who has shortened her name to AO, though she also insists this stands for “Artificial Organism.” AO was born with severe defects and given a number of mechanical enhancements. We’re in cyberpunk territory, but only in some ways. AO ends up with more enhancements when she turns fourteen, courtesy of the Ultimate Corp. All of this, as you would expect, makes her something of an outcast in her Nigerian village, until the day she is attacked in an Abuja marketplace. She manages to kill all the attackers. Now she is really an outcast, on the run, and she heads for the desert, where she runs into a Fulani herdsman named DNA, who is a lot more than his humble profession may suggest.

Also in the desert they encounter a roving dust storm called the Red Eye (which reminded me, of all things, of the sentient tornado named Sweetiepie that outsider artist Henry Darger wrote about in his autobiography). It is inevitable, especially in an Okorafor novel, that AO and DNA’s journey will bring them into the very heart of Red Eye, and even if you are familiar with any of Okorafor’s recent work, it will not be like anything you expect.

The thing I’ve found about Okorafor’s books is this: whoever you are and wherever you come from, you have to give yourself over to her and let her work her (in some cases literal) magic on you. With some authors this would be a dangerous proposition. Not so with Okorafor. Not only does she give me a plethora of new places to see, she lets me see them from angles I never would have imagined before. I trust her even when I have no clue what she’s doing because I’m certain she damn well knows what she’s doing, and that’s good enough for me. That feeling, that trust, is one of the things that got me reading science fiction in the first place.

Needle

by Hal Clement

Doubleday & Company, Inc.

1950 (first printing; many editions followed from several publishers)

ISBN: 0-380-00635-9

sci fi book review needle

As much as I love all the new releases, my favorite part of the dealers’ room are the tables and tables of second-hand books, especially the mass market paperbacks. Were it not for those little gems calling out to me, siren-like, from the spinner racks of pharmacies and department store displays all those years ago, I might not have lost my heart to science fiction, at least at such an early age.

At the convention, I was fortunately able to acquire a copy of Hal Clement’s first novel, Needle, which I loaned out to someone who had the good sense never to return it. Clement hasn’t been given much attention in a long, long while, though he is occasionally remembered via lip service as one of the founders of “hard” SF. When mentioned, it is usually in regard to his best-known novel, Mission of Gravity.

I can’t say which novel is objectively better, but I have a fondness for Needle because it not only gives us the prototype for a number of stories where alien life forms take up residence in human hosts, but it does not descend into the kind of horrific scenarios most writers would take this sort of thing. In fact, Needle can also serve as a prototype YA novel, since its human protagonist is a fifteen-year-old boy. It has also been unofficially adapted (aka ripped off) by the manga 7 Billion Needles, along with media variations as far afield as Ultraman, The Hidden and Brain from Planet Arous. If “steal from the best” means anything in our culture, this novel has some real creds.

Robert Kinnaird, the boy, finds himself inhabited by the alien, The Hunter, who, as his name suggests, is in pursuit of a criminal alien. The criminal and The Hunter, both in their own ships, crash land near a sparsely populated Pacific island. As The Hunter inhabits Kinnaird, the criminal he’s pursuing inhabits someone else on the island. But just as The Hunter is learning something of his host, the planet and the culture he now finds himself in, Robert is sent off to a New England prep school. The Hunter not only has to find a way of cooperating with his host, and vice versa, he also has to find a way to get himself (or “themself,” sort of) back to the island so he can apprehend the criminal alien.

The novel works marvelously on several levels. It not only successfully portrays non-humanoid aliens as something other than nefarious invaders and maintains its hard science-fictional pedigree, but it also serves as a metaphorical evocation of the strangeness of adolescence: a boy feeling his body in change, as if something new is living inside him, not quite him but not quite not him. This perceived change gets even pricklier when he returns to the island and we discover who the host of the criminal alien is (no spoilers).

It’s a fable of change and growth and maturation told in the brisk and capable voice that marks the best of Clement’s work.

The discovery of such a gem in any dealers’ room is one of the joys of going to conventions in the flesh.

It felt so good to be back.

May we all be able to do much more of this soon.

Be sure to check out all the other books Chwedyk has reviewed in the January, 2022 issue of Galaxy’s Edge, as well as the great stories from new and established authors alike!

Sci Fi TV Shows: The Book of Boba Fett

Have you watched The Book of Boba Fett, one of the new sci fi TV shows on Disney+? We have, and we have to say, it brings a new life to an old character, one previously labeled as a villain.

The Book of Boba Fett aired in December 2021, and will run for seven episodes, ending on February 9th, 2022.

I didn’t really have any expectations for the show, I saw it as a cash grab for people who loved the Boba Fett character from the original Star Wars films and The Mandalorian TV show. But, having watched the first three episodes, I think it has a lot more substance than most Star Wars media.

(Spoilers ahead for the first three episodes of The Book of Boba Fett and both seasons of The Mandalorian.)

A Rich Background

When Boba Fett first appeared as a dangerous bounty hunter in the Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978, and later played a bigger role in The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. He was the kind of character you hated to love, with very few lines, but an imposing presence.

In short, he was one of the classic villains from the original Star Wars trilogy, and later appeared in dozens of Star Wars comics, some of which were one-shot adventures, other were longer stories.

But, only when Temuera Morrison reprised his role as the infamous bounty hunter in The Mandalorian season 2 did Boba Fett become more than just a gun for hire. The show gave him depth and purpose, a vast change from the shoot-first, ask question later character many of us were familiar with.

sci fi tv shows boba fett

Writing the History

So far, The Book of Boba Fett has been filled with backstory about how the bounty hunter escaped from the Sarlacc pit and found his way back to civilization.

Personally, a lot of the backstory about the Tusken Raiders and Boba Fett’s return felt unnecessary. When the character made an appearance in The Mandalorian, we could very well have assumed most of what happened after he was presumed dead in The Return of the Jedi.

But the backstory seeks to do more than reveal how the bounty hunter survived. It takes the new Star Wars approach, where previously bad characters are seen in a better light. And not just Fett, the Tusken Raiders, too.

For most of Star Wars history, the Raiders have stood as one of the perils of Tattooine, a dangerous desert tribe who pillaged for survival. The Book of Boba Fett shows us a new side to the classic “bad guys”, showing them with more culture and heritage than they ever had before.

Boba Fett not only learns to accept the Raiders, he helps them stake their claim on their land and even becomes an honorary member of their tribe.

I think what sets apart the new Star Wars media and the old Star Wars content is compassion. In the original Star Wars, Boba Fett would have never thought twice about killing Tusken Raiders, but now, he takes the time to learn their ways, protect them, and go out of his way to give them the respect they deserve.

Not to mention, the enthusiasm and compassion Boba Fett shows to the Rankor calf gifted to him by the Hutt Twins. It’s interesting to see Fett’s character transition away from anger and violence to a more thoughtful approach.

Fennec Shand

In many ways, Fennec Shand plays the part that Boba Fett played years ago as a bounty hunter. Played by Ming Na Wen, Shand is a deadly assassin who first makes her appearance in The Mandalorian season 1, episode 5, and is later seen in the animated series, The Bad Batch.

sci fi tv shows fennec shand

She’s known as a ruthless bounty hunter, and is Boba Fett’s right-hand woman in the new sci fi TV show. Where Boba Fett in the original trilogy was cold and heartless, Shand is more pragmatic, though still prone to violence.

She’s one of the most interesting characters in the show, and I’m interested to see what story arc is in store for her. In some capacity, I feel like she’ll remain a static character, always sticking by Fett’s side because he once saved her life. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if she becomes frustrated with Boba’s newfound patience and branches out to commit criminal acts in his name.

Is The Book Of Boba Fett Worth Watching?

I’d say yes, it is. This sci fi TV shows spins the previous narrative of the infamous bounty hunter to make him a more likeable and relatable character. Plus, we get see sides of Tattooine we’ve never experienced before, like the deep criminal politics.

I do feel like the backstory is overplayed, and it really dominated the first two episodes of the space western TV show. Hopefully, moving forward, we’ve crossed over into the present, and the backstory is only interspersed throughout.

If you liked this post, check out some of our other content. We’re always talking about all things sci fi, whether it’s a deep dive into science fiction subgenres, or reviews of books, movies, games, and shows. New blogs, twice a week!

Does Paris Syndrome Have a Place In Speculative Fiction?

Paris Syndrome is one of those things that everyone’s heard about but most people haven’t experienced. It’s a result of high expectations of a place, primarily Paris, hence the name, and the resulting disappointment when the place doesn’t live up to the hype.

It seems like a very specific condition, and it is, and in this article, I want to dissect how Paris Syndrome plays a part in science fiction, or, how it might.

What is Paris Syndrome?

For centuries, Paris has been a travel destination for people from all over the world, from all walks of life. The city has a rich history of intrigue and romance, and often, the hype around the city is far more exaggerated than what the city has to offer.

Paris Syndrome was coined by Japanese psychiatrist Hiroaki Ota when he worked at the Sainte-Anne Hospital Center in France. The condition, as Ota states, is primarily seen in Japanese tourists who visit Paris. The high expectations set by magazines, media, and travel advertisements—like how people think Paris is filled with models, millionaires, and artists—are the primary cause of Paris Syndrome.

It’s worth noting that the condition comes in two forms—the people that had predetermined mental conditions that were triggered by the realization that Paris isn’t a city of glamour and romance, and those people that had no prior history of mental conditions.

Those who suffer from Paris Syndrome often display delusions, hallucinations, anxiety, and in severe cases, derealization and depersonalization. Not to mention the psychosomatic effects, like dizziness, sweating, trouble breathing, and vomiting.

The condition was deemed so serious that the Sainte-Anne Hospital and the Japanese Embassy set up a department to assist Japanese travelers suffering from Paris Syndrome.

How Does Paris Syndrome Apply To Sci Fi?

While the original use of the term Paris Syndrome was to describe Japanese travelers experiencing a place that hadn’t lived up to their expectations, it can also be used to describe the same situation in different cities, regions, countries, etc.

When I was reading about Paris Syndrome, even just the simple article I’d found, a thought crossed my mind. How severe would Paris Syndrome be in the future? For a time-traveler, maybe, or for someone so sheltered from society that they experience the extreme effects of Paris Syndrome.

Imagine a character who had been living in a rural area far removed from a cyberpunk city in the future, that all of their perceptions of the place were from advertisements, news, or second-hand accounts. Now imagine they visit the city and are so overwhelmed by its neon bulbs, drugs, crime, and all-around nastiness that they start to have hallucinations and delusions. To me, at least, it sounds reasonable.

Even traveling from a small, Pennsylvanian town to NYC for the first time, I was anxious, felt closed-in and constantly watched, and generally uncomfortable. What would that experience be like in a sci fi world?

I started looking for examples of Paris Syndrome in science fiction literature, and I uncovered some interesting things.

“Border Control”

The first story I came across was the flash piece, “Border Patrol” by Liam Hogan, published in The Arcanist.

I’m familiar with Hogan’s work from when I worked on the Triangulation anthology series, as he was a regular contributor. His work has always been interesting and thought-provoking, and this story was no different.

In this micro-fiction piece, Hogan thinks about what Paris Syndrome would be like for time travelers. And rightfully so. The future holds so many possibilities, it’s easy to create a grand illusion of what it would be like. But, it’s probably much darker and mundane that we imagine it to be.

I suppose the same would apply to the past. If you traveled back into the past, say, the 1920s, you might expect Gatsby-style parties, car-rides through growing cities, and unprecedented wealth. However, your hopes would be dashed when you landed in the trash-strewn streets of New York, where the average American is still grieving their losses of WWI and struggling to get by.

Speaking of war, let’s get to our next example:

The Forever War

After picking r/sciencefiction’s braintrust, I realized that The Forever War by Joe Haldeman has elements of Paris Syndrome, while not named as such.


 the forever war

For those of you who haven’t read The Forever War, the premise is that the world’s most elite military recruits are sent into space to wage an impossible war with the Taurans. Because of their tech and their missions in the farthest reaches of our galaxy, time passes much more quickly on Earth than it does for the recruits waging war.

When they finally return to Earth, so much time has passed on their home planet that they don’t recognize it at all. And that’s where Paris Syndrome comes in.

Instead of finding their place in the futuristic Earth, they mourn so much for the place that they knew and had dreamt about while at war that they reenlist. They’d much rather return to a galaxy at war than learn to live in a place that so drastically changed shattered their hopes and expectations.

Of course, there are elements of PTSD, but the Paris Syndrome is part of the underlying reason Mandella and Potter return to the Forever War.

Frequently There, Never Named

Even though we might not recognize it, the Paris Syndrome plays a part in many science fiction novels. It’s never noted as being the Paris Syndrome, but the same idea is there.

The Dark Eden series by Chris Beckett has elements of Paris Syndrome, and Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson and The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin both have shadows of the idea.

the dispossessed

Paris Syndrome is more prevalent that we might think, and it’s certainly a condition that plays—or has the potential to play—a larger part in science fiction literature. Like in The Forever War, the future has so much potential that everyone has their expectations of what it will be like. But, when faced with the harsh reality of things, it turns out to be less ideal than one could have hoped.

I think in many ways, we might all feel Paris Syndrome sometimes, though to a less severe degree than Japanese tourists in France’s pearl. If you’ve ever had high hopes for a new book or show or movie, and then felt wildly disappointed or distraught when it doesn’t live up to your expectations—that’s small scale Paris Syndrome. Especially if there was a lot of hype around it, like positive advertisements, reviews, etc.

What do you think? Is it a stretch to believe Paris Syndrome plays a role in science fiction? Or is it a reasonable hypothesis?

Let us know in the comments below!

We’re All Him: Comic Book Review, Rorschach by Tom King

When I first read the Watchmen comics a few years ago, I was enthralled with Rorschach. His character design, his principles, his grit—it all was so realistic, which isn’t something you often think when reading a comic book.

But Watchmen isn’t like other comic books, and the sequel, Rorschach, isn’t either. I thought it was only fitting we hop on the mainstream train for a while and do a comic book review of Rorschach, the 10-issue series by Tom King and Jorge Fornés.

Some Background for the Rorschach Comic

Rorschach was a serialized comic book series that lasted for ten issues from October 2020 to July 2021. It was written by Tom King, illustrated by Jorge Fornés, and colored by Dave Stewart.

Tom King is well-known for his work with Batman, Mister Miracle, and from his novel, A Once Crowded Sky. In 2018, he shared the Eisner Award for Best Writer with Marjorie Liu, author of Monstress.

Both Jorge Fornés and Dave Stewart have worked for Marvel and DC comics, most notably for Daredevil, Spiderman, Catwoman, and Captain America comics.

The Rorschach comics occur after the events of Watchmen, Doomsday Clock, and the Watchmen HBO series that aired in 2019. The story is set in 2020, right before a big presidential election where Governor Turley seeks to beat the 5-time president, Robert Redford.

Rorschach Never Dies

I was curious to read this series and do a comic book review on it because unlike some other comics that are merely FLASH and BANG, Rorschach has substance. Like, a lot.

Starting off, I was a bit confused about the concept for the series. At the end of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan vaporizes Rorschach for threatening to reveal the truth about Veidt. So, Rorschach—the original Rorschach—is dead by the time Tom King’s series starts.

But it quickly becomes clear that there are multiple people impersonating Rorschach, all of whom are vigilantes working to take down the corrupt powers that be and prevent another squid invasion.

comic book reviews rorschach

The whole premise of Rorschach’s—and the other Watchmen’s—survival was that Dr. Manhattan released their souls into the world to find new bodies and continue their work. But the Walter Kovacs’ Rorschach’s legacy extended far wider than his singular soul. He embodies the rebel, the anarchist, and the idealist.

Rorschach lives on in the hearts of those who need him, of those who believe in a better future, free from tyranny. But those people also see Rorschach’s darker side, including the blood on his hands.

King’s Rorschach takes that idea and runs with it. In many ways, the comic series is as much a political and ethical commentary as it is a hard-boiled detective story.

The protagonist, an unnamed investigator, slowly unravels a vast conspiracy that reeks in the wake of the world the Watchmen left behind. King’s grim vision of 2020 has even more bloodshed and filth than our own 2020, which is really saying something.

Leaving a Legacy

Comic book historian Bradford Wright stated once that the original Rorschach’s intentions were always “a set of black-and-white values that take many shapes but never mix into shades of gray.”

But King’s Rorschach believes in the black, white, the gray in between, and blood red. In many ways, this reflects the worldview we’ve all kind of come to accept (minus, perhaps, the blood).

In the past few years, we’ve seen the break down of American politics. Core principles of democracy that were once firmly black and white, right and left, have slid into the gray areas. We’ve all overlooked things we shouldn’t have, and we’ve all gotten worked up over things that, in retrospect, didn’t matter.

That’s the legacy that King’s Rorschach leaves us. At one point, one of the main characters, Wil Myerson, says “most evil is done by people who never made up their minds to be or do either good or evil.”

rorschach comic

And that’s the hard part. To see things as black and white as Walter Kovacs takes a keen sense of self, a set of values that don’t waver under external stress.

Thinking about my own life, I realized this is a lot harder to achieve than it seems. We’ve all told a white lie (which, in this color-coordinated analogy, is really a gray lie) because we felt the truth was irrelevant, or would hurt.

But that hurt is important. Given the truth, we can structure what’s right and wrong, what needs to be done, and what can be saved for later. So, while the original Rorschach might not live in all of us, King’s does. “Some people need masks. Some don’t,” as the book flap of the Rorschach anthology reads. Don the mask, or don’t. Either way, embracing Rorschach is as critical now as it’s ever been.

Comic Book Review of Rorschach: Conclusion

Despite paltry reviews of the 10th issue, I felt that Rorschach lived up to, and in some ways, far exceeded, my expectations.

King has done more in ten issues to flesh out a philosophy for Rorschach than Moore and Gibbon have ever done.

The art is fantastic, while grimmer than the original Watchmen comics, and I found myself unable to put the book down.

While Monstress might have been the first 10/10 I gave a comic book, Rorschach will be the second. It takes the comic book medium and uses it to tell a truly fabulous story, outlining in it’s pages a path forward for many of us who are confused or conflicted.

Sci fi Subgenres: Splice & Dice, the Biopunk Code

Of all the sci fi subgenres, biopunk probably hits the closest to home. Modern medicine and biotech has reached new heights, but a lot of the seeds of the fields were planted 40 years ago in some of the seminal biopunk novels.

Biopunk is closely related to cyberpunk and its derivatives, but it certainly presents a more realistic, while grim, outlook for our future.

What is Biopunk?

Where cyberpunk focuses on modifying the human body mechanically (think implants, advanced prosthetics, and computerized neuro functions), biopunk focuses on biology. Specifically, synthetic biology, including genetic engineering, extreme natural selection philosophies, and biochemical enhancement.

While some sci fi genres like solarpunk take a more optimistic outlook on the human experience, biopunk is closely related to cyberpunk in its adherence to a pessimistic, even grim, philosophy. As such, most biopunk books, novels, and games have dystopian societies, shadow governments, and totalitarian overtones.

Biopunk often features illegal black-market biohackers, people who operate outside the sanctioned scientific community to provide experimental—and dangerous—solutions to people’s troubles. While William Gibson’s Neuromancer was instrumental in the creation of cyberpunk, it also hinted at a biopunk world functioning in tandem with the flashy neon and advanced hardware of cyberpunk.  

Case, the main character, sustained significant damage to his nervous system, which prevented him from hacking into cyberspace. In exchange for his services as a hacker, Armitage repairs his nervous system while implanting a failsafe—poison—in Case’s bloodstream. Biopunk, right?

It’s clear that biopunk doesn’t operate in a vacuum, but just how connected is it to real science? Well, this sci fi subgenre is simply a culmination of fear, anxiety, and contempt for the illicit activities of real-life scientists. The history of the biotechnology revolution laid the groundwork for the core tenets of the biopunk genre.

The Biotechnology Revolution

Biotechnology isn’t a new field. It’s predecessor, zymurgy, was incredibly prevalent in the late 1800s. The bustle and boom of the industrial revolution brought with it the need to increase food production and raise valuable capital for impending wartime projects.

German scientists began developing specific yeast strains that would increase beer production and boost the industry’s revenue. And during WWI, German and Russian scientists raced to use their new fermentation tech to support the war efforts, through the creation of hydraulic fluid alternatives and acetone.

Eventually, the focus moved away from fermentation and the field was more broadly defined as biotechnology, coined by Karoly Ereky, a Hungarian pork mogul. With the discovery of penicillin, the field became obsessed with curing human ailments and making a stronger workforce.

sci fi subgenres biopunk and penicillin

After a few decades of tinkering with biofuel and single-cell protein projects, biotechnology experienced its next boom with the creation of genetic engineering. DNA structure and recombinant DNA took biotech by storm, and would remain the core focus of the field for the next fifty years.

Realizing the vast potential of biotechnology, politicians went to war with human rights activists over the ethics of biotech, and for a while the science community placed a moratorium on biotech until the industry was regulated and assuaged public fears.

The biotechnology as we know it today was born out of the desire to improve the human condition, with IVF, gene-editing therapy, and microbiological advancement like synthetic insulin.

But the biotechnology prominently featured in the biopunk genre is the biotech of the 1960s, which placed a heavy focus on eugenics and biological warfare.

Biopunk Novels, Films, and Games

One of the early proponents of the biopunk genre was Paul Di Filippo, with his collection of short stories, Ribofunk. Di Filippo emphasizes that cyberpunk as a genre lacks any real substance to maintain a status in the public eye for more than a fleeting moment. Instead, in Ribofunk, he proposes that biopunk, or slipstream works with a focus on biotech, is the study of living, not the depressing, close-to-extinction fiction of cyberpunk.

biopunk ribofunk

Despite his efforts to elevate the genre, much of biopunk still riffs off the dark nature of human experimentation and exploitation, albeit with some positive undertones.

Some prominent novels in the genre include:

  • Blood Music by Greg Bear (often seen as an overlap of biopunk and nanopunk)
  • The Xenogenesis trilogy by Octavia E. Butler
  • Schismatrix by Bruce Sterling
  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

But, the biopunk genre extends farther than the written word, encompassing visual mediums like film and video games.

  • The BioShock game series
  • The 2009 film Splice
  • The Resident Evil game series
  • The TV show Orphan Black

Blade Runner, the 1982 film based on Philip K. Dick’s book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is often categorized as a cyberpunk work, which in many ways, it is. However, it does feature biopunk themes. The Replicants, sometimes thought to be androids, are actually biologically-engineered, clone-like entities. This becomes clear in Blade Runner: 2049 with the scene Replicant-birth scene.

A Sci Fi Subgenre With Substance

Biopunk started out as an offshoot of cyberpunk, but in many ways, it has overshadowed its predecessor. The dedication to the ideological expansion of biotechnology and its implications to the everyday person makes biopunk a much more digestible genre than cyberpunk.

While we’re closely catching up to the cyberware featured in the cyberpunk arsenal, biopunk hits closer to home. Everyday we see incredible advancements in genetic engineering and biochemical panaceas that make biopunk’s darker ideations much more realistic and haunting.

What do you think? Will biopunk outlive its predecessor? Or will our biotech surpass the bounds of imagination?

Let us know in the comments below!

The Speculative Fiction Poetry of Progressive Rock

A few years ago, I attended Confluence, a sci-fi convention in downtown Pittsburgh. I attended a few panels about science topics, and even ran a mini-writing workshop with two of my Alpha graduate colleagues.

But one of the most interesting things I encountered while at Confluence was the filk community. For those who don’t know, filk is a culture, genre, and community based around music and speculative fiction. Filking is a wild experience. The music, which is heavily inspired by Tolkein-esque ballads and high-concept sci fi worlds, is accompanied by elaborate costumes and role playing, almost like LARPing.

After leaving Confluence, I started to consider how music and science fiction were tied together, and began noticing certain similarities between speculative fiction poetry and progressive rock, a genre I’d been listening to for a while before attending Confluence.

In this article, I want to lay out some thoughts about how prog rock takes spec fic themes and runs with them.

What is Progressive Rock?

You have probably heard prog rock before and not even known it! The movement began in the 1960s with the growing popularity of concept albums, introduced by The Beatles and other pop bands of the time.

A few of the core tenets of prog rock include:

Instrumental Experimentation– adding instruments and methods not widely used, like bringing in orchestral instruments and synthesizers. While the latter has become more mainstream as technology has improved, prog is still one of the pioneering genres seeking to use weird, unique sounds and instruments.

Pairing Literature and Lyricism – the idea of the concept album brought about philosophical ideas to mainstream music, as well as literature into lyrics. Prog rock artists often incorporate literary references when crafting their vast—frequently science fiction—masterpieces.

Advanced Musical Theory – Prog rock excels in breaking the bounds of musical theory. Most prog rock bands will tinker with time signatures, harmonies, and length to produce unique, compelling pieces of music.

How Do Prog Rock and Speculative Fiction Overlap?

It’s very easy to compare prog rock and speculative fiction because the two share a lot of the same fundamental values. Speculative fiction, be it sci fi, fantasy, horror, slipstream, or any of the hundreds of sci fi subgenres out there, all work to break the bounds of conventional thought. This could be through a complex story structure that mirrors how we think, or by incorporating fantastical ideas about unexplained phenomena in our world.

Prog rock follows a similar style, albeit more abstract. It pairs unique sounds with complicated, sometimes cryptic, verses all written in a poetic style. I’ve listened to some prog rock albums more than a dozen times, and they always take on a new life and meaning when reading the lyrics.

To show just how closely the two entities are connected, I’ve picked out an example:

Chromaparagon by Moon Tooth

I doubt a lot of people of heard this one, but it stands as one of the most interesting examples of prog rock that I could find.

Moon Tooth is a four-person band originating from Long Island, New York. Chromaparagon is their first full-length album, and is succeeded by Crux, and another album that’s upcoming sometime this year.

What I found particularly compelling about Chromaparagon, and super-relevant to our conversation of science fiction and prog rock, is their focus on the arcane, the weird, and the bizarre.

Take, for example, the first song on the album, Queen Wolf.

If you read the lyrics, you’ll recognize the linear motion of the story, which follows a mysterious, seemingly exiled character only referenced as “I” as they discover and confront the Queen Wolf.

My interpretation of the story is that the “I” character comes to realize the cruel nature of solitude and ostracization, and throws aside their old beliefs (evident by the line “I gathered up my holy books, O, my holy ink and paper and I burned them all). Afterwards, they set out to find the Queen Wolf, who has also been ostracized, and when the character finds her, “there was no denying that we belonged to each other.”

It’s a story of breaking from solitude and old beliefs to be with someone who is equally as shunned for their beliefs, even if they are perceived as a monster.

Keeping with the literary theme of prog rock, the song features a section from C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian book, “I am hunger, I am thirst. Where I bite, I hold till I die. I could fast a hundred years, I could lie a hundred nights on the ice and not freeze, I could drink a river of blood and not burst. Now tell me, who comes to disturb me?”

That monologue from Prince Caspian is spoken by a werewolf who had once been a servant of the White Witch and was brought out of exile by Nikabrik, a grumpy dwarf. Pretty fitting, right?

Throughout the rest of the album, the themes portrayed in the first song are built upon. In “Little Witch” the mysterious “I” talks about creating a personal Hell, but not a Biblical Hell. More like a Paradise Lost Hell, a hell of one’s own making.

Vesuvius I and II take us away from the previous themes, replacing them instead with iconography of Aries and the mountain of fire, instilling in listeners a sense of urgency as the ash darkens the sky.

Eventually, we reach “White Stag”, where we finally get a bit of hope. “Clouds dance and weave in infinite potential…He wills in your name on forever in beautiful ways.”

The Poetry of Prog

While this is only one example of how the genre-bending nature of prog rock music ties in with spec fiction, it’s a perfect case study for the abstract and the experimental.

A lot of people don’t listen to prog rock because it is weird and experimental, but us sci fi fans are quite familiar with those things. The music market is a highly competitive place, but progressive rock bands have made it their mission to break the barriers of genre, just like modern sci fi writers.

Moon Tooth, while our primary example, was a band I only discovered in the past two years. Before them, I was introduced to the genre by Caligula’s Horse, whose Bloom album stands as another intersection of spec fic poetry and rock music.

At the end of the day, the writers and musicians who make waves with their work are the ones who will be remembered. And Chromaparagon certainly stands as an album worth remembering.

Science Fiction Anthologies To Watch For in 2022

With the new year fast approaching, there’s a whole new lineup of science fiction anthologies to get excited about.

Personally, I find that science fiction anthologies are the best of both the novel and short story worlds. You get the thick book like a novel, but you get dozens of individual stories, some connected by theme or place and time.

In this blog, we’ll run down some of the newest science fiction anthologies coming our way in 2022.

The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories

This anthology is a collection of translated short stories from Chinese SFF writers. They focus heavily on fiction from female and nonbinary writers, and the team behind the anthology has a long history in the genre.

Regina Kanyu Wang, one of the editors, has frequently appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine, was featured in Ken Liu’s Broken Stars anthology, and had a story published in the March 2018 issue of Galaxy’s Edge Magazine.

science fiction anthologies

Yu Chen, the other editor of this science fiction anthology, has also been involved in the SFF community for a long time. She’s presented at workshops, conventions, and published multiple books from Asian sci-fi writers like Han Song and Song Mingwei.

I’m looking forward to this anthology, and will definitely grab it on release day, March 8th, 2022.

The Best Science Fiction of the Year

I always look forward to Neil Clarke’s anthologies. His collection of the best science fiction short stories always boasts some of the year’s most intriguing, thoughtful pieces from new and established writers alike.

This will be the sixth anthology in the best of the year series, featuring stories from Yoon Ha Lee, Annalee Newitz, Rich Larson, and Ann Leckie, to name a few.

This science fiction anthology will hit shelves on January 25th, 2020.

Triangulation: Energy

Triangulation is one of the oldest science fiction anthologies that I know of. They started publishing spec fic short stories in the early 2000s, and have kept up the yearly tradition ever since. Each issue has a specific theme, and for the past few years they’ve covered sustainability topics like light pollution, eco-friendly housing, and biodiversity.

This year’s anthology will feature stories about sustainable energy, and all that that encompasses.

While there isn’t an exact date for the anthology yet, they are usually released at the end of the summer.

Check out the interview we did with Diane Turnshek and John Thompson, the editors of the 2021 anthology, Triangulation: Habitats.

The Reinvented Heart

This anthology is edited by Cat Rambo and Jennifer Brozek, and seeks to explore emotional relationships in science fiction.

So much of sci fi is caught up in the physical tech, and often overlooks emotional responses to those same technologies. This science fiction anthology is filled with stories and poems about “how shifting technology may affect social attitudes and practices.”

The anthology features work from Jane Yolen, Seanan McGuire, Ana Maria Curtis, Aimee Ogden and more!

Watch out for this anthology on March 10th, 2022.

Orpheus + Eurydice Unbound

This speculative fiction anthology is expected to release in the summer of 2022 from Air and Nothingness Press.

The anthology will feature stories that re-imagine the Orpheus and Eurydice story from Greek mythology. The book will consist of four sections, with stories that fit each step of the mythological tale, including The Wedding, The Snake, The Quest, and The Look Back.

science fiction anthologies

The theme seems to be fairly narrow, but I have confidence that it will be an exception anthology. Air and Nothingness Press has a reputation for putting out great books, and this one should be no different.

Professor Feif’s Compleat Pocket Guide to Xenobiology for the Galactic Traveler on the Move

This one seems super fun! Dedicated to all flora and fauna of the alien worlds, as far flung as they may be, this anthology is bound to be filled with interesting stories of carnivorous plants, oozing goop, and other weird things.

This science fiction anthology from Jay Henge Publishing has yet to get a solid release date, but I assume it will appear sometime in 2022. Jay Henge has published numerous science fiction anthologies, including Sunshine Superhighway, Sensory Perceptions, and The Chorochronos Archives.

What sci fi anthologies are you excited for? Let us know in the comments below!

And if you’re looking for a New Year’s gift, nothing is better than a subscription to Galaxy’s Edge!

What’s Happened With The Wheel of Time Show?

For those of you that have been keeping up with The Wheel of Time show on Amazon Prime, there’s certainly a lot to unpack.

If you’re a fan of the books, you know that the last few episodes of the new fantasy TV series took a hard left from the source content.

In this article, we’ll break down the biggest departures from the story that we’ve seen in the first season of The Wheel of Time show, as well as predictions for the next installment.

(Spoilers ahead for The Eye of the World and the first season of The Wheel of Time TV show.)

Missing Characters

If you read our previous post on The Wheel of Time, we talked about how there are some characters missing from the first season of the show. And not like Tom Bombadil characters, like, really important characters.

Within the first few episodes, it becomes clear that the showrunners had to make certain choices to omit characters or alter their story arcs to fit into the 8-episode format.

To be fair, The Eye of the World is a big book, and Robert Jordan was notorious for adding plenty of new characters along the journey. Some of which aren’t as critical as others.

However, The Wheel of Time show has hopped and skipped over what should have been at least one episode’s worth of content.

the wheel of time show characters
Perrin, Egwene, Rand, and Nynaeve at Fal Dara

After the group separates at Shador Logoth, the doomed city, Rand and Mat travel to the city of Caemyln, having been saved from a Fade by Thom Merrilin.

In the city, we’re introduced to a number of important characters, including:

  • Elayne Trakand, heir to the kingdom of Andor
  • Gawyn Trakand, Elayne’s brother
  • Galad Damodred, half-brother to the Trakand, a strong warrior
  • Queen Morgase, Elayne and Gawyn’s mother, Queen of Andor
  • Elaida, an Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah, advisor to the throne of Andor
  • Gareth Bryne, Captain-General of the Queen’s Guard

Very early on in The Wheel of Time show, we’re introduced to the false Dragons, chief among them Logain Ablar. That storyline was altered because Rand and Mat actually meet Logain in Caemlyn, but in the show he’s gentled at about the midpoint and imprisoned in the White Tower.

The glossing over of Caemyln doesn’t bode well for the rest of the show. Elayne, Gawyn, and Galad are all crucial characters throughout the rest of the books, and Elaida is a long-standing Aes Sedai who becomes more important as revelations at the White Tower unfold.

Plus, we’re missing Elyas Machera, the wolf man who guides Perrin and Egwene to safety after Shadar Logoth. He is a vastly important catalyst for Perrin’s arc, which was woefully forgotten in the show.

What Happened at The Eye of The World?

It’s been some time since I read The Eye of the World, but one thing I never forgot was the importance of that titular element. In The Wheel of Time show, the Eye is portrayed as the Dark One’s prison, when in reality, it is a vault of sorts, as well as a well of untarnished power.

The Eye of the World contains one of the seals to the Dark One’s prison, the shiny stone Moiraine holds at the end of the last episode. It’s known as cuendillar and is extremely rare, coming from the Age of Legends, thousands of years before the show takes place.

Also in the vault are the Dragon Banner of Lews Therin Telamon, which was woefully absent in the show, and the Horn of Valere, which has mysteriously made its way into the throne room at Fal Dara.

Both of these items are of great importance later on in the series, as they call back to the ages past. Hopefully, the Horn of Valere, a major aspect of The Great Hunt, remains so in the show.

But after watching the season finale, you might be wondering, what actually happened at The Eye of the World? Is the Dark One dead? Where will Rand go? Has Moirainne actually been cut off from the One Power?

Let’s break it down:

In the book, the whole group travels to the Eye of the World, where they meet Someshta, essentially a mystic tree man guardian of the vault. The group is attacked by the servants of the Dark One, including the Forsaken Aginor, Balthamel, and Ishamael. (The Forsaken are the Dark One’s top followers, all of which are like semi-undead evil channelers).

the wheel of time show ishamael
Fares Fares as Ishamael

Rand uses the One Power to defeat Aginor, and harnesses the power of the Eye to thwart the trollocs and Ishamael, and that’s how Moirainne knows he’s the Dragon Reborn.

But, in The Wheel of Time show, that’s not what goes down.

Rand and Moirainne trek into the Blight, where Rand is confronted by who he thinks is the Dark One. And I hope you didn’t think that was the Dark One too, because you’d be wrong.

That mysterious dream man with the flaming eyes was Ba’alzamon, a disguise worn by Ishamael, the most powerful of the Forsaken. He attempts to trick Rand into freeing the Dark One from his prison, and is eventually blown away by Rand’s sheer power.

But, not before Ishamael seemingly stilled Moirainne. This is perhaps the biggest “oh-no” moment at the end of the series. Moirainne is not stilled in the books, and she continues to channel throughout the series, to critical effect. It’s unclear what the future holds for her, just as it’s unclear how the story will change now that Rand has set out on his own, presumably to travel to the Aiel Waste.

What’s Up Next for The Wheel of Time Show?

A lot of the setup needed for The Great Hunt, the next installment of the book series, was altered in The Wheel of Time show. Though, the Seanchan are revealed at the very end of the season finale, which does hint that they’ll play a part in the second season.

Is Loial dead? He certainly cannot be, because he, too, plays a big role later on. And what about Mat? Did Moirainne really set the Red Ajah on him? Will Egwene and Nynaeve return to Tar Valon to be trained as Aes Sedai?

the wheel of time show red ajah
Liandrin and other members of the Red Ajah

Only time will tell, but if the first season of The Wheel of Time show was any hint, I think fans of the books are in for a few frustrating years. The series has great production value and it’s great to see the books finally make it to the big screen, but adapting the first book in any series is always the foundation for the rest of the show.

I hope the showrunners can pull it off, because frankly, I’m a little worried. Glossing over so many important characters (like Elayne, who has a much larger role in the second book) and altering the timelines hasn’t given me confidence that the show will succeed.

But, for the time being, it’s something fun to watch, albeit sometimes infuriating, and I’m anxious to see where the series goes from here.

A Cyberpunk Short Story About Tequila, Candy, & Bar-fights

We usually don’t discuss a singular sci fi short story on Signals from the Edge just because they’re short, and we like to have a lot to talk about.

But that changes today, with a discussion of the cyberpunk short story “The Life Cycle of a Cyber-Bar” by Arthur Liu, published in Issue 12 of Future Science Fiction Digest. From the first few sentences, this story really caught my attention, not just as a quirky, fun story, but as an example of the evolution of cyberpunk as a genre.

Is Cyberpunk Dead?

In the past few weeks, there have been a lot of articles published online about the cyberpunk genre as a whole. Everyone from WIRED to Tor.com has written some kind of piece with their own take, and they pretty much all come to the same conclusion: the traditional cyberpunk genre is either dead or dying, and what’s coming out of the ashes is the new era of cyberpunk.

And for the most part, they’re right. The cyberpunk of forty years ago embodies a time of massive technological growth and rampant capitalistic greed. Computer tech was improving with every passing day, and wealth was amassed by a few as the rest struggled to keep up.

Those things made their way into cyberpunk literature, and paired with a keen sense of existential dread, the genre pinpointed the problems—and future problems—our society was faced with.

To a certain point, those principles still apply today. William Gibson’s warnings about artificial intelligence in Neuromancer are seen coming to fruition with the likes of GPT-3, and tech moguls are using Neal Stephenson’s metaverse ideas as a guidebook to create their own virtual reality societies.

But it begs the question: Where do we go from here? While our modern tech hasn’t quite caught up with that of traditional cyberpunk, we’re seeing more and more aspects of cyberpunk culture in our everyday lives. Fashion, video games, music, and most importantly, ideologies.

The cyberpunk of the 1980s is still relevant, but it’s nearing the end of the line. Soon, our tech will catch up, and we’ll have lived out the predictions of Gibson, Stephenson, and Sterling, and what comes after?

That’s where modern cyberpunk comes in. Enter stage right: “The Life Cycle of a Cyber-Bar”.

Don’t Drink the Tequila

In Arthur Liu’s cyberpunk short story, we see a sentient cyber-bar work toward it’s three great feats. Primary among these feats is to reproduce, which seems weird coming from a seedy bar, but bear with me.

Essentially, everything within the cyber-bar is part of a larger organism. The cups, the tequila, the ice, the floorboards—all of it is connected to the cyber-bar, either as “fluid discharged from the excretory system,” or a “hyperplastic growth”.

By the end of the story, we see the bar reach its goal, manipulating itself into flames where the smoke carries its spores deep into space, where it will travel on spaceships or asteroids to populate a new planet.

How is this cyberpunk? It seems like one of those weird sci fi short stories online that doesn’t fit into a sci fi subgenre.

There you’d be wrong.

The story gradually expands in scope. In the beginning, we see the customary cyberpunk characters enter the bar, the guys “all cast from the same mold: flattop haircut, tough, silent, smelling of cigarettes, with suspicious eyes and heads full of obsolete microchips.” This is an homage to traditional cyberpunk, the likes of Case and Hiro Protagonist.

But then we see the same situation plaid out in the eyes of the bartender, who knows the nature of the cyber-bar. She endures constant nights of bar fights and blood, her body shattered by bullet holes only to be repaired by the nanocells the cyber-bar gifted her. She notes to us readers that she plans on spending her whole life at the bar.

That’s the ideology. The notion that a company or entity will garner your loyalty by providing more than just a paycheck, like a body modification or a cure to an ailment.

And as the story continues, we see the deviation from the traditional cyberpunk themes.

Instead of focusing on hard-pressed, edgy characters with dark pasts and flawed morals, we see a whole new side of the genre: the structures. The cyber-bar is a big part of the genre, whether it’s a popular hang out for the tech-gangsters, or where the protagonist goes to drown their sorrows.

What Makes the Cyber-Bar Special?

Aside from the sentient nature of Liu’s cyber-bar, there’s something underneath all the biological process talk that speaks to the genre as a whole.

The idea that the cyber-bar is a growing, thinking, planning, and evolving creature might be seen as a metaphor for the cyberpunk genre.

We start off with a single cyber-bar, which to an untrained eye resembles any other bar. But, when the bar turns into a candy house and mutates those who consume it, we get a second cyber-bar, directly across the street from the original.

It’s noted that the secondary cyber-bar is a facsimile of the original, which is a commentary on the state of cyberpunk. The themes of the genre are so potent and cliché at this point, that generally, any two works in the cyberpunk genre, when broken down, are the same.

Two bars equate then to two cyberpunk novels (or any medium, really, video games, films, etc.), the same in every way.

And when the cyber-bar finally reaches space, it has ascended (literally). It represents the rebirth of the genre. We move from the dirty streets flooded with neon lights to a new frontier, where sentient cyber-bars are the norm.

Liu’s poignant take on cyberpunk gives me hope for the future of the genre. He’s right that a lot of the current cyberpunk short stories, novels, movies, and games are deep down copies of traditional cyberpunk from years past.

But this new cyberpunk doesn’t do away with the economic struggles and “high-tech, low-life” mantra, instead it shifts the focus from the replayed characters and conflicts, showing us aspects of the world we have yet to explore.

Where 2021 was full of great sci fi short stories, “The Life Cycle of a Cyber-Bar” stands out as a cry for support, a new cyberpunk manifesto.

What do you think? Is cyberpunk bound for extinction, or are we witnessing the revival of the genre? Let us know in the comments below!

If you’re looking for more great sci fi short stories, consider subscribing to Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, where we publish work from new and experienced authors alike, six times a year.

Classic Sci Fi Book Covers That Made The Genre

As someone who has a keen appreciation of old art, I find that many of today’s sci fi book covers lack a certain luster. In the course of forty or fifty years, we’ve moved away from book covers of full illustrations, painstakingly painted by hands by leading artists in the genre. Today, most sci fi book covers have an abstract quality that doesn’t say much about the book.

I know the adage, of course: “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” And yeah, for the most part that’s true. But as attention spans decrease and the flashy effects of TV and video games influence our tastes in science fiction art, book covers had to adapt to draw in new readers. Where there were once detailed oil paintings, there are now abstract, digital designs.

In this article, I want to showcase some of the classic sci fi book covers that helped defined the genre and influenced not just future art, but writing as well.

Darrell K. Sweet’s Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein

Darrell K. Sweet is a big name when it comes to sci fi and fantasy illustration. He’s best known for his fantasy book covers for The Wheel of Time, The Lord of the Rings, and The Shannara Chronicles.

His grasp of fantasy concepts is really quite spectacular. As a kid, rummaging through library book sales and second-hand bookstore shelves, his art stuck out to me as an embodiment of the books themselves. His portrayals of Rand al’Thor, Gandalf, and the Eagles inspired me to not only read those books, but to explore his art as well.

classic sci fi book covers red planet

Aside from fantasy masterpieces, Sweet was also known for his covers of Heinlein novels. While simple, the cover for the 1981 edition of Red Planet perfectly embodies the sci fi feel of Mars, while not being so weird it’s inaccessible.

The image of a massive Martian monster striding through a marsh of big frond leaves is serene, isn’t it?

Frank Frazetta’s The Moon Trilogy by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Frank Frazetta has a very specific style, and he’s gained renown for his work on Conan and Tarzan novels. He pits the classic, muscular heroes against hideous monsters with malicious eyes and sharp teeth.

He did a set of covers for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Moon Trilogy, which was originally serialized in Argosy magazine from 1923 to 1925. Later, the series was reprinted in a few different editions, and Franzetta did the cover art for the 1978 reprint.

The art for The Moon Men, specifically, gives me a Hercules vibe, crossed with the scene from Star Wars where Luke is facing off against the Rankor. Frazetta does a great job of portraying conflict, and as I looked into more of his work, he has a keen sense of contrast. A lot of his paintings and classic sci fi book covers have a clear delineation from dark to light, making them super interesting.

Chris Foss’ Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov

The Foundation series is one of Asimov’s best works, and it was recently adapted for television. But, before it came to Apple TV, it had a lot of different imagery associated with it.

The series has been reprinted multiple times, but the edition that sticks out to me is the 1976 reprint with covers by Chris Foss.

classic sci fi book covers chris foss

Foss’ paintings usually focus on mechanical things, like spaceships, vehicles, or robots. He’s done designs from the Dune universe, as well as other military science fiction books.

Perhaps the most intriguing part about his illustrations for the 1976 Foundation books is the simplicity of them. The covers place an immense focus on the space ships, which perfectly reflect light and seem almost like a photograph. And the background is almost pure blue, presenting an interesting contrast between the hard light of the ships in the foreground.

Bruce Pennington’s Out of their Minds by Clifford D. Simak

Bruce Pennington is one of those sci fi illustrators that took their game to the next level. He’s worked on over 200 book covers for big-name writers, including Asimov, Heinlein, Aldiss, and Herbert.

However, the classic sci fi book cover that stuck out to me was for the 1973 edition of Clifford D. Simak’s Out of Their Minds.

Now, I’ve never read this book before, but I really want to. The cover Pennington did is fantastic. It’s weird, bright, and unforgettable. It features a huge tower/tree that resembles a brain, set against a barren landscape. It’s eerie. The truck is made of vertebra, and the rocks on the ground resemble molars.

I think this is a great example of how science fiction book covers can entice readers to pick up the book and give it a shot. All the other editions of Simak’s novel don’t stand out to me, but Pennington’s sparks a keen interest in what inspired the art.

At the end of the day, all I wanted to do with this article was talk about some vintage sci fi book covers that stand out more than some modern book covers ever could. I think the golden age of science fiction had a lot of problems – racism, sexism, imperialism, etc.—but it certainly had fantastic art.

What are some classic sci fi book covers that your really love? Let us know in the comments below!