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10 Golden Age science fiction novels
Transport yourself to other worlds and states of mind.
- The early 20th century saw explosive growth for the science fiction genre.
- A wide range of these books would go on to become classics.
- These great works explore the strange, zany and absurd profundities of our existence.
The first Golden Age of Science Fiction was officially considered to be from 1938 to 1946. As a whole and how most readers view it — the era extended into the early- to mid-1960s. From Jules Verne to earlier proto-science fiction works, the genre has gained more prominence and significance as the years go by. Preceded over by the "big three," Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein, this unique Golden Age era produced some of the greatest works of literary art in the past century.
The Martian Chronicles
The Martian Chronicles is a collection of short stories which unfold in an episodic narrative as its characters attempt to colonize Mars. It is both a thrilling story and social philosophical critique on the subject of destructive colonization. Literary critics credit Ray Bradbury's sequence of stories as the catalyst for the genres eventual widespread acceptance and success.
Asimov's loosely tied together set of short stories documents a world filled with robots and exceptional technological progress. The robots act as a great foil and transference of some regular old philosophical and societal human problems. Each story exemplifies a different aspect of life drastically changed by the introduction of a robotic artificial intelligence.
The famous Three Laws of Robotics first showed up Asimov's 1942 story Runaround. Throughout the sophisticated plotlines of Asimov's stories, he contends with the logical outcomes and paradoxes inherent in his own laws he made up.
There has been so much said about 1984. As far as classics go, it's relatively new to the pantheon of literary greats. Dystopian oeuvre, George Orwell's novel is a timeless critique on the menace of faceless bureaucracies and weak minds that fall prey to historical negationism. Deception, lust and existential dread seep from each page. With words like Orwellian becoming a stand in for governmental deception and thoughtcrime and Big Brother entering the cultural vernacular, this book has left its mark for the best.
Not usually thought of as a science fiction novel, William Burroughs avant-garde Dadaist cut up technique inspired a countless number of artists in a number of disciplines. Following the travels of William Lee, a drug addict as he flees from the police to Mexico — this novel swerves into the unknown and downright fantastical. Fictional insect drugs, aliens, telepathy and hallucinations at every turn in this non-linear narrative leave you gasping for air. All sorts of depravity and sadistic acts are up for display in this novel. A banned book in some states, it went on to also test the standards of obscenity in literature.
A Canticle for Leibowitz
A Canticle for Leibowitz has a unique setup. Alluded to be a post-World War III, apocalyptic and radiation-laden American setting, civilization is on the peripheries of existence and has reverted to a near primitive state. The only humans concerned with upholding the past is a small scattering of monastic clergy. The book follows along the happenings of one such monastery over the course of hundreds of years. It's a thoughtful and bone-chilling meditation on the perils of nuclear destruction.
Stranger in a Strange Land
Writing at the forefront and dawn of the far-out '60s, it seems like Robert Heinlein had the prophetic foresight to usher in an entire generations new hedonistic exploration. The book follows Valentine Michael Smith, a human once stranded on Mars raised by god-like Martians and his return to earth. He is gifted with telekinetic powers. The story follows his journey into the strange labyrinth of human Earth culture.
Here he meets Jubal Harshaw — philosopher polymath and Renaissance Man extraordinaire — as in many of Heinlein's novels, these sorts of characters are indicative of the way he viewed himself. Smith goes on to lead a commune of free love and general hippie-like existence. It's of note to say that this was the first science fiction novel of its kind to be placed on The New York Times Book Review's bestsellers list.
A Clockwork Orange
Written in a number of different dialects both real and fictional, A Clockwork Orange follows a young hoodlum living in a near futuristic London. Readers are taken on a journey as Alex causes mayhem with his droogs in an ol' bit of the ultraviolence. While he's not out causing chaos, he revels in the sheer gorgeousity of Beethoven's Fifth. After being sent to prison, he signs himself up to take the Ludovico Technique, an aversion therapy proposed to end his malcontent and malevolent ways. Most readers will recall the equally compelling movie of the same name made by Stanley Kubrick in 1971.
Kurt Vonnegut once remarked that Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End was one of the masterpieces of the science fiction genre. This is no hyperbolic statement. Childhood's End largely defined the major underpinnings of a great deal of science fiction works. Clarke has given us a rare masterpiece in this book. Transcendence, philosophy and a good benevolent alien invasion makes this book not only an accomplishment for its time, but for the science fiction literary canon in general.
Time out of Joint
Philip K. Dick's Time Out of Joint stands out as a seminal and shifting work for PKD. After an odd string of events occurs, the book's Ragle Gumm begins to question the validity of his reality. As a family member begins to see the same strange perturbations of reality, Gumm decides it's time to skip town. After a number of strange occurrences that trap him in town, he decides its time to investigate a little bit further. This book was a huge influence on movies such as The Truman Show and The Matrix.
The Sirens of Titan
Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan is one of his more lesser known works. It follows Malachi Constant as he ventures through the peculiarities of all time and space. Rather that positioning his character as a triumphant driver of the story, Vonnegut comically labels Malachi as "... a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all." The plot twists and turns in absurd ways but turns out to be a profound and visionary meditation on a great deal of issues.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
We’ve mapped a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Take the virtual tour here.
See the most detailed survey of the southern sky ever carried out using radio waves.
Astronomers have mapped about a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way, in the most detailed survey of the southern sky ever carried out using radio waves.
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.
Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.