Five Stories About Generation Ships With Happy(ish) Endings

We’ve all read about it: after decades of construction, a shiny new generation ship is loaded with a crew of bright-eyed optimists. Once the sun is just another bright star in the sky, mutiny and civil war reduce the crew to ignorant peasants…unless something worse happens. This is a narrative pattern set as early as Murray Leinster’s 1935 “Proxima Centauri,” solidified by Heinlein’s 1941 “Universe,” and embraced by authors ever since: human foibles in the confined space of a generation ship ensure calamity. Ideally not of the sort that leave everyone too dead to be interesting.

But it does not have to go that way! Here are five examples of generation ships that managed to avoid mutiny, civil war, barbarism, and mass cannibalism.

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The Deplorable Word: Power, Magicians, and Evil in C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew

C.S. Lewis didn’t care for magicians.

In fact, as Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man, he saw the core problem that magicians were trying to solve one that was at best distasteful, and at worst something that led to actions “disgusting and impious.” That core problem: “how to subdue reality to the wishes of men.” (We won’t get into this much yet, but he saw magicians and scientists as related in this sense…something we will discuss more when we get to the Space Trilogy.)

For the “wise men of old” the core question of the universe was “how to conform the soul to reality,” but for magicians the question was how to bend Nature to one’s own desires (or, at best, humanity’s desires). “It is the magician’s bargain: give up your soul, get power in return.” The process was clear: the magician “surrenders object after object, and finally himself, to Nature in return for power.”

Where the wise sages of old bent their soul to reality using “knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue,” the magician embraces a core selfishness, a willingness to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to attain greater power.

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Series: The Great C.S. Lewis Reread

Her Suitcase Full of Ectoplasm: The Haunting of Hill House (Part 8)

Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftiana—from its historical roots through its most recent branches.

This week, we continue with Chapter 7 of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, first published in 1959. Spoilers ahead.

[“The spirits dwelling in this house may be actually suffering because they are aware that you are afraid of them.”]

Series: Reading the Weird

Snowpiercer Is Getting an Express Ticket to a Third Season

The mighty train will keep on rolling next year. TNT has confirmed that it has ordered a third season for its hit sci-fi show Snowpiercer.  Since the series is being renewed for another go around the icy tracks before season two has premiered, it sounds like the showrunners have more stories to tell even after we see the fallout from season one’s wild twist ending. (Spoilers below the cut.)

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A Human-Free Earth: Andre Norton’s Breed to Come

Breed to Come is one of Norton’s better-loved books. It was published in the early Seventies, shortly before what is effectively a companion volume (and was packaged so in Baen Books’ ebook revival of Norton’s works), Iron Cage. Whereas Iron Cage frames itself as a human variation on a cat locked in a cage and dumped out of a car, with aliens as the villains who cage the humans, Breed to Come tells the story of an Earth abandoned by humans and inhabited by intelligent animals.

The primary protagonist is Furtig, a mutated cat who lives in a colony related to a famous explorer and leader, Gammage. The People, as they call themselves, have evolved somewhat functional hands—at the cost of their ancestral claws—and the ability to walk upright as well as on all fours. They coexist more or less peacefully with mutated pigs, have an adversarial relationship with local tribes of mutated dogs, and open enmity with the mutated rats who infest the ruined cities of the Demons.

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Life, Death, and Coming of Age in Nnedi Okorafor’s Remote Control

This is the story of Sankofa and how she came to be—an icon, a feared pseudo-spirit, and a many-faceted metaphor. Nnedi Okorafor’s latest novella, Remote Control, is the melancholy tale of Sankofa’s search for peace and closure as she evolves into something far beyond an adolescent girl. Set in a futuristic Africa, autonomous machines, drones, and robots exist side by side with long-held cultural and spiritual beliefs—witchcraft is alive and well in the future, as it will be as long as the human imagination endures. It’s a classic coming-of-age story where a young protagonist endures personal devastation, only to adapt and grow into her own skin.

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Night”

“Night”
Written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by David Livingston
Season 5, Episode 1
Production episode 195
Original air date: October 14, 1998
Stardate: 52081.2

Captain’s log. Paris and Kim are acting out a Captain Proton adventure on the holodeck, which is interrupted by the EMH, who declares that they’ve gone over their allotted time, which leads to a fight between Paris and the doctor for time, and then a power surge on the holodeck.

[“What if I told you I’m not leaving until you join me?” “I’d say have a seat—it’ll be a while.”]

Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

A Glittering Caper: The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick

M.A. Carrick is an open pseudonym for writing team Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms. Brennan’s track record needs scant introduction, with twelve books to her name—including, mostly recently, the acclaimed Memoirs of Lady Trent series and its spin-off sequel Turning Darkness into Light. Helms is perhaps less well known, though they have previously published two solo novels, 2015’s The Dragons of Heaven and 2016’s The Conclave of Shadows.

The Mask of Mirrors is the first novel to come jointly from their pens, and it reminds me strikingly of the Astreiant novels of Melissa Scott and the late Lisa A. Barnett’s Astreiant novels, albeit more in worldbuilding and tone than in characters and concerns.

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Six Stories for Fans of Beautiful Australian Gothic

Like most Gothics, the Australian Gothic has acquired its own distinct aesthetic—most frequently, an abject unpleasantness and atmosphere of sand-scoured horror. Personally, I’d like to blame both Evil Angels (aka A Cry in the Dark) and Gary Crew’s memorably effective Strange Objects (1990) for many of my own nightmares.

It is also, like most Gothics, tangled up with the genre’s own past, and inextricably knotted into colonial and imperial histories as well as the multitude of other mirrored and recurring histories typical of a Gothic plot. And Australia has a bloody history, with terrible things done and still being done. Yet there are also stories which, without shying away from terrors (although not necessarily innately any better at handling the true history than other varieties of Australian Gothic), manage in a variety of fascinating ways to capture a sense of great (even sublime, often terrifying, never false) beauty.

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Series: Five Books About…

Reading The Wheel of Time: Spying and Secrets of Tel’aran’rhiod in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 16)

This week in Reading the Wheel of Time, we’ll be covering Chapters 24 and 25. Egwene discovers Nynaeve and Elayne’s secret, we learn a little more about how Tel’aran’rhiod works, and find out that Moghedien, unsurprisingly, is as close as we feared.

But first, let’s recap!

[We keep secrets too often, Egwene, but sometimes there is a reason.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

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