I know economics isn’t the first thing to spring to mind for most people when reading a science fiction classic, but bear with me anyway. Something stood out to me in the light of Austrian economics while reading Ringworld. Something that I consider a huge credit to Larry Niven for believable world-building. It has to do with the Pierson’s Puppeteers and how they handle their immortality. If you haven’t read the book, I’ll try to explain the Puppeteers without spoiling the story.
This is another Hugo and Nebula award winner, a story of interstellar war by Vietnam veteran Joe Haldeman. It’s no secret that The Forever War is a spiritual retelling of Haldeman’s experiences in Vietnam, although I have apparently been living under a rock and hadn’t known this when I picked the book up. Its connection to Vietnam is palpable for anyone even somewhat familiar with the history of that war, or even just the experiences of American veterans.
I recently finished reading Gateway by Frederik Pohl, and its sequels. I was immediately swept into the sequels, because Pohl uses a tactic Ben Bova would later articulate in Writing Science Fiction that Sells. Pohl set up a grand question that the story gradually answers. I’m a sucker for this formula. Every Asimov book I’ve read has done it, and Clarke was a master at it. In Gateway, human explorers had stumbled upon an asteroid filled with abandoned, ancient starships.
Prose changes over time. Popular fiction has always been influenced by other popular forms. Early novels borrowed structure from the epics and plays that came before, and some of those techniques still persist in the books and movies of today. For better or worse, as attention spans for the written word have gradually shortened, it only makes sense to see fiction fitting itself into the abbreviated forms we’ve grown accustomed to in the age of the tweet.
One can’t read Neuromancer today without noticing the strong influence it had on the writer(s) of The Matrix. Not only in terminology, but in the aesthetics of the story’s world. The universe of Neuromancer is not quite dystopian, but it is a world where technology, biological life, and artificial intelligences jumble together in an existence rife with conflict and death. As the novel that practically invented the cyberpunk genre, this should be no surprise.