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Science Fiction Stories with Good Astronomy & Physics: A Topical Index

 
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A Listing Compiled by Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College)
Version 5.2; January 2012

© copyright 2012 Andrew Fraknoi (e-mail: fraknoiandrew {at} fhda.edu) All rights reserved.

This is a selective list of some short stories and novels that use more or less accurate science and can be used for teaching or reinforcing astronomy or physics concepts. I include both traditional "science-fiction" and (occasionally) more serious fiction that derives meaning or plot from astronomy or physics ideas. The titles of short stories are given in quotation marks; only short stories that have been published in book form or are available free on the Web are included. While one book source is given for each short story, note that some of the stories can be found in other collections as well. (See the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, cited at the end, for an easy way to find all the places a particular story has been published.) The author welcomes suggestions for additions to this list, especially if your favorite story with good science is left out.

TOPICS:

Anti-matter
Archaeoastronomy
Asteroids
Astronomers
Black Holes
Comets
Cosmology (The Universe as a Whole)
Dark Matter
Galaxies
Galaxy (The Milky Way)
Gravitational Lenses
Impacts (of Asteroids & Comets)
Jupiter (and its Satellites)
Life Elsewhere (Plausible Examples)
Light and Radiation
Mars
Mercury
Meteorites
Moon, The
Neptune (and its Satellites)
Neutrinos
Neutron Stars
Physics, Particle
Pluto
Quantum Mechanics
Quasars
Relativity (Special Theory of)
Saturn (and its Satellites)
Science in General
SETI: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Solar System: General
Space Travel
Star Clusters
Stars
Sun
Supernovae
Telescopes
Thermodynamics
Time
Uranus (and its Satellites)
Venus
A Few Short Story Collections with Good Science
Some Useful Web Sites

Anti-matter

Davies, Paul Fireball. 1987, Heinemann. Antimatter micrometeorites threaten Earth.

Niven, Larry "Flatlander" in Neutron Star. 1968, Ballantine. Two explorers find a high-speed protostar and a planet made of antimatter, passing through the Galaxy.

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Archaeoastronomy

Harrison, Harry & Stover, Leon Stonehenge. 1972, Scribners. A novel by a science fiction writer and an anthropologist.

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Asteroids

Baxter, Stephen "Pilot" in Vacuum Diagrams. 1997, Harper Prism.  Future space travelers hollow out Chiron and use it as a spaceship to escape invading aliens.

Clarke, Arthur "Summertime on Icarus" in The Nine Billion Names of God. 1967, Signet. An astronaut is stranded on Icarus, the asteroid with the smallest perihelion distance, just as it is approaching the Sun.

Hoyle, Fred "Element 79" in Element 79. 1967, New American Library. An asteroid with significant amount of gold wreaks havoc with the Earth's economy.

Preuss, Paul "Small Bodies" in Preiss, Byron, ed. The Planets. 1985, Bantam. A fundamentalist preacher and a scientist find fossils on an asteroid.

See also under "Impacts"

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Astronomers

Banville, John Doctor Copernicus.  1976, Godine. A fictionalized biography of the astronomer.

Banville, John Kepler: A Novel. 1981, Godine. Fictionalization of Kepler's life.

Benford, Gregory “Bow Shock” in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: 24th Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois, ed. (2007, St. Martin’s).  A story set at the University of California, Irvine, which shows the daily life of an academic astronomer who eventually makes a startling discovery.

Benford, Gregory Timescape. 1981, Bantam Spectra. Eater. 2000, Eos/HarperCollins. Many of the novels of physicist Benford portray what it is like to be a scientist. In these two books, some of the astronomer characters are based on real astronomers.

Bezzi, Tom Hubble Time. 1987, Mercury House. A fictional memoir of Hubble's life; gets some of the facts wrong, but an intriguing effort.

Brecht, Bertold Galileo. A 1938 stage play available alone (Grove Press) or in many collections; not historically accurate, but with strong political points to make.

McDevitt, Jack & Shara, Michael "Lighthouse" in Cryptic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt. (2009, Subterranean Press) [also on the web at: http://www.webscription.net/chapters/1596061958/1596061958___8.htm] A story about astronomical discovery told within the frame of a thesis defense colloquium; what it would be like if an astronomer discovered the existence of intelligent life out there by means of modifications they made to astronomical objects.

Stover, Barrie Lamp at Midnight. 1966, Bantam Books. Revised edition of a 1942 play about Galileo and his conflict with the Church.

Willis, Connie "Schwarzschild Radius" in Preiss, Byron & Fraknoi, Andrew, eds. The Universe. 1987, Bantam. Haunting story combines episodes from the life of Karl Schwarzschild and black hole images.

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