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

 

Life Elsewhere (Plausible Examples)

Anderson, Kevin & Beason, Doug "Reflections in a Magnetic Mirror" in Full Spectrum, ed. L. Aronica & S. McCarthy (1988, Bantam). A plasma physicist and science writer explore a life-form that can exist within plasma anomalies, but on a different time-scale.

Baxter, Stephen "Cilia-of-Gold" in Dozois, W. & Williams, S., eds. Isaac Asimov’s Solar System. 1999, Ace (and in Vacuum Diagrams, 1997, Harper Prism). Suggests a very clever ancient form of life that adapted (after crashing there) to live on Mercury.

Baxter, Stephen "Sunpeople" in Vacuum Diagrams. 1997, Harper Prism. A human expedition on a Kuiper Belt object finds a life-form made of ice with liquid helium for circulation.

Baxter, Stephen "Gossamer" in Vacuum Diagrams. 1997, HarperCollins. Suggests a life form that can thrive on and go between Pluto and Charon at perihelion.

Benford, Gregory In the Oceans of Night. 1977, Dell. Physicist Benford postulates a universe in which advanced machine intelligences confront (and often overwhelm) organic life.  The story continues in Across the Sea of Suns (1984, Bantam) and in his novels that take place at the galactic center (Great Sky River, 1987, Bantam; Tides of Light, 1989, Bantam; Furious Gulf; 1994, Bantam; Sailing Bright Eternity, 1995, Bantam.)

Benford, Gregory "Dance to Strange Musics" in Year’s Best Science Fiction 4, ed. David Hartwell. 1999, Eos/HarperCollins. First expedition to Alpha Centauri finds a planet-wide, collective life form that takes energy from pizo-electric effects enhanced by tidal stresses.

Clement, Hal Mission of Gravity. 1962, Pyramid.  Life on a massive, rapidly rotating planet.  Clement is a high-school science teacher. (A new edition of all his stories about this planet was issued in 2002 by TOR, under the title Heavy Planet.)

Clement, Hal "Uncommon Sense" in Space Lash. 1966, Dell.  About life‑forms with liquid metal blood that "see" by smell.

Crichton, Michael The Andromeda Strain. 1969, Dell. Doctors & scientists battle an extra-terrestrial microorganism; by a doctor.

Hoyle, Fred The Black Cloud. 1957, Signet. Intelligence develops in interstellar dust clouds which can move from star to star.

LeGuin, Ursula The Left Hand of Darkness. 1969, Ace. Award-winning story of contact with aliens who are alternately one sex and then the other.

Reynolds, Alastair Pushing Ice. 2005, Ace. Complex novel that includes a huge interstellar zoo that captures intelligent species; describes several intriguing alien races. The zoo, the story, suggests exists because its ancient builders, finding intelligent life rare and fragile, wanted to find an artificial way of bringing civilizations together.

Sawyer, Robert Calculating God. 2000, Tor. Suggests that most alien species will choose to upload themselves into a computer reality rather than deal with their own hostility and the isolation of the universe.

Sawyer, Robert Illegal Alien. 1997, Ace. Aliens with quadrilateral symmetry and the ability to hibernate for very long times come to Earth, to wipe out any threat to them while they sleep for 400,000 years.

Sheckley, Robert "Specialist" in Keyes, N., ed. Contact. 1963, Paperback Library. Proposes the idea that life in the universe is all specialized by function, except on Earth.

Sheffield, Charles Between the Strokes of Night. 1985, Baen Books. Proposes a life-form that can thrive in intergalactic space.

Stewart, Ian & Cohen, Jack Wheelers. 2000, Aspect/Warner. A mathematician and a biologist have written a novel that suggests an intelligent life form that can live in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Swanwick, Michael "Slow Life" in Hartwell, D, ed. Best SF 8. 2003, Eos. Suggests a form of life that can survive deep under Titan’s seas.

Tiptree, James "Love is the Plan the Plan is Death" in Goldin, Stephen, ed. The Alien Condition. 1973, Ballantine. Haunting, complex story of a truly alien life‑form.

Varley, John The Ophiuchi Hotline. 1977, Dell. Ambitious novel about interstellar communication and the idea of a struggle between life-forms that develop on terrestrial and jovian planets throughout the universe. 

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Light and Radiation

Bester, Alfred "The Pi Man" in Star Light, Star Bright. 1976, Berkley/Putnam. Story of a man sensitive to many bands of the electro-magnetic spectrum (and much more); not very scientific, but can help students see how lucky we are that our senses filter out so much information.

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Mars

Aldiss, Brian "The Difficulties Involved in Photographing Nix Olympica" in Dozois, Gardner & Williams, Sheila, eds. Isaac Asimov’s Solar System. 1999, Ace.  A poignant little story about a future army sergeant who longs to take Ansel Adams-like photos of Olympus Mons.

Anderson, Kevin Climbing Olympus. 1994, Warner Books. A novel about Mars in the midst of being terraformed.

Bova, Ben "Olympus Mons" in Hartwell, David & Cramer, Kathryn, eds. The Hard SF Renaissance. 2002, Orb/TOR. Astronauts explore the caldera of the giant volcano and make a surprising discovery about microscopic life on Mars. Has lots of realistic detail.

Bova, Ben Mars. 1993, Bantam. Features scientifically realistic Mars exploration.

Hartmann, William Mars Underground. 1997, TOR Books.  Exploration of Mars in the next century, by a noted planetary astronomer.

Hipolito, Jane & McNelly, Willis, eds. Mars, We Love You. 1971, Pyramid. Eclectic collection of fiction & nonfiction about Mars, some based on current science, some not.

Landis, Geoffrey Mars Crossing. 2000, Tor Books. A trek across the martian surface, written by a NASA scientist.

Pesek, Ludek The Earth is Near. 1970, Dell. About a realistic expedition to Mars and the problems they face.

Pohl, Fred Man Plus. 1976, Bantam. Humans biologically engineered to survive on Mars.

Pohl, Fred Mining the Oort. 1992, Ballantine. The Oort cloud of comets is mined for material to terraform Mars.

Reynolds, Alastair "Angel of Ashes" in Zima Blue and Other Stories. 2006, Night Shade Press. A terraformed Mars with an atmosphere is the setting for a novel about a religion based on a supernova and a neutron star.

Robinson, Kim Red Mars. 1992, Bantam. Green Mars. 1993, Bantam. Blue Mars. 1995, Bantam. Complex story involving a Mars of the future which is being made ready for increased human habitation.

Sparhawk, Bud "Olympus Mons" in Dancing with Dragons. 2001, Wildside Press. About a race down the flanks of the giant martian volcano.

Varley, John "In the Hall of the Mountain King" in The Persistence of Vision. 1978, Dell. Ingenious story about Mars adapting to Earth colonists.

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Mercury

Anderson, Poul "Life Cycle" in Silverberg, Robert, ed. Earthmen and Other Strangers. 1966, Manor Books. Suggestion of a lifeform that can survive on Mercury.

Baxter, Stephen "Cilia-of-Gold" in Dozois, Gardner & Williams, Sheila, eds. Isaac Asimov’s Solar System. 1999, Ace. Suggests a very clever ancient form of life that adapted (after crashing there) to live on Mercury. (Also appears in Baxter’s Vacuum Diagrams. 1997, Harper Prism.)

Varley, John "Retrograde Summer" in The Persistence of Vision. 1978, Dell. Life on Mercury in an era of easy biological engineering.

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