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


Star Clusters

Anderson, P. "Starfog" in Beyond the Beyond. 1969, Signet. What life might be like in the middle of dense star cluster.

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Asimov, Isaac "Nightfall" in Nightfall & Other Stories. 1969, Fawcett. On a planet in a multiple star system, night comes only once every 2000 years.

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 electric effects caused by the nature of the star system.

Hoyle, Fred Ossian's Ride. 1959, Harper. Aliens come to Earth fleeing the disaster of their star having become a red giant.

McAuley, Paul "Rats of the System" in Crowther, Peter, ed. Constellations. (2005, DAW). Enigmatic advanced artificial intelligences dismantle and alter binary star systems with white dwarfs in them.

McDevitt, Jack & Shara, Michael "Lighthouse" in Cryptic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt. (2009, Subterranean Press) [also on the web at:] A deep survey of brown dwarfs (failed stars) reveals a large number whose composition defies all the rules of how stars work. They turn out to be artificial markers around single black holes that would have been a danger to travelers in the Galaxy. Shara is an astronomer.

Niven, Larry "Flare Time" in Limits. 1984, Ballantine. Life on a planet in a binary star system with a flare star.

Niven, Larry Ringworld. 1970, Ballantine. In this complex novel featuring an adaptation of a Dyson sphere, one element of the plot hinges on the motivations of a race of cowardly aliens whose star had earlier become a red giant.

Sawyer, Robert Illegal Alien. 1997, Ace. An alien race on a planet around Alpha Centauri A has to deal with a gravitational interaction among the three stars in the system that hands their planet off to a dimmer star.

See also: "Star Clusters", "Supernovae", "Neutron Stars", "Black Holes"

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Sun, The

Benford, Gregory & Eklund, Gordon If the Stars Are Gods. 1977, Berkley. Proposes that the Sun might have an intelligence within.

Brin, David Sundiver. 1980, Bantam. Involves a trip into the Sun. Brin has a PhD in astrophysics.

Clarke, Arthur "The Wind from the Sun" in The Wind from the Sun. 1973, Signet. About the effect of a solar flare on a solar wind "sailing race" of the future.

Clayton, Donald The Joshua Factor. 1986, Texas Monthly Press. A novel by an astronomer involving intrigue and neutrinos from the Sun. 

Clement, Hal "Proof" in Asimov, Isaac, ed. Where Do We Go from Here? 1971, Fawcett. About possible life-forms within the Sun.

Niven, Larry "Inconstant Moon" in All The Myriad Ways. 1971, Ballantine. A giant flare on the Sun wreaks havoc with civilization.

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Supernovae (Exploding Stars)

Allen, Roger & Kotani, Eric Supernova. 1991, Avon. An exploding star threatens the Earth.  (Kotani is the pen-name of a NASA astrophysicist; this book is the only science fiction story I have seen which actually features an H-R diagram.)

Anderson, Poul "Day of Burning" in Beyond the Beyond. 1969, Signet. An advanced race tries to mobilize the still feudal inhabitants of a planet whose star is about to go supernova.

Clarke, Arthur "The Star" in The Nine Billion Names of God. 1967, Signet. Classic story about a supernova that becomes the star of Bethlehem.

Cowper, Richard The Twilight of Briarius. 1974, John Day. An alien intelligence rides the shock wave of a supernova explosion to Earth.

Latner, Alexis "Listening Glass" in Brotherton, M. Diamonds in the Sky. 2009, on the web at: [] A supernova goes off in a nearby galaxy, and the star that explodes happens to orbit a fast-pulsing pulsar.

Reynolds, Alastair "Angel of Ashes" in Zima Blue and Other Stories. 2006, Night Shade Press. A nearby supernova that was just asymmetric enough to miss the inner solar system and spare life on Earth becomes the basis of a new religion.

Sawyer, Robert Calculating God. 2000, Tor. The star Betelgeuse goes supernova, apparently through the actions of an advanced race of beings, and threatens the Earth.

Sheffield, Charles Aftermath. 1998, Bantam. Alpha Centauri A goes supernova, even though that kind of star is not supposed to. But the book has a good description of how the electro-magnetic pulse from the explosion wreaks havoc with modern civilization, especially computer chips. Written by a scientist. (A sequel, called Starfire, was published by Bantam in 1999.)

Silverberg, Robert "The Iron Star" in Preiss, Byron & Fraknoi, Andrew, eds. The Universe. 1987, Bantam. Involves two supernova explosions, a neutron star, and a black hole.

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Brett, Alex Cold Dark Matter. 2005, Dundurn. A mystery novel whose plot turns on astronomical research; much of it takes place at the Mauna Kea observatories.

Ehrlich, Max The Big Eye. 1949, Doubleday. Parts of this early novel about the threat of the end of the world from a planetary collision take place at the Palomar observatory; written just after the 5-meter (200-inch) telescope was finished.

Latner, Alexis "Listening Glass" in Brotherton, M. Diamonds in the Sky. 2009, on the web at: [] A radio telescope on the Moon is damaged and then repaired in time to observe radio waves from a supernova.

Landis, Geoffrey "Impact Parameter" in Impact Parameter. 2001, Golden Gryphon. Orbiting telescopes in the near future discover that a group of stars are out of place.  Nice descriptions of how astronomy is done.

McDevitt, Jack & Shara, Michael "Lighthouse" in Cryptic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt. (2009, Subterranean Press) [also on the web at:] Fascinating story of future astronomical discovery using new kinds of telescopes in space and a space elevator to get to them. Shara is an astronomer.

Sagan, Carl Cosmos. 1985, Simon & Schuster. Realistic portrayal of radio telescopes is one highlight of this novel written by an astronomer.

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Chiang, Ted "Exhalation" in Hartwell, D. & Cramer, K., eds. Year's Best SF 14. 2009, Eos. A wonderful parable about the second law of thermodynamics, expressed in terms of changes in air pressure in a closed-system world inhabited by mechanical creatures.

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Time (The Nature of and Travel Through)

Benford, Gregory Timescape. 1981, Pocket Books. A superbly crafted book about time communication using tachyons (faster-than-light particles).

Chiang, Ted "Story of Your Life" in The Year's Best Science Fiction 4, ed. David Hartwell. 1999, Eos/HarperCollins. Describes an alien approach to linguistics and thought which can alter one's perception of time, and see all of one's life at the same time. Interesting allegorical story.

Heinlein, Robert "All You Zombies" in 6 x H. 1961, Pyramid. Not realistic science, but this famous story is perhaps the most outrageous exploration of what might happen if we could travel backward in time: a man becomes his own father and mother.

Lightman, Alan Einstein's Dreams. 1993, Random House. A fugue and meditation on the many different interpretations of time; portrayed as dreams a young Einstein is having.

Niven, Larry World Out of Time. 1976, Ballantine. Using the gravitational time dilation near a supermassive black hole to travel into the distant future.

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Uranus (and its Satellites)

Landis, Geoffrey "Into the Blue Abyss" in Dozois, Gardner & Williams, Sheila, eds. Isaac Asimov's Solar System. 1999, Ace. An expedition descends into the deep atmosphere and ocean of Uranus and discovers life there.  Written by a NASA scientist.

McAuley, Paul "Dead Men Walking" in Hartwell, David & Cramer, Kathryn, eds. Year's Best SF 12. 2007, Eon. Story of an android assassin on Ariel, Uranus' moon, which houses cities and a prison farm.

Nordley, G. David "Into the Miranda Rift" in Dozois, Gardner, ed. The Year's Best Science Fiction, 11th Annual. 1994, St. Martin's. Harrowing chronicle of trapped explorers on and in the jigsaw-puzzle satellite Miranda.

Sheffield, Charles "Dies Irae" in Preiss, Byron, ed. The Planets. 1985, Bantam. About adapting life to survive in Uranus' atmosphere.

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Niven, Larry "Becalmed in Hell" in All the Myriad Ways. 1971, Ballantine. An astronaut gets stranded in the Venus atmosphere.

Sheffield, Charles "Dinsdale Dissents" in Vectors. 1979, Ace. Story involving the terraforming of Venus using algae. Sheffield is a scientist.

Varley, John "In the Bowl" in The Persistence of Vision. 1978, Dell. The discovery of a form of crystalline life that can survive on Venus.

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A Few Collections of Stories with Good Science in Many Areas:

Asimov, Isaac, et al, eds. Great Science Fiction by the World's Great Scientists. 1985, Primus. Twenty-one stories by writers with advanced degrees in science or engineering.

Conklin, Groff Great Science Fiction by Scientists. 1962, Crowell Collier. Stories by scientists in many fields, not just astronomy.

Dozois, Gardner & Williams, Sheila Isaac Asimov's Solar System. 1999, Ace. Stories about different worlds in our planetary system.

Hartwell, David & Cramer, Katherine, eds. The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF. 1994, TOR. Large-scale collection of stories, many with good science.

Hartwell, David & Cramer, Katherine, eds. The Hard SF Renaissance. 2002, ORB/TOR. Another collection, like the above, but with more recent stories.

Preiss, Byron & Fraknoi, Andrew, eds. The Planets. 1985, Bantam. Collection of science essays on each planet, followed by a science fiction story based on current science.

Preiss, Byron & Fraknoi, Andrew, eds. The Universe. 1987, Bantam. Collection of essays by leading astronomers and science fiction stories inspired by the science they describe.

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Some Useful Web Sites:

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database: (A remarkable site which indexes many stories and novels in science fiction. You can see what any author has written or find all the places a story you are interested in has been published.)

Free Speculative Fiction On-Line: (A nice list of short stories that are available on line without charge.)

Teaching Astronomy with Science Fiction:

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