Science Fiction fans - please bring your expertise over here!

(56 Posts)
NomDeOrdinateur Thu 28-Feb-13 00:28:58

Hi all, I've recently got interested in how SF engages with right-to-life issues and I'm trying to put together a reading list for myself. I'd be very grateful for any recommendations you could add to my existing list, particularly focusing on euthanasia, infanticide, fertility control, suicide, assisted suicide, and aging populations (due to infertility/medical breakthroughs).

So far I have:

- The Logan Trilogy by William F Nolan (and the film and TV series);
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley;
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro;
- The Giver by Lois Lowry;
- The Machine Stops by EM Forster;
- Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick;
- The Sleeper Awakes by HG Wells;
- Case of Conscience by James Bish;
- The Fixed Period by Anthony Trollope;
- Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison (and Soylent Green);
- The Children of Men by PD James;
- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Any ideas about useful SF textbooks/histories or books about euthanasia, assisted suicide, population control, overpopulation etc would also be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance to anybody who's kind enough to make further suggestions!

PS - I'm not a slacking journalist, I'm a regular MNer and have just changed my name in case anybody from my university recognises me based on my research interests.

NomDeOrdinateur Thu 28-Feb-13 00:29:35

Oh, and film reccs would also be gratefully received!

highlandcoo Thu 28-Feb-13 09:04:12

I don't know much about science fiction, but just a suggestion - have you ever used librarything? It's a site for sharing your favourite books and looking for new stuff to read.

You have to invest a bit of time at the start by assembling a list of your favourite books (you could just put in the ones on your list) then it matches you with others who have a similar library and you can see what similar books they're reading.

Also, users "tag" books with labels describing the content, eg "Victorian", "WW2", "slavery" or in your case "euthanasia" or whatever, so you can link to other books with similar content.

I find it a brilliant resource .. have a look smile

MakingAnotherList Thu 28-Feb-13 09:10:08

The film 'The Island' is similar to the book Never Let Me Go.

MakingAnotherList Thu 28-Feb-13 09:14:48

Bearcrumble Thu 28-Feb-13 09:24:32

Would Intrusion by Ken Mcleod be of use? The state makes all pregnant women take a pill to fix any genetic defects in the foetus. More eugenics than population control but might be of interest.

Snorbs Thu 28-Feb-13 09:40:17

Larry Niven incorporated a lot of these topics into his short stories and novels. Eg, advances in organ storage and transplant technology leading to higher demand for transplant organs to extend life, leading in turn to a) popular pressure for capital punishment for trivial law-breaking to keep the organ banks stocked, and b) black-market transplants. Niven's short stories The Jigsaw Man and Death By Ecstasy are examples of these.

Population pressure due to medical advances massively extending human longevity also leads to restrictions on who is allowed to have children. I can't remember the details but it was something like you had to have at least some kind of skill or talent to be allowed to have kids and, if you didn't qualify for that, there was also a regular lottery you could win to get the right to have a child. Ringworld has a sub-plot about one of the more peculiar effects of these birth-right lotteries.

MaterFacit Thu 28-Feb-13 10:16:06

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Meat by Joseph D'Lacey

Sherri Tepper - Beauty and also possibly Grass by her as well, but it has been a long time since I read them.

What about Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner?

MaterFacit Thu 28-Feb-13 10:18:44

Where late the sweet birds sand by Kate Wilhelm

MaterFacit Thu 28-Feb-13 10:18:50


MaterFacit Thu 28-Feb-13 10:31:17

The Gate to Women's Country by Tepper
The Female Man by Russ

Sorry for the disjointed posts, I keep closing the thread and then remembering new ones. This was something I was interested in too about five years ago so just trying to remember what I read.

NomDeOrdinateur Thu 28-Feb-13 10:39:59

Thank you very much everybody, these recommendations are so helpful - I'm going to read every single book/story! I've always been put off researching SF before because I get intimidated by how much knowledge the hard-core fans have, so I can't tell you how much I appreciate being steered in the right direction by people who know more than I do.

PS - Highlandcoo, librarything looks amazing, I'm going to make an account right now grin!

DuchessofMalfi Thu 28-Feb-13 11:03:30

Check out Goodreads too Nom. We have a smallish, but growing in popularity, discussion group on there and welcome everyone to it. You're more than welcome (and everyone else) to come and discuss science fiction on there too smile Link here, if you're interested The Book Vipers.

NomDeOrdinateur Thu 28-Feb-13 11:07:58

Oh thank you, DuchessofMalfi - I'd love to join! I shall have a look when I get home this evening smile.

slug Thu 28-Feb-13 11:10:29

Consider Her Ways a novella by John Windham

HagofBeare Thu 28-Feb-13 11:22:20

Phillip k dick, The Pre-Persons. Not exactly subtle, but interesting.

NomDeOrdinateur Thu 28-Feb-13 11:28:27

Thank you, Slug and HagofBeare - I really like both of those authors, and yet didn't know they'd written about these issues! <Adds to basket>

CoteDAzur Thu 28-Feb-13 16:48:14

Time Enough For Love - Robert Heinlein (where people have very long natural lives and an undisputed right to end it whenever they like by flipping a switch)

The Island (film) is much better than Never Let Me Go.

NomDeOrdinateur Thu 28-Feb-13 18:58:25

Thank you, CoteDAzur - I can't believe I forgot all about Heinlein! blush I'm really looking forward to watching The Island now, as I was fairly satisfied with the adaptation of Never Let Me Go...

FryingNemo Thu 28-Feb-13 19:05:06

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Attwood. Sort of?

FryingNemo Thu 28-Feb-13 19:07:27

Also a few Star Trek Voyager episodes and original Star Trek too dealt with overpopulation, euthanasia and volunteering for suicide. Maybe too low brow?

NomDeOrdinateur Thu 28-Feb-13 19:12:51

Not too lowbrow at all, FryingNemo - thanks for the tip! I actually noticed a library book the other day about the ethics of Star Trek, I should pop back in and borrow it...

I'll put Oryx and Crake on my to-read list, too - I wrote about it (along with The Year of the Flood) back when I was still an undergrad and remember both novels very positively, but embarrassingly I can't recall the actual story at all now! blush

FryingNemo Thu 28-Feb-13 19:37:51

Also Iain Banks' the Culture (various books).

The Testament of Jessie Lamb

HumphreyCobbler Thu 28-Feb-13 19:45:20

Why Call Them Back From Heaven? Clifford D Simak

This is a very interesting book - although looking at ways to prolong life indefinitely is the main theme of the book, the discussion seems relevant to your list.

There's also a YA novel called 'Wither' by Lauren deStefano that touches on some of these themes.

FryingNemo Thu 28-Feb-13 19:48:51

A bit off topic but covers infanticide, enforced sterilisation etc to preserve the Norm and stamp out Mutants, The Chrysalids, John Wymdham.

I recently read "When She Woke" by Hillary Jordan, which is set in a militantly pro-life world where a girl has a termination and is punished by having her skin dyed red, put in a room where she is filmed 24/7 and then is put through a bizarre 'rehabilitation' process.

CheeseStrawWars Thu 28-Feb-13 19:51:46

Logan's Run, surely? By William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. There is the film, too.

There are a couple of Stargate/Stargate Atlantis episodes that deal with this too.

bruffin Thu 28-Feb-13 20:00:01

Trouble with lichen John Wyndham
About the discovery of eternal youth.

Logan's run. Can't remember who book was by, but also made into a film. I read ita ling time ago.

TheOneWithTheNameChange Thu 28-Feb-13 20:01:15

Brother in the land. Supposed to be a teen fiction but it's scary stuff about young people surviving a nuclear holocaust.

NomDeOrdinateur Thu 28-Feb-13 20:08:15

Thank you everybody, these suggestions are brilliant! (Even if I am about to spend more on Amazon than I spend in Sainsbury's over the course of a fortnight... blush)

StellaNova Thu 28-Feb-13 20:09:00

There is a Brian Aldiss book called Greybeard about aging population due to infertility.

The recent thriller series Utopia had eugenics/ enforced sterilisation as a theme.

RustyBear Thu 28-Feb-13 20:12:47

This Perfect Day by Ira Levin - future society where everyone has monthly drug treatments to keep them 'healthy' - but actually to keep them complacent and under control. Everyone dies at around 62 - a few at 61 or 63, just so it doesn't look suspicious, and there is control of reproduction too.

You don't have to buy them all. Most of them would be available to deserve from your local library. In the county where I am, it only costs 60p per reservation.

deserve? I meant reserve but my phone had other ideas.

SnowWoman Thu 28-Feb-13 20:30:49

Bumped by Megan McCafferty, 0.4 by Mike Lancaster, Unwind by Neal Shusterman, Off the Road by Nina Bawden, all YA novels.

Pegasus in Flight and The Ship Who Sang both by Anne McCaffrey, and Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin all give views of a future society and its attitudes to overpopulation and disability.

Enjoy your reading - it sounds fascinating.

StellaNova Thu 28-Feb-13 21:00:50

It's free here Threebee! I have just discovered this and am going crazy with reserving.

NomDeOrdinateur Thu 28-Feb-13 21:14:15

ThreeBeeOneGee - I wish I could borrow them, but sadly I have to scribble all over my books in order to analyse and remember things (terrible habit, makes being a lit student very expensive)! Fortunately my research stipend covers all of this, so I don't have to feel as guilty/horrified as I did when I was an undergraduate.

Thank you for the recommendations, all - this project has gone from daunting to really exciting! I really appreciate your help and I'm so happy to have found this lovely sub-forum - I'm certain I'll be spending a lot more time here from now on smile.

EllieQ Tue 05-Mar-13 12:13:25

I'd recommend several books by Lois McMaster Bujold - Falling Free is about humans who are genetically engineered for living in freefall (quaddies with an extra pair of arms instead of legs), and what happens when they're no longer needed by the company who developed them and owns them.

The impact of artificial wombs and how society is affected by this technology is included in her Vorkosigan series, including fertility control through contraceptive implants in an otherwise free and liberal society. The main character in this series has physical disabilities in a world that is very much unsupportive (there's a short story called 'Mountains of Mourning' about infanticide in the more rural areas, which the main character is sent to investigate).

The stand-alone book 'Ethan of Athos' is particularly interesting as it's about an all-male society where the majority of the population has never had any contact with females.

I've made them sound very grim, but they're also very good reads and funny in places, but they do make you think!

jeee Tue 05-Mar-13 12:20:21

John Christopher - The Death of Grass, The World in Winter, A Wrinkle in the Skin...

All have an apocalyptic event, but deal with ugly aftermath of a destroyed society having to begin again. He seems to like an anthill metaphor - if the anthill is damaged the ants act as a community to repair it.... but if the anthill is very, very badly damaged a tipping point is reached where the ants run round like headless chickens (to completely mix metaphors) and are incapable of repairing the damage.

His young adult books deal with similar themes, too, but are generally much more optismistic.

And thanks SnowWoman, I didn't know Nina Bawden did any SF. I'll have to check that out

jeee Tue 05-Mar-13 12:26:24

And has anyone mentioned 'The Declaration' trilogy (Gemma Malley)? Dystopian future where no one gets dies, and babies are banned. It's an excellent YA read, though the current cover makes it look like a Hunger Games ripoff. And of course, the Hunger Games are good too.

melodyangel Tue 05-Mar-13 12:27:41

Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes

Chocky - John Wyndham

Zigster Mon 11-Mar-13 21:43:42

Michael Marshall Smith "Spares". The Island movie sounds like it could be based on that book.

And, pedant alert, it's Iain M Banks for the sic-fi; Iain Banks for regular fiction. Same author; slightly different name.

Kirk1 Tue 12-Mar-13 10:31:08

I was going to mention Heinlein, I vaguely remember there being a requirement to have a license to have children in Starship Troopers. Also the Hyperion and Endymion cycles by Dan Simmons address a variety of life issues, Endymion more, but Hyperion is worth reading too and it comes first. (They're trilogies but I think of them as one book each. Kind of like LotR)

CoteDAzur Tue 12-Mar-13 11:46:15

Hyperion is brilliant but it doesn't touch anything like right to life issues, euthanasia, fertility control etc that OP mentioned. Neither do its sequels, iirc.

villanova Tue 12-Mar-13 14:07:11

'Spares' by Michael Marshall Smith is not very well known, but an excellent story of people reared to provide spare organs for the rich.

villanova Tue 12-Mar-13 14:08:03

Sorry, just noticed it had already been mentioned! Consider this an extra vote, as it really is worth reading.

NellyBluth Tue 12-Mar-13 14:54:12

Forever War by Joe Haldane. It's not solely about what you are interested in but does touch on some of those issues. Also, it's just amazing. I don't normally read sci-fi but that book is one of my favourite of all time.

(On which note, is Hyperion worth it? DP reads them all, I was debating whether to try that one)

MTSgroupie Tue 12-Mar-13 15:07:58

Star Trek: The Next Generation. Deanna Troi's mum gets romantically involved with an alien. She is shocked when she finds out that, despite being only in his 60s and healthy, he is about to get voluntary euthanized because in their culture the old don't want to be a burden to the young. The alien at first is pursuaded to reject his culture but his daughter puts pressure on him and in the end he decides to be euthanized.

The episode ends with Mrs Troi deciding that she will join his loved ones and be a witness to his death.

If tv counts, the latest Torchwood series ( can't remember the title! The American one) had not dying as its main plot point ( though rather squandered it IMO).

gokhuvegeta Tue 12-Mar-13 16:55:20

Movies: Z.P.G - In Time- Fortress- Soylent Green-
Tv show- Terra Nova-
I found a list someone else has compiled for books:

Frederik Pohl, ‘The Census Takers’ (1956), (unread)
J. G. Ballard, ‘The Concentration City’ (variant titles: ‘Build-Up’ and ‘The Disaster Area’) (1957), 4.75/5 (Very Good)
Robert Silverberg, Master of Life and Death (1957), .25/5 (horrible)
Robert Sheckley, ‘The Minimum Man’ (1958), 4.25/5 (Good)
Robert Bloch, This Crowded Earth (1958), (unread)
Anthony Burgess, The Wanting Seed (1962), (unread)
J. G. Ballard, ‘Billenium’ (1962), (unread)
Lester Del Rey, The Eleventh Commandment (1962, revised 1970), 3.75/5 (Good)
Frederik Pohl, ‘The Deadly Mission of Phineas Snodgrass’ (1962, revised as ‘The Deadly Mission of P. Snodgrass’, 1970), (unread)
Jane Roberts, The Rebellers (1963), (unread)
Brian W. Aldiss, Earthworks (1965), rating: 3.5/5 (Average)
D. G. Compton, The Quality of Mercy (1965), rating: 4/5 (Good)
Harry Harrison, Make Room! Make Room! (1966) (unread)
Roger Zelazny, The Dream Master (1966), (unread)
Philip E. High, The Mad Metropolis (1966), (unread)
Robert Silverberg, To Open the Sky (1967) (unread)
Robert Silverberg, The Time Hoppers (1967), rating: 2.5/5 (Average)
Louis Charbonneau, Down to Earth (1967), rating: 2/5 (Bad)
Irving A. Greenfield, Waters of Death (1967), rating: 1/5 (Terrible)
James Blish and Norman L. Knight, A Torrent of Faces (1967), (unread)
John Brunner, Stand on Zanibar (1968), rating: 5/5 (Masterpiece — my all time favorite sci-fi novel)
Kurt Vonnegut, ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ (1968), (unread)
Roger Zelazny, ‘The Eve of RUMOKO’ (1969), rating: 3/5 (Average)
Joanna Russ, And Chaos Died (1970), rating 4.5/5 (Very Good)
Dean R. Koontz, Anti-Man (1970), (unread)
Don Pendleton, 1989: Population Doomsday (variant title: Population Doomsday), (unread)
T. J. Bass, Half Past Human (1971), rating: 2.5/5 (Average)
Robert Silverberg, The World Inside (1971), rating: 5/5 (Masterpiece)
Max Ehrlich, The Edict (1971), (unread)
Ursula Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971), (unread)
Thomas M. Disch, 334 (1972), (unread)
Michael Elder, Nowhere on Earth (1972), (unread)
Edmund Cooper, The Tenth Planet (1973), (unread)
John Jakes, On Wheels (1973), (unread)
Stanislaw Lem, The Futurological Congress (1974), (unread)
J. G. Ballard, High-Rise (1975), rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)
Evelyn E. Smith, Unpopular Planet (1975), (unread)
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Time of the Fourth Horseman (1976), (unread)
Mark Adlard, Interface (1977), (unread)
Axel Madsen, Unisave (1980), (unread)
Philip José Farmer, Dayworld (1985), (unread)
Philip José Farmer, Dayworld Rebel (1987), (unread)
Barry B. Longyear, Sea of Glass (1987), (unread)
Philip José Farmer, Dayworld Breakup (1990), (unread)

CoteDAzur Wed 13-Mar-13 08:08:59

Nelly - Hyperion is definitely worth reading.

MerlotforOne Wed 13-Mar-13 16:18:45

Film-wise 'Gattaca' deals with engineered embryos, licenses to reproduce and follows the life of a child conceived 'naturally' and the prejudice and discrimination he faces.

Have definitely read other stuff on this - Spares has been mentioned and is excellent - I'll go have a browse of my bookshelves and get back to you...

bruffin Wed 13-Mar-13 16:30:26

The new film Robot and Frank is set in the near future about an old catburgler with alzeimers and the robot he is given to look after him.

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