Saturday, February 28, 2015

Clive Cussler - Two Thumbs Up

I was lamenting to a friend that science fiction is ignoring robotic advances and the near term possibilities they create. He replied "You must read Clive Cussler. I wouldn't call him a science fiction writer but he uses ROVs a lot. DARPA, the military and mining entities show up in most of his stories. I know you will like the characters from NUMA."

I took his advice and am now 3 books into the adventures of Dirk Pitt and friends. Not high literature by any means. Just entertaining, satisfying adventure yarns. And Cussler does his homework. The printed words in his books are the tip of a large iceberg. It is obvious many hours of research lie beneath the surface of each story. Cussler's interests are eclectic. He likes to study engineering and technology. Also biology, oceanography, chemistry, geology, archeology, art, history, culture, food, religion, etc., etc. Each book I've learned new stuff from many different fields.

Why am I so fired up about ROVs, AUVs, etc? It is my belief advancing robotics will be the game changer that opens the door to space, the final frontier. Cussler's stories are more relevant to space exploration than most current science fiction.

Already remotely operated robots are doing work in places too dangerous or hard to reach for human workers. This technology is being advanced by many players: DARPA, NOAA, British Petroleum, Rio Tinto, the military and others.

It is interesting that Google bought up the best performers in a recent DARPA robotics competition. Google has also invested in Planetary Resources and SpaceX as well as funded the Google Lunar X-Prize. Dot com billionaires opening the door to space could be a rich vein for story tellers.

On my wish list: Cussler taking a look at the void that lies between us and our neighbors in the solar system. Asteroids and planets are islands and continents in an ocean that extends past all horizons.


William Barton said...

You can't go wrong with Cussler, most of the time. As for SF, it really just boils down to what's happened in the publishing industry. The editorial cadre has come to be dominated by a certain type of progressive, combined with the fact the most are English majors with little concept of underlying science and technology. This has been going on for years. Back in early 1990s, coming off the success of Dark Sky Legion, I tried to sell a near future novel called Space Men, about the collapse of NASA after a terrible accident aboard Space Station Freedom. My then agents reaction was, "Nobody cares about this space program stuff." I'm sure SF readers do, but the publishing filter says no. Nowadays, indie writers can do what they want, but finding the right SF books among all the dragon-vampire stuff is hard labor.

Hop David said...

William, right you are. Most recent SF is PC and science free. I would hope there are lots of numerate, science savvy SF fans who are being neglected.

But our culture seems to be getting dumber and shallower -- what I call the Britney Spears zeitgeist.

How to change this trend? I am hungering for 21st century Sputnik moments. If Musk, Lewicki or any of the new players enjoy some dramatic successes, that might renew interest in space exploitation/settlement.

William Barton said...

When Gardner Dozois was editor of Asimov's, he would sometimes challenge the facts in my stories, making me prove I was right. I enjoyed that and sometime, proven wrong, learned a thing or two. One of the things I'm looking forward to is seeing a new space literature evolve, fiction based on solid fact. I think the day Musk lands his first MCT on Mars, a lot of things will change. Meanwhile, you can comb through the self-published stuff on KDP, looking for the gems. There's a lot more of them there than in contemporary traditionally published SF, just a little hard to find. Anyway, that's where I'm putting my efforts, both as a reader and as a writer.

Hop David said...

Oh yeah, Asimov's used to be top notch.
What's KDP?
I know there's some gems among the huge volume of self published stuff. But how much chaff do we have to endure to get wheat? A competent magazine editor who winnows a slush pile does a great service for his readers.
Are there KDP books you would recommend? William, I'd like to see your recent stuff.

William Barton said...

KDP is short for Kindle Direct Publishing. It's the Amazon doorway for indie authors. Hunting for new stuff there is painful. I mostly follow the "also bought" suggestions and hope for the best. Currently reading The Fighter Queen Saga (5 books) by John Bowers. It's well written, with some extremely good backgrounding. Mil.SF set a couple of hundred years in the future, so closer to space opera (the usual FTL and gravity control).

As for my stuff, a couple of years ago, I put up my entire backlist in a window between IT projects. Since retirement, I've managed to write one new novel, of a kind no traditional publisher would ever consider, called Crimson Darkness. It's a lost colony epic.

Don't know if you allow links here, so feel free to delete it.