Supersize Me: Large Stories in Sci Fi

Some stories have such amazing characters, that it doesn’t even matter what the story is you just want to know everything about their lives. You want their whole life, not just the window presented in the narrative. You want to know what happened before, what happens after the book ends. Then there are other stories that are even bigger than the characters. In these it is the world that grabs you. You want to see the bigger effects of the events. As someone that primarily studies history, this is the kind of story I used to seeing. You hear the stories of individuals, but you get to see the bigger picture. You can see what happens 100 years later, and what they think of the characters that came earlier.

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and Stephen Baxter’s Vacuum Diagrams are two such narratives. Both were originally based on short stories, that each took place at a different point in a world’s history. Because of the nature of this style, you cannot get too attached to individual characters. As I said, this has a strong parallel with history texts. And that is why I like it. Many other stories focus on individual skirmishes, but what happens after they are resolved? If it was some sort of revolution, what is the new system like? What are its weaknesses? In some ways the Foundation series does not fit my definition of this subgenre, because I do not think series or novels that take place in same universe do the same thing. But since the individual novels, especially the early ones, do jump around in time then they do fit.

Now I think about it, Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold The Moon, is another one of these stories. Woo.

It just makes it all seem realer. It can take generations to accomplish things and to make any lasting changes. Innovations build upon each other, and shape society and change customs. I like seeing how those changes come around. And while I do love a good character story, the historian inside me loves reading large generation spanning, timeline establishing epics.

Well I will be traveling over the next day or so, and then getting settled back into life in England so it may be a little longer til my next post. Until next time.


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