Sunday, August 3, 2008

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Are We There Yet?

We’re ridiculously far off from really colonizing other planets, no doubt (and I mean substantially, not a 3-person outpost on Mars). But lucky for us dreamers, there’s a plethora of science fiction novels about humanity populating the universe. Like the Happily Ever After in romance, it’s one of the genre staples.

Now mix colonization with a setting hundreds or thousands of years in the future. Add a cup of catastrophe, a spoonful of romance, and a dollop of mystery and what do you get? The following authors who not only provide a glimpse into what real colonization might be like, but also do it with panache:

THE DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN by Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey is the number one reason why I now love a healthy dose of mystery with my SF. Not only does this esteemed author weave an epic tale about dragons and their riders fighting a deadly force called Thread on planet Pern, but she also integrates a number of touching romances. Then if that weren’t enough, she creates a mother of a plot twist in the later books. Even as I write this—years after discovering the books—it still causes a shiver to run down my spine.

For those of you new to Anne McCaffrey, there are a number of trilogies, standalone books, and compilations in which to indulge. In the FAQ section of the author’s Web site, you can download a pdf document that outlines a suggested reading order.

THE DARKOVER CHRONOLOGY by Marion Zimmer Bradley

This series is a compelling tale by one of the masters of science fiction. It explores what can happen when a colonization expedition goes horrendously awry. Darkover is a planet circling a red giant, and it produces uncommon effects on humans as they struggle to adapt to their new environment. The stories explore the trials and tribulations of the characters as the Terran based society devolves to a feudal level.

Each book stands roughly alone, and Ms. Bradley recommends reading them in the order they were published.

And if you still can’t get enough....

THE CELTA SERIES by Robin D. Owens

Twenty-five first families of Celtic origin, gifted with the mysterious Flair, soar through space to escape persecution back on Earth. They settle on the world of Celta. Centuries later, thirteen royal houses rule the planet.

Political intrigue, betrayal, psi abilities, and the search for one’s HeartMate all add up to delightful tales in a series that drowns in rich imagery and engaging characters. Start this series with HEART MATE.

Now you tell me: If you could leave on one of these colonization expeditions tomorrow, would you go? What if you could never see Earth again—would it make a difference? What personal items would you take? Is there an Earth tradition or cultural practice that you would attempt to preserve for future generations on the new planet?

Joyfully yours,

Heather