The Mermaid's Tale

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Who's who in Science fiction


science fiction
Science fiction (sci-fi) is a genre based on imagined technological and/or scientific advances. Plots tend to focus on taking any current trend in science and visualizing how it might evolve to look fifty years from the present day (whenever "present day" might be).

Readers of science fiction can expect to see spaceships, alien life forms, androids and robots, cyborgs, strange planets, innovative technology, and humans boldly going where no human has gone before.

Below are the sci-fi authors to which I tend to look when I need a sci-fi fix.

These books can be difficult to find since many are out of print. Some great places to buy used books online include:

Jules Verne

Jules Verne (08 February 1828 to 24 March 1905) was born in Nantes, France and is best known for his science fiction and voyage adventure classic works. Verne was a prolific writer and about 85 works can be attributed to him. Perhaps his best known work is the classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Verne's most interesting and famous character is undoubtedly Captain Nemo, the primary antagonist of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea who was also featured in The Mysterious Island".

Like many science fiction writers, Verne makes predictions about the future. For example, when Jules Verne described the operations of the submarine Nautilus in his book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, he was extremely close to an accurate description of how a submarine under nuclear power could possibly operate. This was long before nuclear power was discovered and effectively put to use, but his ideas were what eventually stimulated and inspired the planners and designers of the world's first nuclear submarine -- which was called the Nautilus in tribute to Verne's work.

In addition to his novels, he wrote many short stories, and even some non-fiction essays. Many of his works have been produced as films and for television.

Verne died in 1905 at age 77, and is buried in Amiens, France.

Fictional works

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a sea faring adventure story about three unlucky passengers aboard the dread submarine "Nautilus", which was led by Captain Nemo, a fiercely anti-war man who tried to use the technology at his disposal to put an end to war.   The Mysterious Island The Mysterious Island is a sequel to 20,000 Leagues which is set during the end of the US Civil War. A group of five Union soldiers and their dog land on a deserted island during an escape from a Confederate prison camp. The island provides numerous adventures and challenges to the group in their attempt at survival.
Around the World in 80 Days Around the World in 80 Days is set during the Franco-Prussian war about the eccentric English gentleman and his French servant who embark on a journey to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. This journey was undertaken because of a wager between the eccentric Phileas Fogg and his wealthy friends.   Journey to the Center of the Earth Journey to the Center of the Earth covers the journey of a Professor who leads a small party of explorers into a volcano. Along the way, the group encounters many hazards including prehistoric creatures and other natural dangers.
From the Earth to the Moon From the Earth to the Moon tells the story of members of the "Gun Club" who, shortly after the end of the American Civil War, were searching for an interesting challenge.    

HG Wells

Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 to 13 August 1946) was known as one of the fathers of science fiction. He was a prolific writer who has over 100 works attributed to him, ranging from fiction novels to short stories to non fiction essays. He is best known for his 1898 novel War of the Worlds describing an invasion of earth by the inhabitants of Mars.

Wells was a self described socialist and was a member of several socialist societies including the Fabian Society. Many of his non-fiction writings such as A Modern Utopia (1905) and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1931) contain elements describing of his political beliefs. He even ran for political office as a Labor Party candidate in 1922. He also wrote several history books including The Outline of History (1920) and A Short History of the World (1922).

Wells is best noted for his science fiction works, however. Many of his writings are widely read today, in addition to many of his science fiction works being produced as films, most notably The War of the Worlds. Additionally, The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Food of the Gods have been made into either films, a television series, or both. A 1938 radio version of War of the Worlds caused widespread panic as many listeners believed the events portrayed on the radio were actually happening.

Like many science fiction writers, Wells attempts to predict the future. For example, he describes both space travel and air travel. He also described heat rays (lasers) and genetic engineering.

HG Wells died in London, England in 1946. The cause of death is not known, but is suspected to be cancer of the liver.

Fictional works

The Island of Doctor Moreau The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) depicts a God-like doctor who experiments with humans and animals. The doctor spends his time creating beings that are half human and half animal.   The Invisible Man The Invisible Man (1897) about a strange scientist that ventures out only at night and whose body is completely covered with gloves, a hat and bandages. This scientist has made himself invisible and as a result is slowly becoming mad.
he Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth (1904) describes a chemical created by 2 scientists that, if ingested by animals, would cause the animal to grow many times its normal size. The chemical is eaten by various animals which creates havoc. Eventually, it is ingested by humans to create even more dangers.   The First Men in the Moon The First Men in the Moon (1901) is about two men, a scientist and a businessman, who travel to the moon. There they encounter alien life, including the insect-like Selenites. The Selenites capture the two men and keep them prisoner. One of the men manages to escape back to Earth while the other remains a captive.
War of the Worlds War of the Worlds (1898) is the most famous science fiction story ever written. The novel was highly acclaimed by critics. It depicts an invasion from a technologically superior Martian race and the defense raised by the Earth's military. The story describes a journalist and his dealings with the invaders, the defending forces and the local residents. The first film was produced in 1953 and was also highly acclaimed, and several versions have been produced since that time. The story has in turn inspired alien invasion films such as "Independence Day".   The Time Machine The Time Machine (1895) is about an amateur inventor and scientist who travels 800,000 years into the future by means of his time travel machine. There he finds Earth inhabited by a peaceful race of humans called the Eloi. He also encounters a dreaded race of cannibals called the Morlocks.

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov (02 January 1920 to 06 April 1992) was an American writer, and a professor of biochemistry at Boston University. Althought his works are published in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System, he is best known for over 500 works of science fiction including numerous short stories.

His most famous work may be his Foundation series, but his influence on popular science is immeasurable. No author has influenced the idea of robotics more than Isaac Asimov, for example. In fact, he coined the term "robotics" in one of his early works.

His three laws of robotics have shaped the idea of robots, and he studied both the "robot as menace" and "robot as friend" concepts. He investigated what would happen when robots became sophisticated enough to request rights, and he showed how simple semantic concepts like the three laws still have enough play for intriguing and amusing stories like Runaround and Reason.

The three laws of robotics

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Note: The "Zeroth Law" was added later to forbid harm to humanity as a whole in precedence to harming individual humans.


the foundation series The premise of the Foundation series is that a mathematician spent his life developing an obscure branch of maths known as psychohistory, which can be used to predict the future on a large scale. This theory is used to create a new galactic empire.

This is a huge universe. Many of Asimov's other stories such as Robot series were later retro-fitted into the Foundation universe. Pebble in the Sky is considered the basis for the later Foundation series.

I recommend starting with the first book (Foundation), and proceeding in order as best as you can.