Transcendental Fiction List

From: Evan Reese (
Date: Tue Mar 05 2002 - 11:50:31 MST

Are there any lists out there of singularity-aware or more broadly
transcendental SF? I've seen some good nonfiction lists about accelerating
change and related topics - John Smart has a fairly comprehensive list. But
I think that sometimes fiction can be a more powerful way of conveying the
ideas of radical change than the usually just intellectual descriptions in
the nonfiction I've read.

If there is already such a list, with shorter works, as well as novels,
would someone point me to it? If not, then someone ought to-- You really
thought I was gonna say it didn't you? I read the thread about people
saying that 'someone ought to do something-or-other' and I agree that the
person saying that should be the one. So, if such a list does not exist, I
will begin making it. (Even some on this list may have missed some good
storys in this vein. If you haven't read any or all of the four stories
that Asimov's has published in the last year! that take the singularity as
their subject you have missed some really great work. This David Stross is
pretty impressive) Even if there is a list of novels, I think there also
should be one for shorter works. SF has done much of it's best work in the
novella and novelette forms and still does. But if there is a list of
novels, then maybe I can integrate shorter works in the same vein into it.

But I'll want some input from you'll to try to make it comprehensive, and to
hash out some of the inevitable borderline cases. That's why I use the term
'transcendental' instead of just 'singularity-aware'. If a story such as
'Blood Music' for instance - which doesn't use the term 'singularity' can't
make the list because it isn't technically 'singularity-aware', then I would
have to give up before I began.

There's also a selfish component to this project. I have only had access to
Analog and Asimov's in recorded form or in Braille until very recently; I
just discovered this morning that most of the content of 'Eidolon' is
available online now - according to Greg Egan anyhow, so hopefully, I'll
have some interesting stuff to look through. But I want to find out about
good stuff from other mags such as 'Interzone', 'F&SF', among others I could
list that I have not been able to read. So those of you who have read some
of these should make suggestions for shorter works that you think should be
on the list. A brief synopsis would be appreciated, as well as the date of
the issue. If it sounds promising, I will try to get hold of it online, or
failing that, at one of those libraries with wood pulp stuff in them. (-:
I'm banking on there not being very many really good ones, so I shouldn't
have to scan in hundreds of stories; because if I'm making this list, then I
feel I should vet the potential candidates for inclusion.

I want to keep the sl level as high as possible, partly to keep the list
manageable, but mostly to keep it focused on the kind of radical transitions
that the word 'singularity' connotes. I'm not saying that there has to BE a
singularity in the story, but I think it ought to be close. I'm not sure
about stories that simply mention the word 'singularity' or 'transcendence'
but don't do anything with them in the story - a casual conversation among
characters about why it's a stupid idea probably shouldn't make it; but one
in which the idea is recognized but where transcendence does not occur for
some reason should perhaps maybe be included. I want input on this, also.

One important thing, though. I don't think that the transcendence has to
occur in a realistic way. If only what are considered realistic paths are
allowed, then 'Childhood's End' wouldn't make it - one of the best in this
subgenre - and 'Blood Music' probably wouldn't either. And if neither of
those can qualify, then forget the whole thing. The idea is to FEEL
transcendence, not to just read an intellectual discussion.

A Digression:

I first encountered the idea of a singularity in Vinge's Marooned in Real
Time'. It was Della's telling Will what she thought happened to humans in
the 23rd century. I'll never forget that moment! Another jolt in the same
novel was the all-too-brief description that Tanz Blumenthal gave to Will
about his life just before he got bobbled. Wow! Nonfiction books just
can't do that kind of thing. (I once participated in a discussion in the
rec.arts.sf.written newsgroup entitled 'Why Vernor Vinge Ruined Science
Fiction' or something similar. I didn't create the thread, and I wouldn't
go quite that far - I've read some pretty damn good stuff since MIRT, but I
would say that he did ruin a lot of it. Reading 'Analog' for me has become
like stepping into a time warp back to the 1950s or '60s, with VERY few
pitifully few exceptions. Asimov's has published more 'singularity-aware'
fiction in the last year than 'Analog' has in the last 15 years. Gardner
Dozois even put out an anthology severall years ago called 'Isaac Asimov's
Transcendental Tales' or something like that. I've probably read most if
not all the stuff in it, since I've been reading Asimov's for over twenty
years, but I'll certainly go through it for list candidates. 'Analog
wouldn't have enough material to begin such an anthology. Yah, they
published MIRT, but that was a long time ago.

End Digression

Anyway, my point is that an appeal to the imagination can be much more
powerful than the necessarily more constrained, more 'realistic' discussions
of even good books such as 'Engines of Creation' or 'Mind Children'.

So send those suggestions to me.. I'll put a preliminary list together
shortly and then we can talk it out.

I hope the list moderator will allow this discussion here, but if not, then
I guess I'll take it private. I think it would be fun though to have it on
the list.

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