Dragons & Jetpacks is a science fiction and fantasy bookgroup, based on Goodreads. The group is open to all, all that is required is a Goodreads account. We read two books a month, one fantasy and one sci-fi – the second week of each month is when members make suggestions, and the third is used for voting. We’re always happy to meet fellow fans of the genres, so you’re more than welcome to join the group!
At first, only a few things are known about the celestial object that astronomers dub Rama. It is huge, weighing more than ten trillion tons. And it is hurtling through the solar system at an inconceivable speed. Then a space probe confirms the unthinkable: Rama is no natural object. It is, incredibly, an interstellar spacecraft. Space explorers and planet-bound scientists alike prepare for mankind’s first encounter with alien intelligence. It will kindle their wildest dreams… and fan their darkest fears. For no one knows who the Ramans are or why they have come. And now the moment of rendezvous awaits — just behind a Raman airlock door.
For a thousand years, the people of Alera have united against the aggressive races that inhabit the world, using their unique bond with the furies – elementals of earth, air, fire, water and metal. But now, Gaius Sextus, First Lord of Alera, grows old and lacks an heir. Ambitious Lords manoeuvre to place their Houses in positions of power, and a war of succession looms on the horizon. Far from city politics in the Calderon Valley, young Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. At fifteen, he has no wind fury to help him fly, no fire fury to light his lamps. Yet as the Alerans’ most savage enemy – the Marat – return to the Valley, his world will change. Caught in a storm of deadly wind furies, Tavi saves the life of a runaway slave. But Amara is actually a spy, seeking intelligence on possible Marat traitors to the Crown. And when the Valley erupts into chaos – when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies – Amara will find Tavi invaluable. His talents will outweigh any fury-born power – and could even turn the tides of war.
Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
Have you read any of this month’s picks? What did you think?
Simply put, archaeology is one of the most amazing fields of study and career paths ever. And I am not at all biased here. Okay – well maybe a little bit. I am so happy that I made the decision to study it alongside ancient history, because I know that I’m definitely on the right track to the career that I want. Every time I read a book or watch a film that features archaeologists, I do a little cheer in my head for my fellow lovers of the ancient.
One thing I have noticed is that archaeology seems to crop up a lot in science fiction. Whether it is used as a form of exposition to explain the history of a planet or civilisation, or forms a major plot point such as the uncovering of an ancient terror, I love to read about it. Sometimes it makes me cringe and want to throw the book/TV/whatever across the room because UGH SO INCORRECT (one time I saw a series where they wanted to do dendrochronology on a bone, it’s used for TREE RINGS), and other times I wish I had access to all that crazy future archaeological technology. Within science fiction it is often referred to as ‘xenoarchaeology’.
So, where have I spotted archaeology in science fiction?
Archaeology in books
Alastair Reynold’s Revelation Space opens with the excavation of a 900,000 year old civilisation on the planet Resurgam. The evidence discovered reveals a lot more than was previously known, and the archaeologist directing the excavation soon becomes involved in a rather complicated and dangerous plot. I haven’t read this particular Reynolds book so cannot comment on the archaeology, but since I loved House of Suns so much, it’s definitely on my radar.
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke is another prominent example of archaeology in science fiction. Set in 2130s, it follows a group of explorers who must intercept a spaceship (nicknamed ‘Rama’) hurtling through the solar system towards Earth. I actually managed to pick up a copy of this one at an archaeological book sale a few weeks ago.
Archaeology in film
Prometheus is one of my favourite films, despite being rather silly, because SPACE ARCHAEOLOGY AND AWESOME TECHNOLOGY (and Michael Fassbender doesn’t hurt either…). It follows two archaeologists who are following a pattern they have discovered: the same images, of what they believe to be extraterrestrial life, reoccurring in many ancient cultures, thousands of years and miles apart. Together with their crew, they follow the ‘star map’ and discover a planet – with obvious signs of civilisation.
Archaeology in Prometheus is mostly just used to get the plot rolling, and give the crew a reason to start their mission. Their treatment of artefacts is questionable (shoving extra-terrestrial remains into a bag without any care) and techniques lacking (no apparent planning), but the technology is pretty amazing. A tool that allows you to instantly date something, without having to wait an age for carbon 14 results to come back? Yes please.
Archaeology on TV
UGH RIVER I LOVE YOU. I think the most obvious example of an archaeologist in a science fiction TV show is River Song from Doctor Who. We never get to see her showing off her Professor of Archaeology skills, but she got into archaeology so she could track the Doctor through time and studied at Luna University. Unfortunately, the Doctor doesn’t care much for archaeologists, which makes me sad. I just love that she is such a badass: smart, witty, quick on her feet and also a pretty damn good shot. I’m going to put that all down to her being an archaeologist, and having nothing to do with her being a child of the TARDIS. Definitely.
Archaeology in video games
Oh would you look at that, my favourite video game series ever also features archaeology. Mass Effect centres around the discovery of ancient Prothean civilisation and artefacts, and Liara T’Soni is an Asari archaeologist with expert knowledge on the subject. She joins your crew in the first game, where you can speak to her in her super high tech laboratory aboard the Normandy. There is also a mission set on an archaeological excavation. AND THE GAME ADDRESSES THIS SUPER ANNOYING COMMON OCCURRENCE:
Garrus: So Liara, ever dug up – what do humans call it – a dinosaur? Liara: No. Dinosaurs and other fossils would be paleontology. I’m an archaeologist. I study artifacts left by sapient species. The two fields are completely different. And… you were joking…? Garrus: A bit. But at least you’re catching on these days.
Archaeology appears in so many more areas of science fiction, but I just wanted to discuss a few. Sometimes it’s accurate, sometimes the author/writer obviously has no idea how archaeology even BEGINS to work, and occasionally you find a future fictional archaeological development that you hope will become fact one day. It’s a field that can lend a lot to science fiction, allowing the history of past alien cultures to be set out easily.
What do I like most about archaeology in science fiction? The fact that it is still a thriving area of research and work in these future civilisations. There will always be more history for us to dig up, especially if we are able to do it on other planets – and that’s an exciting thought.
Have you ever encountered archaeology in science fiction? What did you think of how it was presented – did it seem plausible to you?