Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2016: Exploring the Universe with No Man’s Sky

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2016, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or with the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Recently, a video game called No Man’s Sky has been hitting the news a lot, and not for good reasons. When it was released in August this year, Hello Games promised that their procedurally generated universe exploration game would feature an amazing array of extras – none of which appeared in release. Things were shown in promotional videos that aren’t in the game or look totally different. And since then, they’ve even said that they might release paid DLC to provide these promised features, which should have come with the base game.

As you can understand, players are furious. The game has now received overwhelmingly negative reviews on Steam, with anyone who bought it on release day for the full price of £39.99 feeling jilted. I was one of those fools.

Now, I’m not quite as angry as some of these people. The game promises to contain a universe with 18 quintillion planets, meaning you could never explore them all. Each one is procedurally generated, with a random atmosphere, climate, landscape and different levels of flora and fauna, as well as various hazards. If you like exploring in your games, it’s pretty good – but there’s really not much else to do apart from fly around and look at stuff.

However, I thought this could be a fun experiment for Sci-Fi Month – I’d pick some planets at random that I’d not yet visited, explore them, and document my travels. I’m hoping to do this over several posts. I’ve left all the planet and system names as the defaults, which is why some of them are unpronounceable… So here we go!

Planet #1 – Ibwayar Rolingi

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I landed on this planet, in the Ulhorinbodo system, during its night cycle, and the sky was a dark turquoise colour. It actually felt pretty creepy, as I could hear the shrieks of animals, but I couldn’t see anything. It was a grassy, humid planet, covered with bodies of water – which was actually the first one I’d found of its type in all thirty or so of the planets I’d explored before this.

Before long, the sun (or maybe suns?) came up, and the sky turned a bright yellow/orange. My surroundings were instantly a lot less creepy! The vegetation was lush, dense and colourful. I found evidence of some intelligent species having been on the planet in the form of storage pods, but I still hadn’t found any creatures.

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Finally I spotted something! A very shy, spiny creature that ran whenever I got near. After that, creatures seemed to appear everywhere and luckily they were all harmless… Even this one that looks sort of like a raptor with bunny ears. I also found an arch of rare metals, but it looked almost like there was lava flowing up through it and back down.

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Soon my HUD told me that there was an incoming storm, so I thought it might be an idea to find shelter. I’d seen something pop up earlier, so flew towards it – a base, where I was able to learn some new words of an alien language, Korvak, and pick up some new technology blueprints to help me on my travels. The storms in No Man’s Sky can be lethal – freezing, acid rain, fire – whatever they are, you do NOT want to be outside when they hit.

And with that, I decided it was time to move on. I warped to the next system to see what I could find…

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Planet #2 – Linjunguangkara

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If I thought the previous planet was creepy at night, it was nothing compared to this one. Located in the Euclid system, this planet was tropical and damp, dark and creepy, creepy, creepy! I immediately landed by a base – abandoned, and taken over by… something. Some sort of alien growth, like the red weed in The War of the Worlds. As I carefully navigated the base looking for resources, I had to keep an eye out for tentacles on the ceiling that would attack me. Ergh…

This planet also had water, typical after all those planets without. But was I going in that water? Nope. Nope. I did not trust the look of ANYTHING in that water. And there were caves everywhere. But the whole planet had me creeped out and too scared to even contemplate going anywhere risky. Who knew what could be lurking in there, waiting for me?

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Nearby, I found an alien monolith, which taught me a few words in the Korvak language. Sometimes you’ll find these scattered across the landscape, always imposing and unnatural, sometimes requiring some kind of sacrifice for a gain. It did nothing to settle my unease at this planet, so I decided it was time to leave.

I’ll be back with more intergalactic adventures soon!

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Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Common Concepts in Science Fiction

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Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
 
There are some factors that just make a science fiction book. That’s not to say that all sci-fi novels have to contain all, or even any, of these points, but they’re often found within works of the genre. In the style of my very first Fantasy Friday post, I’m going to do a similar post with science fiction and talk about common concepts in the genre. You’re more than welcome to join in, if you make your own post there is an InLinks widget at the bottom where you can share your post URL.
 

 
Time travel is something that has always fascinated humankind. I know some people do not get along with it in books, but personally I love it. There are series like Doctor Who where it is one of the main elements, or books like All Our Yesterdays. It opens up so many possibilities: parts of history can appear in a futuristic novel, historical figures can be brought to life – or civilisations even further ahead in time can be imagined. There are so many elements of time travel – alternate timelines, the grandfather paradox, many elements that would take a great deal more space to discuss!

See also: Doctor Who, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, The Time Machine by H.G Wells, The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Looper, Back to the Future, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

 
Space travel is another big factor, often hand-in-hand with time travel. What makes it so exciting is that it’s something we can already do – albeit on a smaller scale than appears in most science fiction – so events in many books could be ones we have yet to look forward to! In some cases spaceships are able to travel in hyperspace and reach destinations very quickly, but some works of science fiction show space travel in a different way. For example, in the Mass Effect game universe, the player can find objects called mass relays (shown above), which form an enormous network allowing interstellar travel. In the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons, there is a price to pay for space travel. Certain characters are able to travel through space at such a speed that it kills them – but they are resurrected on the other side. It’s every bit as painful as it sounds, much to the dismay of one particular character who has to make several journeys in a short period of time!
 
See also: the Mass Effect video game series, the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons, House of Suns by Alistair Reynolds, Firefly, Sunshine, Star TrekStar Wars – in fact there are so many different books, TV series, films and games I could mention!

 
Aliens appear in so many works of science fiction, in all shapes and sizes. Occasionally they are friendly and help the human race, but most of the time… well you really don’t want to cross them. The Alien franchise (well, some of it) is a fantastic example of hostile alien races terrorising humans. I think they’re so popular because, admit it, we love the idea of there being some other form of intelligent life out there. There have been so many UFO spottings, abduction reports and other alien eyewitnesses that just prove we are obsessed. I for one am both really excited and kind of absolutely terrified by the idea of extra-terrestrial life. On one hand, they could be like the turians from Mass Effect (I’m a big Garrus fan), but on the other hand they might just be something like the creatures from Alien. And I don’t fancy meeting a facehugger, thank you very much.

See also: the Alien film series, the Mass Effect video game series, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Doctor Who, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

 
This is one thing that makes me kind of sad when I read or watch sci-fi. I can’t remember ever seeing physical copies of books represented: characters always use ebooks or tablets to read or study. In fact it’s often some sort of multi-use device, for reading, communicating, studying and looking up information. I really hope that this is not our future; as much as I see the uses of an e-reader I would hate to live in a world without paperbacks.
 
See also: Acid by Emma Pass, the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Star Trek

 
It’s not just extraterrestrial life that fascinates us, but also artificial life. And like extraterrestrial life, it can be scary. In many examples, life created by humankind gets its own back on its creators – but in some cases, androids or cyborgs are seen as lesser citizens. One such example is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, also adapted into the film Blade Runner, where a bounty hunter has to dispose of several androids who have defied orders. As for YA fiction, there is Cinder by Marissa Meyer, where the eponymous character would be shunned from society were she to reveal her true status. In many cases, androids and cyborgs are indistinguishable from humans, which can be all the more dangerous. **Alien spoilers ahead** Think how shocked the crew of the Nostromo were when they discovered Ash was an android all along. **end spoilers** So maybe you should think about thanking that ATM next time it spits your cash out. Because one day, the machines might rebel against us!
 
See also: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Prometheus, Blade Runner, Artificial Intelligence

What concepts do you often see cropping up in science fiction? I can think of plenty more but have chosen only to cover a few. Which are your favourites?