Tuesday, April 24, 2018

SIDE QUESTS: Non-Fiction & History

Here at Ye Olde Fansite(e), the vast majority of what we review and talk about is fiction (sadly, lightsabers still fall into that category). I have a longstanding love non-fiction, particularly history in general. For me, this mostly takes the form of books, because for some reason, I can rarely get into documentaries.

As a confirmed sci-fi geek, I love how history informs our view of the future and what is possible. The patterns which emerge, how powers rise and fall, where conflicts come from, how people behave in various societies — these are fascinating all on their own, but I think it makes our imaginings that much more interesting. It certainly informs my own writing as much as anything.

'History' is obviously a really broad brush to paint with, since, ya know, it describes literally everything which has ever happened. So here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order.

Flags of Our Fathers & Flyboys, by James Bradley: The thing I enjoy most in learning about history are all the little details, the things which get lost. Both of these books are completely fascinating, Flags of our Fathers for doing a deep dive into the people in the most famous photo in history, and Flyboys, well, just read it. Be warned: it's traumatizing.

Isaac Newton, by James Gleick: A deep look at who Newton was as a person, and his motivations. You'll come away from reading this feeling like you really know the man. His other work on chaos (which is a whole other post) and Feynman are equally brilliant.

Rocket Boys aka October Sky, by Homer Hickem: I think the book is also named October Sky now, thanks to the meh movie made out of it. The book, as per usual, is much better and more interesting. Small town group of kids exploring their curiosity and learning everything they can, American 1950's coal town education notwithstanding.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly: More people overcoming odds with science (yeahsciencedotgif) There is a theme here, isn't there? The movie is fantastic, but as above, there is so, so much more in the book.

Those are just a few. But if you haven't picked up a non-fiction or history book since school, I highly recommend picking a subject that you love and finding some books or documentaries on it - like baseball? The Battered Bastards of Baseball on Netlix is amazing. Movie buff? There are endless books on movies themselves, directors, actors, etc. Or if you want to learn about making them (or criticizing them!), there are some great YouTube channels out there.

And if you stumble across something fun, please share!

Dean is the author of the 3024AD series of science fiction stories (which should be on YOUR summer reading list). You can read his other ramblings and musings on a variety of topics (mostly writing) on his blog. When not holed up in his office
tweeting obnoxiously writing, he can be found watching or playing sports, or in his natural habitat of a bookstore.