Stirling and the NOSS Gateway

by Dylan
(Illinois, Wisconsin)

I must say, I hadn't expected you to like Stirling's works, Zendexor, because of the entire premise's reliance on COMOLD! That said, I'm glad you did like them- they are some of my favorite NOSS works.

I've put some thought into the NOSS and its differences with the vanilla OSS. Typically, NOSS fiction features the old worlds while updating the technology to match the current standards of Science Fiction. This is evident in stories such as Allen M. Steele's "Martian Blood" and "Frogheads" and also in Stirling's "Lords of Creation" series.

Now, I've enjoyed both mainstream science fiction and OSS fiction for a long time, and so I might not understand the minds of all the Stids out there. However, it seems to me the objection to OSS fiction is usually something like "It's unrealistic." or "Its out of date."

It strikes me that NOSS books, and Stirling's "Lords of Creation" in particular, might serve as a sort of gateway drug for mainstream sci-fi readers. Its focus on realism could pull them in, and, hopefully, the OSS dream might make them stay. It's a thought, anyways.

Comments for Stirling and the NOSS Gateway

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Jul 27, 2016
by: Dylan

Mr. Stirling, welcome! I am a lucky reader, I have twice now been afforded the opportunity to "meet" two favorite authors of mine on this site!

I have to confess, I adore the Mars of the Lords of Creation Series! The pragmatism of the Martians feels perfectly fitted to Mars, and I'm hard pressed to find a better example of a marriage between the OSS and real astronomy. "The city that is a mountain" made me gleeful! You did the same on Venus, with Ishtar and Aphrodite Terra, and it worked just as well.

I also enjoyed the ways you found to preserve the old worlds - Teyud feels like an updated Dejah Thoris, biological weapons make swords a necessity, the degrading terraforming makes Mars a dying world - genius. The same goes for Venus.

The nomads, I suspect, were a reference to Tharks, and the cave in Arizona was a fun call out, as was "Fort Dinosaur". I wonder, though, are the "Cloud Mountain People" so named in reference to Brackett's Venusian Mountains of Cloud? I also feel that "Steed Noble" is a reference, although to what I cannot pinpoint.

The use of a Dyson Sphere in place of the hollow Earth would have been fantastic. Perhaps you are saving that story to write one day, but if you are not, I'm curious as to what it would have been like. Would it have been populated with Earth life, like Venus and Mars? Would there be any remnants of the Lords of Creation? Would we finally learn what became of them?

Oh, what could have been!

Jul 26, 2016
by: S.M. Stirling

I grew up on the OSS stuff, of course. Part of my motivation for the LORDS OF CREATION series was "why should the old farts get all the fun"

I did have terrible trouble selling it, though -- I had to take a hit on the advance and do it more or less as a labor of love.

The sales were reasonable but not enough to make the publisher interested in more, which was a pity. The next one was going to be the interior of the Dyson Sphere mentioned in the last chapter of IN THE COURTS OF THE CRIMSON KINGS -- essentially a gigantic Pellucidar.

[reply from Zendexor: Aha! So it wasn't that easy! I had assumed your work heralded a new dawn in publishers' attitudes. And perhaps it will, only we're still in the twilight before the dawn. I hope this site does its bit in spreading the word. Also, the success of your other works certainly can't do the neo-OSS cause any harm - fans will leap over from one sub-genre to another following an author they wish to read, if the gap isn't too wide, and if the thematic overlap is clear, as it is between alternate Earth history and alternate Solar System facts.

And, by the way, "soyez le bienvenu" - to our happy nine-planet family.]

Jun 20, 2016
by: Robert Gibson

Following on from Dylan's remarks one might explore the idea of gateway-works more generally: writers who somehow get a response beyond their genre boundaries altogether. Two outstanding examples are Ray Bradbury in the US and John Wyndham in the UK.

Bradbury's Mars is of course famous; Wyndham's world was mainly Earth, but "Time to Rest" is one of the best ever OSS Mars stories - not very well known, perhaps, though it was dramatised on TV long ago, in the "Out of the Unknown" series, I think. "Dumb Martian" is also a riveting tale, with a superbly ironic last line.

On the subject of S M Stirling, might it be a good idea to send him an invitation to comment on this site? It would be great if he could be induced to "join the family".

[Comment from Zendexor: Re SMS - I intend to try to get in touch with him, after extending the site's coverage of his work. I want to add separate pages for the two "Lords of Creation" novels before I have a go at inviting him to join the family. Don't want to look skimpy. Gotta make sure of the cake supply before inviting a guest to tea.]

Jun 18, 2016
realism and the NOSS
by: Zendexor

In fact, Stirling is extra realistic. Granted the initial alternate-reality premise, he proceeds from there with gritty credibility. Any similarities with ERB-style tropes - e.g. the single combat between the rivals for Teesa's affections in "The Sky People", so like Pellucidarian confrontations - are instances of (to use a zoological metaphor) parallel plot-evolution, rather than true genre "consanguinity"!

Perhaps the ultimate question is, how realistic is reality? Romantics are dissatisfied with it, and are disinclined in their heart of hearts to accept life as it is. I would argue that they must be right - for romantic dissatisfaction is itself as real as anything else... but as for Stirling, he (to repeat) is a realist and not bothered by such philosophical questions. Instead, he gives us a cheerful material romp in a technologically up-to-date NOSS, for which we can be grateful.

We may be witnessing the gradual birth of two strands of NOSS development, both awesome in their way: the S M Stirling fascination with "what if that one parameter in our reality were changed?" and the Robert Gibson obsession with undermining our reality wholesale and replacing it with another (if I understand "Valeddom" and "Uranian Gleams" correctly).

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to join the conversation.