Science and Engineering Fiction

Posted on January 6, 2009  Comments (1)

cover of The Ice Limit

We always hear of science fiction. But what about engineering fiction? Well I finished reading a book this weekend that was at least as much engineering fiction as science fiction: The Ice Limit by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. It was a fun read. I enjoy the books those two collaborate on.

I also finished reading another book recently. I recommend Panic in Level 4 by Richard Preston. He wrote The Hot Zone, which is also great. He writes what “literary nonfiction” or “creative nonfiction.” The book includes 2 stories on math, about the Chudnovsky brothers, and 4 on biological science stories. I believe they were all previously stories in the New Yorker.

Douglas Preston and Richard Preston are brothers. It is just a happy co-incidence I happened to read them both recently. I just noticed the last names were the same so I looked online to see if they were related. Here is a nice bit from Douglas Preston’s web site:

As they grew up, Doug, Richard, and their little brother David roamed the quiet suburbs of Wellesley, terrorizing the natives with home-made rockets and incendiary devices mail-ordered from the backs of comic books or concocted from chemistry sets.

After unaccountably being rejected by Stanford University (a pox on it), Preston attended Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he studied mathematics, biology, physics, anthropology, chemistry, geology, and astronomy before settling down to English literature.

Also I read Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston a few months ago. I preferred it to Ice Limit actually (but it didn’t have the engineering fiction angle) just a fun thriller with some science fiction thrown in.

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One Response to “Science and Engineering Fiction”

  1. Ba Nguyen
    August 30th, 2009 @ 1:24 am

    The engineer in me cringes when seeing the phrase “engineering fiction” because having been in the profession for some time I have submitted to the conventional wisdom that engineering mostly concerns with precision and predictability. Feeding x to a circuit, you will get y at the output if the circuit functions properly. Fiction is a luxury to be indulged in moderation, and I have had a hard time reconciling my closet love for words in my line of work which involves digital design. I can’t very well let flow my stream of consciousness when writing a specification of a high speed interface. However, the need to satisfy a primal yearning for some unmeasurable quality that I’d like to call “beauty” in words has to be fulfilled somehow. Perhaps engineering fiction provides an intersection to both.

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