Making Connections

When digging into any recently published science fiction novel, it’s not uncommon to notice subtle (or not so subtle) references to older, “classic” sci-fi authors and characters. Many contemporary authors like to pay homage to those who’ve inspired them by cleverly naming characters or places after them – either directly or subtly by using anagrams. Most often, when a character or place is named in such a fashion, there’s a certain irony to be found – an “inside joke,” if you will, that can only be understood if you recognize the reference. I wish I could provide a concrete example, but bear with me, you’ll soon see this evidenced, though not restricted to the scope of literature.

My personal library (if it could even be called such) isn’t comprehensive by any means, but I have read my share of science fiction novels. Not surprisingly, nearly every one of them contains references to other works. I’m not certain when exactly it was, but at some point in time I finally decided that no longer wanted to be left out of the loop – I wanted understand the ironic implications. Hence, I began to take an interest in classic sci-fi novels.

I began by picking up Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Frank Herbert’s Dune with every intention of reading them quickly. I managed reading two chapters into each and didn’t pick them up again.

Here it is sometime later and I’ve began again on Huxley. It’s been two days and I just started chapter 8. Now where am I going with this, you may ask? For some reason, right around chapter 4, with the introduction of a main character named “Lenina”, the movie Demolition Man crept out of my subconcious. If you ever sat through it, you’ll remember that DM was set in a “utopian” future, where society has been sterilized, crime and suffering are non-existent, and everyone is generally happy. If this sounds all too familiar, it’s because it is the same setting found in BNW, and more recently, the movie Equilibrium (highly recommended flick, BTW). Anyway, in DM, the name of the character played by Sandra Bullock was none other that “Lenina Huxley.”

I can just hear the stunned gasps of realization already. I’m certain many of you recognized the reference immediately when you first watched the movie, but please remember I’m working backwards here, so I’m quite proud of myself for making the connection. Yes, I know I’m certainly not the first to do it. In fact, while writing this I clicked the IMDb link to DM and sure enough there’s a trivia section explaining it all. Man do I feel dumb now, but since I’ve already put this much effort into the post I might as well make it.

It’s satisfying to see that my labors are already bearing fruit, and I haven’t even finished my first novel. So far I’m really enoying BNW. Perhaps I’ll post a reaction when I finish it.

Also, does anyone have any suggestions for good classic sci-fi? After Dune I’ll probably move to Douglas Adams’ The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or George Orwell’s 1984, but I’m going to need a lot more to keep me going.

3 thoughts on “Making Connections

  1. Barry

    Peter F. Hamilton – The Night’s Dawn Trilogy
    Neil Stephenson – Snow Crash (highly recommended)

    I’ve heard Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” is good too but I’ve never picked it up. And for course I think you’ve read “Artifact” by Gregory Benford and while I liked it I remember you thinking it sucked :P

  2. Kody

    Actually I never finished Artifact because it did seem to start off slowly and I probably lost interest. It’s still sitting here on the shelf waiting for me to pick up again…

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