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Remembering Ben Bova, Sci-Fi Author Extraordinaire 1932-2020

Another incredible author has left us in 2020, this time in the genre of science fiction. Ben Bova, a prolific writer and an utter staple within the genre, passed away last weekend due to complications from a stroke and Covid-19.

A six time winner of the Hugo Award, Bova penned more than a hundred books as well as edited major sci-fi publications like Omni and served as president of the National Space Society and the Science Fiction Writers of America. To cover his extensive bibliography in depth would be quite a mammoth feat given how many publications he wrote. It even has its own Wikipedia page!

The New York Times once described Bova as “the last of the great pulp writers”.

However, he is arguably best known for his Grand Tour series, a collection of novels that serve as a fictional guide to the late 21st century human colonization of our solar system. Each novel focuses on a specific planet or region and explores various themes of human conflict and the search for extraterrestrial life. Each book can be read as a standalone, but some share story-arcs so there are various chronologies out there proposing the best order in which to read them.

Recently I was sent an anthology of his works for review, but unfortunately because of personal circumstances I was unable to post my review before its publication. Now that I’m back reading and blogging again, I plan to put a review up here ASAP.

I actually picked the collection up a couple of weeks ago as my first back-to-reading ARC and am really enjoying it so far. I can’t wait to tell you all my thoughts once I’ve finished it! Until then, I thought it would be apt to put a little tribute to the author here on my blog.

He has a multitude of meaningful quotes out there, but I quite like what he had to say about science fiction and its impact on humanity.

“The art of fiction has not changed much since prehistoric times. The formula for telling a powerful story has remained the same: create a strong character, a person of great strengths, capable of deep emotions and decisive action. Give him a weakness. Set him in conflict with another powerful character — or perhaps with nature. Let his exterior conflict be the mirror of the protagonist’s own interior conflict, the clash of his desires, his own strength against his own weakness. And there you have a story. Whether it’s Abraham offering his only son to God, or Paris bringing ruin to Troy over a woman, or Hamlet and Claudius playing their deadly game, Faust seeking the world’s knowledge and power — the stories that stand out in the minds of the reader are those whose characters are unforgettable.

To show other worlds, to describe possible future societies and the problems lurking ahead, is not enough. The writer of science fiction must show how these worlds and these futures affect human beings. And something much more important: he must show how human beings can and do literally create these future worlds. For our future is largely in our own hands. It doesn’t come blindly rolling out of the heavens; it is the joint product of the actions of billions of human beings. This is a point that’s easily forgotten in the rush of headlines and the hectic badgering of everyday life. But it’s a point that science fiction makes constantly: the future belongs to us — whatever it is. We make it, our actions shape tomorrow. We have the brains and guts to build paradise (or at least try). Tragedy is when we fail, and the greatest crime of all is when we fail even to try.

Thus science fiction stands as a bridge between science and art, between the engineers of technology and the poets of humanity.”
― Ben Bova

So long, Ben, and thanks for all the fish.

Are you a Ben Bova fan? Which of his works have you read? Let me know in the comments!

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