Next week is a big week in the sports world. Sunday is Super Bowl LII, and Friday, February 9th marks the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics, a worldwide contest that’s been going on since ancient times. We have a few fans here on staff, but a lot of us feel that, well, modern day sports are a bit lacking. We prefer the sports we find in the pages of science fiction novels. Here are just a few of our favorites. What’s your favorite science fiction sport?
Head On by John Scalzi
The goal of the game in Head On is to decapitate a select player on the opposing team and throw their head through a goal post. Members of each team attack each other with hammers and swords. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible, much less unethical. But in Hilketa—a violent and fast-paced popular past time—all the players are “threeps,” robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it.
Runtime by S. B. Divya
Ever run a marathon? How about an ultra-marathon? Now add cyborgs, and you’ve basically got the Minerva Sierra Challenge in Divya’s novella Runtime. Most runners in the race have corporate sponsorships, top of the line cyborg parts, and great support teams to make it little less dangerous (only a little). Running without those things is practically a death sentence, but there are always those out there willing to give it a try, even if the system is rigged against them. This is one for perpetual underdogs everywhere (I’m looking at you, Cleveland Browns).
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Okay, so we know the competition to gain control of the OASIS in Ready Player One isn’t actually a sport. It’s a game, with puzzles, video games, and trivia contests. But we think it fits on this list anyway, because the consequences can still be deadly—as Wade discovers when goons from Innovative Online Industries start trying to kill him and his friends.
Steel by Richard Matheson
Frankly, we think a lot of sports could be improved by upgrading the technology involved—and we don’t just mean better replay cameras. Why not replace the athletes with robots? We love the robot boxing depicted in Matheson’s story more than we love actual boxing, to be honest—it’s much more fun to picture giant robots slugging it out than men. Less bloody, too.
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
Growing up, we all knew a few kids who would rather play sports than study. Too bad they weren’t growing up on Kurt Vonnegut’s Mars, where that’s the reality! The only problem: the only sport Martians play is German batball. Imagine baseball, but with no bats, only two bases, and a ball the shape and size of a big, heavy honeydew melon. Sounds fun, right?
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The entire premise of Ender’s Game is, well, a game—a video game simulation of a war. Putting that aside though, there is definitely a sport in Ender’s world: the Battle Room. Children at Battle School are organized into armies and go into zero-g combat games against other armies. While we don’t necessarily want to attend Battle School, we definitely want to join Dragon Army someday. Somebody get to work making that a reality, will you?
Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams
Some sports and games have a LOT of rules to remember. Others are like Brockian Ultra-Cricket, from Life, the Universe, and Everything. It’s a game where the goal is basically for players to hit each other with whatever’s at hand, then retreat a safe distance and apologize—for points. The lack of rules means games pretty much never end, and often devolve into all-out warfare. Sounds like a great way to work out some frustration!