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7 Times Science Fiction Made Sports Better

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

Poster Placeholder of - 9 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

Placeholder of  -31 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

Image Place holder  of - 90 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

Image Placeholder of - 5 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

Place holder  of - 63 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!


Where to Start with the Dune Universe

Image Place holder  of - 75By Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Dune is not only a classic novel, but a vast universe created by Frank Herbert. And with six novels written by Frank himself as well as 13 novels and nine short stories written by us—covering approximately 15,000 years of history in the Dune canon—it can be difficult to figure out where to start.

We strongly recommend reading Frank Herbert’s original novel Dune first. This is one of the seminal works in all of literature, and everyone should read it. After that, we suggest Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, to finish Frank Herbert’s original trilogy.

At that point, you have several options. You can keep reading through Frank’s other three Dune novels which span about 5000 years of history, and follow that chronologically by reading our Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune, which were based upon Frank Herbert’s notes…followed by our other prequels and sequels.

As alternatives, we recommend two other entry points:

Dune: House Atreides begins a prequel trilogy that goes back to the generation just before Dune, in which we tell the story of young Duke Leto, his love story with Lady Jessica, their first battles with Baron Harkonnen, and how Crown Prince Shaddam took the Imperial throne.

Or you can go back 10,000 years before Frank Herbert’s Dune, with the trilogy that starts with Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, and another trilogy beginning with Navigators of Dune…in all, six novels that establish the origins of the Fremen, the discovery of spice, the legendary war against the thinking machines, and the beginning of the feud between House Atreides and House Harkonnen.

Yet another option would be to read all of the novels and short stories in chronological order, starting with “Hunting Harkonnens.” Below is a chronological list of novels and short stories, from beginning to end. All the short stories are collected in Tales of Dune, except for the just-released “The Waters of Kanly,” which appeared in Infinite Stars, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

Two other books of interest are The Road to Dune, with a collection of background material, some of the short stories, and the short novel “Spice Planet,” a very different version of Dune, as originally outlined by Frank Herbert and written by us.

And if you want to learn more about the genius of Frank Herbert, who created this grand universe, you will enjoy Dreamer of Dune, Brian’s Hugo-nominated biography of his father.

The Dune Universe in Chronological Order:

“Hunting Harkonnens” (story, Tales of Dune)
Dune: The Butlerian Jihad
“Whipping Mek” (story, Tales of Dune)
Dune: The Machine Crusade
“The Faces of a Martyr” (story, Tales of Dune)
Dune: The Battle of Corrin
Sisterhood of Dune
Mentats of Dune
“Red Plague” (story, Tales of Dune)
Navigators of Dune
Dune: House Atreides
Dune: House Harkonnen
Dune: House Corrino
“Wedding Silk” (story, Tales of Dune)
“A Whisper of Caladan Seas” (story, Tales of Dune)
“The Waters of Kanly” (story, Infinite Stars)
Paul of Dune
Dune Messiah
Winds of Dune
Children of Dune
God Emperor of Dune
Heretics of Dune
Chapterhouse Dune
“Sea Child” (story, Tales of Dune)
“Treasure in the Sand” (story, Tales of Dune)
Hunters of Dune
Sandworms of Dune
Tales of Dune
The Road to Dune
Dreamer of Dune [biography of Frank Herbert]


Books to Read If You Need More Heroes Like Wonder Woman in Your Life

by Lauren Jackson, Senior Publicist

If you’re like me and you saw Wonder Woman opening weekend (and are possibly planning on seeing it again this weekend), I know you’re craving more warriors, pirates, explorers, and revolutionaries of the “badass woman” variety. Tor is here to help with nine books that’ll inspire you to become an Amazonian warrior of Themyscira.

Image Place holder  of - 16 Red Right Hand by Levi Black
Charlie isn’t a hero; she’s a survivor. Already wrestling with the demons of her past, a diabolical stranger reveals that she wields a dark magick, and he wants her to use it. But ultimately what she does with her power is in her hands.
Placeholder of  -30 Firebrand by A. J. Hartley
Once a steeplejack who scaled the highest buildings in the city of Bar-Selehm, Ang Sutonga is now an investigator, working to expose political corruption and quash the xenophobia and racism taking over her city. Instead of climbing to great heights, she must go undercover and expose the darkest secrets of the rich and powerful before they destroy Bar-Selehm.
Place holder  of - 82Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Pyrre Lakatur made an appearance in Staveley’s beloved Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne series, but her backstory tells how she became the badass priestess serving the god of death. Hint: it involves a lot of mind-blowing swordplay and bloodshed.
Poster Placeholder of - 58 Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan
Throughout this five-book series, readers follow the always daring and often dangerous adventures of Lady Isabella Trent, dragon naturalist, as she goes to the far corners of the world in the name of scientific discovery.
Image Placeholder of - 21 The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis
Josette Dupre is the Corps’ first female airship captain, patrolling the front lines of battle all while contending with a crew who doubts her expertise and an aristocrat hellbent on cataloguing and exposing every moment of weakness. But, when her enemies make a move no one was prepared for, Josette comes into her own and shows everyone what a “weak woman” airship captain can really do.
Roar by Cora Carmack
Known for her contemporary new adult novels, Carmack’s heroine in Roar, Aurora, turns fantasy tropes on their head. In the course of the novel, Aurora transforms from a powerless, sheltered princess, used by power-hungry men, into a true force of nature… literally (and we’ll leave it there).
Updraft by Fran Wilde
When Kirit Densira, a trader, breaks an obscure law, she’s forced to atone by learning the rules and becoming a part of her world’s governing body, the Singers. But as she gains more knowledge of her new craft, so does her doubt that the laws are right. So… what does she do? The only thing she can do: start a revolution.
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
This alternative history novel doesn’t lack for diverse voices, especially ones that have been historically silenced. One of them belongs to Lisette Toutournier, a queer spy who founded the book’s titular country… one that serves as a safe haven for native populations of the Congo during the disastrous colonization by Belgium.
The Queen of Swords by R. S. Belcher
What happens when a descendant of pirates and assassin has her daughter kidnapped? RS Belcher answers the question with Maude Stapleton, who hunts for her daughter, Constance (who comes with her own impressive powers), while also staving off cults that want to use her for their own, nefarious ends.

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