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Seeking a New World

First LandingsThanksgiving is over, but the leftovers will be with us for awhile yet.  If you're not quite ready to give up on this holiday before diving into the next one, I've got some lovely Thanksgiving-themed SF titles to go with your cranberry turducken sandwiches.

"Wait," I hear you cry, "Thanksgiving-themed science fiction!?"  Well, sure.  You don't imagine that the settlers of Plymouth and Jamestown colonies were the last travelers to boldly go into a new world, do you?

Space colonization is a highly popular premise in science fiction.  It's extremely long-standing-- some of the titles I list below go back to the fifties, and one was just published earlier this month.  It also cuts across subgenres; though you'll find a hefty dose of space opera here, you can also find everything from philosophical to social to military SF.  Plots can be as straightforward as a good old "bug hunt" or as twisty and intrigue-ridden as a locked-room (well, locked-spaceship) mystery.

The reasons why migrants from a future Earth might seek new horizons don't seem too different from those of their historical counterparts-- or even of today's emigres.  Potential settlers might seek adventure, wealth, opportunity, resources, room to grow, better living conditions, freedom from oppression, refuge from war, or just a fresh start.  Though Earth's future colonists might have farther to travel than our Pilgrims, their motivations for leaving home could be remarkably similar.

There are even parallels in the types of danger they might face.  Space is no less unforgiving than a hungry ocean, and just as difficult to navigate.  Greedy raiders, predatory rival nations (or planets), or unscrupulous colonial powers could pose equal danger to a fragile new colony, future or past.  Just as our New World did, a new world might contain unfamiliar creatures (just as willing to add "colonist" to their diet), indigenous cultures (who may or may not be friendly), or challenging terrain.  A strange new plant may prove to contain a medicine that will save the colony... or a poison that will destroy it utterly.  (Sometimes both.)  Starvation, disease, or rebellion can threaten any isolated settlement or colony ship, whether it is the distance of an ocean or the vastness of space that separates them from their motherland.

Of course, not everything's quite the same.  The Pilgrims didn't need generation ships to reach the New World.  The settlers of La Florida were not fleeing the imminent catastrophic environmental collapse of Spain.  And, okay, Roanoke's failed colonists probably would have loved access to terraforming technology.  Still, tales of the fictional dangers faced by space-faring colonists may give you a new appreciation for our progenitors' bravery in leaving behind everything they knew to claim and tame a new place of their own.

If you'd like a tipple of adventure, a splash of romance, and the occasional dash of mystery to go with your reheated mashed potatoes, journey no further than one of the titles below!

Edge of Infinity by Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Pbk-SF Edge)
Proxima by Stephen Baxter (SF Baxter)
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (SF Beckett)
Empire of Dust by Jackey Bedford (Pbk-SF Bedford)
New Earth by Ben Bova (SF Bova)
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (SF Bradbury)
Downbelow Station by C. J. Cherryh (SF Cherryh)
The Creative Fire
by Brenda Cooper (SF Cooper)
Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey (SF Corey)
Marsbound by Joe W. Haldeman (SF Haldeman)
Crash by Guy Haley (Pbk-SF Haley)
Phoenicia's Worlds by Ben Jeapes (Pbk-SF Jeapes)
The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin (SF Le Guin)
Up Against It by M. J. Locke (SF Locke)
The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (SF Lord)
Learning the World: A Scientific Romance by Ken MacLeod (SF MacLeod)
The Disestablishment of Paradise by Phillip Mann (SF Mann)
The Quiet War by Paul McAuley (SF McAuley)
Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon (SF Moon)
Planetfall by Emma Newman (Express SF Newman)
Destiny's Road by Larry Niven (SF Niven)
The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth (SF Pohl)
The Forever Watch by David Ramirez (SF Ramirez)
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (SF Robinson)
The Last Colony by John Scalzi (SF Scalzi)
Coyote by Allen Steele (SF Steele)
Terraforming Earth by Jack Williamson (SF Williamson)

First Landings

First Landings: Left, detail of Theodor de Bry's "The Arrival of the Englishmen in Virginia" (1588), showing the settlers landing at Roanoke.  Right, "Digital Illustration of a Space Scene" by Knut Niehus, modified by the addition of the landing spaceship from Anna Pavlova's "Planets, Asteroid and Spaceship" (both from Photospin).  (Modifications are mine.)

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