While the print and online versions of this magazine do an excellent job of monitoring and reviewing new SF/F/H texts, and non-fiction books closely tied to SF/F/H, it occurs to me that at times there might be other “associational” books that are worth bringing to the attention of readers. This is one of those items.
First, a book related to Christopher Nolan’s latest movie, Interstellar (2014), reviewed here by Gary Westfahl. I’ll say right upfront that I haven’t seen the film yet, but in this instance I don’t think it makes much of a difference. As someone with an interest in science, I was delighted to learn that renowned physicist Kip Thorne acted as consultant (and executive producer) on the project. Better yet, as I recently discovered, he has written a beautifully-illustrated popular science book on the subject: The Science of Interstellar. From what I’ve read so far, I can heartily recommend it. (The only reason I haven’t read all of it is that it contains spoilers, so those sections will have to wait until after I’ve checked out the flick). Ursula K. Le Guin recently used the phrase “realists of a larger reality” to talk about writers of the fantastic, and I think that phrase also applies to scientists who conceive of far-out possibilities. That’s what Thorne has done, and his book nicely bridges cutting-edge theories with thoughtful extrapolation. In this video Nolan and Thorne talk about their collaboration; and in this piece, Matt Williams describes how the film-making process may have led Thorne to make a discovery.
Continuing this thread of interest in science, there are two other recent films that chronicle pivotal moments and key contributions of two great minds, one deceased, one still alive. Both of these films are largely based on fascinating non-fiction books.
One is Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, which is the inspiration for The Imitation Game. The other is Travelling to Infinity by Jane Hawking, which is the primary source material for the movie about Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything. These are movie tie-in editions of older books, and the texts have been updated with new material, so I recommend the newer editions. For anyone who is curious about cryptography, computation, algorithms, the nature of time, the Big Bang, and black holes, these are good gateway texts that provide the very human contexts of these ideas.