the contextual life

thoughts without borders

Road Trips in Science Fiction and Fantasy

with 9 comments

The other week I was asked to contribute to the popular science fiction and fantasy website SF Signal. They have a series called “Mind Meld” where they ask authors and bloggers to answer one question posed to them by the moderator. I participated once before and what I’ve found is that like contributing to the series because I start off unsure if I’ll be able to come up with an answer. Being asked to come up with a short post about something I never would have thought of on my own allows me to stretch my brain. Luckily, both times I’ve been able to come up with a few hundred words.

You can read the entry in full here. There are tons of book suggestions from others and well worth a look. Below is my answer.

Q: What are your favorite “road trips” in science fiction and fantasy? What makes a good road trip in a genre story?

American GodsWith summer in full swing travel is on the minds of many. Even if you’re staying put, the season conjures up of visions–and perhaps memories–of long car rides to beachfront locations, hours spent with family in close quarters, and days or weeks with only the most necessary amenities. It’s now mid-July and time for the outdoors, open space, and new adventures; a break from the tedium and habits of the day-to-day.

Whether you’re staying home this season or currently packing up your things, all of this makes summer the perfect time for stories featuring road trips. The protagonist is usually shaking off the constraints of everyday life and seeking something new. A good travel story creates a certain suspense that is inevitably propelled forward by the sheer momentum of whatever vehicle is used–a horse, a car, a spaceship. The circumstances set the pace: Is the character in a hurry? are they lost? do they have direction or is it simply an escape?

BlackbirdsGrowing up in the 90s I was a huge fan of 1960s counterculture. I was into the Grateful Dead and devoured the literature of the time period. With the amount of drugs everyone did, and then wrote about, their books might as well have been categorized as fantasy. From Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, these were tales of misadventure and chaos. However entertaining these stories were to me in my teen years, true fantasy and science fiction offers something more than reality is able to provide.

Three books immediately come to mind that, if you haven’t read already, you should pick up before the fall is here. The first is Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. The story begins with a character named Shadow, a man newly released from a three year stint in prison. With his wife recently killed in a car crash he no longer has a reason to go home. Aimless and heartbroken, he accepts a job from a stranger and sets off on a quest across America. What follows is a familiar landscape set slightly askew by fantastically eerie characters based on Norse mythology and a haunting mystery to be uncovered.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig is another book that came to mind as I thought about road trips. The protagonist, Miriam Black, has an unfortunate power: she can see the way people will die just by touching them. When Miriam, also an aimless wanderer, hitches a ride with trucker Louis Darling and shakes his hand she sees that they will be together for the next thirty days, for better or worse.

Finally, there’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, undoubtedly the lighter of the three. Hitchhiker’s is the story of Arthur Dent, an unwitting Earthling who is taken away from his planet moments before it’s destroyed. Dent and his saviour, Ford Prefect, travel through the universe encountering dangerous aliens, inhospitable climates, and bad poetry. It’s a true comedy of errors. This unintended exploration of space will make you think twice when you start to complain about your summer vacation.

While realist road trips take you on a ride through lands you might never travel to, their science fiction and fantasy counterparts take you worlds beyond your imagination.

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Written by Gabrielle

August 6, 2013 at 6:48 am

9 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on WordPress Blogs Reblogging Site.

    cyril

    August 6, 2013 at 7:14 am

  2. I loved this book!

    Lexi

    August 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm

  3. I’m planning a road trip based on American Gods.

    crowrath

    August 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

  4. […] at The Contextual Life, Road Trips in Science Fiction and Fantasy […]

    The List List #68

    August 9, 2013 at 9:15 am

  5. The best road trips are the ones where you get lost in.

    mcwatty9

    August 9, 2013 at 12:44 pm

  6. […] When you go on a fantastic road trip […]

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