Panology of Science Fiction: E


A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam

Frederik Pohl
prosthetic arm on blue background
Photo by ThisIsEngineering on

It was stories about the ‘mad scientist’ that kicked off genre literature, ever since Daedalus fabricated wings from feathers and wax for himself and his son Icarus. Invention is the heart of all sci-fi stories, which in turn becomes the heart of inspiration that turns science fantasy into reality. Geosynchronous communications satellites, computer worms, Segways, wall-mounted home theatres, exoskeletons, smartphones, virtual worlds, and organ harvesting were all described by sci-fi writers long before engineers turned them into reality.

Many authors are indeed engineers and scientists, Arthur C. Clarke, Edward E. “Doc” Smith, Joe Haldeman and Isaac Asimov to name just a few, making their work some of the best sci-fi out there. They get to create and test theoretical technology in fiction and at the same time, get inspired to dream up solutions in the real, current world.

Engineering is obviously fundamental to all sci-fi stories, and not only to have fantastical new technology for your characters to play with, but also to ‘engineer’ a world, a society that is victim to the ramifications to the inventions that pervade it.

Engineering is the plot device of plot devices.

Automatic City

A city designed to protect itself and maintain itself over millions of years.

The Man in the Maze, by Robert Silverberg.

Published by Avon Books in 1969


A device used to see into specific internals of time.

From Legion of Time, by Jack Williamson.

Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1938


A crystalline form of water so stable that in practical terms it would never melt.

From Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Published by Random House in 1963

The Metaverse

A virtual universe.

Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.

Published by Bantam in 1992

Repellor Anti-Gravity Rays

Device provides support for planet-side air travel.

Armageddon: 2419 A.D. , by Philip Frances Nowlan

Published by Amazing Stories in 1928

Rhennius Machine

Device of alien manufacture, which will reverse, or turn inside out, any object passed through its mobilator.

Doorways in the Sand

Doorways in the Sand, by Roger Zelazny.

Published by Harper Science Fiction in 1976

Virtual Immortality

A method for storing the mind and memories of a person, and recalling and reconstituting them at will.

The city and the stars

The City and the Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke.

Published by Unknown in 1956

hooded hydra

Panology of Science Fiction: B

An A to Z of science fiction fields of study.


This science is a given. Even if the story doesn’t involve alien ecosystems, a near or far future world is an undiscovered country of new manifestations of living things, human or otherwise. What have we so far found living on this planet?  Plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, slime moulds, archaea. From synthetic to quantum biology the list of organisms that can be conjured up is endless.Image result for xenobiology

Udods, The Dark Light Years by Brian W. Aldiss

Brian W. Aldiss’s Hothouse and Helliconia Series

Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor Cycle

Geblings, Dwelfs & Gaunts, Wyrms by Orson Scott Card

Tendu, The Color of Distance by Amy Thomson.

Biopunk, Ribofunk by Paul Di Filippo