June 18, 2005 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Anyone recommend any (fictional) books set in a post-singularity world?
posted by jimmy to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Modern or far future science fiction? Charles Stross is pretty much the master of singularity science fiction, as far as I can tell. "Singularity Sky" and "Iron Sunrise". Spin State is another example. Haven't actually seen the term used anywhere else, 'cept maybe "Spin State" by Chris Moriarty. I've found that looking for books that deal with quantum mechanics or nanotechnology at a scientific level (as opposed to a 'grey goo' level) usually nets some sort of singularity-talk.
posted by SpecialK at 12:15 PM on June 18, 2005

gosh darn, need to learn to use preview a little more often. :-P
posted by SpecialK at 12:16 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: Vernor Vinge: The Peace War and Marooned in Realtime, or A Fire upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky.

Charlie Stross, Accelerando. Looks like it goes through the singularity but I'm not done with it. Avail. for download free at .

Charlie Stross, Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise. Space opera in a post-singularity but understandable setting that's sort of like Vinge's AFutD/ADitS universe (but no zones).

Ken MacLeod, Fall Revolution series. The Star Fraction, The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division, The Sky Road. Singularities happen mostly offstage and we see the survivors/leftovers. Good fun.

Ken MacLeod, Newton's Wake.

Technically, I suppose the Culture is post-singularity.

Greg Bear's Eon and Eternity aren't really post-singularity but have heavy weirdness that's related. Likewise his Queen of Angels, /, Moving Mars series.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:20 PM on June 18, 2005

Response by poster: huh, jeez, didn't know it was practically a genre unto itself. thanks, guys.
posted by jimmy at 12:56 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: Vernor Vinge: The Peace War and Marooned in Realtime, or A Fire upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky

Actually, these are all pre-singularity. By definition (and Vinge is the one who defined the term), we can't know or understand what a post-singularity world would be like. In Marooned in Realtime, the singularity is looming - but no one knows what is beyond it. In a fire upon the deep, and a deepness in the sky, the universe is neatly compartmentalized into places where a singularity can and can't happen, and all the action takes place where the singularity is impossible (the slow zone or the low & high beyond). Of course, these are all excellent books, and in my opinion, the best of those recommended so far.

By extension, at least in Vinge's view, I doubt any of the books mentioned here should really be called post-singularity. They're just far future sci-fi in worlds where the singularity (perhaps unnaturally) hasn't or can't happen in the way that Vinge envisioned.
posted by advil at 1:06 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: I read a lot of scifi, but I haven't paid much attention to singularity.

I did once read a book about a last tribe of technologically augmented humans being hunted by robots on some far off planet. It was at a time when I was buying every book by Benford, Blish or Aldiss that appeared on the one dollar shelf, so it might be one of theirs.

It was very good!
posted by Chuckles at 1:36 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: I think it was Great Sky River, by Gregory Benford.
posted by Chuckles at 1:43 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: Appleseed, by John Clute, is well worth a look - the prose is intentionally dense and packed with unexplained references, and it gives a nice sense of the incomprehensibility of a post-singularity world.
posted by terpsichoria at 2:02 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: Quibble with Vinge. MiR happens after the singularity, but we only see the people who missed it. AFutD and ADitS happen in a world where the singularity is always happening... next door.

Stross's SS/IS happen after the singularity (or after *a* singularity anyway; only one "person" seems to have experienced it in that series), with the story dealing with people (in part) trying to understand what's going on, and the artifacts left behind, and how to deal with postsingularity intelligences, and so on.

Ditto MacLeod's Newton's Wake. A singularity happened, but not everyone was included, and the story is about the descendants of the people left behind in a weird world. Mostly.

An actual singularity story would probably be uninteresting -- Bob did stuff you wouldn't understand, for reasons too complex to explain. At least some of Bob did. Other Bob were doing things with unicycles that you'd need a super-causal mentality to understand. Some more Bob, (which were also partly Alice, but you don't want to get into that) were trying to explain some of this to an unaugmented human, but their explanations were so complex that they acquired sentience, upgraded themselves, and also became incomprehensible (but smelly).

Me, I didn't like Appleseed much, but of course mileage varies. To me it was trying much too hard to be clever, and the story that the purported cleverness was wrapped around was (IIRC, and to me) pretty ho-hum.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:45 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: Bob did stuff you wouldn't understand, for reasons too complex to explain.

Parts of Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun (especially The Urth of the New Sun) feel this way to me, although that's not necessarily representative of a singularity- at least, not a technological one.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 4:22 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: Also, you might want to check out Bruce Sterling's talk about singularities to the Long Now Foundation.
posted by bshort1974 at 4:53 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: It's by definition a little tough to define what post-singularity should look like...

That being said, I enjoyed Vernor Vinges stuff (well, ADItS not so much, but the rest of them).

Greg Bear's "Blood Music" was a lot of fun, and attempts to address a pre, mid, and post "nano-singularity" world...

A series that surprised me and I liked enormously was Kathleen Ann Goonan's "Queen City Jazz" / "Mississippi Blues" / "Crescent City Rhapsody" series. It's somewhere between post-apocalyptic and post-signularity, and about as original as anything I've ever seen.
posted by nonliteral at 5:13 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: A short story, but well worth reading in this context: R.A. Lafferty's Slow Tuesday Night.
posted by languagehat at 5:56 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: I'm surprised nobody's mentioned The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect (readable online) yet.

Bear's Blood Music is excellent as well (although only the last few chapters deal with the post-Singularity).

Technically speaking, I suppose, Simmons' Hyperion series is post-Singularity.
posted by neckro23 at 5:58 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: Greg Egan's Diaspora. If you can get through the first 80 pages or so describing the birth and development of the main "characeters", two post-human machine intelligences, you'll be rewarded. There are some incredible ideas in this one.
posted by ldenneau at 7:28 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: Definitely check out Greg Egan.

Even though I dont think the word singularity is Diaspora or Schild's Ladder they both deal with futures with consciousness uploading/post-human machine intelligences.

And most of his other novels/stories are at least just before a possible singularity with consciousness altering brain modifications or uploads that only run at 1/17 normal speed, stuff like that.
posted by Iax at 8:17 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: Charlie Stross, Accelerando. Looks like it goes through the singularity but I'm not done with it. Avail. for download free at

And very kick ass. I just finished it last night. The first part "feels" very Neal Stephenson/William Gibson-ish, and in the second part, well, he rips off Greg Bear's head and shits down his neck. I'm going to go out and buy a physical copy soon.
posted by mrbill at 9:57 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: The best person to comment here would be cstross, but I believe he is busy writing 10% of the novels to be published next year.

Most of MacLeod's books involve a near singularity that is stopped (there's a thesis to be written about "Genocide of the AIs in the work of Ken MacLeod").
Wolfe's "Solar" novels are entirely religious - the singularity there is one that pre-existed the universe and is the same as the one in the New Testament.
I read somewhere that the singularity actually happns somewhere in the middle of "accelerando" but everyone is so busy they don't notice. Stross said it is the moment the cat is obviously genuinely sentient I think.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:23 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: I really enjoyed "Return From the Stars" by Stanlisaw Lem. It's about the return to earth of the first space traveller to travel at near light speeds. Due to time dialation, the amount of time that passed on earth was much, much greater than the amount of time that passed during his space travel. When he returns, expecting a heros welcome, space travel is an everyday occurance, and no one really cares at all about him or his trip. The society he returns to is so different than the one he left, he may as well have landed on some alien planet. It's mostly about his alienation from the rest of society.
posted by skwm at 8:30 AM on June 19, 2005

(sorry, that should be Stanislaw)
posted by skwm at 8:31 AM on June 19, 2005

Best answer: Well, if you're less interested in "what are the political/sociological/economic" ramifications of a Singularity, and more intrigued by attempts to essentially describe the indescribable, then parts of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles series may intrigue you. One of the characters is a time traveler from a (possibly) post-singularity world, and some people have access to otherdimensional technology that operates several levels beyond ours.
posted by mkultra at 10:53 AM on June 19, 2005

As others have commented, writing post-Singularity fiction is impossible by definition, unless you're focused on those people who have been Left Behind.

That said, the usual cause I hear for a Singularity is machine-modified intelligence beyond what unmodified intelligences can appreciate. John C. Wright's "The Golden Age" and two sequels do the most I've seen to flesh out the implications of what such modifications would bring to life.

(In other ways the books are kinda junky, but evidently in an intentional homage to Golden Age science fiction.)
posted by Aknaton at 1:43 PM on June 19, 2005

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