Science fiction on ice
November 15, 2005 3:44 PM   Subscribe

I need recommendations for excellent science fiction books, movies, short stories (or anything, really) centered around life, scientific exploration, and/or research in the arctic, antarctica, or similar fictional extreme cold climates.

Think the X-Files episode "Ice," or Firefly in a really really cold climate (I can't think of any literary examples). I realize there are many documentaries out there centered around this subject, but I'm specifically looking for science fiction.
posted by aebaxter to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Thing.
posted by phearlez at 3:51 PM on November 15, 2005

Doris Lessing's The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
posted by zadcat at 4:02 PM on November 15, 2005

le guin's left hand of darkness is about a world called winter (well, really, it's about dualism and gender roles and science fiction as metaphor for the human condition, but it's set on a very cold planet).
posted by crush-onastick at 4:06 PM on November 15, 2005

Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is a very strange tale that takes its narrator down into Antarctica.
posted by xmutex at 4:09 PM on November 15, 2005

Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica .
posted by RakDaddy at 4:10 PM on November 15, 2005

Did you say extreme cold?
posted by Capn at 4:12 PM on November 15, 2005

I loved this as a teenager - I think it's a classic. I've got to run, so don't know if it's in libraries.

Iceworld by Hal Clement, First Published in 1953
Genre(s): SF

From the Publisher
Planet of Death.

The world was cold. The crew of the spaceship could feel the chill in their bones even as they hung in orbit, fifty planetary diameters away.

It was a frightening prospect, for even the rays from this system's sun were weak, lifeless; it seemed impossible that such a bleak and icy globe could ever have produced intelligent life... or so it seemed to a race that breathed gaseous sulfur and drank molten copper chloride.

For the world of ice was Earth!

Out of print
posted by judybxxx at 4:16 PM on November 15, 2005

The Trudeau Vector.

Elements of Lucifer by Michael Cordy take place in a research base in a cold climate.

There is this movie Deep Freeze but it gets terrible reviews e.g. "Don`t Defrost This Turkey".
posted by wannalol at 4:22 PM on November 15, 2005

There's the Icerigger series of books by Alan Dean Foster composed of Icerigger (1974), Mission to Moulokin (1979) and The Deluge Drivers (1987).
posted by dgeiser13 at 4:23 PM on November 15, 2005

not exactly SciFi but maybe the Deception Point?
posted by skrike at 4:29 PM on November 15, 2005

Niven's short "Wait It Out". Brrr.
posted by dhartung at 4:41 PM on November 15, 2005

i second left hand of darkness, not only because it is what you are looking for (not necessarily at the beginning), but because it is a hauntingly beautiful piece of fiction.
posted by poweredbybeard at 4:46 PM on November 15, 2005

Well, there's always the Mars trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson. Mars can be a pretty cold place, I hear.
posted by greatgefilte at 4:54 PM on November 15, 2005

Second Hal Clement's Iceworld. Good science.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:14 PM on November 15, 2005

Second Antarctica, well though out, involved; enthusiastically third Left Hand of Darkness, gorgeous ideas and writing.
posted by signal at 5:16 PM on November 15, 2005

What about White Fang and the other Jack London books? Alaska is cold.
posted by spicynuts at 5:19 PM on November 15, 2005

Brian Aldiss's Helliconia 1980s trilogy is notable. It's a trilogy where the actually makes plot sense rather than satisfying some vague publishing/marketing shelf space dictate (although I'm sure that played a part).

Helliconia is a planet with a complex and very long orbit. It spends a great deal of time almost completely frozen in an ice age. Then it spends several thousand years warming. There are two dominant species, both humanoid, but one very similar to homo sapiens (likes it warm), and one more like a kind of shaggy ape. Both species wax and wane according to the climate cycle, and the interaction between both species is mediated by a rather elaborate retrovirus that has evolved to periodically purge the populations and alter their dominant genotype to adapt them to the conditions. It's a kind of repetitive, punctuated, circular evolution. It's informed throughout by Aldiss' magnificent skepticism about "progress". The trilogy cycle is Spring-Summer-Winter. It plays with the notions of heroic fantasy, much the same way as, say, M John Harrison's Virconium.

Vernor Vinge used the same idea of a long-term cold/hot planetary orbit to great effect, as well, in his A Deepness in the Sky.
posted by meehawl at 5:20 PM on November 15, 2005

Larry Niven's short story Wait It Out takes place on Pluto.
posted by squidlarkin at 5:35 PM on November 15, 2005

Peter Hoeg's Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow. (Obvious, though maybe marginal as far as s/f goes. I mean, it's fiction and it's got science in it...)

Craig Harrison's Days of Starlight (1988), on the other hand, is first-rate science fiction set in Antarctica, but you'll never find a copy...
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:52 PM on November 15, 2005

Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.

Just kidding. But an enthusiastic second to The Thing, which is really "Who Goes There?", by John W. Campbell, Jr., writing as Don A. Stuart. Aliens and intrigue in Antarctica. (Found, among other places, in Avon's Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume IIA, edited by Ben Bova.)
posted by attercoppe at 6:26 PM on November 15, 2005

Not science fiction, but Whiteout and Whiteout: Melt are two great comic book miniseries that take place in Antarctica. The publisher, Oni Press, even has part of the first one online for free.
posted by gaelenh at 6:43 PM on November 15, 2005

Lovecraft, "At the Mountains of Madness".
posted by gimonca at 6:48 PM on November 15, 2005

An enthusiastic third for The Thing. I prefer John Carpenter's other "alien" movie (Starman) but The Thing has an amazing atmosphere. The X-Files episode you mention was basically The Thing rehashed.

And I thought of A Pail of Air too! Definitely read Capn's link.
posted by Marit at 7:15 PM on November 15, 2005

The third part of His Dark Materials (The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman involves some great adventures in a snowy land ruled by bears, with full on ice palaces and everything. Great series, I'm pretty sure this ice world is only experienced in the 3rd book though (buts it's been a while since I read them).
posted by RoseovSharon at 7:19 PM on November 15, 2005

Well, a good chunk of Frankenstein.

But the first thing I thought of was a short story by Roger Zelazny called The Keys to December, about some aliens terraforming a planet to make it cold enough for them to inhabit (and simultaneously freezing the monkey-people natives to death).
posted by Hildago at 9:25 PM on November 15, 2005

Neverness by Paul Zindell takes place largely on an ice world, with a very technologically advanced protagonist living among essentially stone age people. A significant and (IMO) impressively writtern part of Endymion by Dan Simmons also takes place on an ice world, but you really should read the two Hyperion novels first. Alan Dean Foster wrote Icerigger, which I have not read but it sort of looks like fun.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:53 PM on November 15, 2005

RoseovSharon, I think the first book of the trilogy, The Golden Compass (US title), also has some scenes in the snowy northland (the compound with all the children in particular, I'm thinking).

Nonetheless, His Dark Materials is a great trilogy and I think worth reading in general. The setting of the north pole area plays a large part in the plot, if that makes any difference.
posted by sarahnade at 10:44 PM on November 15, 2005

Another vote for "At the Mountains of Madness".
posted by teleskiving at 12:51 AM on November 16, 2005

Sonny Jim said:

Peter Hoeg's Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow.

In the US, it was published as _Smilla's Sense of Snow_ and marketed as a mystery. It was a bit odd, but this SciFi reader likes odd.
posted by QIbHom at 2:52 PM on November 17, 2005

This one's not scifi, more a thriller, but set in cold climates:

Alistair MacLean, "Ice Station Zebra"
posted by dott8080 at 10:19 PM on November 20, 2005

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