Greg Egan's Website
March 17, 2003 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Greg Egan's website, including 17 full stories (my favorite) and explanations (by the author) of some of the science (including quantum soccer) in his books. Not the prettiest site I've seen, but a treat for fans of Egan's brand of "hard" SF.
posted by signal (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I read a bunch of Egan stuff in a short time and loved it but then I read Diaspora which I hated and curtailed the spree.

His collection of short stories Axiomatic is my favourite though. I still catch myself thinking about them as they left quite an impression
posted by zeoslap at 1:25 PM on March 17, 2003

damn. i read that as 'Evigan' and was expecting a monkey and a big rig.
posted by quonsar at 1:34 PM on March 17, 2003

ah, greg egan.... What I've read of him (and, admittedly, it has been little) seemed to be preaching exactly the flavour of irrational atheism that I most despise. I forget the name of the story I first read, but it was about a pond where everyone who visited recieved religious revelations, which a couple of scientists find to be full of hallucinogenic bacteria. You can draw your own moral, I imagine. blegh. proving that it doesn't take a catholic to be preachy. (if I might indulge myself, we should remember that unconditional atheism can't cure all of the world's ills.

He also loses BIG points for supporting Wolfram's "New Kind of Science," which, as a friend of mine so eloquently stated, "contains very little 'Science' and nothing actually 'new.'" He seems to be going the way of Newton, but without the whole "discovering calculus" bit, judging from various reports I've heard.

Egan catches me as chronically, i don't know, over righteous? believing in reason irrationally. His grasp of what's going on in the world of science seems fairly amateurish for someone building his writing career on "hard" SF. Overall, he just leaves a really sour taste in my mouth.

It's like green Kirin Beer. It's kind of exotic, but it's St. Patty's day and I'd really rather be drinking Guiness.

(oh, and final note - I'm only about 90% sure that the story referred to up top was Greg Egan and not some other sorry bastard. if anyone wants to challenge, I'll gladly retract the rant.)
posted by kaibutsu at 2:42 PM on March 17, 2003

(ok, found the story referred to. it was in fact, Greg Egan's "Oceanic," linked to on his home page.)
posted by kaibutsu at 2:47 PM on March 17, 2003

That's funny, zeoslap: Diaspora was the book that got me hooked on Egan in the first place. Incredibly concrete vision of what life-as-software might be like, and that's just where he starts out.

Egan is one of the few science fiction writers out there whose science actually feels up to date. Many writers will mention quantum mechanics or whatever, but only as a convenient hook to introduce the same old time travel yarn. (Iain Banks really grates on me, for this reason: his far-future Culture is filled with people who still smoke cigarettes, still drink coffee, still basically act just like people do today; the only difference is that some of them are now spaceships with stupid names. Feh. Not to mention that he's the most cringe-inducingly sexist writer I've come across in a good long while, but that's wandering from the point.) When Egan writes about quantum mechanics, he's actually exploring the ramifications of current theory, not just using it as a hook for an old plot.

[on preview, I guess kaibatsu and I rather disagree on that. I don't know at all what makes you say "his grasp of what's going on in the world of science seems fairly amateurish" -- seems quite the opposite to me, but whatever floats your boat. As for his "irrational atheism" -- I think you just happened across a story that managed to push one of your buttons, frankly. The themes in Oceanic aren't typical of most of his work.]

His short fiction can be rough going -- the idea density is high, and if you're not already familiar with where he's coming from, they can sometimes be confusing. Sometimes it feels like he's trying to squeeze a novel's worth of ideas into five pages. His novels give you more time to get used to having your mind blown every fifty pages or so.

<book report>In conclusion, I like Greg Egan, and think that anyone who likes stories about the many-worlds hypothesis, sentient software, and the Theory Of Everything would like him too.</book report>
posted by ook at 3:12 PM on March 17, 2003 [1 favorite]

i like the guy for his ideas. his character development isn't up to much (is it getting better?) but he's technically (technologically) solid. i haven't noticed whatever morality-thing gets up your nose, kaibutsu's (and i agree with your assessment of wolfram) - maybe you were just unlucky and focussed on something i wasn't bothered about (i can't say i would go looking for great moral revelation in his work)
self link: short review of permutation city here.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:22 PM on March 17, 2003

sorry sloppy editing -> rogue apostrophe-s...
posted by andrew cooke at 5:24 PM on March 17, 2003

Kaibatsu, I am afraid I am going to have to disagree with you there. I enjoy Egan's books as much as Neal Stephenson's, they are always more than a hi-tech boys-own adventure, unlike much Sc-Fi.
Greg Egan probably designed the site himself, he certainly designed the applets, which were created with Wolfram's Mathematica. You used to get a different applet everytime you reloaded the homepage.
I must commend Egan for the amount of material he has on his website. Most Sci-Fi authors have bugger all in the way of short stories online, Egan has plenty.
I find his brand of Sci-Fi to be extremely well researched and plausible, where most Sci-Fi descends into fantasy, he presents pure Einsteinian thought experiment.
An friend of mine bought a book on quantum mechanics as a result of reading Egan books, they interested him enough to make him want to understand the 'hard' part of the Sci-Fi.
I think Egan hopes for a scientific rennaisance, as described in 'Distress', when everyone understands the underlying physics governing the world. His support of Wolfram's science would seem logical, if he feels that it will open science up to more people.
I do not disagree that his character development is pretty average, but in Sci-Fi that is very much par for the course. I'm seriously now, can anyone point me at a Sci-Fi author who can present a universe as richly described as Egan's and populate it with entrancing, deep characters?
I found 'Light' by M. John Harrison to be pretty good, for instance.
posted by asok at 3:16 AM on March 18, 2003

IANAScientist, but I think Egan tackles contemporary science more directly than any other SF author. His individual character development isn't memorable, but I feel he invents whole societies (i.a.: the Bridgers, the Gleisners) as characters, and develops that. The books are, in part, about the new modes of being that could arise from technology and how these different groups would interact.
Nobody can accuse him of not having enough new ideas. If anything, his books always feel as if he'd run out of time and tried to rush another 150 ideas into the last few chapters (especially Schild's Ladder).
ook, regarding Banks, the Culture isn't in the far future, it's in the present, it just choses to ignore us terrans and throws banquets with pseudo-earthling flesh as the main course (re: State of The Art).
I've always admired the way Banks doesn't waste time "explaining" the technology of the culture. There's nothing worse than a not-so-knowledgeable writer inventing some lame faux-science to justify his lame story. Banks just gets on with the space opera, in grand style, IMNSHO.
posted by signal at 5:57 AM on March 18, 2003

signal: yeah, you're probably right; I'm probably reacting to Banks for the wrong reasons, looking for something that isn't there to be found. Space opera doesn't appeal to me, purely as a matter of personal taste -- a far-flung galactic empire that culturally speaking happens to look a lot like North America circa 1990 just seems, well, unimaginative.

Excession works for me (as long as I skim past any scene involving Ulver Seich, the Beautiful Girl Who Gets What's Coming To Her -- what is this guy's problem with women, anyway? His non-SF books are even worse in this respect). Felt like a good exploration of how the vastly powerful Culture might react upon discovering an even more vastly powerful culture; and at least a few of the ship minds behave like convincingly-imagined ship minds, not just like people in bigger bodies. The other Culture novels I've read were disappointingly straightforward action-adventures, in comparison. Which is fine if that's what you're looking for, I suppose. Possibly if I'd started with some other book I'd have had different expectations for the rest of the series, and wouldn't have been as disappointed.
posted by ook at 8:55 AM on March 18, 2003

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