Top 5 imaginary literary works from science fiction

One of the best things an author can do to bring a fictional universe to life, to make it feel vibrant and real, is to give that universe its own literature — and even better, to quote from it. This seems to be common in science fiction, and it’s one of those little flourishes I’ve always loved. So here are some of my favorite imaginary literary works from science fiction. These are imaginary works I wish really existed so I could read them in their entirety, rather than in little bits and pieces.

The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan
Appears in: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
Comments: I’d love to get my hands on this sarcastic, subversive, and ingeniously witty dictionary.

SHALMANESER That real cool piece of hardware up at the GT tower. They say he’s apt to evolve to true consciousness one day. Also, they say he’s as intelligent as a thousand of us put together, which isn’t really saying much, because when you put a thousand of us together look how stupidly we behave.

POPULATION EXPLOSION Unique in human experience, an event which happened yesterday but which everyone swears won’t happen until tomorrow.

The Stolen Journals by Leto II
Appears in: God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert
Comments: The personal journal of science fiction’s deepest and most complex character? Who could pass that up?

This morning I was born in a yurt on the edge of a horse-plain in a land of a planet which no longer exists. Tomorrow I will be born someone else in another place. I have not yet chosen. This morning, though — ahhh, this life! When my eyes had learned to focus, I looked out at sunshine on trampled grass and I saw vigorous people going about the sweet activities of their lives. Where… oh where has all of that vigor gone?

The singular multiplicity of this universe draws my deepest attention. It is a thing of absolute beauty.

The Rigors by Meridian
Appears in: Liege-Killer by Christopher Hinz
Comments: Paratwa uber-assassin Meridian shares his experiences ruling over those sniveling enslaved humans. He’s implacably ruthless, yet at the same time oddly charming.

Dinner was not a very satisfying occasion for the humans that night. It was readily apparent that their digestion was being disrupted by the presence of Peter’s head on my table.
Peters was served for desert. The humans did not want to eat their companion but they also did not want to risk angering me. Their dilemma was intelligently solved. They ate Peters.
I made certain that all the other domiciles learned of our special confection. Peters had been served as a good object lesson.
He was also rather tasty.

The Birth of Braxi: excerpts from the later dialogues of Harkur the Great and Viton the Ruthless (author unknown)
Appears in: In Conquest Born by C.S. Friedman
Comments: Philosophy for a physically- and martially-oriented society not afraid to embrace its dark side.

VITON: These gentle emotions, what good are they? Love, compassion, amity; what purpose do they serve? To my mind they are socially invalid, obstacles to emotional efficiency. There is no more constructive emotion than hatred.

HARKUR: A man’s most sacred possession is his privacy of mind. Examine him, torture him, break him; still his thoughts are his own until he chooses to express them. This concept is one of the foundations of Braxin philosophy. Psychic ability, by its very nature, guarantees violation of this privacy. Therefore, we should not and will not tolerate it.

BuSab Manual (author/s unknown)
Appears in: Whipping Star, The Dosadi Experiment by Frank Herbert
Comments: The Bureau of Sabotage exists to throw an occasional monkey wrench into the vast grinding machinery of government, to help keep it within bounds. This is their training manual.

When the means of great violence are widespread, nothing is more dangerous to the powerful than that they create outrage and injustice, for outrage and injustice will certainly ignite retaliation in kind.

There are some forms of insanity which, driven to an ultimate expression, can become the new models of sanity.

The value of self-government at an individual level cannot be overestimated.


13 responses to “Top 5 imaginary literary works from science fiction

  1. I was always fascinated by The Grasshopper Lies Heavy in PKD’s The Man in the High Castle. It was kind of a SF author’s version of the I Ching.

  2. I was entertained by the sarcastic mimeographed pamphlet Withit’s Collegiate Dictionary by John F. Hartvig in Poul Andersen’s There Will Be Time.
    Examples found in the pamphlet:
    Black: Of whole or partial sub-Saharan African descent; from the skin colour, which ranges from brown to ivory. Not to be confused with Brown, Red, White, or Yellow. This word replaces the former ‘Negro’, which today is considered insulting since it means ‘Black’.
    Brown: Of Mexican descent; from the skin colour which ranges from brown to ivory. Not to be confused with Black, Red, White or Yellow.
    Red: (1) Of American Indian descent; from the skin colour which ranges from brown to ivory. Not to be confused with Black, Brown, White or Yellow, nor with ‘Mexican’ even though most Mexicans are of American Indian stock. (2) …
    White: Of Caucasian descent; from the skin colour, which ranges from brown to ivory. Not to be confused with Black, Brown, Red or Yellow.
    Yellow: Of Mongoloid descent; from the skin colour which ranges from brown to ivory. Not to be confused with Black, Brown, Red or White.

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  4. I was about to mention The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, but somebody beat me to it… so I’ll throw in A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer from Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. Assuming that counts as a book; it’s kind of a sentient-book-computer-thing. And does The Necronomicon count? A few Lovecraft stories can be defined as SF on alternate Thursdays….

  5. I love the concept, but have my own choices for best-of-breed, starting with Venus On The Half Shell. The direct link to my response is at My Reaction, and thanks for getting me started! LOL…

  6. JStrider: funny you should mention that one at this moment. A mere few hours ago I was reading an interview with Farmer in which he talks about it.

    Good to read your list; I hope others will jump on the idea as well.

  7. Hello? What about the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy? That book with in a series of books is an unending source of wisdom.

  8. Improbus: I was only including stuff from books I have personally read. So that left out the Hitchhiker’s Guide. Other people’s choices will, of course, vary.

  9. I’m waiting for my copy of Quellcrist Falconer’s Things I Should Have Learned by Now, Volumes I-II, pace Richard Morgan…

  10. I can’t believe I forgot the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! D’oh!

  11. Wikipedia has a list of fictional books within fiction — wow, there are a lot more than I thought.

    A lot of the Adams stuff sounds fantastic, such as:

    The Ultra-Complete Maximegalon Dictionary of Every Language Ever.


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