Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Playing with HUNCH

I stumbled on this search website called Hunch and decided to task it with finding some recommended SF and SFR books.

On my first attempt, I typed "Science Fiction novel" into the "Today I'm making a decision about..." search box. I then answered or chose to skip a series of questions and Hunch gave me the top picks based on my suggestions, all of which I've read and loved.

#1 DUNE by Frank Herbert

I read this classic ages ago and was struck with the rich world-building and fascinating characters. I went on to read most of the series. Still a favorite icon of mine.

#2 SLAUGHTER-HOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Anything Kurt Vonnegut was a favorite read, but this one really piqued my imagination about Billy Pilgrim, a man who became "unstuck in time" after being driven insane by events in WWII. It involves alien abduction and a really twisted view of life as only Vonnegut could deliver it.

#3 SIRENS OF TITAN by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

I recently listed this one as one of my favorite SF novels of all time on a writer's site. It was the only Vonnegut mention amidst all the classic SF authors, yet probably one of the most deserving along with #2 above. Few people think of Vonnegut as a SF author, yet he was a Hugo Award winner.

For the Wild Card it came up with THE CITY AND THE STARS, a rewrite of Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke. If I remember correctly (I'll have to go Google this), this novel was about a planet where the residents destroyed their civilization every time there was a total eclipse, which happened once every 5,000 years. There were some startling parallels to Earth and our own course through history that made me think, "What if..." It was my first foray into the alternate history realm and probably the origin basis for the premise of my WIP, Draxis.

Hunch also offered the full list of 33 novels which included more Vonnegut, Brabury (FAHRENHEIT 451), Asimov (FOUNDATION), Heinlein (THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS), Crichton (SPHERE), a Star Wars novel and several on my TBR list including THE LAST COLONY by John Scalzi and ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card.

I ran another search for Science Fiction Romance authors, and answered or skipped another series of questions. This time Hunch returned...

#1 Connis Willis

#2 Kage Baker

#3 Alan Dean Foster

I haven't read any Willis or Baker, but I have read several Alan Dean Foster novels, all some time ago. Interesting.

Next I did a search on Science Fiction Romance novels. Although the survey asked questions like what sort of SF did I prefer (apocalyptic, other worlds, future Earth, etc.) and the level of the romance (G, PG, R), the results were a total disappointment.

#1 WIZARD'S FIRST RULE by Terry Goodkind (a Fantasy)

#2 STARDUST by Neil Gamon (which sounds SF, but is...Fantasy!)

#3 GUILTY PLEASURES by Laurel K. Hamilton (which is not only has vampires and shape shifter. Ugh!)

Yet another site that, even with detailed survey questions, can't distinguish between fantasy and science fiction, not to mention SFR. Now I'm aggravated.

But just out of sheer stubborness, I try again with slightly different responses. And this time...

#1 THE CITY AND THE STARS by Arthur C. Clarke

#2 SLAUGHTER-HOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

#3 ANATHEM by Neal Stephenson

Although all sound like interesting stories, I wouldn't classify any of them as Science Fiction Romance. Like so many other areas in our industry, once again Science Fiction Romance "does not compute."

Even so, Hunch is a lot of fun to query on a variety of topics. Just for fun, I queried on the best pet for me. The results were worth a good chuckle.

#1 Cat
#2 Cat
#3 Pet Rock
#4 Peafowl

You'd have to understand my extreme preference for dogs over cats to see why I was so amused with "cat" being the top two picks for me. (Oddly enough, my spouse has two cats, but they live in his alternate household.) But pet rock? Is that a comment on my pet quotient? And peafowl? Even my dogs would be amused, I think.

Give Hunch a try and see what kind of results you get. There may be some surprises.


  1. Hi Laurie- this is Kelly from Hunch. We appreciate your trying the site and are glad you had fun with it.

    Just wanted to point out something you probably already realized: all the content on Hunch is user generated, and anyone with an account can tweak, improve, or add to the content to make Hunch smarter for other users.

    So given your expertise/interest in the distinctions between things like fantasy and science fiction, you could just click 'fix this Hunch' from the 'actions' menu on any Hunch result page. That would allow you to quickly fix what Hunch got wrong and allow every other user to benefit from your knowledge.

    Thanks for using the site!

  2. Hi Kelly. Thanks so much for your comment and pointing out the additional tools the Hunch site has available. No, I hadn't found the "fix this Hunch' option yet. I'll have to go experiment with that and see if I can help it better define the search for science fiction romance. Great tip.

    Thanks for stopping by. :)

  3. Oh gosh, I wish I had more time so I could go and enter SFR books...maybe at some point. Thanks for the heads up about Hunch, Laurie!

  4. I got a couple of SFRs input and one from Lisa Shearin's fantasy series that I just adore. I'll add more later.


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