Pop Quiz: Real World Events and The Best Sci Fi / Fantasy Novels


The best science fiction and fantasy books take us to other worlds. But meanwhile, what's happening here in the real world?

Each week I set out to research and document ten "fun facts" on a topic loosely based on the two books I've reviewed that week.  "Loosely" being the operative word. 

This week I reviewed When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, by Daniel Pink, and an advance copy of Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shards of Earth - the first book in his new Final Architects series.

In When, Daniel Pink and his research assistants poured through mountains of scientific research to summarize the impact that timing has on our lives, and how we may be able to influence of benefit from timing. Timing may not be everything, Pink says, but it's likely more important than you think.

Timing certainly plays a role in Tchaikovsky's Shards of Earth. Decades after the last planet was destroyed by the Architects - a race of moon sized creatures arising from unspace - a ship is discovered with damage consistent with an Architect attack. The timing of this event sets a number of groups across the Universe in motion, all trying to understand, get ahead of, or profit from the destructive Architects potential reappearance.

Tchaikovsky has created an enormously appealing universe, and the publication of this first book may be looked back on by his fans as an important milestone in his writing. But great science fiction doesn't get created in mystical universes - it's penned by real authors and published by real publishers, right here in the real world. Which got me thinking - can I remember the timing of real world events around some of the great science fiction I've read in my life? 

And more broadly, can we as readers connect the timing of significant real world events to when the best science fiction and fantasy novels were published? To answer that question I'm giving a little twist to Fun Fact Friday, and offering you what I hope is a fun "pop quiz". See how well you can match the correct sci-fi or fantasy novel to these ten sets of real world events.

Pop Quiz: Ten Sci Fi / Fantasy Novels and the Real World Events Associated With Them
  1. Soviet Dancer Alexander Godunov defects to the United States. The first space shuttle - Columbia - is delivered to the JFK Space Center to be prepared for launch. Margaret Thatcher forms her first government after the Tories emerge victorious in the UK election. Sony introduces the Walkman. Iranians, mostly students, take 90 hostages in Tehran. Smallpox is certified as having been eradicated. It's 1979, and the first four episodes of a popular BBC Radio program are adapted and published as this book:

    • A Clockwork Orange
    • Ender's Game
    • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    • American Gods

  2. In East Germany the Stasi secret police are formed.  Egypt closes the Suez Canal to Israeli ships. North Korea invades South Korea, starting the Korean War. The first Peanuts comic strip is published. U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower becomes Supreme Commander of NATO. It's 1950 and this book, a collection of short stories from American pulp sci-fi magazines, is published:

    • Good Omens
    • I, Robot
    • Stranger in a Strange Land
    • Jurassic Park
  3. The United States Congress adopts the official flag of the US, with 20 stars, one for each state. The US and the UK sign a treaty which establishes the border between the US and British North American (today's Canada). Charles XIV of Sweden-Norway is crowned King of Sweden. The first Serbian dictionary is published. It's 1818, and this classic novel is published anonymously in London:

    • Frankenstein
    • The Time Machine
    • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
    • Fahrenheit 451
  4. The Nigerian Civil War ends with the capitulation of Biafra. The Chicago Seven are acquitted of conspiring to incite riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty goes into effect, after ratification by 43 nations. In San Francisco the first Earth Day is proclaimed. Apollo 13 is damaged on its way to the moon, but is able to returned safely to Earth. The Soviet Tupolev Tu-144 becomes the first commercial transport to exceed Mach 2. It's 1970 and this highly influential science fiction novel (and one of my all time favorites) is published :

    • The Left Hand of Darkness
    • Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell
    • Animal Farm
    • Ringworld
  5. The US broadcast network NBC makes the first coast-to-coast color television broadcast with the Rose Bowl Parade on January 1. The first mass Polio inoculation of children with the Salk vaccine begins. The Army-McCarthy hearings begin, and are televised live. Bell Labs demonstrates the first practical solar cell. The President of Brazil commits suicide and is succeeded by his VP. The Front de Libération Nationale fires the first shots of the Algerian War of Independence. It's 1954 and this high fantasy novel is published:

    • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
    • Mary Poppins
    • Dune
    • The Lord of the Rings
  1. Wikipedia goes online. The first draft of the complete human genome is published in the journal Nature. The Hintze Ribero bridge in northern Portugal collapses, killing 59 people. Netherlands becomes the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. Australian Ian Thorpe becomes the first swimmer to ever win six gold medals at the World Championships. The World Trade Center in New York collapses and the Pentagon is heavily damaged in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It's 2001 and this fantasy novel with its blend of ancient and modern mythology is published:

    • The Handmaids Tale
    • American Gods
    • The Princess Bride
    • The Island of Doctor Moreau
  2. Alcatraz becomes a US Federal Prison. The Three Stooges first short film is released. American bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde are ambushed and killed by police. The Dionne quintuplets are born in Ontario, Canada. The German electorate approve the creation of the position of Fuhrer, and Adolf Hitler assumes that role following the death of President Hindenburg. The USSR is admitted to the League of Nations. It's 1934 and the first of a number of books about this character in this title is published:

    • Flowers for Algernon
    • Le Morte D'Arthur
    • Mary Poppins
    • James and the Giant Peach
  3. In New York the Metropolitan Museum of Art opens. The world's first National Park, at Yellowstone, is established in the US. Te Kooti's War between the native Maori and colonizing Europeans ends in New Zealand.  One of the first ever Ponzi schemes collapes after being successfully run for four years by Adele Spitzeder in Munich. It's 1872 and this novel, published in France the year before, is published in English for the first time this year. It is an immediate, and enduring success: 

    • The Martian Chronicles
    • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas
    • A Swiftly Tilting Planet
    • The War of the Worlds
  4. The "Prague Spring" begins in Czechoslovakia. Johnny Cash performs at Folsom Prison. In the My Lai Massacre, over 300 Vietnamese villagers are killed by US troops. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy are assassinated. Apollo 8 successfully orbits the moon and returns to Earth. It's 1968 and this dystopian sci-fi classic is published for the first time, later becoming the loose basis for a successful film:

    • Cat's Cradle
    • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
    • 1984
    • The Invisible Man
  5. The Apple Macintosh is introduced. The Baltimore Colts football team packs up in the middle of the night and relocates to Indianapolis. The Soviet Union boycotts the Olympics. Virgin Atlantic Airways launches. The UK agrees to the handover of Hong Kong to China. Desmond Tutu of South Africa is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It's 1984 and this debut sci-fi novel is published. It becomes the first novel to win the Hugo, the Nebula and the Philip K. Dick Award, and inspires a genre known as "cyberpunk":
    • Brave New World
    • Stranger In A Strange Land
    • Neuromancer
    • Slaughterhouse-Five
So there you have it. Scroll down to find the answers. Let me know if you enjoyed this week's Fun Facts Friday Pop Quiz by leaving a comment below.


The novels named in this quiz are all recognized as among the best on the following lists: 

All publication years are as found in Wikipedia. Many of the real world events are as found either on Wikipedia or at eventshistory.com.

Answers below 

ANSWERS: 1 - Hitchhiker's; 2 - I, Robot; 3 - Frankenstein; 4 - Ringworld; 5 - The Lord of the Rings; 6 - American Gods; 7 - Mary Poppins; 8 - 20,000 Leagues; 9 - Do Androids Dream; 10 - Neuromancer