Titanic SF

Like many key historical events: World War Two, the assassination of JFK, and the Moon landings, the sinking of the Titanic on its maiden voyage has appeared in SF quite often. As we approach a hundred years to the day, not to mention the re-release of the James Cameron movie in 3D, Mark remembers some of these genre happenings with fondness, others less so. What would he recommend you watch/read?


Arthur C Clarke, The Ghost from the Grand Banks (1990): reviewed here. Not one of Sir Arthur’s best, but enough here to engage the reader and there’s a nice sense of adventure and risk in amongst all the Mandelbrot gubbins. Sir Arthur also mentioned raising the Titanic in his novel, Imperial Earth.

Not really an SF novel, but one of the more memorable, in a similar vein to Ghost from the Grand Banks, is Clive Cussler’s Raise the Titanic! (1976),Cussler’s adventurer hero, Dirk Pitt, is recovering an ultra-rare mineral needed for a super-secret military defence project from the Titanic. It was eventually made into a mega-flop movie in 1980 starring Jason Robards and Sir Alec Guinness (of ObiWan fame.)

Carpathia, Matt Forbeck (2012). Though the Titanic is there at the beginning of this novel, this is more a tale of terror based upon one of the survivor’s rescue ships, that of the title. Titanic vampire horror, think Bram Stoker meets Kim Newman, though I found it less stylish and less ambitious than Kim’sAnno Dracula series.

From Time to Time, by Jack Finney (1995): A much less known sequel to Jack’s Award winning Time and Again, published twenty-five years after the first.  The protagonist of the first novel, Simon Morley, is involved in helping Major Archie Butt return to the States from a crucial diplomatic mission, upon which World War One may or may not happen. The problem is that Butt is sailing on the Titanic, and Simon must desperately try to keep it from sinking if he has a chance to  change events for the better. I’m a big fan of Finney’s matter-of-fact writing, and this is great, though you might need to read Time and Again first.

The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski (2007). Another SF novel for the alternate history lover. Based in an alternate 1912, part of the narrative is based upon changing history around the fateful events of the 12th April. A big, hefty immersive read, great fun.

Douglas Adams/Terry Jones: Starship Titanic (1998). Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, was also responsible for the computer game Starship TitanicTerry Jones (of Monty Python fame) wrote the accompanying book, entitled Douglas Adams’s Starship Titanic, because according to Wikipedia, “Adams was too busy with the computer game to do both.”


Doctor Who: Series Three (2007): The Voyage of the Damned. With David Tennant as the Doctor, and pop princess Kylie Minogue as a guest. A bit of a cheat, as it’s not the original Titanic but a luxury pastiche of the historical ocean liner at risk. The ship’s captain, Hardaker, sabotages the ship shortly after the Titanic‘s collision with the TARDIS. The Doctor works with a waitress named Astrid Peth (Kylie) to prevent an imminent collision with Earth. According to Wikipedia, “It was the second most-watched programme of 2007” presumably in the UK, and was the first time in the latest incarnation of the Doctor (but not the last!) I struggled to watch a full episode. As the good Doctor would say, “What! What!?” indeed.

Time Tunnel: Pilot (1966): Rendezvous with Yesterday: Irwin Allen’s ultra-expensive (at the time) Pilot episode of his one-season TV series had time travellers Doug Phillips and Tony Newman arrive on the Titanic before it sank. With Michael Rennie as the Titanic’s captain, this one hasn’t dated quite as bad as I thought it would. Personally I prefer it to the Doctor Who above, but then that’s probably more to do with my nostalgia of the 1960’s series and how little I think of the Doctor Who episode.


Ghostbusters 2 (1988): Not much to recommend in this car-crash of a movie, but the final arrival of The Titanic in New York and its ghostly disembarkation I do remember as being quite cool. But then it was 1988!

So: my personal choice of Titanic reading would be the Kowalski or the Finney; whilst if I wanted to watch something other than the Cameron movie, thenThe Time Tunnel would be it. (I do have a soft spot for the film A Night to Remember from 1958, with Kenneth More, though: definitely not SF.)

Sure there must be more out there, though: what else have I missed?

Mark Yon, March 2012.

Leave a comment