Thursday, August 25, 2016

Future Sports

Posted by: Kelly Jensen
As a writer, I’ve made up a couple of games for my stories. Card games, mostly. When I include any mention of sport in my science fiction, I usually assume something like basketball will still be played. It’s an indoor sport, doesn’t require a lot of space and would probably be just as much fun with the addition of mag boots and subtraction of gravity. 

A lot of speculative writers have invented entirely new sports. Some exist for the sake of the game—entertainment and a show of athleticism. Others for survival, which probably still counts as entertainment for those on the sidelines. There are altogether too many invented sports—and great novels written around them—for me to provide an exhaustive list. A quick web search will turn up some good examples if you’re so inclined. Instead, here are a few of the books I’ve read over the past couple of years that have included new and re-imagined sports, each with a note about why you should read it.

Arena by Holly Jennings

Read this one for Kali Ling. She is a kick-ass character. I didn’t like her at first. I know, this isn’t the best way to start a recommendation. I didn’t have the warm fuzzies for her by the end of the book, either. What I did have was major respect. Kali claws her way out of a pit of self-despair most of us would let close over our heads, and she does it for really good reasons. Some self-serving, because if you don’t look after number one, no one else will. The rest of are the kind you can cheer for.

But you’re here for the sports. Imagine a capture the flag death match with teams of five. Death is virtual, but it feels real in the moment. It has to or the drive to win—to live—wouldn’t be quite the same. Imagine this game as part of a sports league where the players are athletes and gamers. Strong and strategic. Then further imagine the toll living and dying in a virtual reality, day after day, would have on these players. Add in the usual stress of competitive sport at a professional level—sponsorship deals and the need to perform at peak levels, all day, every day—and you’ve got an adrenaline rush of a book.

You can read my full review here.

The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord

Have you ever wanted to try parkour? I have. I watch it on TV, in the movies and such, and wish I had the athleticism for it. I also often wish I was still eighteen and all bendy in the way I’d need to be to flex and turn as I flip from one wall to the other. If wishes were horses… It looks so cool, though! If I got to do it all over again, this is a sport I’d definitely try.

Now imagine jumping from one wall to another through different gravities. So what was up is now out and down is over there. That’s wallrunning, a popular sport in Karen Lord’s galaxy. Rafi, the protagonist of The Galaxy Game, gets a chance to train with the elite and his trials make for an exciting read. It’s not really a sports book, though. The stakes are much larger than that.

Read my full review here.

Grand Central Arena by Ryk Spoor

This book. I loved this book. I picked it up with no real idea of what it was about, except that it had an experimental space ship in it that somehow slipped into another dimension where they met aliens. I mean, what else do you need to know!

The sport this one is more of a game, really, but it’s basically to the death. Each species within the arena has to compete for status and favors. Some of it’s about alliances—which factions are friends and foe—and some of it is down to who is fastest, strongest and quickest on the draw. Only the winners get to go home again.

Best part? This is book one of a series. You can read my full review of this one here.

Which future sports have you read about, or would like to play? If you've got a book recommendation, please add it to my Future Sports list on Goodreads!

About Kelly

If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.

Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke. A lot of what she writes is speculative in nature, but sometimes it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.

Connect with Kelly: Twitter | Facebook | Website


  1. Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee is a YA novel featuring a zerogravity sport.

    Another one that I didn't add to your list because it's not a future sport is Seanan Macguire's books featuring Verity Ames, who does a lot of "freefall running" jumping from building to building in Discount Armageddon.


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