Saturday, June 25, 2005

Geek Texts 101

A few months ago:

Mike: Saw the first War of the Worlds trailer today.
John: Yeah, I caught it online.
Mike: I loved that opening voice-over. Gave me chills. Totally grabbed me.
John: ... that's from the book.
Mike: Hmm?
John: That voiceover. It's the opening paragraph from the original H.G. Wells novel.
Mike: Nooooooo.
John: I love you like a brother. But if you fight me on this, I will kill you with this remote control.
Mike: ... that's not a remote control. That's a steak knife.
John: Go turn the TV channel ... or I'll stab you with this steak knife.
Mike: I see what you're going for here.

And so, because Mike is cool, he went and read the novel, and was completely floored. I reflected on the fact that it had never occurred to me that someone who I consider very bright, creative, and leads a productive life may NOT have read a novel from 1898.

The challenge then, geek brethren -- what is this basic syllabus of sci fi? Category A: submit ten novels/pieces of writing giving a new reader a great general overview of where sci fi came from how it progressed, or what it means. Even single suggestions will be considered, all submissions will be judged on a completely unscientific basis, and the final list posted here on Kung Fu Monkey.

For optional Category B: We can all agree on the classics. but what's your little obsession? The book/work you live which you can't honestly say has reached classic status quite yet, but it knocked you on your ass. Who's your favorite underrated dark horse or up-and-comer?

One week of voting, or whenever I get bored.

Addendum: this is meant to be the newbie friendly list. I may, depending on mood, break this off into 101 and 201 -- and yes, short stories/collections of same are game

Addendum 2: Bonus points for spotting the actual famous sci-fi authors who are posting on this list ...

addendum 3: Has anyone actually ever done a decent overview of sci-fi evolution from, say, nineteenth century through now?


Anonymous said...

My personal obsessions come from female writers.

Octavia Butler's Patternmaster series (Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Patternmaster, with a detour to Clay's Ark) is -- in my not-so-humble opinion -- a work of staggering genius and subtle characterization.

Likewise, Sharon Shinn's Archangel series leaves the devil in the details -- cliche passages can be followed by a line of dialogue that'll echo in my mind for weeks.

That's all I have right now, aside from "keep up the good work" and "holy crap, Global Frequency may be the most finely crafted hour of television I have ever watched."

Reverend Peter Sears said...

I don't think i have a top ten, but i've got a few suggestions for a Geek Sylabus:

Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert Heinlen)
Possibly his best and most restrained work. Totally broke my head open like a birthday pinata when i read it in junior high. Has much to say, that is still current about politics, sex,religion, and a host of other subjects.

Neuronmancer (William Gibson)
Took Sci-fi in a completely different direction from where it had been before. Made all the more annoying by the fact that Gibson has this weird Sumi-E ability of creating a single image that suggests an entire culture, like a single image of a tree can suggest an enitre forrest. Would that i could recreate it.

The Difference Engine (Gibson and Sterling)
As Gibson invented Cyberpunk, these two managed to invent Steampunk which wedded Sci-fi back to victoriana in all it's opulent glory. And it's a pretty good adventure yarn to boot.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Quite possibly saved me from blowing my head off in high school because for the first time really, i ran into a fellow soul who was able to sense the absurdity of the universe in the same way i could.
God bless you DNA, wherever you and your towel are.

The Essential Ellison
a compilation of his short stories,essays and novellas. The tightest writing in the world. and uncompromising attitude that has become legend, and an ability to grab hold of you with just his words that to my mind remains unsurpassed. I mention this collection because it is most complete, His novels won't ever really overshadow the fame of his shorter works, and there is no way on earth i could choose a single story of his as my favorite. Allthough, My favorite essay of his is entitled "Driving in the Spikes" and is about applied revenge seeking.

"Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson
Why they haven't made this into a film yet, i'll never know. It cries out for a visual treatment. My Mom calls Stephenson the John Steinbeck of Sci-fi. I also happen to think his Baroque Cycle of books is unassailably a classic NOW.

My favorite sub-classic would have to be "Calahan's Crosstime Saloon" by the inimitable Spider Robinson. (Go ahead, nimit him. I dare you!)
It's fun and the whole series has a lot to say about empathy. May never be a classic

Anonymous said...

how exactly are you defining science fiction for this? i've already seen books that would come more under the umbrella term of speculative fiction, rather than the sub genre of science fiction. (or you could skip defining, as it's nothing but a fucked up pain of a journey to go through.)

any ten novels i could name would shift and alter and change over days and so forth, that i am just going to list what i consider the ten in my backbone. (and perhaps they'll go to explain my own interests in my own work. who knows.) but here's where i come from.

these are the books i'd list:

1984, george orwell.
forever war, joe haldeman.
a brave new world, aldous huxley.
pattern recognition, william gibson.
a clockwork orange, anthony burgess.
the left hand of darkness, ursula k. le guin.
slaughterhouse five, kurt vonnegut.
empire of the senseless, kathy acker.
unconquered countries, geoff ryman.
battle royale, koushun takami.

and these are the authors who had substantial bodies of work that you can't look at one with:

jg ballard.
avram davidson.
fritz leiber.
harlan ellison.
james morrow.
salman rushdie.

but again, they'd change on another day. my particular interest is getting people to read more avram davidson, who wrote beautiful things, and whose work is available in the small press. if you're interested, try 'limekiller'.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Neuromancer, and Snow Crash. I'd also add Nivan's Ringworld series and Brin's Uplift War.

Sizemore said...

Sci Fi Syllabus:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (the first sci fi book so first on the list + I used to teach it)

The Invisible Man/The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke

Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith

I am Legend by Richard Matheson

The Cornelius Chronicles by Michael Moorcock

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick

The Complete Short Stories by JG Ballard

Quatermass by Nigel Kneale

And one book that knocked me on my arse and completely redirected my Masters degree and no one but me considers as a horror sci fi novel? Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.

Seriously. The Judge is the most terryfying creation ever.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to put in Vernor Vinge: A Fire Upon the Deep. Read that, and you'll be caught up to the modern space opera.

Anonymous said...

Hn. I tend to be more on the fantasy side than the s/f side, but here's a shot at a personal list.

Cyteen, C. J. Cherryh. One of the best clone/genetic manipulation books, combined with top-flight politics, characterization and worldbuilding.

Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. You could argue that this and The Island of Dr. Moreau provide the beginning of the road Cyteen's on - all three are, in one way or another, concerned with the nature of humanity, scientific ethics and consequences.

The Island of Dr. Moreau, H. G. Wells. This hasn't aged nearly as well as War of the Worlds, because Wells didn't (and, truthfully, didn't have the basis to) anticipate genetics. It's still a classic exploration of the line - or lack thereof - between human and animal.

The Snow Queen, Joan D. Vinge. Another intricate, complex exploration of clones, cloning, and technological politics.

[er, came over looking for Fatal Frame movie updates, hung around because the place is interesting.]


Charlie said...

I don't believe you can define an SF syllabus in ten novels. You're talking a field that's been evolving for a very long time indeed before erupting into a life of its own in the 1920's (as, I guess, the Socialist Realist Literature arm of the Technocracy movement, before the TM withered away leaving the writers to get on with their shit).

Leaving aside the fact that from 1920 or so through to 1955 the short story/novelette/novella was the definitive form for SF in the English language, there's just too much to cover.

However, some of the key novels I'd identify with the genre are:

1. Frankenstein/Mary Shelly. (Brian Aldiss has a lot to say about why Frankenstein is arguably the first SF novel in "Billion Year Spree". Nuff said.)

2. War of the Worlds/Herbie Wells. (A cracking alegory for colonialist imperialism, and the definitive alien invasion novel.)

3. The Time Machine/Herbie Wells or Last and First Men/Olaf Stapledon. Both of these works dragged the question of humanity's origins and destiny into the frame. TTM invented one of the classic genre tropes (the time machine itself), while LaFM introduced the practice of framing philosophical explorations of ontological or teleological issues in SF, another key practice in the field.

4. The Trial/Franz Kafka. Superficially a mainstream novel, this is the prototypical slipstream novel, bringing a nightmare to life and a palpable sense of dread (not to mention alienation). It's almost a precursor to everything Philip K. Dick wrote, not to mention a precursor to social SF in general -- I suspect 1984 couldn't have been written without it, and borrows implicitly from the key trope of The Trial.

5. R. U. R./Karel Capec ("Rossum's Universal Robots"). Capec's satires are worth reading for themselves; the introduction of the mechanical robot into SF is another landmark.

6. Brave New World/Aldous Huxley. The combination of a utopia and a vision of a society based on eugenics is simultaneously chilling, optimistic, and absurd; more importantly, it was one of the first effective and coherent attempts to visualize a future in which the biological sciences had begun to dictate the course of human society. (If we were running this top 10 texts thing for the past two decades only, I'd nominate Sterling's "Holy Fire" for this slot.)

7. The Forever War/Joe Haldeman or Starship Troopers/Robert Heinlein. War and rumours of war are an omnipresent drumbeat in SF; here we have two very different and contrasting views of war, nevertheless wearing surprisingly similar costumes. As a cognitive whiplash experience, reading these two books back to back is hard to equal. (With, I guess, John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" as a comic coda and comment on both of them.)

8. Schizmatrix/Bruce Sterling. Gives you one of the top five cyberpunk novels ever, and the defining prototype of the New Space Opera, all in one handy book. (The other top cyberpunk novels I'd characterise as Neuromancer by Gibson, Vacuum Flowers by Swanwick, Snow Crash by Stephenson, and in the #1 place, Tiger Tiger (aka The Stars my Destination) by Bester.) I don't think either CyPk or TNSO are quite important enough to rate a top 10 place on their own, but we don't have any space opera in the above list, and with the two successor strands combined in this one book it's too good a target to miss ... If you don't rate Schizmatrix, pick "Tiger Tiger" by Bester and "Use of Weapons" by Iain M. Banks as the definitive novels of Cyberpunk and The New Space Opera, respectively.

9. The Man in the High Castle/Philip K. Dick. Simultaneously a chillingly effective alternate history novel, and an exploration of the psychology of human hatred and evil, this showcases how the psychological SF strand evolved from Kafka and through to the 1960's. It's also, IMO, Dick's best early-to-mid-period novel.

10: Ringworld/Larry Niven. A survey of SF isn't complete without at least a glance at the hard-SF bull pen. Ringworld is by no means perfect (or rigorous -- if you want rigour, you need to go to Hal Clement for "Mission of Gravity", I guess) but it's an archetype of the hard-SF exploration novel, introduces a classic Big Dumb Object, and gives a feel for what the writers of the 60's and 70's who weren't doing psych SF and word games were getting up to.

Now here's a weird thing: there's only one woman in this list. But on the other hand, only one of my picks ("Schizmatrix") post-dates the mid-1970's, and before that point women writers were pretty thin on the ground in SF. I'm wondering why I went so retro? I guess the call for ground-work explains it ...

John Donald Carlucci said...

I'm a steampunk at heart and would have filled my ten with Verne and Wells, but that would be kind of dull.

20000 leagues under the sea - Verne
War of the worlds - Wells
Time machine - Wells
At the mountains of maddness - Lovecraft
Ringworld - Niven
Lucifer's hammer - Niven
The number of the beast - Heinlein
Starship troopers - Heinlein
Neuronmancer - Gibson
Bladerunner - Dick

Anonymous said...

The Sparrow/Children of God By M D Russell knocked me over on my ass when I first read it. That is what Sci-fi is supposed to be like. I know they are two books, but they should be read as one.

Alex Wilson said...

The Time Machine
War of the Worlds
Forever War
Stars My Destination
Philip K Dick Short Story Collections
The Martian Chronicles
The Hall of Fame anthologies (Fantasy and SF--short stories are so important to the genre)

Demolished Man
The Foundation Trilogy
Rendezvous with Rama
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Harlan Ellison Story Collections
Cat's Cradle
Starmaker (Stapledon)
Einstein Intersection
I Sing the Body Electric
The Word for the World is Forest
Gravity's Rainbow

Obtion B:
Octavia Butler's Blood Child and Other Stories
Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang

josh said...

gene wolfe's book of the new sun
dan simmons's hyperion/fall of hyperion
connie willis's doomsday book
O.S. Card: Ender's Game
War of the Worlds

rone said...

10 books would take more time than i want to invest; plus, i honestly haven't read enough SF to make a list with confidence.

However, one book i think is vastly underrated and knocked me on my ass is Frank Herbert's "The Dosadi Experiment".

Anonymous said...

I can't come up with a neat, self-contained list of ten. But I will echo "The Sparrow", "The Forever War", and "1984", all of which knocked me on my ass.

"Snow Crash" is right up there with the best of 'em, but I wouldn't put it on a list for someone who was unfamiliar with SF. I think you have to read a lot of cyberpunkish stuff before "Snow Crash" in order to fully appreciate all its parodic aspects.

david golbitz said...

I think Neal Stephenson's work kind of belongs under Catagory B. I'm not sure, outside of the hardcore sci-fi geekery, that he or his work is all that well-known, so I don't know if he's reached that "classic" status yet.

Most people know the work of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Philip Dick, and William Gibson (all of which I'd put on our little list here), or have at least heard of them. I'm just not sure Stephenson is on that level yet.

Personally, however, I find his work amazing. Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, and The Baroque Cycle are all brilliant and should be must-reads for any sci-fi fan.

I think Warren Ellis does a good bit of sci-fi/spec-fi as well. Look at Transmetropolitan and Orbiter. Near-future worlds grounded in today's science, just taken one or two steps further.

Anonymous said...

Asimov - Foundation, I, Robot

Anonymous said...


(I'm cheating... I'm concentrating only on the 20th C. and primarily on recognized "genre" efforts, as opposed to lit crossovers like Huxley and Orwell. And I'm including two anthologies to try to sneak in a bunch of writers from significant "movements." Wait, did you just say "novels" or "books?" And how did I not squeeze any Bradbury in here???)

1. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

2. Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon

3. Triplanetary by E.E. "Doc" Smith

4. At the Mountains of Madness by HPL

5. I, Robot by Asimov

6. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

7. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein

8. Dangerous Visions (Harlan Ellison, ed.)

9. VALIS by Philip K. Dick
10. Storming the Reality Studio (McCaffery, ed.) - anthology of fiction and nonfiction exploring cyberpunk's intersections with other aspects of culture

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

And the knocked-me-on-my-ass little-known sub-classic?

CIRCUS OF DR. LAO by Charles G. Finney.

Not really SF, more of a fantasy... or satire... or something. A bizarre, surreal, acerbic piece of work from 1936 that reads oddly like Nathaniel West doing a p*ss-take on Bradbury's usual motifs. More strange images and pithy observations concentrated in a shorter number of pages than you'll ever find anywhere else.

John Donald Carlucci said...

Damn you Rogers! Damn your kung Fu!

I was trying to explain why a friend of mine should watch The Core. I was trying to explain the science and thought behind the film by relating the geek whistling and free long-distance scene. He didn't get it and I started to explain the Captain Crunch hacker and how I thought he might have inspired the scene.

My friend shook his head at the ultra-geek level shit that pulled Captain Crunch out of the air. Apparently, my geek can be detected by satellites at this point.

And I blame you since I wish to dwell in denial as long as possible.

Anonymous said...

In very much agreeing with many of these books and authors; Nueromancer, Snow Crash, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep...

One book I'm suprised not to see mentioned yet is John Steakley's Armor. I thought Armor, for me, was a much more enjoyable read than say, Starship Troopers.

If I had to pick from my list of "no one else knows about" Sci-Fi, I'd have to go with Heroes Die by Matthew Stover, by far the book I've bought as a gift the most times in the past few years and that, funny enough, most everyones got somthing different out of it from things as far apart as "a love conquers all" story to a "power through Neitchean philosophy" story.

Hadyn said...

All of the good ones have already been said; so why cover well trodden ground?

Short stories are the best way to track the evolution of any genre. this includes short films for the moving picture lovers. Shorts are where people try the new stuff.

So rather than looking at the large milestones like War of the Worlds, I would suggest that instead (as a study) read three of HG's short stories. Ditto with most the other writers that people have listed above.

Peace out

Hadyn said...

Also the unknown text that grabbed me was a book called "Cowboy Feng's Bar and Grill" which screwed with my mind as a preteen sci-fi reader.

I imagine that it actually sucks but who knows.

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned David Brin, and I think he's a fabulous example of modern hard sci-fi. I'd go with Startide Rising rather than the Uplift War, though.

Michael Moorcock has to be represented on my list as well, although I have difficulty deciding which book should be on the list. Perhaps the End of Time series? Or Cornelius.

GM Doug said...

I would same I'm shocked but I'm not really...

I see no Clarke or Wyndham on those lists above.

Day of the Triffids - that book scared the crap out of me. And because of it I will NEVER EVER EVER watch a meteor shower. Not now not ever. Paranoid and stupid that sounds... it's true.

Chryslis - Another classic Wyndham book and was tought at my School - can't beat that.

Chocky - Damn smart story - why would aliens send bodies in space? It makes sense.

Moving on to Arthur C Clarke. The man is a freaking genius - was it not he who suggested the practical uses of satelites? I'd be hard pressed to pick a book out of there except some of the recent stuff.

I'd also throw in Philip Jose Farmer. Not just the well known Riverworld Saga but also the Day World saga.

I'd recommend Ender's Game as well by Orsen Scott Card.

The Lost world by Conan Doyle while technically adventure - was part of a whole sci-fi sub culture.

Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues and from the earth to the moon.

Finally as to what I dig that no-one else seems to have read. Does it HAVE to sci-fi? Can a shift over a little? This is really about getting people to read good stuff right - that IS the real agenda?
Mark Frost's "The List of 7" and "The 6 Messiahs".

funkysmell said...

Gotta check that out

Anonymous said...

Underrated classics:

Pattern Recognition - William Gibson. Yes, I love Neuromancer too but P.R. is a great novel oft-overlooked by the sci-fi faithful simply because no one in it had bionic eyes or needed to have a surgical implant in order to get their DSL connection to work.

Eye in the Sky - Phillip K Dick. An early Dick novel with a cynical view of modern religion and how salvation is seemingly bought and sold. Not only that, but it maintains a distance from its morally-flawed main characters - a perfect balance of involvement and revulsion. They're like Martha and George in Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolfe.

The Sliced-Crosswise Only-on-Tuesday World - Philip Jose Farmer. Great premise, well told.

Gunslinger - Stephen King. I never had time for anything King had written until I read this. Mysterious, abstract narrative dressed up and revelling in its Western/horror/sci-fi cliches. Not as accomplished technically as his pay-day horror extravaganzas but a damn sight more interesting. Less than 300 pages.

Sphere, Michael Chrichton. Another author whose work never grabbed me. Except for this one. Maybe it's the combination of un-answered questions, deliberate plot ommissions and the cheesy TERROR FROM THE DEEP!!!! vibe

Anonymous said...

I cheated by offering alternates in a few places, and my list still came in long! But I'm hoping you'll forgive me, as I'm new to the site. So here's my recommended quick and dirty intro to science fiction:

Shelley's Frankenstein, 1818

Wells' War of the Worlds, 1898 / Time Machine, 1895

Capek's RUR, 1920

Zamyatin's We, 1920 / Orwell's 1984, 1949 / Huxley's Brave New World, 1932

Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, 1950

Heinlein's Starship Troopers, 1959

Miller's A Canticle For Leibowitz, 1959

Herbert's Dune, 1965

Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, 1968

Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, 1969

Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness, 1969

Haldeman's The Forever War, 1974

Gibson's Neuromancer, 1984

My personal favourite would have to be Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (1985). It certainly kicked my ass when I read it back in high school, and the sequels have been equally as engaging.

Anonymous said...

In no particular order...

Dune, Frank Herbert
Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein
Ender's Game/Ender's Shadow, Orson Scott Card
Transmetropolitan, Warren Ellis
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo
Earth Abides, George R. Stewart
A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
Y: The Last Man, Brian Vaughan

And for assignment B:
The Iron Man, by Ted Hughes. Because a science-fiction education should begin as soon as humanly possible...

Anonymous said...

The problem with establishing a "vital list" for sci-fi is the preponderance of science fiction fans who love certain works beyond reason (and I am one, of course). Consider Dune, which is a tedious read, rightly panned by the majority of critics - but it was the first Big Science Fiction Epic, more interconnected than the Foundation novels, and so it has always had a rabid fanbase, despite the fact that the best thing about it (IMO) was the computer wargame it inspired. And you're going to get dozens of works that inspire loyalty above and beyond the call of duty and reason on this to boot, far moreso than you would for "real" literature.

That having been said:

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L'Engle (wonderfully complex scientific concepts like tesseracts made readable for younger readers)

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams (not the first comic SF novel by a long mile, but arguably the highest achievement in that area)

Nor Crystal Tears by Alan Dean Foster (the best first contact novel, ever)

Neuromancer by William Gibson (may not technically have been the first cyberpunk novel, but definitely responsible for the explosion of the genre)

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (okay, so it's not technically sci-fi, but big deal!)

Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (still his best, as others have mentioned)

I'd also echo what others have said about the necessity of recognizing short fiction in such a syllabus; short SF fiction has been so tremendously important to the genre, with many of its greatest writers (Asimov, Heinlein, Ellison, Dick, Bester, Spider Robinson, etc.) putting out much of their best stuff in short stories.

Mark said...

These probably fall under Category B, but:

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card influenced me enormously as a kid (as I feel it did for a lot of nerds that read it) and remains one of my favorites today.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson knocked me on my ass in more ways than one. Not only was I completely taken in by the story, but it was one of the few times that the writer's style was noticeable to me without being annoying. I'm aware of the little things Stephenson is doing with wordplay and structure, taking weird tangents and such, but it doesn't detract from my enjoyment, but rather enhances it.

In the dark-horse portion, Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow is fascinating (as is everything else of his I've read).

In Category A I'd nominate:

The Foundation series by Asimov

And from Heinlein, my all-time favorite is The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress even over SIASL.

Unknown said...

Carlucci writes:

I was trying to explain why a friend of mine should watch The Core. I was trying to explain the science and thought behind the film by relating the geek whistling and free long-distance scene. He didn't get it and I started to explain the Captain Crunch hacker and how I thought he might have inspired the scene.

Got it in one, son. Just one of the many hints to the hard sci fi/geek audience that there were fellow travellers on the film. Unobtanium, for example ...

Anonymous said...

Roger Zelazny with LORD OF LIGHT. I'd like to nominate Damon Knight as essential reading, but since his work was more compelling at the shorter length, your focus on novels skips over him.

RE spot the writers: The link tells me nothing but Charlie above sure reads like Charlie Stross.

Anonymous said...

Invisble Cities - Italo Calvino

Adam said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Adam said...

Someone mention Cyteen by CJ Cherryh. Let me add the unofficial sequels, Heavy Time and Hellburner. If you want crazy military politics in a sci fi setting, these are the books for you. Also, 2001 by Clarke, and most of the short stories by Phillip K Dick. Awesome, insane stuff

AAP said...

Einstein's Dreams

Mimsy Were The Borogoves (henry kuttner)

Anonymous said...

Glad to see someone else mention "The List Of 7". I was unaware of the existence of a sequel until just now, as it was obviously never released in Australia. Time to track it down!

Anonymous said...

Glad to see someone else mention "The List Of 7". I was unaware of the existence of a sequel until just now, as it was obviously never released in Australia. Time to track it down!

Anonymous said...

They're new, relatively speaking, but I don't care. Everyone should read them. Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council by China Mieville.

Anonymous said...

As an aside from a physcist, a few peeps have recommended HG Wells' The Time Machine and IMHO (and those of some colleagues) it has the most informative description of 4D spacetime.

If you're ever stuck trying to get your head around the idea, pick-up The Time Machine and read the first few pages.

For me it's one of the strongest arguments for good literary writers explaining scientific concepts.

"You must follow me carefully. I shall have to controvert one or two ideas that are almost universally accepted. The geometry, for instance, they taught you at school is founded on a misconception."

Anonymous said...

She's a lot of fantasy but some sci-fi thrown in - Sherri Tepper.

Stephen R Donaldson wrote a great sci-fi series (The Gap).

One of my favorite books ever was AE Van Vogt's The Weapon Makers.

I named these because they were unnamed in any other posts. The first two are two of my favorite writers and the last a great book. While I agree with many of the comments left, and have read about 90% of those books listed, SF sadly remains mostly a genre for men, by men. It's boring, guys. What I always found funny about SF is that imagination and theory could lead us so far into the future of science and philosophy, yet social perceptions and misconceptions could remain so unchanged.
But I have hopes for the future.

Anonymous said...

I'm relieved to realize I'm not as un-well-read as I thought I was!

Anonymous said...

I feel like the last book in this list should be "Singularity Sky" by Charlie Strauss. Vernor Vinge has talked alot about the singularity (google Vernor Vinge Singularity to have your mind boggled) and Ray Kurzwiel is going to be talking about it ALOT in the coming months (Google Ray Kurweil Singularity and read about the Law of Acceleratiing Returns to have your mind BLOWN OUT OF THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD), and I think that Strauss is one of the first authors to really effectivly incorporate the idea of the computational singualrity into a Space Opera (I may be wrong about this - feel free to name others).

Any list that's created about scifi in the last century is going to have to talk about the singularity, which was a growing feature of the last quarter of the centruy, and is THE dominant feature of this century.

Also I'm reading Greg Bear's "Darwin's Radio" right now, and am comparing it to the recent Neandertal Parralax Series (Started so well...) by Robert Sawyer. I really dig Greg Bear.

Unknown said...

It looks to me like everyone has pretty much covered all of the bases. I would only add a couple short stories: "The Handler" by
Damon Knight and "The Nine Billion Names of God" by Arthur C. Clarke.

TNBNoG blew the top of my skull off.

CHIV said...

Gun, With Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem.

more pulp than SF..but still SF. I've lent it out so often i've bought it 3 times

Anonymous said...

Just for reference:

Some of my personal favorites -
War of the Worlds
Childhood's End
Flowers for Algernon
The Martian Chronicles
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Anything by Niven though most of them are just a good read rather than world changing literature.

My favorite non-classic : Dragon's Egg

Oddly (or maybe not) I seem to have a fondness for anything that I first saw as a movie. Going back to the book to see the author's original ideas and intent is like peeking behind the curtain to find the secrets.

Dirk said...

The Godwhale / Halfpast Human - T.J. Bass - A classic pair of novels that really need to be reprinted.

Starship Troopers - Heinlein

Orlando C. Harn said...

I'm not a fantasy or SF reader, but I've tried to read various books that friends have recommended to me. Each of these was recommended with the knowledge that it might be my introduction to the world of SF/fantasy, so let's see how they did.

-Greg Bear, "Darwin's Radio" - This book was really interesting.
-Mark Clifton and Frank Riley, "They'd Rather Be Right" - This book was also really interesting.
-Dan Simmons, "Hyperion" - I found this book to be my worst stereotype of SF.
-China Mieville, "Perdido Street Station" - This book gripped me more than any fiction book I'd read since childhood.
-Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, "The Mote in God's Eye" - I never read this book because the cover looked too stupid.
-Philip K. Dick, "The Man in the High Castle" - this was a great novel; not SF at all, just a novel about human experience in an alternate universe.

Orlando C. Harn said...

Also I read some book about people in California who were part of a cannibalistic cult. It was also very interesting, but I forget the author and title. It would probably appeal to the average newbie.

Anonymous said...

Most of the ones I can think of were covered.
There are probably a ton that haven't.
Here are a few I'd recommend adding
1 classic, 1 Box Office Blockbuster and 1 Indie:

Fahrenheit 451-Bradbury
Jurassic Park-Crichton
Girl in Landscape-Lethem

Matt Forbeck said...

Back in the late '80s/early '90s, I took Eric Rabkin's class in this exact subject at the University of Michigan and later served as a course assistant for it. Although the class is just called "Science Fiction," it's a study in genre development too, ranging from Frankenstein to Neuromancer. Rabkin has 13 books in the class's reading list, not 10, but that just makes for more to chew on.

DougBot said...

Defining science fiction is a whole series of topics unto itself. I think it's Sturgeon's definition that I use the most—science fiction is what I point to when I say, "science fiction."

Starting with short stories is definitely a good way to get a handle on the genre and its history. Comparing the Science Fiction Hall of Fame set (mostly stories before 1964 or so) with the latest Dozois Year's Best Science Fiction collection is always interesting.

The SF Hall of Fame has stuff like "There Will Come Soft Rains," "Microcosmic God," and "Fondly Fahrenheit." Recent volumes of the Year's Best SF anthology have included "Beggars in Spain," "Even the Queen," or "Bears Discover Fire."

(The Dozois anthology is worth getting, if only for the "here is the state of SF as I see it" essay at the front, which is usually interesting and has hard numbers on sales.)

Another short story I love is The Men Who Murdered Mohammed by Alfred Bester, found in the NSFA SF collection.

My own personal SF history would include the following 10 books, in addition to those mentioned above:

Frankenstein, Mary Shelly
War With the Newts, Karl Capek
I, Robot, Issac Asimov
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, Robert Heinlein
Dune, Frank Herbert
Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Rendesvous With Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson
Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge

Charlie said...

Zach Wilson: you're taking the piss, aren't you? "Singularity Sky" is by no means Stross's strongest work, let alone the first space opera to integrate the idea of the singularity; for that, you have to go to Vernor Vinge's clearly superior "A Fire Upon the Deep".

Dave: no comment.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot that has been listed, but feel compelled to add on to the B list:

I think Candas Jane Dorsey's "A Paradigm of Earth" is the best First Contect novel I have ever read.

Phillip K Dick's "Ubik" is another of his absolute best, up there with "Man in the High Castle" and "Flow my Tears . . ."

And David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest" is a Sci-Fi novel if there ever was one, though few people give it the appellation.


Anonymous said...

Re: Addendum 3.- James Gunn's "The Road to Science Fiction", now in five volumes.

Anonymous said...

I'm honestly surprised that only one person has mentioned Connie Willis. Doomsday Book was the one mentioned, but I prefer To Say Nothing of the Dog. Mrs. Willis has a great comedic ability and it really shines in this time travel story. That book would probably be my dark horse pick.

As far as essentials are concerned, I'm not as well read as I'd prefer to be, but I'll paraphrase Twain here and say that classics are widely praised but seldom read :)

In no particular order-

Foundation trilogy

Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion

Diamond Age (gonna be different here - DA has such a clear idea of what a world with ubiquitous nanotech would be like. Kinda frightening in a way)

Ender's Game

Moon is a Harsh Mistress (my favorite Heinlein story)

The Peace War (my first exposure to Vinge's Singularity concept - and a good story to boot)

The Postman (Brin has been mentioned on here already, and while I love the Uplift books, The Postman is much better imo. Don't watch the movie though, please!) :)

Canticle for Leibowitz (also mentioned further up. Almost in the vein of Nightfall by Asimov, this is a great demonstration of the cyclical nature of history, and how the world of today might appear to our descendants)

Ok, didn't get to 10, but these would be a good start.

Oh, one more dark horse title and a personal favorite of mine is Battlefield: Earth. I honestly don't know why I like this book so much, and I'm kind of embarassed to admit, but I've read that book at least half a dozen times. Hated, hated, hated the movie, but the book still has a special place in my heart.

crowe said...

Wow. There is a lot of responses here. I really hope that a summary post will be available, if only so that I can get the good bits without going to all that eyestrain! ;)

Anyways, I agree that it would be difficult to condense SF as a genre into 10 books, since despite common opinion, it's a remarkably varied and wide genre. My picks include:

Something cyberpunk. Neuromancer preferably for coining the genre, but Snow Crash is a model example of it as well.

Something with psychics. The Demolished Man comes to mind (because I'm reading it now, not-so-coincidentally).

Something war. Starship Troopers would be excellent here, but I'm sure there are many others.

Something old. Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs and other early pulp stuff should be considered for laying the foundations.

Something realistic. I hear the Mars trilogy by Kim Robinson is great here, but some of Arthur C. Clarke's stuff would be just as appropriate, as would Ringworld by Niven.

Something next-to-now. Perhaps Cosm or Cory Doctorow's stuff should be in there for a look at the 5-minutes-from-now angle, although far more would be necessary to track what 5-minutes-from-now was like 10 or 50 years ago. It's all relative, you see.

Something ludicrously into the future so as to be fantasy. Lord of Light by Zelazny comes to mind.

Really, you could be here for days at this. I totally agree that a comprehensive look at the evolution of Sci-Fi would be totally fascinating. I would particularly like to see the timeline of firsts, such as the first time the rocket ship showed up, or the first space station, or the first BDOIS.

Oh yeah, GF rocks. Best of luck in getting it on the air!

Anonymous said...

wow 50+ messages, sorry if this is a repeat but i want to nominate an auther and series of books he wrote as what should be classics but i dont think many people have heard of.

The Gandalara Cycle
by Randall Garrett

some say this series was a fantasy, but i think all sci fi can be summed up as fantasy and this was and still is perhaps one of the greatest series i have ever read. Mr. Garrett died before he could finish the entire series and his wife did in fact finish the series based off his outlines. Some of the best twists, characters, action, and ideas put on paper.

if for nothing else check out the series for yourself, what should be a classic and is not is deffinetly something that should not be forgotten.

Devinoch said...

My personal pet peeve:

I've never understood why Walter Jon Williams' "Hardwired" does not get ranked up there in the pinnacle of the cyberpunk genre. That and Gibson's "Neuromancer" defined that whole movement, but all anyone ever talks about "Neuromancer." Come to think of it, Williams' Drake Majistral books don't get the respect they deserve either. Of course, he's gotten a little wordy as of late...

peteresch said...

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Vern
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

I think I would try to introduce them in that order as well.

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Anonymous said...

I forgot Harry Harrison! And i didnt see him either - the Stainless Steel Rat really appealed to me as a teenager.

Nick said...

For an overview, if you can find it as I believe it's out of print, try Brian Aldiss' Trillion Year Spree (or the original version, Billion Year Spree) which tracks sf from Frankenstein and some precursors (Utopia, etc) through to the 80s.

For SF 101, I'd go for Frankenstein, Time Machine/War Of The Worlds (often publised jointly now, as in the SF Masterworks series), Foundation, Nineteen Eighty Four, Slaughterhouse-5, I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream (either the story on its own, or a collection including it), The Man In The High Castle, Dune, Neuromancer and Red Mars. And if I can stretch the list to eleven, then I'll add The Forever War in there as well.

Personal obsession which everyone should read: Ken Macleod's Fall Revolution series (The Star Fraction, The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division and The Sky Road)

Spanky said...

There have been so many already suggested. I will add 3 more:

A Wrinke in Time, Madeleine L'Engle.
Soldier, Ask Not, Gordon R. Dickson (from the Dorsai/Chide cycle)
and the one I can't believe nobody has posted yet:
The Gods Themselves, Dr. Issac Asimov


Amandarama said...

I was always under the impression that "science fiction" dealt with fictional subject matter with a plausible scientific basis; whereas "science fantasy" dealt with fictional subject matter that was not grounded in plausible science. My source for this? An old Groliers Science Fiction Encyclopedia CD-ROM. I'm not saying it's the correct definition, just that I read it somewhere.

A number of people have listed "Frankenstein", by Mary Shelley. I would agree that it should certainly be included as what may be the first recognized science fiction book (when was it published - 1818?) Still, I think that Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" and "Rappaccini's Daughter" should be considered when looking at founding authors of the genre, as well. Excellent "perils of man using science without understanding the dangers" stuff there and short enough to read in one sitting. Even in the 1840s, Americans had short attention spans.

I think I'd rather look at individual authors, rather than specific novels, if I were trying to create a syllabus. I think I might want to explore the various writings from the authors' perspectives, as well as in historical context.

Just my $.02

Mike Jozic said...

Pretty much everything on my list has already been mentioned here so I'll just add Iain M. Banks to the list. Although I've never read any of his Culture novels, Feersum Endjinn and Walking on Glass really got my synapses firing. Granted, the latter might be walking a fine line to be considered SF (and it was published under his non-SF name, Iain Banks - minus the M.), but part of the book takes place in a distant future/reality so I don't think I'm reaching too far in that regard.

I'm not sure if Banks has had a significant impact on the general SF scene but he would qualify as my favourite underrated Dark Horse in a second.

Anonymous said...

Couple of personal faves:

Friday, by Robert Heinlein
On a Pale Horse, by Piers Anthony
The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester

Anonymous said...

Don't know if anyone is still reading this far down, but had to add 2 things: 1.) No one seems to have answered the request for a scholarly overview of SF, but there is at least one (two, really): James Gunn edited a multi-volume series called The Road to Science Fiction which featured short stories & excerpts from novels from 2nd century Rome (!) to modern day (aaaaand there's a basic SF reading list in the back of the 1st volume for good measure). It was first published in a 4 volume mass market paperback version (the one I have), but is now available in a 6 volume trade paperback (probably hardback too)edition. I don't know if the the TP is still in print but all should be available online & in used bookstores. Great stuff!
2.) DougBot already mentioned it, but I want to give another shout-out to The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Vol. 1, edited by Robert Silverberg. It's still in print & probably can be found at either your friendly neighborhood library or used bookstore. The best single-volume "beginner book" IMO. The stories are from 1934-1963 so some younger readers make find parts corny; but dammit, if you don't like at least SOME of the contents, you probably should stay any from SF altogether!

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to the final version of this list, because I'm not as well read in the classics as I should be.

That said, in my mind there are two types of sci-fi--there are books that use it as setting, and there are books that use it as content. It's a very fuzzy line, and many of my favorite books are those that use sci-fi as a setting, letting the author comment on his or her society. But for purposes of this list, I'm going to try and concentrate on on those that use the science as content, rather than setting. I'm sure some of you will disagree with the side I put some of these books, and others with making the seperation in the first place, but that's a different debate for somewhere else.

Cyteen, C. J. Cherryh. As cloning becomes more sophisticated and more common, this book's analysis of identity can only become more relevant. Anything in her Merchanter series is worth the time, however.

Dawn, Octavia Butler. Xenophobia directed at others and xenophobia directed at the changing self.

Heart of the Comet, Gregory Benford and David Brin, for much the same reasons.

Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut

I, Robot, Asimov. Every version of robotics that doesn't directly draw from it is invariably compared to it.

Something by Greg Bear, but there are too many options to choose. Probably the collected works collection.

As for favorite that isn't a copy's in storage and I can't remember the title or the author; but it was a three book series about a woman who founded a company, built a private SSTO lift vehicle, and kicked off a new space race, this time between private companies. Very interesting for showing the advantages and disadvantages of private investment in space.

david golbitz said...

Has anyone heard of, or read, this new book called The Traveler, by a guy named John Twelve Hawks? It was just released today (6/28), and it sounds pretty cool.

From the description on the inside flap, I can't tell if it fits more with sci-fi or with fantasy, though I suppose I'll have a better idea of that once I actually read it.

Anonymous said...

Want to second what Mike said about Iain Banks.

Consider Phlebas and Use of Weapons are a couple of his best (IMHO). And, when I read them after years of self-imposed exile from sci-fi, they made sci-fi feel pretty fresh.


Anonymous said...

Here's a couple I read in my high school days :

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, great book including time travel, egyptian gods and a bodyswapping werewolf.

Dying inside by Robert Silverberg, a visit inside the mind of a telepath who didn't exactly benefit from his gift, the book's a little dated but still a good read.

Most of the rest's already been named except this one I just remebered :
Andreas Eschbach's The carpet makers a little book with a very (IMO) clever way of telling a story, excellent ending and pretty much unguessable.

Anonymous said...

Seeing as absolutely every book that came to mind was instantly taken, (Forever War, Neuromancer, Valis) I'll shoot for the new.

Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darrick Robertson. If you don't believe comics can be literature then the spine gets snapped. I've effectively pulled many a new scifi reader in by handing them a trade of this amazingly crafted tale of corrupt politicians, drug addled journalists, and cyberlusting biomech junkies.

Then, there's The Invisibles by Grant Morrison, the ultimate conspiracy. Counterculture/Anarchist James Bonds creating the Buddha of the future. Brilliant.

Adam Rakunas said...

Well, since someone upthread leaked into fantasy, then I propose Barry Hughart's "Bridge of Birds." Marvelous story, funny as hell, just begging to be read and passed around.

Anonymous said...

Friend of mine mentioned Bridge of Birds when I told him about this list. He's been trying to get me to read that and the 2 sequels for years now ;) He also thought Sean Russell's asian fantasy duology was good, too.

And, I forgot to mention Melissa Scott in my earlier post. Just about everything by her I've loved, but 2 series specifically:

1) Dreamships and Dreaming Metal are just flat out great. A tad hard to follow since she just drops you into this fully realized world with little to no explanation, but it's just fantastic once you get the hang of it.

2) her Silence trilogy ( 5/12ths of Heaven, Silence in Solitude, and Empress of Earth). One of the more interesting and nifty ways that I've seen space travel handled. These are almost 20 years old by this point, but still great reads.

Daniel said...

Greg Egan - "Permutation City"
A quick read, & I've read it quickly about 40 times.

Of the above comments you are all geniuses :-) I'm going to cope out on a lot of writing & just say all of teh above.

Hadyn said...

Wow, People have gone way out now!

I would like to add some controversy at this point and say that:

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy doesn't count.

It was a radio play first. So if one is following the milestones of Sci-Fi it should be mentioned but as a nice cross-over and not so much as a book.

Oh and Day of the Triffids was really good (i forgot to mention it before, about 50-or-so posts ago). Thanks GM Doug for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

Wow, just 10?!! Seriously?

Wait, you must be thinking in Base four hundred Right? In which case, my list is well under. Because realistically, there's no way you could do it with Base Ten 10. So I've whittled it down to this. But still feel like I'm missing too much:

Frank Herbert - Dune Series

Robert Heinlein - Everything - read it . . . now!

Charles Sheffield - Everything, but especially:
Jupiter Novels
Cold As Ice

Isaac Asimov - Foundation Series

Jules Verne -
Journey to the Center of the Earth
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Greg Bear - Most works, but especially:
Blood Music (in novel form)
Moving Mars
Queen of Angels/Slant

Jack Williamson - The Humanoid Touch

Gregory Benford / David Brin - Heart of the Comet

Orson Scott Card - Ender's Game

William Gibson - Pattern Recognition

Kim Stanley Robinson - Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars

Vernor Vinge -
A Fire Upon the Deep
A Deepness in the Sky

John Barnes - Meme Wars (Series)

Neal Stephenson -
Snow Crash
The Diamond Age

Robert Sawyer - Everything, but especially:
The Terminal Experiment

Kurt Vonnegut - Cat's Cradle

Douglas Adams - Hitchhiker's Guide (Entire Series)

Connie Willis - BellWether

James Halparin - The Truth Machine

David Zindell - Neverness

Larry Niven -
The Mote in God's Eye
The Gripping Hand

Michael Flynn - FireStar Saga

Peter F. Hamilton - Reality Dysfunction Series


Authors for the future of sci-fi (all of these have some fantastic works out there):

Charles Stross
Cory Doctorow
Ken MacLeon
Neal Asher
Kevin J. Anderson - Saga of the Seven Suns

These might hold you over on a deserted island for 6 months to a year, but after that, you're gonna need some more sci-fi!

Peter Moore said...

Very surprised that no one's mentioned Samuel Delaney.
Start with his short story, "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-precious Stones" in the collection Driftglass.
All the early work is fabulous.

Also John Crowley's astonishing "Beasts"

Anonymous said...

Warren Ellis wrote this kick-ass novel called Transmetropolitan. You know Warren so maybe you've allready read it but if not you should.

Anonymous said...

For simplicity, I'm leaving out all short stories, comics, and adaptations from other media. That cuts out Hitchhiker's Guide in case anyone was curious where that went. I'm also leaving out any titles I haven't actually read. I'm following a loose definition of Science Fiction that will include Bellwether, as a fiction that uses a scientific idea to illuminate human behavior.

I also love many of the stories from the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. I read a lot of different stuff, and not most of it is SF.

10 representative titles
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain
The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
A Canticle for Liebowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Dune, Frank Herbert
Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Bellwether, Connie Willis
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Ware series, Rudy Rucker

One of my favorite books that never hit among other readers is Glimpses, by Lewis Shiner. It's more of a rock 'n' roll fantasy novel, or perhaps a classic rock journey through magical realism. It surprises me that more people haven't read Shiner's work.

Anonymous said...

In no order

"The Day of the Triffids" - John Wyndham -

"Ubik" - Phillip Dick

"Waro of the Worlds" - Mr. Wells

"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" - Heinlein

"Time Out of Joint" - Phillip Dick

"Radio Free ALbemuth" - Phillip Dick

"Cat's Cradle" - Vonnegut

"Player Piano" - Vonnegut

That'll do for now. I'm a really big Phillip K. Dick fan. I'm about halfway through his works but I really can't recommend "the Day of the Triffids" highly enough. It is scary and smart. Most everyone on Earth has gpne blind. Civilization ends. Thwn what? That's the book. Amazing. Forget you even heard of the movie.

scott said...

A couple of good overviews of sf:

Age of Wonders, David Hartwell

Trillion Year Spree, Brian Aldiss

Anonymous said...

And I'm surprised no-one has mentioned Jack Vance.

Emphyrio, To Live Forever, Tschai-series, Demon Princes -series. These are my favourite books of all time.

And a little gem: City, by Clifford D. Simak

Anonymous said...

I'd definitely agree with a lot that's been said here. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Hyperion by Dan Simmons - admittedly it's a play on Chaucer, but it's a damn good book in its own right. my ten:

The Forever War (Joe Haldeman)/Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein)/Armor(John Steakley) - although by different authors, I would consider these three novels to be so similar in topic that reading them together really brings the subject of future war into focus. Forever War is the best of them, in my opinion.

Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)

Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson) - I think it's done enough to warrent a place, it added a lot of style to the flagging cyberpunk genre.

Neuromancer (william Gibson) - for creating a large part of cyberpunk.

1984 (George Orwell)

2001: A Space Oddyssey (Arthur C Clarke)

A Scanner Darkly (Phillip K. Dick) - my pick of Dick's many great novels. this one really homed in on his favourite topic - forced schizophrenia and loss of identity.

Stranger In A Strange Land (Robert Heinlein)

Downbelow Station(C.J. Cherryh) - the panic as the refugee ships arrive... this is good stuff.

I'd also put a little note in for Helliconia Spring by Brian Aldiss, which really protrayed life on a planet with different natural conditions - in this case season length than ones humans are used to.

Dark Horses, or writers to look out for:

mostly british. Cyberpunk seems to be having a renaissance over here, which is great. China Mieville is absolutedly fantastic. Ken Mcleod, Neal Asher and Richard Morgan are writing some really good scifi thrillers. Morgan's Market Forces and Asher's The Skinner are particularly worth checking out. John Courtney Grimwood is writing well, and could be big.

on the other side of the Atlantic, I second calls for Michael Marshall Smith (sadly he's gone into writing thrillers - I hope once his bank balance clears up a bit he'll go back to the brilliant imaginings of Only Forward and Spares.) and Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing fame - Down And Out in The Magic Kingdom is excellent.

Anonymous said...

84 Comments?! Who the hell are you people?!!

Anonymous said...

Someone tell me I must have missed it reading down the list - Heinlein's Future History? especially "Time enough for love," which i feel is a must read for sci-fi fans. Others I have seen on the list that I really dug were ANYTHING from Stephenson, "Harsh Mistress" "Foundation" series, The Niven "Ring" series. I also feel that Zelazny's "Amber" series is good, but some might consider that more fantasy than Sci-Fi. Another author I have always enjoyed, but who might not deserve the list is PJ Farmer, very talented guy, the OZ books, his bio of Doc Savage was neat, and the Tarzan stuff also, but he excelled with "World of Tiers" & especially the "Riverworld" series...

nolo said...

Wow-- I've just been giddy reading these comments. They're a tour of of my junior high/high school reading list. Each time I wondered whether why a particular author or book hadn't been mentioned yet, zap!! There it was!! John Brunner and Samuel R. Delany were pretty late mentions, though, I have to say. What's up with that? Oh, and did anyone mention Joanna Russ and I missed it?

That being said, I'm not entirely sure how one would come up with a definitive 10-book canonical list. Though it seems easy to shove "science fiction" into a genre ghetto, it's hard to define what would constitute "canonical" works -- especially since much of the best science fiction challenges canons of one sort or another. It's easier for me to come up with a couple of quick additions to the "B" list:

Camp Concentration, Thomas Disch; and

Stars In My Pockets Like Grains of Sand, Samuel R. Delany.

Brian McRoberts said...

I skipped through the comments so I didnt see if I. M Banks has been mentioned. His Culture novels are great. He also wrote a couple of stand alone Sci-Fi novels, such "Against A Dark Backround" which would make a great movie.

As a kid I liked Papa Schimmelhorn stories by Reginal Bretnor, who's infulence you can see on the Liks of Douglas Addams and Gaimen.

Unknown said...

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