School Me On Some Sci-Fi My Astral Brothers And Sisters!

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Here's the scoop: I read mostly modern and not so modern literary novels. I loooove fine-ass writing. And great storytelling. But i ain't no snob. Genre writers of any stripe can hoist a glass next to any white tablecloth fancypants writer that i admire and hold there own easily. I dig the crime writers and the horror writers, but i don't even read much of that stuff anymore. What i feel i'm missing out on and what i feel ignorant of are all the great , ahem, speculative fiction writers out there who have written stuff that i just know will knock my socks off if i give them a chance. I don't know why i never delved into sci-fi. I love sci-fi movies and television. even the bad stuff. But lately i really think i could be loving it.
So, with your help, some suggestions if you please. Hard sci-fi, soft sci-fi, sci-fi with a splash of fantasy, you name it. Go nuts. I will say this: I might be a little scared of something if it's longer than the bible. so be gentle. My wife is a huge Doris Lessing fan and she always tells me to read that doorstop we have lying around here and i get the willies just looking at it. Maybe after i'm broken in.(you know the one-Canopus in something.somewhere in the vicinity of 5000 pages.) I've read a little phillip k. dick, i'd like to investigate him further. And Samuel Delany is a must apparently. Other than that, just anything that you would press into someone's hands and say,"this is a GREAT book". Feel free to make this the end all and be all of sci-fi threads. I'm sure i will enjoy the insider info.(disclaimer:I must devote the coming weeks to the ILB Book Club selection #2 A Sentimental Education by that yahoo Flaubert, so it might take me awhile to take you up on your suggestions, but i'll get there!)

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 05:10 (seventeen years ago) link

The Demolished Man & The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester.
A Canticle for Leibowitz, William M. Miller, Jr.
More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon.
The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth & Roadmarks, Roger Zelazny.
Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner.
Always Coming Home, Ursula LeGuin.

and yeah anything by Delany, anything at all, even the early corny stuff is so beautiful and rich and fucked-up

Begs2Differ (Begs2Differ), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 05:30 (seventeen years ago) link

Oh, man. Where to start? I'm pretty much a dilletante myself -- I tend to go through sci-fi binges every few years -- and some of these I haven't read in ages so I'm not sure how well they hold up. But a few favorites: Asimov's Foundation trilogy (yes, a hoary classic, but deservedly), Ursula LeGuin's "Left Hand of Darkness," Dan Simmons' Hyperion books (actually, I only read the first two, but they were good), Octavia Butler's "Mind of My Mind" (the only Butler I've read, tho I have two others and friends tell me it's all good -- especially if you like angry feminist black-power sci-fi), Jack Vance's Durdane trilogy (The Anome, The Brave Free Men, The Asutra) -- Vance is great in an old-school pulpy way, Harlan Ellison's short stories...

Oh, and Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series -- one of the rare things that blew me away in jr. high school (even though I didn't quite understand it) and then blew me away even more 12 years later. I don't know if it's more sci-fi or fantasy, it's a mixture of both, but it's fundamentally mysterious and strange.

spittle (spittle), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 05:40 (seventeen years ago) link

This is a great start.Thanks. I'm gonna hit the hay. I'll look forward to many fine suggestions in the morning. "angry feminist black-power sci-fi"? Hell yeah!

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 05:47 (seventeen years ago) link

I read most of these in high school, but I think they should probably stand up pretty well:

Martian Chronicles or any good collection of vintage Ray Bradbury short stories
The Cyberiad - Stanislaw Lem
Out of the Silent Planet - C.S. Lewis
Dune - Frank Herbert
Sphere or Andromeda Strain - Michael Crichton
Player Piano - Kurt Vonnegut
Starship Troopers - Robert Heinlein
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
a good collection of H.G. Wells
Dying Inside - Robert Silverberg

o. nate (onate), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 16:28 (seventeen years ago) link

Light by M John Harrison is urgent and key.

Ricardo (RickyT), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 17:23 (seventeen years ago) link

I can vouch a lot that's been mentioned. Some other ones to look into

The Forever War--Joe Haldeman
Childhood's End--Arthur C. Clarke
The Stone God Awakens--Philip Jose Farmer
Valis--Philip K. Dick
Ringworld--Larry Niven
The Sirens of Titan--Kurt Vonnegut
Stranger in a Strange Land--Robert Heinlein
Glory Road--Robert Heinlein
Creatures of Light and Darkness--Roger Zelazny
The Dragonriders of Pern--Anne McCaffery
The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath--HP Lovecraft
The High Crusade--Poul Anderson
Cities of the Red Night--William Burroughs
Grass--Sheri Tepper
Neuromancer--William Gibson
Perdido Street Station--China Mieville
The Physiognomy--Jeffrey Ford
Love and Death in the Magic Kingdom--Cory Doctorow

A solid and cranky guide is The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of by Thomas Disch.

Are you looking for fantasy, too, or strictly science-based spec-fic (ugh--there needs to be a new term)?

otto, Tuesday, 24 February 2004 17:55 (seventeen years ago) link

Are you looking for fantasy, too, or strictly science-based spec-fic (ugh--there needs to be a new term)?

Hard Sci-Fi is the term I'm thinking of..

Love and Death in the Magic Kingdom--Cory Doctorow

??? My copy is called Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom... Anyways, great book from a fresh science fiction writer... and completely FREE to download (Creative Common License).

I've enjoyed pretty much anything by William Gibson. I haven't read Pattern Recognition, but it's apparently top-notch (though it's his first book about the present/now past).

Bruce Sterling is a completely underrated author in this same vain. Holy Fire was pretty damned good and his short story collections (Crystal Express?) I enjoyed.

I've recently been trying to read some of the classics. Heinlein's "Stranger.. " for one. It was OK, but not the hyped-up groundbreaker I was expecting. It felt too hokey to be contemporary, but I can appreciate it's timely influence to the genre. The soft-core porn was a nice touch too.

Walter Mosley's "Futureland" is a good collection of short stories from an African American Sci-Fi perspective as well.

When I think of more, I'll update.

Dale the Titled (cprek), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 21:51 (seventeen years ago) link

Yeah, Stranger in a Strange Land seems a bit hokey today- all that free love stuff is very 60s though. It's kind of fun to read just as a product of the era. But for good Heinlein, I'd recommend Starship Troopers. If you didn't like the movie, don't let that dissuade you, because the book is quite different.

o. nate (onate), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 21:59 (seventeen years ago) link

(i actually loved the movie starship troopers) thanks a bunch everyone. keep them coming. I'll know what to refer to in the future. o.nate you mentioned Lem and he's someone i'm interested in reading. i've heard such great things about his books.

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 22:06 (seventeen years ago) link

Mine says Down and Out, too. Oops. I might be an airhead, or maybe I'm on CD's sequel-writing tip, I'd prefer to think.

I'm not sure how much these will appeal, Scott; I guess this is more in the spirit of putting together a general sci-fi thread. They're harcore as they come, though. Or so I'm told, having not yet read them. Instead I have them on a to-read list.

Revelation Space--Alastair Reynolds
Star Dragon--Mike Brotherton (he's got a PhD in astronomy)
The Golden Age--Walter Jon Williams
Altered Carbon--Richard Morgan
The Phoenix in Flight--Sherwood Smith & Dave Troqbridge

otto, Tuesday, 24 February 2004 22:38 (seventeen years ago) link

I haven't read a lot of Lem. I guess Solaris is probably his most famous book (due to the Tarkovsky movie - which is great, but that's a different thread). I'm partial to Cyberiad - witty little stories that remind me of Borges at times - frequently dazzling in their ability to extrapolate ideas to unforeseen yet somehow logical results.

o. nate (onate), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 22:39 (seventeen years ago) link

Stanislaw Lem is definitely someone you should look into. The Cyberiad is wonderful. All of his books are worthwhile from The Star Diaries to Tales of Pirx the Pilot to Memoirs Found in a Bathtub and on and on. He's really quite funny. But I wouldn't start with Solaris. While it's his masterpiece, it's just not as fun as his other books.

I'm surprised that Samuel Delany is constantly mentioned. I read Dahlgren twice thinking I has missed something the first time around. Problem is, missed it the second time around too.

Give Lem a chance, you'll love him.

Mark Rose, Wednesday, 25 February 2004 00:09 (seventeen years ago) link

How about Orson Scott Card's "Enders Game" series?

pepektheassassin (pepektheassassin), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 01:01 (seventeen years ago) link

OK, more cyberpunk sci-fi goodness. William Gibson and Bruce Sterling co-wrote The Difference Engine which is also really good. The premise is that Charles Babbage perfects his Analytical Engine before he dies and ushers in the Information Age 100 years earlier. Alternate history steampunk. I remember it being very cool when I read it a while back. Victorian gaslights and punch-card programmers.

Dale the Titled (cprek), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 01:06 (seventeen years ago) link

Ender's Game was good. The others left me cold.

August (August), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 02:41 (seventeen years ago) link

I liked Ender's Game too. I think I read the sequel, but I don't remember much about it.

o. nate (onate), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 02:48 (seventeen years ago) link

I read the first sequel, but was bored to tears. I was pretty young, though. I may not have been ready for it.

August (August), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 03:12 (seventeen years ago) link

Toronto's Jim Munroe is currently writing some great sci-fi.

Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 03:23 (seventeen years ago) link

All of these suggestions are fantastic. To toss a few more out, Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash and Zodiac are claaaaaaassssic, equally so. I'm in the middle of Jonathan Letham's 'Gun, with Occasional Music' now and it's great. I second the Dan Simmons Hyperion quartet (the first two are really good, the second two are as well but are maybe less unique and more Hollywood sci-fi) and Gibson, esp. Pattern Recognition. My favorite Asimov besides Foundation is I, Robot. He was always best as a short story writer and the linked, chronologically progressing short story format is pretty cool. Any Harlan Ellison collection will have some great ones, I've read Slippage and a couple old ones I picked up for pennies used.

Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 19:21 (seventeen years ago) link

One word: Dick.

LondonLee (LondonLee), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 19:59 (seventeen years ago) link

That's Philip K Dick, of course.

LondonLee (LondonLee), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 19:59 (seventeen years ago) link

(I was going to make a horrible Delaney joke but I won't)

Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 20:05 (seventeen years ago) link

(because he's gay you see)

Jordan (Jordan), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 20:05 (seventeen years ago) link

I really like C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner series (beginning, appropriately enough, with a novel entitled Foreigner). The aliens are not just funny-looking humans, but have real, deep differences. If you want something a little lighter, I'd suggest To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. I suppose you could call it a time-travel comedy of manners.

Sara Leonard (Tara Too), Thursday, 26 February 2004 04:40 (seventeen years ago) link

I found Vernor Vinge's Fire Upon Deep and Deepness in the Sky remarkably good. Philip K. Dick, though he gets a bit too religious in his novels, is amazing.

Jaq, Saturday, 28 February 2004 17:16 (seventeen years ago) link

Dick novels that are especially good: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, The Man in the High Castle, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ubik. I like Rudy Rucker's short stories a lot, although his novels frequently leave something to be desired. His 'ware series is pretty fun, though.

Chris F. (servoret), Sunday, 29 February 2004 16:58 (seventeen years ago) link

Hard sci-fi - Poul Anderson, 'Tau Zero'

dave q, Sunday, 29 February 2004 17:22 (seventeen years ago) link

Greg Bear, Blood Music
Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game
Tim Powers, The Anubis Gates
Frank Herbert, Dune
Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
Philip Jose Farmer, To Your Scattered Bodies Go
Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle

I also recommend pretty much anything by P.K. Dick, with a caveat: You don't read Dick's novels because they're well-written, you read them because they're trippy in a way nothing else is. Of course, something like that disclaimer applies to a lot of sci-fi...

Another note: I, like many, enjoyed Arthur Clarke and Isaac Asimov's novels when I was a kid. As an adult, however, I have found, to my disappointment, that they don't hold up. FWIW.

Glenn Davis, Tuesday, 2 March 2004 05:34 (seventeen years ago) link

L. Sprague de Camp, Lest Darkness Fall
Lewis Padgett's short stories
Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

And of course, anything by Philip Dick - not only for the entertainment value but also because of his overwhelming sense of compassion and empathy. I especially like Time Out of Joint and A Scanner Darkly.

Jeremy Boushelle (jbus), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 02:08 (seventeen years ago) link

Anything by Bradbury. Anything by Gaiman. LeGuin, but specifically The Wizard of Earthsea and the rest of the Earthsea set. (These books made me fall in love with fantasy.) I concur that Dhalgren is crap, so don't feel bad if you go straight past it. Snow Crash is fun.

Heinlein, though very retro, is a good read. I recently reread Stranger and found it sexist and racist, and didn't enjoy it as much as the first time I read it, but he's one of the original masters, and so a must.

I love dystopian lit, so I must recommend Brave New World and 1984 if you haven't read them. Also Player Piano, The Handmaids Tale, Slaughterhouse-Five...all these are more likely found in the literature section of your bookstore rather than the scifi fantasy section. Quality writing.

Caenis, Thursday, 4 March 2004 21:42 (seventeen years ago) link

I respectfully disagree with the idea that Dhalgren is crap.

Begs2Differ (Begs2Differ), Thursday, 4 March 2004 22:26 (seventeen years ago) link

I hope it isn't. I'm planning to read it soon. Found a paperback copy for $4 at the used bookstore and couldn't resist.

o. nate (onate), Thursday, 4 March 2004 23:41 (seventeen years ago) link


Check out the Hyperion series by Dan Simmons
and the Collected Short Stories of Arthur C. Clarke.

Also anything with an Apocalyptic theme, End of the world, universe
etc is always alot of fun!!

Steve Walker (Quietman), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 04:07 (seventeen years ago) link

I just picked up John Brunner's The Traveler in Black today for $1.00. So far it's amazing.

Begs2Differ (Begs2Differ), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 06:33 (seventeen years ago) link

This might be interesting - Heinlein's never-before-published first novel is coming out from Scribner's.

Heinlein's Prophetic First Novel, Lost and Found

(registration req'd)

o. nate (onate), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 19:12 (seventeen years ago) link

Bruce Sterling's best book is "Schismatrix" and the version of it to check out is the newer trade paperback, which publishes the other shaper/mechanic short stories. His later novels all have good parts, but he tries to get too many things going, so they end in odd ways. Exceptions are his short stories and the collaboration with Gibson, as they are more focused.

Harlan Ellison is a great short story writer. I think "Angry Candy" is the most consistent collection and my favorite. Ellison really knows how to pace a short story.

Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" is a classic that many people haven't read. If you like dystopian tales, this novel was the basis of both "Omegaman" starring Charlton Heston and "The Last Man on Earth" starring Vincent Price. I would bet a soda that this novel will be made into a movie once again, probably this time as I am Legend.

JG Ballard's short stories are also fantastic and are more science fiction than his later novels.

Mick Farren and Robert Anton Wilson also can get as bizarre as PK Dick. I've enjoyed what I have read from both.

Arthur Clarke's "Songs of Distant Earth" and "Childhood's End" are classics that still hold up.

Some of Frank Herbert's non Dune novels and short stories are also pretty good like the two Jorg X McKie novels "Whipping Star" and "Dosadi Experiment". Herbert's novel "The White Plague" which is about a scientist who gets revenge on a terrorist who kills his family by unleashing a plague upon the world is very prescient and definitely plays into current fears.

earlnash, Thursday, 11 March 2004 04:00 (seventeen years ago) link

On the lighter end of the suggestions:

Red Planet and other "young adult" works by Heinlein (my introduction to sci-fi).
Gun, With Occasional Music by Lethem.
The Callahan series, by Spider Robinson (short stories, pun-filled, set in a really odd bar) and the companion series about Callahan's s/o who runs an interesting brothel (Lady Slings the Booze, etc.). Of course, Douglas Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.

On the more serious/deeper end of things:
Stephenson's Snow Crash, Mieville's Perdido Street Station, Clarke's Rama and Songs of Distant Earth, Asimov's I, Robot ... actually, I'm just seconding and thirding on above recommendations - they all look excellent to me.

I'm Passing Open Windows (Ms Laura), Tuesday, 16 March 2004 09:54 (seventeen years ago) link

I am stunned that Iain M. Banks hasn't been mentioned on this thread. He is a giant force in Science Fiction and one of the strongest living writers in any genre.

Start at the beginning with Consider Phlebas and work your way through.

holojames (holojames), Tuesday, 16 March 2004 23:09 (seventeen years ago) link

One could argue that Shelley's Frankenstein is an early science-fiction work - at least I had a prof. who argued that. It was for a sci-fi literature course - Frankenstein and Borges, mainly.

I'm Passing Open Windows (Ms Laura), Wednesday, 17 March 2004 03:31 (seventeen years ago) link

I am stunned that Iain M. Banks hasn't been mentioned on this thread.

My friend who reads, writes and knows most about science fiction esteems Banks above all others. I need to read some.

Following up on my earlier mention of Octavia E. Butler, I've just this week read the first two books of her Xenogenesis trilogy (Dawn and Adulthood Rites) and let me reiterate the recommendation. She really isn't like anyone else I've read. Her stories grapple with "big issues" (race, human nature, biological determinism), but in a completely character-driven way. I guess it's a cliche to say that she writes like a woman (and a black woman at that), but if you read the books without knowing the author was a woman you'd probably guess it. Pretty fascinating stuff. And fairly uncomfortable, too -- her books are full of ambiguous morality.

spittle (spittle), Thursday, 18 March 2004 05:52 (seventeen years ago) link

"I am stunned that Iain M. Banks hasn't been mentioned on this thread."

I was kind of stunned that I hadn't heard of him before, after checking at Amazon, it looks like most of his SF writing isn't in print in the US.

earlnash, Thursday, 18 March 2004 11:52 (seventeen years ago) link

two years pass...
Posted on ILx: NY Times sci-fi editor Dave Itzkoff's all time top ten favorites.

A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959)

All you need to know about my youth is that I was taught this subversive exegesis of man's religious impulse, wrapped within a story about a post-nuclear future, in the 7th grade, the same year I was studying for my bar mitzvah.

Cat's Cradle (1963)

The perfect, Platonic balance of science and fiction, one that still finds room for merciless satire and a moral that resonates to the present day: that self-destruction is mankind's one true calling.

A Clockwork Orange (1962)

A lovely little tale of behavioral modification therapy and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, so punk-rock that Burgess spent the rest of his life denying that the book had inspired the punk-rock movment.

The Crying of Lot 49 (1965)

Due to space limitations, I can't offer my complete explanation of why this is a science-fiction book, so for the sake of efficiency let me simply say to anyone who disagrees with my classification of it as such: You're wrong.

Gun, With Occasional Music: A Novel (1994)

I think this Lethem kid could be a big deal if he'd just give up his highfalutin literary ambitions and embrace his inner sci-fi geek. Hope it all works out for him.

Looking for Jake (2005)

I don't pretend to be completely versed in Miéville's work, but what I've read of it so far I find utterly fascinating. At age 33, he is already a master of gothic storytelling.

The Man in the High Castle (1962)

My personal favorite from Dick's paranoid catalog, an unnerving alternate history of victorious Nazis and the I Ching that seems to be reading you at the same time you're reading it.

R is for Rocket (1962)

Most readers' introduction to Bradbury usually comes via "The Illustrated Man," but this was the book that taught me all I needed to know about sci-fi. Such as: don't go back in time and step on a butterfly.

The Twilight Zone Companion (1982)

The book that showed me it's possible to take a critical stance on a work of science fiction and love it at the same time. Also, I memorized all of its plot synopses so I could pretend that I've seen every episode of the show.

Watchmen (1987)

Want to start a fistfight in a hurry? Walk up to any salesperson at Forbidden Planet and tell them this extraordinary graphic novel about psychologically wounded superheroes in a hopelessly modern world was just another comic book.

As I said on that thread

The Crying of Lot 49 is a better novel than Dune, but no top ten all time SCI FI list should feature the former at the expense of the latter. Just screwy. And where the hell is The Left Hand of Darkness, Foundation, Ring World, The Forever War, The Stainless Steel Rat, Hyperion, The High Crusade, Illuminatus!, etc. . . . . . . . . . .

sigh, phooey, Monday, 20 March 2006 05:21 (fifteen years ago) link


vahid (vahid), Monday, 20 March 2006 07:21 (fifteen years ago) link

"the shrike" hyperion?

vahid (vahid), Monday, 20 March 2006 07:21 (fifteen years ago) link

I had so much fun reading Ray Bradbury after starting this thread, that I never got around to lots of the other stuff that people listed! But it's nice to know that this thread is here for easy reference. Reading Bradbury in the last couple of years left me quite bewildered as to how he wasn't my favorite writer when I was a teen and how I could have avoided him for so long. So much amazing stuff! And I only read the short stories. I also read a great Nebula Award year-end collection that was filled with great stories. I should try and find it and list the ones that I liked the most. I still have vivid memories of a lot of them. I think sci-fi is really good for my imagination! I visually picture things that I read in a way that I never do with straight fiction. It gives my brain a good work-out. And it can use it, lemme tellya.

scott seward (scott seward), Monday, 20 March 2006 11:55 (fifteen years ago) link

o. nate, did you ever read Dhalgren?

pixel farmer (Rock Hardy), Monday, 20 March 2006 14:12 (fifteen years ago) link

vahid, "the shrike" hyperion. if i were that jerk who compiled the list, i'd say, "while dan simmons doesn't quite deliver the incisive social commentary of nathaneal west, who originated the shrike figure in miss lonelyhearts, nevertheless he succeeds in translating the canterbury tales into outer space."

sigh, phooey, Monday, 20 March 2006 15:32 (fifteen years ago) link

I'm halfway thru Mieville's latest novel, Iron Council and it's his best yet. Perdido Street Station and The Scar are two of the best fantasy novels I've ever read--and I've read dozens of Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance books.

adam (adam), Wednesday, 22 March 2006 03:44 (fifteen years ago) link

hyperion was fairly ok but when it turned into mega-metaplot ... "fall of hyperion" was satisfyingly apocalyptic but already things were groaning under the weight of plot, "endymion" was getting goofy and "rise of endymion" was terrible!!

vahid (vahid), Wednesday, 22 March 2006 05:29 (fifteen years ago) link

this is a great summertime thread - i need some sci-fi too right now

rrrobyn, Saturday, 30 June 2007 13:40 (fourteen years ago) link

got some more stuff at the dump today. paperbacks.

In The Enclosure by Barry Malzberg

world's best science fiction 1969 (with vonnegut's welcome to the monkeyhouse included! and "the first u.s. publication of a new novella by samuel r. delaney". should prove to be a properly psychedelic volume.)

the hugo winners vol. 1 (all the winning stories and/or novellas from 1955 to 1961)

Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm (never heard of her. looks good though. doomsday. sterility. clones.)

scott seward, Saturday, 30 June 2007 16:09 (fourteen years ago) link

Short story anthologies - yes! Goddamnit I need some new ones (new old ones I mean). That Hugo winners vol sounds great. Mirrorshades = classic; In Dreams - a celebration of the 7-inch single in all original sf and horror fiction = total classic. Got three volumes of penguin scifi from the 60s edited by Brian Aldiss which are all good. Time for a trip to the 2nd hand bookshops.

ledge, Saturday, 30 June 2007 16:34 (fourteen years ago) link

Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm - yes, this is pretty good, although the apocalypse which happens early on is a little too much whimper, a little too little bang.

I just saw that Penguin is reprinting one of those Aldiss anthologies as a Modern Classic later this year. Nice to see SF getting some recognition as literature.

James Morrison, Monday, 2 July 2007 02:34 (fourteen years ago) link

finished the cordwainer smith novel. craziness. ever read about his life?? even more craziness:

started the wilhelm book. yeah, she rushes through the end of the world stuff pretty fast, but the clones are holding my attention.

scott seward, Monday, 2 July 2007 03:49 (fourteen years ago) link

how about the Harlan Ellison-edited anthology Dangerous Visions? I read it at the peak of my JG Ballard phase and thoroughly dug most of it.

m coleman, Monday, 2 July 2007 11:28 (fourteen years ago) link

Try John Crowley - his early stuff, eg Beasts, Engine Summer is more SFnal, tho' the novel most people like best, Little, Big is closer to Fantasy. There's a great time travel novella, The Great Work of Time, too. It's in Novelties and Souvenirs, a collection of his shorter fiction (Londoners: currently available as a remainder in Judd Two books on Marchmont St.)
Nowadays he has a Historical-Fantastic-Literary thing of his own going on. Also, a livejournal.

woofwoofwoof, Monday, 2 July 2007 12:36 (fourteen years ago) link

a big otm on the forward books. he also had another involving mainly nonhuman lifeforms too, sea dwellers on a twin planet as i recall.

asimov's the gods themselves had lots of stuff with humans but also, i recall, was considered fairly groundbreaking for the huge sections that were purely alien. i don't think i'd dig it much now though.

dunno if calvino's cosmicomics would count, but why not, i guess?

as far as general sci fi, i read blish's cities in flight again a bit back and yowza, as far as old-school hard sci-fi worldbuilding and a whole spencerian meets individualist whatever outlook, the things are great.

fond memories, tho antiquated by now, of pohl's The World at The End Of Time along the big-payoff hardscifi books too, tho haven't read it in a very very long time.

pleasantly surprised by harrison's formulaic but decent homeworld trilogy that was a 1$ find the other week.

has anyone mentioned decamp in this thread? his funny stuff is very funny.

oh, and the practice effect which is brin back when he was tolerable.

s.clover, Tuesday, 3 July 2007 03:22 (fourteen years ago) link

one month passes...

still reading that old Hugo Winners collection (amongst other non-sci-fi stuff) and the big winners for me would be:

Exploration Team by Murray Leinster


The Big Front Yard by Clifford D. Simak (loved this story!)

scott seward, Friday, 3 August 2007 14:33 (fourteen years ago) link

I didn't much care for the Walter M. Miller, Jr story in the Hugo Winners book, but that won't stop me from reading A Canticle for Leibovitz when i finally find a copy, cuz i know how many people here love it.

scott seward, Friday, 3 August 2007 14:37 (fourteen years ago) link

Scott, I just read most of China Mieville's Perdido Street Station (had to give it back to the library w/ 100 pages to go), and it was pretty amazing. Women w/ heads that are beautiful beetles, bizarre drugs, killer moths, and more besides.

Jaq, Friday, 3 August 2007 16:18 (fourteen years ago) link

so many people have great things to say about mieville. i will definitely read one someday.

scott seward, Friday, 3 August 2007 16:23 (fourteen years ago) link

It was a big book, so I put off starting it the first (and second) time I checked it out. But it only took a few paragraphs to hook me, and I didn't want to put it down. The man's a great storyteller. I also just finished his kids' book Un Lun Dun, which was okay and had a few "whoa!" moments, but not as griping as his grownup book.

Jaq, Friday, 3 August 2007 16:26 (fourteen years ago) link

vahid, yr crazy about Endymion and The Rise of Endymion, those two take the series to the next level, it's the best futuristic ecstasy dream ever!

BATTAGS, Friday, 3 August 2007 19:16 (fourteen years ago) link

there is a great short story i read about a world of bees. very hivemind! i can't remember the title off hand...

artdamages, Saturday, 4 August 2007 17:09 (fourteen years ago) link

"Mission Of Gravity" was discussed in various places on this thread: science fiction..

James Redd and the Blecchs, Monday, 6 August 2007 02:02 (fourteen years ago) link

Hello, some great recommendations here but I shall add a few more.

Robert Charles Wilson: Canadian author of a very imaginative sort, my favourites being "Darwinia" involving some fantastic alternate history and "The Chronoliths."

"We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin - the original Russian dystopia.

Avram Davidson: visions of history and fantasy and awesomeness.

mayhaps, Tuesday, 7 August 2007 04:45 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah, Robert Charles Wilson is one of the best and more overlooked SF writers going at the moment. Read his 'The Divide' the other day, and it was really good. 'Darwinia', 'Spin', 'The Chronoliths', 'Bios', 'Blind Lake' or 'Mysterium' are all excellent intros to his work. There's also a free novella online here.

James Morrison, Wednesday, 8 August 2007 02:53 (fourteen years ago) link

I snatch up collections of short stories by Theodore Sturgeon and Damon Knight that I haven't read whenever I find them. The two page long stories are often my favorites.

Has anyone read Roadside Picnic? I got about 50 pages into it a few months ago and I don't know why I stopped because it was really good!

Dan I., Thursday, 9 August 2007 08:11 (fourteen years ago) link

Yes, I loved 'Roadside Picnic'. I'd like to read more by those brothers, but I don't think there's anything else in English (although I do have an old anthology of Soviet SF somewhere that was edited by Sturgeon, and I suspect they're in that). Also, if you liked 'Picnic', try Algis Budrys' 'Rogue Moon', which has something of the same atmosphere and thematic concerns.

James Morrison, Thursday, 9 August 2007 23:11 (fourteen years ago) link

ten months pass...

haha i want a theodore sturgeon-edited SF anthology

thomp, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 06:36 (thirteen years ago) link

It's good! Only the 10% are in it!

James Morrison, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 22:53 (thirteen years ago) link

got a title for that one? i might go amazon market / abebooks hunting

thomp, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 10:30 (thirteen years ago) link

It's called 'New Soviet Science Fiction', and the ISBN of the copy I have is 0025782207. ABE has copies from $3.50.

It looks like this:

James Morrison, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 23:05 (thirteen years ago) link

Fancy gettin' me some of that but no uk sellers on abebooks... have to see what other Sturgeon they have. Might stock up on Dangerous Visions while I'm at it.

ledge, Friday, 11 July 2008 10:39 (thirteen years ago) link

Come to think of it, back in the late 80s/early 90s, at the big library across the river, I found an old paperback of the Stugartsky/-ski bros' Hard To Be A God, think that's the right title, pretty close at least. Snowballing absurdist epic, awesome and "not" political, noooo--no telling when it came out; prob on Amazon for five cents or $50.00 or both. Anybody who's disappointed by Dhalgren, should check out his earlier stuff, esp. The Einstein Intersection, Nova, Triton, Spindrift (short stories), Heavenly Breakfast (his first memoir, I guess, re the 60s--*his* 1960s)

dow, Sunday, 13 July 2008 18:26 (thirteen years ago) link

! i had never heard of 'heavenly breakfast' — in what ways is it i) similar ii) dissimilar to 'the motion of light in water'?

thomp, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 12:27 (thirteen years ago) link

I learned yesterday that Osama Bin Laden may have named Al-Qa'ida after the Arabic title of "Foundation", a novel that features the collapse of a mighty empire.

The Real Dirty Vicar, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 16:09 (thirteen years ago) link

one year passes...

I read "Roadside Picnic" by the Strugatsky Brothers (after seeing Tarkovsky's "Stalker") and I loved it. Is any of there other stuff worth seeking out? "Dead Mountaineer's Hotel" sounds cool, but it doesn't look like anything is in print (judging from a quick glance at Amazon).

Ømår Littel (Jordan), Tuesday, 15 September 2009 21:13 (twelve years ago) link

Yeah, I'd love to read more of them too.

Also, a recent SF book that I thought was fantastic: 'Blindsight' by Peter Watts: exciting exploration/nature of consciousness and sentience/biology's limits/cognition flaws/mind-boggling stuff in general.

When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Tuesday, 15 September 2009 23:10 (twelve years ago) link

Finished all 8 vols of Best SF of New Worlds. Pretty disappointing. Michael Moorcock keeps on going on in the introduction about how sci-fi is an inadequate term, New Worlds is also, or more, about experimental fiction. And he's right - unfortunately I just don't find experimental fiction, or NW's brand of it, very interesting. Ballard's probably the best of the bunch but his themes are opaque and his prose doesn't particularly grab me. It's interesting that virtually none of his stories printed here appear in his Collected Short Stories.

Of course this is judging from a distance. I daresay there were all sorts of cultural boundaries being broken and political issues flying around - indeed, as Moorcock says in the intro to one of the vols, one of the magazine issues was banned by WH Smiths and questions were asked in Parliament (*) - but tbh I'm not really interested in that, I just wanted some decent more-or-less traditional SF short stories, and across all 8 vols there are only about a dozen of those. The last vol is pretty much the best; it feels like Moorcock had given up in some way as there is no introduction and a full four of the stories are by Barrington Bayley, but those are all good or great stories, there are a couple of other decent ones, and the experimentation is toned right down.


this must be what FAIL is really like (ledge), Tuesday, 29 September 2009 14:06 (eleven years ago) link

well, i applaud your tenacity i guess

thomp, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 16:16 (eleven years ago) link

Ehh 1-2 hours per book, not a great chore. And gems were unearthed.

this must be what FAIL is really like (ledge), Tuesday, 29 September 2009 19:54 (eleven years ago) link

i had a sci fi question i wanted to ask! on this thread! and i have no idea what it was now

thomp, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 21:11 (eleven years ago) link

did you also have to read 'descending' by tom disch btw? fukkin hate that story

thomp, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 21:11 (eleven years ago) link

u MAD, that story is great.

Hugh Manatee (WmC), Tuesday, 29 September 2009 23:49 (eleven years ago) link

i just read 'whole wide world' by paul mcauley, which was interesting. kind of a cyber-noir thriller set in a future which is just a couple of tweaks more advanced than ours. he loves to have his character talk about music while narrating the thing (very "rockist" taste it seems), and the mystery isn't much of one, but he's a very good writer and i read it quite swiftly.

omar little, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 23:53 (eleven years ago) link

(xp) I didn't read Descending, but I have before, and remember it fondly. I did read The Squirrel Cage which I thought was brill, also an extended metaphor on the human condition, this time about loneliness and solipsism - similar in a way to Wittgenstein's Mistress. Two other of his stories, though, were a let down.

Haven't read any McAuley, would be interested in trying some of his harder and further-future stuff.

this must be what FAIL is really like (ledge), Wednesday, 30 September 2009 08:48 (eleven years ago) link

this thread got me into thomas disch!!

BIG HOOS aka the steendriver, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 08:51 (eleven years ago) link


The unwitting intrusion of the author’s physical surroundings, or the author’s own mental state, into the text of the story. Authors who smoke or drink while writing often drown or choke their characters with an endless supply of booze and cigs. In subtler forms of the Dischism, the characters complain of their confusion and indecision — when this is actually the author’s condition at the moment of writing, not theirs within the story. “Dischism” is named after the critic who diagnosed this syndrome. (Attr. Thomas M. Disch)

this must be what FAIL is really like (ledge), Wednesday, 30 September 2009 09:03 (eleven years ago) link

Ooh, ooh, Paul McAuley's 'Cowboy Angels' is very good: 1960s US discovers travel to parallel histories, starts "liberating" them from Communism, complications ensue. More complex and politically subtle than I made it sound.

When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Wednesday, 30 September 2009 09:10 (eleven years ago) link

hoos, how? he doesn't seem to have been, um, mentioned much.

camp concentration was one of my favourite books for a while, others maybe less so. i did read echo round his bones lately and enjoy that: it's less ambitious, more a standard SF potboiler just done smart, and a very enjoyable one. one i did not like: the genocides.

ledge are these the ones?

they do give kind of a jaundiced view of 60s SF, i guess. to some degree that's what it was for, i guess.

thomp, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 09:16 (eleven years ago) link

Aye them's the ones. Any other collections you'd recommend?

this must be what FAIL is really like (ledge), Wednesday, 30 September 2009 09:27 (eleven years ago) link

(Apart from the Aldiss/Penguin ones, and Hall of Fame vol 1, which I have, and The Hugo Winners, which I ordered and hasn't arrived, and Dangerous Visions, which I might order right now, and and...)

this must be what FAIL is really like (ledge), Wednesday, 30 September 2009 09:36 (eleven years ago) link

334 is incredible.

Disch was God.

alimosina, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 13:38 (eleven years ago) link

three months pass...

what are ppl's thoughts on this list?

just sayin, Monday, 18 January 2010 22:04 (eleven years ago) link

Nearly gave up in disgust circa Ayn Rand (I know a few people will see Ender's Game and Stranger In A Strange Land as libertarian nutjobbery too but I'm fairly happy with their inclusion in an SF list) but there are a few things I hadn't heard of there and would like to check out.

Not much modern stuff, which I can't really complain about as there isn't much on my shelves either. Not sure I'd pick several Dan Simmons books as pretty much my only representative of the 00s, though, but I've only read one of them.

canna kirk (a passing spacecadet), Monday, 18 January 2010 22:36 (eleven years ago) link

Don't read the stuff anymore.

I'm as extreme a Gene Wolfe fan as there is, but An Evil Guest doesn't belong there. New Sun > Long Sun.

That appalling crap Flatland made it to 43?

No Sheckley, but his pla weak imitator Douglas Adams makes the list? With both of them gone, can't we sort this out finally?

Pale Fire is fantasy?

alimosina, Monday, 18 January 2010 22:59 (eleven years ago) link

Just posted this on the comments for that list...

Interesting list and one that I mostly agree with (well except for Ayn Rand), but I'm actually shocked that neither Brunner's Stand On Zanzibar or The Shockwave Rider didn't make the cut. Both have aged remarkably well - if not better than some of the books that are on the list.

Since there isn't a single J.G. Ballard book on the list, I'll simply assume that the compiler is insane. The fact that I'm the first commenter to bring up both Brunner and Ballard makes me fear for the future.
January 18, 2010 | Chris Barrus

Elvis Telecom, Monday, 18 January 2010 23:39 (eleven years ago) link

In SF Book Club, we have just been assigned Iain M Banks' "Use of Weapons"

For me the recent hits of SF Book Club have been Jules Verne's "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" and China Mieville's "The Scar". Verne's ability to get drama and excitement without having enemies to fight against is very impressive. "The Scar", while not really SF, is an impressive imaginative work.

The New Dirty Vicar, Thursday, 21 January 2010 15:48 (eleven years ago) link

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