Some Science Fiction Books

As some of you know the commenter who came in breathing fire or at least breathing superiority has stayed to ask questions.  This happens, and some of you became regulars here that way.  Of course the percentage is the same as of the lepers that came back to give thanks for their cure, but you know, no one promised us easy or simple.  When we put our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honors on the line, we were aware it wasn’t a game.  Even if going one by one (like Juan Valdez) arguing and discussing is not nearly as much fun as running around the hills with a Kalashnikov, and even though sometimes it feels like we’re trying to catch every bird in every hidden tree.  It is a mark of how badly our school system is serving us, and why our very first imperative is not only “Teach your children well” but “teach every child well.”  Or forget child (though most of the people who stay and discuss ARE rather young) and just teach everyone who is open to it.

Not in a preachy way of course, the poor things have managed to be preached more at in their lives than I did growing up in a monolithic Catholic country during a series of socialist-ish revolutions (ranging from socialist to outright Maoist, though thank heavens those only had the reigns a very short time.)

But one of the things that struck me as funny was that she (or anyone) would set up to write not just reviews, but scathing reviews of contemporary SF while having read virtually nothing from more than say twenty years ago.

Look, I get it.  I’m sure Verne was more exciting to my dad than it was to me.  The language was closer, and the entry-point easier. But at any rate, when I was coming up I read EVERYTHING that said “science fiction” on the spine.  For a genre that is supposed to work in imaginary, parallel and might-be worlds, overcoming the language shouldn’t be a big thing.  If this is your meat, there might be a point at which you have to work — usually in the beginning — but then you adjust.

And even then, even now, I wouldn’t set up to do scathing reviews of much of anything.  Even the ones that Kate Paulk did at MGC — reviewing some award winners — were limited to the craft in the introduction and she didn’t NAME the authors, because it wasn’t personal, it was professional.

The reason I wouldn’t set up to do it is that my taste is so strangely skewed, partly through having cut my teeth on science fiction that got translated to Portuguese.  I swear what gets translated to Portuguese is mostly whatever the agents in Spain (you heard that right) are enthusiastic about.  Looking at a shelf in Portugal now was almost surreal.  I mean, NO Correia, no Ringo, no Weber, but people you never heard of and I have only because for a while ten years ago or so I followed SFWA politics.

BUT beyond that, and beyond the fact the history is all jumbled in my head, because the not-translated-to-Portuguese authors I discovered in the eighties are all filed under “recent sf” and some of them are … well, not recent.

Add to that that until the boys were toddlers — I wonder if that will come back now — I read an AVERAGE of six books a day, with a preferential bend to science fiction, and a secondary one for mystery (though I went through phases.  Also, I read everything, including history and biology manuals) and that for a great part of my young-married time I was dependent on whatever the local library had (which is why we spent an entire summer when Robert was an infant reading only Piers Anthony and Jerry Pournelle.  I’m not going to bitch, that’s when I discovered Jerry who became a staple-read in this house.  Piers… not so much.  I found after the third book it was sort of like being on a diet of spaghetti-ohs.)

When I was trying to assemble a recommends list, I also realized that I might have slighted ten or so authors who are favorites here, but whom I could never get into.  The one that comes to mind is Jack Vance (met him.  Very nice man) whose books simply wouldn’t allow me in.  I thought about it yesterday and realized my introduction to him was during the year of climbing, when my first son had just become mobile, and when he discovered that climbing the twelve foot built in bookcase and dancing on the top brought interesting squeaks from mom, and also caused her to go get the ladder to retrieve him.  This was also the year of chewing books — he cut his teeth on my hard cover Agatha Christie collection.  LITERALLY — and the year we moved three times, which rivals the last one.  In fact, every author I tried that year I “couldn’t get into”.  Because, you know, we’re not Robots but beings of flesh and blood, and what else is going on in our lives affects our perceptions of books, as well as anything else.

Anyway, so I’m going to do a list of ten books, and add some authors, like Poul Anderson (whose name I still have trouble spelling because we assumed the Portuguese publisher had got hold of the wrong end of the stick and his name was really Paul Anderson.  I missed my only chance to meet him when he had a signing in town 19? 20? years ago.  But the kids both had some kind of stomach thing, I had piles of sheets to wash and was running the carpet cleaner 24/7 and I didn’t want to infect the poor man) and Jerry Pournelle, and our own occasional commenter Margaret Ball, whom you should just seek out and read everything they wrote, because I did.  (There are others.  There are always others.  This is sort of like trying to catalogue trees leaf by leaf.  Every time I look closer another name pops up.) I’m leaving a bunch of other names out, in my uncaffeinated condition, but I trust my commenters to provide them.

To reduce it to ten books, it has to go beyond, “These are books that have lingered” though that’s the first cut.  I was, for instance, surprised to see that my brother and I HAD owned Slan, as I have NO memory of reading it.  Ever.

Instead, I’m going to go with the books that made an impact on me, and how I thought, or perhaps “a brief history of my interaction with the genre in books.”  There will be Heinlein.  That goes without saying.  (Though honestly, I’d have named #2 son Clifford Simak, if Dan had let me.  But he wouldn’t, even if I promised to call him Kip.  Husbands, amIright?)

I fell into Science Fiction at 11, when my brother was in Engineering and met a man who had a library with hundreds of science fiction books.  (I signed a book for him — Noah’s boy.  I really should send him DST — when I was in Portugal.  Life’s odd.)

My brother started reading it and bringing it home, and I started reading it standing up by his bedside table, ready to throw the book down and run into my room, where I pretended to stare at the walls, at the slightest step on the stairs.

You see, he’d told me not to read them, thinking they were too mature for me.  I’ve asked, and no, he didn’t do that to ensure I started reading science fiction.  Weirdly.  It’s amazing how even our family members don’t know us.  At some point he realized I was reading it.  And at some point, later, when I was around thirteen, we used to pool our resources (think the equivalent of $5 a month) and go halvsies on new releases.  In addition to that, I scoured the spinning racks in every postcard shop and handywork stall and icecream shop I went to, particularly when visiting friends in out of the way places, as you often found really old books at OLD prices (more like 50c in those places.)  Of fond memory are the year my parents took me to Algarve (at fourteen, I think) for the summer, and I found all of Heinlein in a fisherman’s village.  And the year I found a bunch of thirties and forties sf while helping a friend’s family clean the apartment her grandfather was moving out of to move in with them.  The old man was so thrilled I knew some of those names, and also to have a chance to talk SF that he gave me the two boxes sight unseen.  His grandkids didn’t fall in our little, odd fraternity.

Anyway, so the first book I read Standing by Alvarim’s bedside table was Out of their minds by Clifford Simak.  Simak must therefore be in the list, but Out of their Minds is a rather “average” book.  Honestly, at eleven it hooked me more because it had Snuffy Smith as a character, and I watched Snuffy Smith cartoons.  A book of his I came by some years later is far more interesting (and not one of his acclaimed ones like City which on re-reading I found had a lot of bad-tasting though typical of its time ideas.)

1- They Walked Like Men by Clifford Simak. It’s the story of a truly unusual alien invasion, and it hooked me with its voice from about paragraph two.

Years later, thinking about when I’d first found science fiction, I realized that I had read one science fiction book before Alvarim “met” the genre.  It wasn’t, like Out of Their Minds so implausible that I paused and looked at the spine and asked “what is this science fiction” which made my brother explain.  It was a book that was a little unusual but fit in very well with the environment I grew up in (dad loved Three Men in a Boat, yes.  And the answer to “I want a radio” was “I have no objection, get one” which led to my building one) and for all I knew in America every teen got a spacesuit, and going to the moon could be given away in soap contests.  So:

2- Have Spacesuit Will Travel – by Robert A. Heinlein. (As a note, I can’t for the life of me remember what in holy heck it was called in Portuguese.  That title is in a tense that doesn’t EXIST in Portuguese and I can’t figure out any way to translate it that wouldn’t run to three sentences. It doesn’t mean much.  Sometimes titles in Portuguese make your head hurt.)

I can’t remember what the second book I read after realizing SF was SF was, except that I remember singularly off putting elements of it: the US had walled itself in, communism (which was supposedly a good thing) ruled the rest of the world, and the version of America was the “decadent Rome” version that Russian agitprop pushed.  I remember the character (female) got in a bus and had a lesbian encounter with a stranger by chapter two.  Which didn’t seem to mean anything to the rest of the plot, and which she frankly didn’t seem to enjoy much.  The dang thing might have been gray goo.

The third science fiction book I read has stayed with me all these years and, to me at least, is the be-all, end-all of apocalyptic science fiction.  Perhaps I was attracted to it because of the history of the country I come from.  Or perhaps I’m a little nuts.  Mind you, this recommendation is significant because I don’t LIKE post-apocalyptic stories.

3- A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter Miller Jr.

Then when I was a teenager, during the sojourn in Algarve, I found a Heinlein I’d never seen anywhere else: Stranger in a Strange Land.  Since this was my New Age Summer — 14 — it fit right in to where I was at that time.  I will say now, as an adult, SiaSL is my least favorite of the Heinleins.  And yet it’s not as “unfavorite” as all that.  On re-reading it recently I found that it, like Starship Troopers, is not exactly what people think it is.  Both are much deeper, and more deeply conflicted, books morally and politically than people who haven’t read them imagine.

In the same summer, I discovered The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, which has been a favorite ever since.  As can be told by just about anyone who has read A Few Good Men, which is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but on Earth and without supercomputer.  (So, TMIAHM now more extreme and with more thumb marks, though the later is not intention, it’s just that I, truly, am but an egg.  So:

4- Stranger in a Strange Land

5- Starship Troopers

6- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Sometime in the next school year, not sure if I was 14 or 15, I came across Le Guin’s Left hand of darkness (weirdly, I didn’t even hear of the Tombs of Atuan until I was married and in the US.) The book fascinated me for several reasons, the first being the “structure” which in retrospect is veddy veddy seventies and part of it being that there is a certain psychology to the biology, which didn’t ring true.  (Hermaphroditic species on Earth are far more likely to be VERY violent.  Also, the whole communal child-raising didn’t seem right.  Also I wondered how a civilization ever arose without the need to protect those who couldn’t run while pregnant.  Never mind.  It bugged me, and by bugging me was responsible for my starting to write, which is why my first series was “hermaphrodites don’t work that way, particularly not human-derived ones” and yes you might see that series in the fullness of time, that being what I’m most short of right now: time.)  At any rate part of the reason the book hooked me was not the irritation (though weirdly that was part of it) but the characters.  Read The Left Hand of Darkness for the characters, and watch what she did, because Estraven broke my heart.

7- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin

And this was when I fell head first into Phillip K. Dick.  Sometime between 16 and 20, not sure when.  Look, there are worse things you can do.  You can acquire a drug habit or you can get a second hand one.  (I did not type that aloud, and you can’t hold me to it.)  Perhaps it was the age.  Perhaps it was that I’m rather of a philosophical bend, anyway, but I read everything of his I could get hold of.  Of that, the one I tried to get the boys to read (I can’t remember if either one did) was

8- Ubik – by Phillip K. Dick.

Here I’m going to elide over — because of the ten books — The World of Tiers by Phillip Jose Farmer which I mashed with Ubik while talking about it last night.  I love the books and the concept, and it’s the FIRST time I read a series (though I’ll note that I might have been primed for it because of being an avid mythology reader. I’ll just mention in passing that Riverworld never did much for me.  Partly, I think, because it reads “bleak” and as a chronic depressive I’ve learned to shy away from those.  Note I don’t mean that I only read happy-fun books.  In fact, most of what I write is in rather awful places/times.  But it’s the tone of the writing itself.  If it feels like it’s beating me down with “abandon all hope” I pull back, and often don’t do it consciously.)

I haven’t talked about reading women, because there didn’t seem to be any point to it.  I mean, there were women SF writers up there, through all those years of getting acquainted with the genre, but most of them didn’t “stay”.  I.e. they only rose to the same level as most of the men I read at that time, which was “okay.”  And yeah, my reading through this time was biased to males, but that is mostly an artifact of who was translated at that time.  And before the squawks start as though because I’ve got a vagina I MUST read people who have vaginas, let me add some of my favorite non-sf writers through that time WERE women, in fact in mystery about half my favorites — Agatha Christie and Ellis Peters, both prolific — were women, which skewed more female after I came to the US with a lot of writers of whom, off the top of my head, I’ll mention Patricia Wentworth and Dorothy Cannell and Carolyn Hart.)

However, I reserved the two last slots of this list to women who played pivotal roles in my relationship with science fiction.  The first is Anne McCaffrey whom I started reading in Portuguese (I had to look the first book up because I SWEAR the title I remember in Portuguese is Dragon Drums) and finished in English.  It was the second series I fell into and the most immersive.  I damn well wanted to BE a dragon rider.  There is something feminine about the writing, to the extent writing can be masculine or feminine, in that it’s the characters that grab you and pull you, though the world building and all that are worthy of note.  (BTW some men also write full immersive characters.  Some women write crazy-involved worlds and plots.  Some people do both.  And some people do now one now the other.  Because gender characteristics aren’t the same as contents printed on a can and humans are still individuals, world without end.  When I say something is more feminine I mean only “as far as this goes, you’re likely to find it in say 60% of women and 40% of men, or vice versa.  It’s not an absolute measure.)  My favorite of that series is

9- Moreta – by Anne McCaffrey.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, perhaps related to what was available in libraries and bookstores, perhaps simply having to do with having found a surfeit of bad books, I wandered away from science fiction somewhere shortly after the boys were born.  It might simply have had to do with the fact that popcorn-mysteries (formulaic, simple, easy to get into and out of) are easier for a young, distracted mother.  I couldn’t not-read, but I could read things that required less work.

Then I took my very first “vacation” when Robert was I THINK 6 or so.  Dan had a conference down in San Antonio, and I could share his hotel room if I just paid my flight.  Which we did, and I went off, with loads of books.  I spent a week walking around, reading, eating in diners.  It was fun.

During that week I found Connie Willis (I’d run out of books, hit a book store and looked in SF/F when there was nothing in mystery) with one of her least known works Lincoln’s Dreams.  I then went on to read everything she wrote, and debated heartily with myself what I should recommend this morning.  I’m going to go with:

10- Bellwether by Connie Willis.

There are a lot more people I discovered since, and a lot I simply can’t mention without this already large post growing to encyclopedic lengths.  The ones I buy now sight unseen are:

1- Larry Correia — don’t let the explosions fool you, the plots which he builds incrementally add up to serious questions about the nature of men, the nature of monsters and the difference between the two.  Yes, even outside MHI.

2- David Weber – I’m a traditionalist.  I like Honor. 😉

3- John Ringo – who damn it made me like another apocalyptic world: the world of Black Tide Rising.

4- Jim Butcher – watch his d*mn character arcs.  I have character-arc envy.

5- F. Paul Wilson – Just go and read him.  I heard him dismissed as “cartoonish” which means these people have never actually read him. Like Larry (not surprising as he was a major influence on Larry — and me — it’s all about men and monsters and the razor thin difference.)

6 – ADDENDUM – my brain has him filed under “friend” because I read him after meeting them, but I am sure if it had been the other way around I’d still buy everything he wrote.  Possibly harder and faster.  IF YOU HAVEN’T READ DAVE FREER, RUN, DON’T WALK TO BUY EVERYTHING HE EVER WROTE.  Also, I’m jealous of you, you lucky bastage, reading Freer for the first time.

These are the people I would pay premium prices for — and do, for Wilson and Butcher — ebooks.  (Thank heavens the other are Baen.)

There are even probably a couple I missed in that last list, but I still haven’t had coffee and I’ll be d*med if I’m going to think any harder than I have to.

Meanwhile because I know the gaps above are gargantuan, I turn it over to you.  Because I REALLY don’t want wall of text comments, try to limit your answers to three books per comment (though not per commenter.)  What is YOUR list of must-read science fiction/fantasy?

484 responses to “Some Science Fiction Books

  1. ‘Equipagem Espacial,’ I believe.

  2. Or forget child (though most of the people who stay and discuss ARE rather young) and just teach everyone who is open to it.

    I think I was almost 30… although I didn’t so much breath fire, as breath questionings.
    Almost worst. 😀

  3. c4c

  4. H. Beam Piper, the Fuzzy books and Lord Kalvan. (The short story “Omnilingual” is perfection.) James Schmitz, The Demon Breed. Made me want uplifted otter friends 😀

    • “Lord Kalvan” will always hold a special place in my heart. I grew up in the part of PA where it was set; Piper lived in my city until he died (Williamsport), and I wrote a review of “Junkyard Planet” for a local weekly newspaper in 1962 (as I recall). I was only 10 years old at the time and I’m pretty sure the paper’s editors thought SF was for children only, but I was pretty stoked by getting something published at that age.

      Some friends and I actually tried to identify the locations of the battles in Lord Kalvan and to go there and reconnoiter them. Good times…

      • Since I went to grad school in Happy Valley, I was going to do the same thing–take pictures, and do the “Otherwhen guide to Hostigos battlespace”. But then I got a job before I graduated, and never had the time.. ha ha.

        • clark e myers

          It might be interesting to do a comparison of original site for the source battle and transposed site for the book battles.

          I’ve had a real Orson Wells War of the World experience listening to a Radio Reader do something with Civil War battles driving through the same area.

      • Oh, I *did* visit the forest where Calvin “emerges” from the time cop bubble. Old growth trees that got left due to a boundary confusion between logging companies. Pretty amazing place. Did not find any brass casings or flintlock pistols, alas!

    • scott2harrison

      Yes, YES, YES!!! Especially “Omnilingual” and the Fuzzy books. The description of Judge Pendarvis (sp?) “The law is his religion” has always seemed to be one of the greatest complements a jurist could receive.

    • I do like those Piper books, but I think my favorites of his are Space Viking and Lone Star Planet.

  5. The Harper Hall trilogy is awesome– hits a lot of the same buttons as The War God series from Weber.

    From the TV scifi angle, probably my favorite bit of science fiction is… Leonard Nemoy’s two biographies, but read them last one first. (“I am Spock” and then “I am not Spock.”)

    He put a lot of himself into Spock, and it took a while for him to figure it out.

    • I devoured the Harper Hall books in high school and it cemented my love of dragons. The music obsession has been there since birth. Discovered the war god books while unexpectedly on vacation with no books. Best impulse purchase ever.

    • The Harper Hall trilogy are my favorites of the Pern stories, though I pretty much like them all. I read a lot of sci-fi when I was in my teens (read every single book in our school library, and a lot of what was in the small public library). But then I stopped and didn’t read any more sci-fi for a long time. The Pern stories are what I started back up with, and I still re-read the Harper Hall books and a few of the others just about every year.

      • I’m with you 67%. Dragonsong and Dragonsinger are still two of my “comfort food” books to reread every year or two, but Dragondrums is probably my least favorite until Skies of Pern.

    • Just checked and Dragondrums was published in 1979, so that could have been the one Sarah was talking about. Not the best as an intro, though.

  6. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Doc Smith, Kratman (if he counts), Drake, Spoor is great fun, Vathara, probably a whole lot more that I haven’t the spoons to sort out.

    • Oh, GOODNESS yes, Vathara!
      if you want some of her stuff on your reader.

      Pretty much everything she does is “I watched X (and Y, and Z) show, and loved it, what if it was more realistic? What if it was different this way? What if it was different that way?”

      I don’t even remember what the story was named, but she did a crossover with one of the “giant robots in space” anime that was ten levels of awesome.

      I also love her published stuff– Count Taka and the Vampire Brides! is a delight in part because the way the main character is harassed with the “of course you’re going to hook up with him” bat will be extremely familiar to a lot of folks here.

  7. In addition to those you have up there:

    Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series

    Diana Wynne Jones – the Chrestomanci series in particular

    Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series

    • A few more, since no one else has mentioned:

      Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn

      L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series

      Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius (an on-line comic/graphic novel series, but up there with the best).

      Hellboy comics – which I’ve been reading for the first time, and which put me onto Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer (for me, the best horror always has a sense of good as well as evil – preferably with good overcoming evil. Though I do love Lovecraft.)

      M.R. James – my favorite ghost stories.

      George MacDonald – start with The Light Princess, or The Princess and the Goblin, but everything he did is worth reading.

      (Why yes, I DO love very old stuff … at least fantasy and horror. The Victorians/Edwardians had a sense of the intricacies of good and evil I don’t see as much today – I suspect due to a superior grounding in theology)

    • Definitely the Vorkosigan series. And Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books.

      • And if we are doing fantasy, then The Lord of the Rings, and the Narnia Chronicles. I don’t think there’s much that beats those two.

        • Yes. Tolkien. No one even compares to him in terms of impact on me.

        • Fantasy?

          Elizabeth Marie Pope – The Perilous Gard
          Pamela Dean- Tam Lin
          Diana Wynne Jones – Fire and Hemlock
          Edward Eager – Half Magic
          E. Nesbit – Five Children and It

        • If we’re doing fantasy, Barbara Hambly though one of my favorites of hers seems to be lumped in with horror. The first of hers that I read was Those Who Hunt the Night in ’88 when it came out, I’ve also read it’s sequel Travelling with the Dead. And looking these up for the exact titles I find that she’s written four more in that series since 2010, so I guess I need to visit the library soon.

          • The shelve it where?!?!
            Good grief, “Bride of the Rat God” is closer to horror than Those Who Hunt The Night. It’s more like… supernatural suspense. Or “What Dracula Could Have Been.” Or something.

            • The library I grew up using had a “paperback book shelf” rather than sorting them in any sort of way– most of what I read came from there. Sometimes they’d put stickers to give you a clue if it was a “scifi/fantasy” vs techno thriller. I think they put “romance” on its own shelf….

              • Thomas Monaghan

                The library I grew up with 64-71 still has most of the Norton SF/F novels still on the shelves.



            • I suspect those who lump it with horror were working under the theory that “Vampire = Horror”. According to Wiki, it won the Locus award for Best Horror in 1989. I love, love, love those books and am not generally into horror, but the color I associate with them is a very dark one.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Bride meets my personal definition of “Horror” as the “danger” was outside of the world view of most of the view-point characters (of course the danger was part of the world view of Shining Crane).

                Those Who Hunt The Night “tests” my personal definition as while vampires were outside the world view of the main characters, Barbara Hambly made it easy for the human characters to accept that vampires were real.

          • Speaking of vampires……. I really liked Saberhagen’s version of Dracula. Anita Blake was good until it went total Twilight. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s St Germaine was also really good until the last few when she decided to more explicitly virtue signal.

            As far as science fiction and Saberhagen, we made it this far without mentioning the Berserker books? Really?

        • But but The Lion The With and The Wardrobe is clearly just pro-Global warming propaganda, likely financed by big oil.

          • This would be the same series that a particularly noxious breed of Pharisee uses to label C. S. Lewis as a fake Christian occult writer. /headdesk.

            • I was reading through Revelations a few weeks ago (no it was for Sunday school, I wasn’t looking for election news) and while Christ is usually associated with a lamb, came across this in Chpt. 5 “And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” Not having studied Revalations much before I did not realize that said it Christ was a lion before. (The “Root of David” and surrounding verses make it pretty clear who the lion is). Not described “as a lion” but just that he was a lion. Now obviously Revalations is full of symbolic imagery, but my first honest reaction was “OMG! The Bible mentions Aslan!!” After I got over my initial shock I now suspect that is one of the reasons C.S. Lewis picked the lion as the animal embodiment of Christ in his books. (And I can’t imagine that a lamb would have worked nearly as well in the story).

              • The Narnia books were all written as Christian allegories, as well as fantasy novels. Lewis, like many of the Inklings (the writers group that included him, Tolkien, and a number of lesser known authors and friends), was a Christian (a converted Anglican, unlike Tolkien, who was a Catholic). Lewis also wrote several theology books, in particular, _Mere Christianity_, which explore Christianity and morality.

                • Oh, yes, I’m a big fan of C.S. Lewis. His Screwtape Letters is unnervingly insightful about actual humans (as opposed to the way that we like to pretend we are) like few authors dare to be. In this present time when I fear we are starting to produce more history than we can consume and the maps are soon to get all arrowy his less popularized book “Present Concerns” (most of the essays were written during WW2) seems very appropriate to me. You can go to p13 and read The Necessity of Chivalry here:
                  a bit of the relevant Equality essay too. Oh, just read the whole book.

      • Oh, and The Borrowers (if we are mentioning fantasy).

  8. 1. “Einstein Intersection” by Samuel Delany. Yes, I know that Delany has a bad rep to a lot of people, but this is the book that made me want to write. It’s the first time I encountered prose language that was as beautiful as the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay or T S Eliot.

    2. “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve been told about this book, and if you haven’t read it by now, nothing I can say will convince you.

    3. “Out Of The Silent Planet”/”Peralandra”/”That Hideous Strength” by C S Lewis. The Narnia series gets all the press, but I think this series is actually better. The first time I realized that science fiction doesn’t have to be atheistic, and a lot of concepts that I ended up lifting for my own work.

    4. “Nifft The Lean” by Michael Shea. Nift was grimdark before grimdark was cool. Very rich, lush fantasy world, and skating the border between fantasy and horror.

    5. “Night’s Master”/”Death’s Master”/”Delusion’s Master”/ by Tanith Lee. There are two more books in this series, “Destiny’s Master” and “Delirium’s Mistress”, but I think those are a lot weaker than the first three. Another series that taught me that fantasy doesn’t have to mean “Sword Of Shannana”-style Tolkien pastiche.

    6. “The Face In The Frost” by John Bellairs. A very small, intimate epic fantasy novel. Wonderful characters, and some very deep meditations on the price of power.

    7. “The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury. Well, okay, EVERYTHING by Ray Bradbury. But The Martian Chronicles is a good place to start. If “There Will Come Gentle Rains” doesn’t make you cry, you’re already dead.

    8. “Protector” by Larry Niven. In my opinion the best of his novels, primarily because of the characters. Some wonderful ideas that are explored in depth.

    9. “The Lathe Of Heaven” by Ursula K Le Guin. This novel really brought home to me the concept that what is important about science fiction isn’t the ideas so much as how those ideas affect people. George Orr is an everyman taken on a whirlwind tour of possible futures but still remaining himself.

    10. “Illuminatus” by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. In my opinion this is satire in the classic sense, on the same level as “Gulliver’s Travels”. I learned that fiction can be both absurd and deal with serious subjects from this series.

    • Holy cow, I didn’t mention Tim Powers! “The Anubis Gates” is probably the best place to start, but “Last Call”, “On Stranger Tides”, and “The Drawing Of The Dark”… hell, just read everything you can find by Powers.

    • scott2harrison

      Couldn’t deal with the “Out of the Silent Planet” trilogy. The first one would have ended up against the wall if I did that for the HORRIBLE science in it.

  9. Francis Porretto-especially the Realm of Essences series.

  10. Lensman series, E.E. Smith. The ur-text of space opera

    Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement. Diamond-hard science fiction, and the one great character (Barlennan) who does worldbuilding more than character.

    Any of the “known space” series by Larry Niven — ruby-hard SF

    The great Pournelle/Niven books — “Mote in God’s Eye”, “Footfall”, “Lucifer’s Hammer”. For all my study of history, I never really GOT medieval/feudal societies until reading “Lucifer’s Hammer”. “Dream Park” might go on this list as a great fantasy/SF crossover.

    The two great SF/Detective novels (a very slim genre) — “Needle” by Hal Clement, and “Gil the A.R.M” by Larry Niven

    “The Door Into Summer” — Heinlein. The book that set the course of my life, so perhaps I have a special place for it. “Space Cadet” — Heinlein; his most “Space Opera” book

    Could go on but those are some of the classics not on the list.

    • Second “Mission of Gravity” – that is how you do aliens. Oh, how I wish I had Clement’s skill (and knowledge).

      • After wearing out every page of my copy of Mission of Gravity, I was stunned and delighted to discover there was a sequel. Both books and a pair of short stories are collected in Heavy Planet.


        • Clement’s Iceworld is a very satisfying mystery (police procedural? When I first read the novel I had never heard that term … and still could not offer its definition … but in memory Iceworld seems to sit there.)

  11. I grew up with the ‘Big 3’ in the background because my parents had them on the shelves. Clarke and Asimov more so, but I’ve found I like Heinlein best. 1. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress really captivated me.

    Bruce Sterling really hit me in the gut with his story telling when I was in High School. My favorite story of his would be his shorter work 2. Green Days In Brunei.

    I didn’t find Alfred Bester until I was out of college. I picked up three of his works (2 novels and a collection of short stories). And even though it seemed a little dated, 3. The Stars, My Destination completely blew me away.

    • “Gully Foyle is my name
      Terra is my nation.
      Deep space is my resting place
      and the stars my destination.”

      I wore my copy out…

      • I searched for that novel for years! Shortly after finally finding and reading it I discovered that one of the first SF anthologies I’d ever gotten — the SFBC’s A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, edited by Anthony Boucher, included it in one of the two volumes.

        The echo of the resounding smacking of my forehead yet resonates through the corridors of Time (why Time has never invested in good acoustical tile has ever confounded me.)

        A GREAT anthology and essential to the collection of any one presuming to be a fan of SF, along with the first couple collections of Hugo winners and the SFWA pre-Nebula collections.

        • Speaking of great anthologies, Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions holds a special place in my heart for his introduction to a story (Bounty) by T. L. Sherred, imagining it as an Alfred Hitchcock movie with screenplay by Robert Heinlein.

          Sherred, best known for E For Effort, wrote with considerable charm and in a very congenial style. He was a particular favourite at a particular period in my life (this is a common trait of well-beloved books and authors, eh?) but is best remembered by me for setting several novels and stories in Detroit, where I lived at that time, and for tipping me to what was then a rarity, an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet in Windsor, Ontario.

          • Sarah, a follow-up post might invite admissions of Guilty Pleasures, SF/F books/authors about which/whom you have fond memories but would never ever trot out in a fan discussion of great Works/Writers.

            • I actually enjoyed most of EC Tubb’s Dumarest and Jeffrey Lord’s Blade books.

              Hey, sometimes you just want a quick, simple read, not to wrestle with another epic.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Well, IMO the problem with that is “some people’s guilty pleasures are other people’s Great Works”. 😉

              There were a few authors/works mentioned in this thread that I disliked.

              Nope, I’m not going to say which ones.

              YMMV applies when talking about “enjoyable books”. 😀

  12. Heavens. Terry Pratchett. How could I not have mentioned Pratchett. He’s also a “read everything. Shut up. Just do it. Because.”

    • David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers and Jerry Pournelle’s Falkenberg’s Legions. Miller and Lee’s Liaden series. I think they invented Space Regencies Esther Friesner and Susan Schwartz. James Blish. Theodore Sturgeon. Laurence Janifer .Raymond Feist Ed Greenwood.

    • LOL – yeah, I was wondering why he wasn’t up there. As I heard Ilona Andrews say at a con a few years back, in her sexy Russian voice, “Pratchett is god.”

      Still haven’t been able to face reading the final book.

    • Professor Badness

      Indeed. I don’t even read the back. I just by it.

    • Incidentally, Pratchett gets a quote in the latest Civilization video game (aka “Where In the World Did the Time Go 6”). The Guilds civic has a quote from him about the Thieves Guild.

      I laughed when I saw it pop up.

  13. Doc Smith’s Lensmen,
    Lord of the Rings.
    David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers books.
    Marvel’s Son of Satan comic books, which destroyed the concepts of predestination overcoming free will and genetics overriding nurture.
    Star Trek books: The Price of the Phoenix and The Fate of the Phoenix. Also Diane Duane’s Rihannsu series.

    • If we’re reeling in comic books, I would put Ditko’s run on the first thirty-nine issues of Spiderman on the list, his Dr. Strange stories and Jim Starlin’s early run on Captain Marvel, the Thanos arc around issue #30.

      Alan Moore’s reinvention of Swamp Thing is also noteworty.

  14. Let us not forget C.J. Cherryh. To my mind she as the absolute master of writing aliens that, in John Campbell’s words, “think as well as humans, but not like humans.” Any of her series are worthwhile: Chanur, Foreigner, Alliance-Union… (I’m not usually much for fantasy, so someone else would have to critique those of her works.)

    • Cherryh’s top heroic fantasy would be the Morgaine cycle. I would say that, if one of her works is a must-read, it would be The Faded Sun, though Cyteen would be a close second. My favorite of hers otherwise (and, I’d guesss, hers, as she’s titled her blog after it) is A Wave Without a Shore. In the same vein, I’ve had a soft spot for A Different Light by Elizabeth A. Lynn and Babel 17 by Samuel R. (Yes, I know) Delaney.

      • Second time I’ve seen a certain name pop up. I would note that being a sociopath does not preclude being a good writer (nor is there any correlation). Many of the “Great Writers” would be (have been) writing from the high-security wing of the mental sanitarium, in a sane society.

        • There is that. A good many of the creatives I have known personally have been of somewhat fragile — if not dangerous — mentality. I have no reason to suspect any less or more of those at greater remove.


      • I found the Morgaine series to be unremittingly depressing. I understood the reasons for closing the Gates, but the primitive, hardscrabble remains of humanity seemed to have no hope for any kind of future.

        • I didn’t see the story as being about humanity (qua homo sapiens as a species) at all. It’s about Vanye’s desperate, impossible-to-requite love for Morgaine, and her wish that she could respond in kind, but for her geas. In that sense, it’s a very human story, in the universality of humanity, but not in the other sense.


  15. THANK YOU! I found SF he same age you did, had three years, and then got shipped off to military school. Where the library sucked. Then it was college (briefly), marriage/kid, working three jobs, and I never got a chance to burrow into it. I’ve been trying to catch up with the classics the past few years and force them on my children.

    We have two copies of Bellwether, just in case. (Her new one Crosstalk has the same tone, which I greatly prefer to her darker Blackout/Domesday.)

    I just got my copy of Troopers back from my eldest. I can’t take Stranger or the Lazarus Long set, and Farnham’s Freehold made me put down Heinlein completely. Recommendations for Heinlein that don’t make me want to beat a hippie to death would be appreciated.

    Recommendations from earlier posts here that I’ll second:
    John Carter series, Burroughs. The plots are redundant (Carter can’t keep track of his womenfolk to save his life), but the innocence of them is refreshing. Plus, you have hyperloop, radar guided collision avoidance, and few other techs being speculated on a century ago, which is nice.

    Anything by Leigh Brackett. Again – innocent and refreshing. Frankly, they make me want to smack the Boomer generation for destroying the optimism of their parent’s era. I want an atomic toaster, but can I have one? No.

    The Last Revolution, Dunsany, (ditto Left Hand) to remind folks that your new idea has already been done.

    The book that caught me and dragged me into SF: Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny. I remember playing the game on my Commodore (home “sick” from school) when Challenger blew up.

    • Perhaps my favorite Heinlein would be Time Enough For Love, but that’s pure Lazarus the whole way through. Given your comments what I would suggest for you is Glory Road, good solid adventure, perhaps one of his best.

      • TEFL and others of the same period, including a once-favorite I Will Fear No Evil disturb me now because the LANGUAGE is so dated. It aged worse than the slang of the 30s? 40s? he uses in the juveniles.

        • Ah, but you forget that I read most every Heinlein when they first came out, or at least when the paperback reprints I could afford at the time did. Their language may very well be dated to you, but for me it’s my milk tongue.
          In addition, raised by grandparents who were born turn of the last century in a very small midwestern town that never seemed to advance out of the 1950s.

        • clark e myers

          I’m asking what language means in “LANGUAGE is so dated”? Is it a period usage such as might be seen in other writers of the same vintage writing at the same time? Any issues with say Rex Stout as Archie Goodwin? I can read Packard for Heron but even the Packard is long gone.

          Diction, vocabulary, vastly simplified verb tense?

          In my youth children who learned English grammar in a knuckle rapping school – or around a high school teacher’s dinner table – would have been comfortable recognizing all the various forms in a French verb book with their English analog.

          Today a proper use of most of the subjunctive forms in American English conversation would come across as more illiterate than hyper-literate.

          Mr. Heinlein did invent some vocabulary frex torch ships and tea kettles as ships. A great deal of extrapolated technology from computers as developed analog fire control computers – submarine fire control computing was surprisingly complex if not exactly sophisticated – has fallen by the wayside as alternate history.

          Door Into Summer is way gone as alternate history with a vocabulary to deal with technology we don’t have and wouldn’t want. Is that a particular bother?

          Internal conversations in I Will Fear No Evil might not ring true? The phrasing of go and no go zones might not be the way we would say it but taking illegal weapons carry for granted and as a positive good does I think ring true in deed if not word.

          Sam’s form with a handgun as he turned to meet his death would be laughed at chez MHI though his attitude might be approved. The door dilated?

          I’m not arguing. I don’t doubt the truth of a statement about taste. I suppose I’m asking for a description of a flavor I don’t taste but I’m asking.

      • I revisited “Glory Road” a while back, and I was struck by how much “Hey, let’s take a break from being chased by monsters to a have a long meaningful discussion of free love and why monogamy is stupid” dialogue there is.

        I don’t remember it as being so obtrusive when I was younger, but back then it was new and exotic instead of being same old, same old.

        • Professor Badness

          For the sake of a good story, I will ignore social/political content I don’t agree with. It was much easier when I was younger.
          Now, I find I have less patience for such things. It has to be a really good story for me to ignore things like free love or other such nonsense.
          I used to love Piers Anthony, then I grew up and realized that relationships didn’t work that way.

          • What happened with Anthony? I re-read his short stories (Anthonology a few months ago and they hit me about the same. But his novels… not as I remembered.

            Same with Donaldson. I loved the Thomas Covenant series when I was a kid. I tried to re-read it last year and did a full stop a few chapters in. I couldn’t stand the protagonist and the writing was lousy.

            I get expanding my mental horizons and imperfect narrators, but it’s like maintaining willing suspension of disbelief for a movie. If I want to physically drag the main character out of the book and bludgeon him, I’m not going to enjoy it. (e.g.Byzantium Endures by Moorcock, the first book I ever just put down.)

            • Professor Badness

              I had the same reaction with the Thomas Covenant series.
              I think I just enjoyed the world building when I was a kid, Now I can’t stand the main character.

              • For me, that first Thomas Covenant book was launched from the metaphorical train into the metaphorical French countryside purely based on the fact that I could not stand reading another word about the main character – and this way back when it was newly out in paperback (college days maybe?) and being enthusiastically recommended to me by friends.

                It is seared, seared, into my memory as that’s probably the very first time that happened to me.

                • We read the whole thing when it first came out while I was a teenager, my mother, me, and my sister. I recall the appearance of the female lead made them easier reads since she wasn’t as annoying as Thomas. And I will admit that right now that’s about all I remember about them. ith a bit of internet wandering I discover that there were another four books written in the last 12 years.

                  Working full time with small kids and then being unemployed and broke and then a full time student and broke really got me behind in my book reading.

                  • The books with the female lead – the second trilogy – weren’t as bleak as the original trilogy. There’s still a lot of bad things happening, and things are grim for the characters throughout most of the trilogy. But the story actually ends on something of a positive note, iirc. I also have a vague recollection that some of the problems (and I’m talking about things that the “good guys” did that screwed up their world even more than it already was) that were created during the first trilogy were corrected during the second one.

            • I think he got Anita Blaked– or maybe George Lucased; got success with (product) that had A, B and C characteristic, and the stuff ended up shifting so those were 90% of what was there, rather than just being an aspect.

              I noticed it via the punny books with low-grade anime naughty stuff, which turned into 45 pages of excuses for the puns folks had sent with lots of panty shots.
              I can’t remember what his other series was, but there was one with a suicidal girl where it got walled because jeans do not work that way….

              • To be Full Lucased, the creator of a successful work has to completely miss why their work became popular, and no amount new information can ever correct that blind spot in their worldview.

                It takes a very large ego to sustain a Full Lucas.

              • The Mode series. Reread it when the last book was released and just found myself disappointed.

            • What is amazing with re-reading books is not that they all stink but that at the time I did not distinguish at all between works of such variable quality.

              I was recently re-reading Andre Norton’s juveniles, and I recommend Catseye, Ice Crown, and Dread Companion. BUT — I was also re-reading Forerunner Foray, and started to notice the undermotivated characters, that no one noticed that the artifact was obviously dangeous (making people do things at its command), and that our nominal heroes did all sorts of things with no concern for those around them with an aim of grave-robbing.

            • It’s been a while since I read him, but it seems to me that the first three books of any of his series were pretty good, and then… He ran out of ideas or something.

              Maybe he’s just pathologically incapable of writing any series more extensive than a trilogy?

      • Couldn’t stand Time Enough For Love. I started with Troopers, worked through a few to Friday. Stranger set me on edge. TEFL really rubbed me the wrong way, and I gave up with the incest discussion in Farnham. I realize it’s probably blasphemy in this set, but Heinlein got worse and worse the farther he went along. His latter stuff really does make me want to punch a hippie.

        (The whole “free love” garbage really irks me at a core level. The hippies ran home to their middle class parents. I just see the dead, the ruined, and the lost their assault on our morals left behind.)

        • As much as we denigrate heavy “message fiction” here and revere Heinlein, one has to admit that he was prone to narrative stopping message interludes in his later works. One of the reasons that I prefer many of his juveniles to his later works.

        • The whole “free love” garbage really irks me at a core level.


          A lot of Heinlein I read and the “people behaving in ways that do not work” got shoved in the same place as “technology does stuff it can’t do.” More as a sketch for the “personality” of the groups than anything else.

          I think I started to read the introduction novel for Long, and got a “just no” response. So I stopped. 😀

          • One word of defense for TEfL is that it is not a defense of “Free Love” but rather a meditation on the implications and consequences of human immortality. This is carefully set up in the discussions of the Howard Families, although Heinlein’s sleight of hand is such that even though it is in plain sight the reader is sufficiently distracted by the preaching to glide past the subtext.

            Once established, any within the Howards would have to be insane to marry outside — remember Lazarus Long’s description of the one external Howard marriage he did have — and consequently the taboos about marrying “close” relatives would never withstand the pressure of millennia.

    • If you want good Heinlein, read the twelve Scribner’s juveniles: Rocket Ship Galileo, Space Cadet, Red Planet, Between Planets, Farmer in the Sky, The Rolling Stones, Starman Jones, The Star Beast, Time for the Stars, Tunnel in the Sky, Citizen of the Galaxy, and Have Space Suit—Will Travel. Best writer the man ever did, in between the forties when he was learning his craft (at a tremendous pace, to be sure) and the post-Stranger years when no one dared edit him.

      • I love the Lazarus long stories, and again, even Stranger is not as bad as I “remembered.” It’s still very Heinlein.
        But hey, I’m odd.

        • Mrph. Need to interject here – I sometimes feel that we should have a special Critic’s Lounge, with the door guarded by Mr. Hoag. The one you get out of only when you prove your ability to read the plain English language, without imposing your own biases upon the simple words on the page.

          RAH – early or late – did NOT advocate the “free love” as it was or is interpreted. Who you have sex with is, indeed, your call – as any products or repercussions from same are your responsibility.

          “Free love” advocates conveniently skip the second part of that – Heinlein never did.

          That is actual libertarian thinking. Not my business what you and other (consenting, competent) adults do in your own house, on your own furnishings, etc. That I am most comfortable with faithful and “no kinky stuff” monogamy does not mean that everyone else must be.

          Now, the later works can be critically debated, on the grounds of being somewhat preachy, on having a feel of “Deus ex machina,” etc.

          And, yes, some of the language has not aged well – but every writer is going to have that, if their works are much more than a flash in the pan. I am hoping to eventually be criticized for that myself, actually…

          • scott2harrison

            I am ashamed to say that until I re-read “Expanded Universe” I really did not get what was meant by “Thou art God” in Stranger. My reaction when I first read it was “Hippy-Jesus Freak woo-woo.” which it was almost the opposite of.

            • “Thou art God” seems like a straightforward English translation of the Hindu formula tat tvam asi, “thou art that.” In fact a lot of Stranger seems influenced by Hinduism, including the acquisition of siddhis (miraculous powers) by the awakened.

          • At least, he talked the good talk about looking after the repercussions. But while they talked in one book about the nightly duty in the nursery because Long thought that a crying child needed to be attended to at once, no actual child characters appeared.

            • Come on. The books were already huge. He had to pack in the explosions and all. Also, much to his sorrow, he had no children. He might not have felt comfortable writing children.

              • He wrote children in several novels — Podkayne, Rolling Stones, Have Spacesuit, to name three off the top of my head. The problem may well have been that in TEfL the period of childhood in a culture with infinite lifespan is simply not that important. My impression is that he viewed them much as cats, to be petted when available and undeniably worth having underfoot, but not really interacting with the fully adult human.

                Besides, in the frontier type worlds preferred by Lazarus, childhood had a very very brief span, ending as soon as large enough to take instruction, do chores, butcher chickens, hogs and would-be claim jumpers.

          • Amen. My complaint with the language is just because it robbed me of the joy of hearing I Will Fear No Evil on audio without being disrupted by “Maaaaan”

            • And choice of readers wasn’t always that smart. You were complaining about the audio of “Friday” read by Samantha Eggar, a wonderful actress but veddy veddy English.

              • I don’t know if she tried to do American accent, but go to you tube and click on her talking about Cary Grant — she has an exaggerated upper class British accent.

              • And who CLEARLY despises Friday. She makes her sound like a vapid idiot. NOT THE OTHER characters, but her. I can play it for you if you wish. I still own it.

                • I will say this for Audible: they have given Neil Gaiman his head for curating items for their audio books line, allowing him to not only select items his fan base would likely enjoy but also to find optimal readers for them.

                  Just because a person is a Name actor or actress does not guarantee they will be the right reader for a given book. Similarly, I find “Full Cast” recordings are often less satisfying than a single reader, however many voices are required. I wonder how much (if any) market research has been done (and ignored) into preferences for such books.

                • Eh. They had probably already paid her before any Heinlein fans involved heard her performance. Audio books isn’t a big budget production.

                • I read Friday when it came out, hated it, and finally read it again after the Glory Road thread a few months ago. What struck me the most this time was how, despite her supposed intelligence and career, how Friday could be so profoundly ignorant and incurious about the world around her.

                  I’d go with “vapid idiot” too…

                  • Valid criticism there. But…

                    You need to remember that she was raised in a corporate creche – my impression was that this was about the same as some of the worst profit-oriented orphanages. Pulled out of that environment into a different one that arguably was not quite “normal,” either. That she wasn’t more messed up in a social sense is rather remarkable.

                    For something similar – see Pam Uphoff’s “Outcasts and Gods” – except for one or two, her protagonists there are also seriously maladjusted to social issues, for much the same reasons. Actually, I wonder if many of the antisocial SJW behavior patterns may be the result of being similarly treated as a “widget” or “fashion accessory” by their caregivers…

      • My grandmother made sure I had all the Heinlein juveniles, which she originally got for my dad and his brothers. She told me she used to threaten to trade the boys in for a Willis.

    • I confess a preference for Heinlein’s juveniles. “Citizen of the Galaxy” is my favorite, but “Farmer in the Sky” rates highly, and “The Rolling Stones” is up there, too.

    • > recommendations for Heinlein

      His absolute best, IMHO: The Puppet Masters.
      Runner-up: Double Star

      I have a great fondness for Have Spacesuit, Will Travel and Starship Troopers, and I still enjoy re-reading them, but I’m not 12 years old any more, and I don’t think they’d be nearly as interesting to an adult reader encountering them for the first time.

      Heinlein wrote The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress in 1966; it’s readable, but it’s rambly and preachy, and could have benefited from an editor with a chainsaw. I have no use for anything he wrote after that.

    • Hey I actually got to have coffee and cookies with Leigh Brackett and her husband(Edmond Hamilton) back in Aug. 1975 at their house. Star was a very nice lady to a young airman.

  16. Sarah, I’m sorry you never got to meet Poul Anderson. You would have enjoyed him; he was a gentleman of the old school. His wife Karen could be a bit overbearing on occasion, but was also very intelligent and witty. You know, I could say almost exactly the same things about Isaac and Janet Asimov, now that I think about it.

  17. Ah, Phil Dick. I was introduced to him by the novelette (I think) “We Can Remember It For You, Wholesale,” in F&SF back in 1967 or so. That was later expanded into “Total Recall” for no obvious (to me) reason. “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” was next as I recall.

    Roger Zelazny needs to be mentioned. “Lord of Light” in particular, although the Amber series will undoubtedly get more notice.

    And Norman Spinrad’s “Bug Jack Barron” holds a place in my heart too.

    • Yes, I love Phillip Dick, too. My favorite works of his tend to be the least Sci Fi–“Valis”, “A Scanner Darkly”, “Confessions Of A Crap Artist.”

      And I should have put “Lord Of Light” on my list. So tough to keep it to just 10.

    • Zelazny is an unfairly forgotten writer, now known mainly for the Amber series which was, IMO, among the least of his works. Along with Lord of Light‘s use of Hindu (and related) mythology, recognitiion is due to the introduction of Egyptian myths in Creatures of Light and Darkness, especially the combat techniques (writing description of) for Time Fugue combat.

      In reviewing the Wiki write-up of this novel I find that its publication was at the urging of Samuel Delany (thus expunging some minor portion of his sins and proving nobody utterly without redeeming qualities) and, more interestingly, this:
      At the time the novel was published, Doubleday did not remainder its unsold science fiction when its sales cycle was complete; instead, it simply destroyed the unsold copies. After Creatures was issued in paperback, Doubleday mishandled its inventory, causing most of the print run of Zelazny’s next novel, the just-published Nine Princes in Amber, to be destroyed in error.

      • I found “The Guns of Avalon” in the city library and got hooked. It wasn’t obvious from the cover that it was part of a series.

        About a year later I found “Nine Princes in Amber,” “Sign of the Unicorn,” and “The Hand of Oberon” at the base library and found out that it was part of a series. I vacuumed them down, and there was a jacket note saying the final volume would be out Real Soon Now.

        It took nearly three years to find a copy… after that, I vowed never to start reading a series that wasn’t finished.

        > least of his works

        Amber looks like a bunch of tropes slapped together to modern readers. But it’s where almost all of those tropes *came* from.

        “Tolkien? It’s just another of those magic quest things, right? Jeez, that’s only been done eleventy zillion times…”

        • Calling Amber “the least of his works” was praise for his other works, not disparagement of Amber. When I first read Nine Princes it was — and remained for some time — the sole and only book. I recall I had finally reconciled to the idea that it was not a series, and concluded it was very appropriately so, when Guns of Avalon came out.

          Probably unnecessary to advise that the producers of The Walking Dead are developing Amber’s chronicles as a series?

          We’re Developing CHRONICLES OF AMBER for TV!
          LOS ANGELES, CA – July 19, 2016 – Skybound Entertainment heads Robert Kirkman and David Alpert (The Walking Dead franchise, Outcast) and Vincent Newman Entertainment (We’re the Millers, Patient Zero) to develop the beloved science fiction/fantasy novel series, Chronicles of Amber, for television.

          Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles follows the story of Corwin, who awakens on Earth with no memory, but soon finds he is a prince of a royal family that has the ability to travel through different dimensions of reality (called “shadows”) and rules over the one true world/dimension known as Amber. The novel series unfolds over ten books with two definitive story arches entitled “The Corwin Cycle” and “The Merlin Cycle.” The series has sold more than fifteen million copies globally and has been credited as one of the main inspirations for Game of Thrones.

          “Chronicles of Amber is one of my favorite book series of all time, and one of my main inspirations for working in film and television,” said David Alpert, CEO, Skybound Entertainment. Getting to produce this project is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I can’t wait to share this amazing story with a new generation of fans.”
          — — —

          Heck, how bad can it be, right?

          • Film is about *showing*; it can only show the outsides of things.

            I expect they will make something more like “Game of Thrones” with worldwalkers instead of Amber.

            Corwin’s internal dialog is the whole point of the books; he’s Carl Corey of New York. Even when he finally integrates his past memories and takes up Corwin’s goals, his internal point of view is always that of Corey; he narrates it in first person. He’s different enough from the original Corwin for his siblings to wonder if he’s a shadow instead of the “real” Corwin.

            • Terry Sanders

              Yeah. He actually worries about other people. Apparently Corwin (pre-amnesia) was a right self-centered b******.

              • He’s not much of a charmer after. . . the thing about the Chronicles of Amber is that while it’s on a scale that dwarfs that of Lord of the Rings it doesn’t feel like it, because the only point of view we get is of a jerk who regards the multiverse as trivial besides his sibling rivalry.

                • Listen to Zelazny’s reading of it — he clearly intends Corey’s “voice” as a hard-boiled detective out of Chandler and Hammett. It puts an entirely different spin on the tale.

                  Samples apparently unavailable online.

                  Transcription of Intro:
                  “(music) Speaking Volumes is proud to present the original unabridged recordings of The Trumps of Doom, the sixth book in Roger Zelazny’s classic ten volume Amber series. This was read by Roger Zelazny himself shortly before his untimely death in 1995. The original unedited master recordings of this unique performance, long thought to have been lost or destroyed were located in 2006 and have been digitally remastered. And now, Roger Zelazny.” (music) (zelazny begins reading)”​

                  • The problem is that not all points of view are suitable for all stories. A hard-boiled voice is too cynical and narrow to take in a vista of enormous settings and high stakes. Like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court — I’ve never run across anyone who thought it successful as a satire on chivalry, and a big part of the problem is that the narrator is such a smug and narrow-minded twit that he would not have seen a genuinely chivalrous court if one appeared before him.

              • Which was a) typical of his branch of the family and b) why they thought him just a shadow of his former self.

    • “Lord of Light” is more SF, and the Amber books are fantasy. I think LoL is better, but that may just be because I thought the Amber series was good for the first couple of books, but kind of fell down later.

      I’d also suggest his book, “Isle of the Dead” as worth reading. Probably not top 10 material, though.

      • Lord of Light is clearly SF — that’s a spaceship passengers and crew, using technology. Even if most people who read it think of it as fantasy.

        Amber is fantasy. And the first few Amber books were written because Zelazny really wanted to write them, and had a story he wanted to tell. The later books feel like they were written because he had a publisher waving lots of money. But, near the end of his life, we was back in form with _A Night in the Lonesome October_ (OK — it wasn’t as good as Lord of Light, but (very much IMHO) almost nothing else is either, since I think of it as arguably one of the top 5 SF books ever written.)

        • A top 5 is almost impossible to define, even if you limit it to “one per author” (heck, a “top 5” Heinlein would engender arguments) but LoL would certainly be among the finalists.

  18. John Christopher, Zilpha K Snyder–Below the Root. Eleanor Cameron. Elizabeth Moon–the Paks books.Danny Williams and Raymond Abrashkin. Randall Jarrell’s Animal Family.

  19. Just a few more names, then I’ll stop. Lloyd Biggle, Jr. Barry B. Longyear. Cordwainer Smith. S. P. Somtow (Somtow Sucharitkul).

  20. A Sound of Thunder by Bradbury is one that has stayed with me over many years. But one that has probably had the biggest influence on how I see it all would be Sir MacHinery by Tom McGowan. I have always had a love for fantasy and science fiction mixed in the stories I read.

  21. My library is a time machine. Over 3/4 of it came from my father when he passed on two decades ago, and he’d been collecting for a while. Perusing the shelf I find about half of your top ten, but with some I find other works by the same authors. Simak’s book “City” is the only entry under his name. Seven Heinlein books, but no “Have Spacesuit Will Travel.” This is the library I devoured as a teen (about when Sarah was a teen). Asimov, McCaffery, Jordan, Card, Brooks, Norton, Tubb, and so on. All warm memories of a legacy that occupies over two walls of shelving, left to me by a father who read voraciously because he worked summers away from the family. I hope he knew that he gave me more than a roof over my head.

    • Ditto, only it’s all mine. I started reading Heinlein as a kid while he was still writing juveniles and still have some. I think my copy of Starman Jones may be a first printing.

  22. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Andre Norton! Why hasn’t anybody mentioned that Grand Old Lady Of Science Fiction And Fantasy!

    • This. I read bloody everything from the SF sections of all those glorious independent local bookstores (al gone now, all gone…) when I was growing up to feed my unquenchable paperback habit, but when I look back so much of what I enjoyed was by Andre Norton.

      • Uncle Hugo’s/Uncle Edgar’s in Minneapolis. We are blessed.

      • In my case, the first SF recognizable as such which I can remember reading was in 3rd grade, from my school library in Omaha — Galactic Derelict. The title alone expanded my vocabulary. And, of course, the Time Traders series is a perennial favorite, as first loves can tend to be. A lot of the tropes from that novel informed my development from then on.


    • Larry Patterson

      Yes Paul!
      The library at the elementary school had Star Gate, Time Traders, and many more. I read them all, but these two stand out.

    • Yes! She was probably the first real SF that I ever read. I still have a ton of my old paperbacks of hers. I’m so glad I got to see her at a WorldCon, just a few years before she died.

    • Not that I had a crush on Simon Tregarth at all ever. Nope.

  23. I actually read LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness when I was that exact same age, and fell in love with the character work as well.

    The biology/psychology dysjunction didn’5 catch up with me until later when I actually studied Biology in college and went “Waaaaaiiit a minute….” in the middle of a Behavioral Ecology course.

    • See, the problem is I had Older Relatives (note capitals) who had studied biology and whose textbooks I’d read…

    • Well, there will be “response books” which is a tradition in science fiction.

      • ….isn’t about half of the reason for scifi basically “response books”?

        There’s a reason I’d group even Vathara’s Avatar: The Last Airbender book under “science fiction.” (I happen to disagree with her on the half-elf biology rant, but it is a good rant and utterly defensible on the grounds of Elves as a radically different biological group, Spock style, rather than magic being an additional aspect. There are examples of stable hybrid populations, they’re just hard to spot without examining the genetics– Coyotes and Wolves produce Red Wolves, for example. Timberwolf basis, I think, but not sure if that’s actually established. Almost all “new dog breeds” are stable hybrids, for that matter, rather than selecting for an usual mutation.)

        • As noted a day or two ago, SF is essentially an ongoing conversation and anybody who dismisses the earlier parts of the discussion as irrelevant is not a fan of the genre.

          • Should be noted that there’s a difference between dismissing ’em as irrelevant and doing the…what would you call it, that thing where you watch Casa Blanca and go “Wow, this movie kind of sucks, because all the really awesome stuff that was NEW then was so awesome that it became standard for GOOD movies.”

            • Way back when the relationship was young, Beloved Spouse and I saw a big screen presentation of Red River (this would be, at a guess, the late Seventies, back when opportunities to see classic movies large screen were rare) then took up the local university’s film class invitation to jiion in a discussion of the film.

              I do believe that Beloved Spouse scandalized several students by observing (in response to several complaints that the cattle stampede was “hokey,” “cliched,” and “done to death”) that the reason it was all that is because so many other films imitated (often using the same footage) that sequence from that film.

              Which is one reason employing the lens of the future to evaluate the past is a fool’s game. Had Howard Hawks never made that film it is likely few others would have featured such stampedes.

    • ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ and ‘The Dispossessed’ sat next to each other on a rack at my high school library. For some reason, I read the latter, but never bothered with the former. I’m not sure why. I did read it later as part of a class assignment, though.

      The first Earth Sea novel I read was ‘The Tombs of Atuan’. A few years later, I started over from the beginning properly.

  24. I started reading sci-fi right about 11 or 12, too. In between reading Ayn Rand (I was reading everything on my parents bookshelf so Fountainhead & Atlas Shrugged were read when I was 12 along with a ton of westerns by Louis Lamour) My first sci-fi was Star Surgeon by Alan Nourse and, by golly, I reread it recently and it still works!

    Robert Heinlein is my all time favorite author who I discovered in high school and the other, whose collected works I still go back and read, is Zenna Henderson. Her ‘The People’ stories are really like no other stories I have read.

    • Oh, yes, the Doctor to the Stars series by James White I think is in no small part responsible for older spawn being in medschool.

      • Alan Nourse’s other book “The Bladerunner” (no connection to the movie) is really an interesting read, too — the rationing of medical care & the black market it creates.

      • Oh yes, the entire Sector General series!

        • I’m going to need to see if it’s in E. Because Robert took the damn hard cover omnibus when he moved. Yes, it’s in the basement, but if I go to his shelves he’ll kill me. I mentioned I needed one of the Heinleins to scan the cover and he reminded me doctors know how to poison people…

      • Excellent series (although I hope nobody gets discouraged when they run into the economic realities of health care…).

        Just re-read them myself. Speaking of changing tastes, I found that I enjoyed “Galactic Gourmet” the most now, though. Since I took over the cooking here in House Skinner a few years back, it makes perfect sense.

  25. Oh! Scifi-ish settings– then near-future, now a past that didn’t happen– in some of Chesterton’s mystery short stories. The one that pops to mind has clockwork robots as the backstory for how a guy got rich.

  26. “…authors who are favorites here, but whom I could never get into. The one that comes to mind is Jack Vance (met him. Very nice man) whose books simply wouldn’t allow me in.”

    If you wanted to take another run at Vance, you might want to try with his “hard-SF” stories such as Sail 25, aka Dust of Far Suns, and The Gift of Gab, both of which appeared in a DAW four-story anthology many moons ago, and have subsequently been reissued by both Subterranean Press and Spatterlight Press with the authenticated Vance Integral Edition texts.

    You might also try The Augmented Agent and The Man From Zodiak, neither of which is exactly hard-SF but still…very Heinleinian: both involve relatively ordinary guys–as you might guess, the eponymous viewpoint character in The Augmented Agent has some embedded “plus-ups”–in difficult situations, which demonstrate once again that character and perseverance count for a lot.

    Which brings us to an alternate point of entry to Vance you might find interesting: he wrote three Ellery Queen novels (A Room To Die In, The Madman Theory, and Four Men Called John) as works-for-hire, which are long out of print, but easy enough to find as used paperbacks. Vance never thought of himself as an SF writer: he really aspired to be a mystery writer, was in fact tolerably successful at it (both under the EQ imprint and as John Holbrook Vance and other names), and many of his best SF works are mysteries or detective stories dressed up as SF (e.g. the three-volume Cadwal Chronicles, or the dozen and a half Magnus Ridolph stories). And he dismissed his most undeniably SF works as “gadget stories”!

    Finally–since we’ve strayed out of the SF cloister–since you seem to like mysteries and detective stories, allow me to introduce you to Dorothy L. Sayers and the Lord Peter Wimsey stories…

    • Vance is worth reading, but I didn’t appreciate him until I was over 25, almost 30. And then I attacked all the local used bookstores and got most of the published works. I finally “got” him from reading The Gray Prince, an edgy book about why possession is nine-tenths of the law.

      Some times you start to feel like he is doing Heyer, but he isn’t. Don’t fool yourself, and you will like him for himself.

    • I grew up on those. And for historical fiction, Dorothy Dunnet’s Lymond series, though I could never personally get into her Niccolo books.

    • My favorite Vance is, “The Langauges of Pao.” Been a long time since I’ve read it, but it’s stuck with me the most, apart from a short story involving wizards who have to “load up” in advance with spells that can then only be used once.

  27. A lot of you have already mentioned some of the ones I was thinking of, but I came up with a few more to toss out there.

    1. Michael Flynn’s four-book then-near-future SF series that started with Firestar. (OK, that’s a series rather than a single book, but IMHO the first book is the best of the four.) There’s lots of reasons why. I’m just sorry his vision of the future turned out better than reality.
    2. Eric Flint and K.D. Wentworth’s space opera, The Course of Empire, for nicely-alien sets of aliens. The sequels are good, too.
    3. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report is an interesting alternate history where humans are responsible for climate change. 😛

  28. My favorite SF novel ever is Donald M. Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite. Extensive worldbuilding, an elaborate not-like-us human culture, vivid characters, a complex plot in which a political struggle is carried out via a romantic struggle. The author is a (now retired) mathematician, and the whole story is about optimization through decentralized processes, in regard to biology, social institutions, culture, and ethics. It has what I think is one of the most compellingly SFnal moments ever, when Oelita the Heretic falls on her face in the mud and thanks the God she has spent her life denying for saving her from life on the terrible planet Earth.

    Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky has a wonderful alien species, and a really clever metanarrative about how the version of the story about aliens that we read came to be, and two different human cultures struggling over how to deal with first contact with the aliens. There are some wonderful ironies, as when an administrator from the corporatist culture (one that takes “human resources” dreadfully literally!) learns that a ship of the entrepreneurial culture is named Invisible Hand, and wonders how they could have come up with such a perfect encapsulation of covert operations.

    C.J. Cherryh’s The Pride of Chanur. Classic space opera, but with a hard SF subtext, and a neat switch: The weird alien whose presence is the maguffin for the conflict is Homo sapiens, the only one in the story. The heroes of the story are the crew of the merchant ship Chanur’s Pride, and they are socially rather like lionesses (males can’t go to space because they’re too crazy—but in the sequels Pyanfar Chanur defies this), which is a second meaning for “pride,” and it also has a third one: It’s about the pride of the ship’s captain, which drives her to struggle onward against all odds.

    • Actually, had my brain not been tired this morning, my third choice would have been Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. I cannot read the final scenes about Yama and Kali without choking up. It’s very handwavy as far as the science goes, almost a superhero adventure, but it’s a damned good superhero adventure, and it’s full of actual people. I bought a nice new copy a year ago because I couldn’t bear not to be able to read it.

      • My favorite passage in the novel is the discussion between Yama and the priest in the temple, particularly the lines about justice versus mercy and a priest being an unwilling believer.

    • scott2harrison

      Personally I have always loved Kingsbury’s “The Moon Goddess and the Son”. I especially loved the scene when upon hearing that WW III had started one of the (many) hero’s response was to say “We failed.” and start a backup of the computer to the vaults so the data would survive even if he didn’t. It reminds me of the photographer at Mt. St. Helens who got his shots, then buried the camera so it would survive the blast that was about to hit him. To quote Heinlein, “Victory in defeat, there is non higher.”.

  29. At the time Have Spacesuit Will Travel was being written there was a quite popular TV western on the tube. Richard Boone played a very urbane gentleman living in a posh San Francisco hotel. He financed this lifestyle by offering his services as a hired gun and righter of wrongs. The name of the show and the phrase printed on his calling cards was Have Gun Will Travel.
    Robert was never one to pass up a good idea when he saw one.
    Given your early days in far off lands I thought that might be one bit of trivia you’d missed. Especially since the show ran from 1957 to 1963.

    • clark e myers

      You may well know something I don’t> I’d have thought the TV show post dated the book and certainly the writing. Wikipedia certainly says so:

      The title [for the TV program] was a variation on a catchphrase used in personal advertisements in newspapers like The Times, indicating that the advertiser was ready for anything. It was used this way from the early 20th century.[4] A trope common in theatrical advertising was “Have tux, will travel”,[Bob Hope autobiography published 1954 I believe] and CBS claimed this was the inspiration for the writer Herb Meadow. The television show popularized the phrase in the 1960s, and many variations were used as titles for other works, but was pre-dated by Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein.[5]

      It’s just barely possible that this is another example of Mr. Heinlein’s adult language word play for editors in his juveniles. will travel sometimes meant for outcalls

      • Wiki does not always get everything correct, or at least not consistent. HGWT ran from 57-63.
        Have Space Suit—Will Travel is a science fiction novel for young readers by Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialised in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (August, September, October 1958) and published by Scribner’s in hardcover in 1958. It is the last of the Heinlein juveniles.

        • clark e myers

          As I say you may know something I don’t or have better references handy. I no have information as to what a working title or a first date for the final title may have been.

          Ginny or Dr. Pournelle or somebody may have made a specific reference.

          The timing would be very tight and I am quite sure the book was written before the TV show first aired. Again I have no idea what the working title might been if not Have Space Suit – Will Travel. Be nice to email Astyanax and ask but abend happens.

          November 8, 1957: Robert A. Heinlein to Lurton Blassingame
          Here are three copies of my new novel for Scribner’s Have Space Suit—Will Travel. They are intended (I hope) for trade book, American serial, and British serial.
          November 19, 1957: Lurton Blassingame to Robert A. Heinlein
          Have Space Suit—Will Travel is a fine story . . . enjoyed all of it.
          December 6, 1957: Lurton Blassingame to Robert A. Heinlein
          Scribner’s enthusiastic about the book.


          • In the 1950s, Heinlein was a very fast writer. He demanded of himself at least 6 k words a day, so he could write two books in three months and then have nine-month holidays. Most of his novels were written in a matter of weeks.
            The first episode of “Have Gun – Will Travel” aired on September 14, 1957. Note also the protagonist of “HG–WT” called himself “Paladin”, acting as a modern (western) day knight-errant. And what is Kip’s role in *HSS–WT* if not a space-opera knight-errant? The medieval knight-errant had his lance, the Paladin his gun and Kip his space suit.

            • I cannot find the claims (thanks for nothing, Wiki) but Have Spacesuit was reportedly written in a single day.

              I notice that a movie is in development, meaning nothing very much. Of all Heinlein’s best beloved books this seems in many ways most adaptable to film, although the leisurely opening might not suit (heh) modern film audience’s ideas on pacing. With any luck the Modern Pedagogy Movement will protest the film.

              • I’m sorry, I’ve written a novel in three days. A single day might be a bit hard.

                • As admitted, I was unable to find confirmation of that claim. It is possible it existed as a spurious assertion which has since been excised.

                  Or have I possibly slipped into an alternate reality, one in which Mitt Romney did not defeat Obama in 2012, repealing Obamacare, pushing through economic policies creating a four-year span of GDP growth in exceeding 5% per year and cutting the cumulative national debt back to $8 trillion, tapping American oil resources and technology to crash the Russian and Iranian petro-archies while restructuring the UN to eliminate the influence of nations that suppress the democratic voice of their people?

                    • What? The 1997 production of Starship Troopers, adapted, produced and directed by John Milius didn’t star Emilio Estevez? Then it probably didn’t establish a new, deeper appreciation of citizenship in America’s youth and lead to an overwhelming vote to allow all immigrants here in America without “documents” to earn citizenship for themselves and their families by six years military service? (The initial call was for three years service, but the “Dreamers” demanded eight and settled for six.)

                    • RES, I want to go there.

                    • You mean… there *wasn’t* a Libertarian Space Cowboy revolution, electing dozens of hard-nosed constitutionalists to high office as well, whose hairy-chested chutzpah and bloody-minded literalness stared down Russia, Iran, Islamic state, and Chinese imperial ambitions all at once, and then called the Norks on their crybaby “senpai pay attention to meeee!” shenanigans for afters? We *didn’t* pull federal funding from uni’s that catered to the wussification of Americans?

                      Didn’t declare sanctuary cities to be in open rebellion, and acted accordingly? Never broke the chains on the economy, exposing the hidden pool of p*ssed off Americans that *wanted* to work, but *couldn’t* because of what might at most charitably (and foolishly) be called “sentimentality” but in effect was only a tool to keep the elites in power and everyone else dependent on their largess?

                      Next you’ll be telling me we have an orange hairball and a gender swapped zombie Marx running against each other for the highest office. Say it ain’t so!

    • Terry Sanders

      Or the producers and RAH may both have taken it from a common classified-ad phrase. Itinerant workers would use it to say “I am willing to come to you, and you won’t have to supply the tools.” It was enough in vogue that my three-year-old self had no trouble interpreting it.

  30. Margaret Ball

    The first science fiction works that made an impression on me were short stories, possibly because our small-town public library had “Year’s Best” anthologies and not much else. All these stories together wouldn’t be as long as a novel, so I’m going to claim that technically this is only one recommendation.

    Jerome Bixby, “It’s a Good Life,”
    Ray Bradbury, “All Summer in a Day”
    Arthur C. Clarke, “The Nine Billion Names of God”
    Avram Davidson, “Or All the Seas with Oysters”
    Tom Godwin, “The Cold Equations”
    Zenna Henderson, “Pottage”
    Damon Knight, “To Serve Man”
    Cordwainer Smith, “The Ballad of Lost C’mell”
    Roger Zelazny, “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”

    • My list of shorts would be:

      “The Last Command” by Keith Laumer
      “The Moon Moth” by Jack Vance
      “Fireship” by Joan D. Vinge
      “Good Night, Mr. James” by Clifford D. SImak
      “Police Operation” by H. Beam Piper
      “Press Enter” by John Varley
      “Black Destroyer” by A.E. van Vogt
      “The Tactful Saboteur” by Frank Herbert
      “Becalmed in Hell” by Larry Niven
      “Meddler’s Moon” by George O. Smith

    • I remember reading The Nine Billion Names of God when I was much younger, and recall chuckling when the stars started going out.

  31. clark e myers

    Market issues in translating from a larger market to a smaller market can be fun to think about if hard to figure.

    Long ago I heard that the translated market in Israel as it was then was more for Russian translations of American works because anybody who was fluent enough to read Heinlein in Hebrew read him in English. A lot of immigrants from Eastern Europe and the former USSR were reported looking for books that discussed the American way and those people were comfortable reading Russian even if themselves Ukrainian say.

    I think it’s trivialized by being called a satire on McCarthyism and I’d suggest Mr. Costello, Hero and others by Sturgeon/Waldo from an era that thought it likely we were going to the stars and all problems would be solved. A reminder that some things do recur and Toynbee is a useful frame for much of history – cf. Hornblower in space for history redux.

    Time was SF was far more oriented to shorter pieces though I think the short, novella et. al. gradations were more table of contents marketing than otherwise useful. Still a pity that reprint anthologies are limited to all the stories that fit instead of all the stories that are fit to print. I suggest a fist full of the Best of Astounding/Analog and the Best of Fantasy and Science fiction often found in hardback in the library collections. A long long time ago I said to Dean that the Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction seemed to me to be more like the Best of Astounding than the two magazines were alike and I think we agreed that there was a lack of what made Fantasy and Science Fiction different in the reprint market.

    I suppose that if you don’t know E.E. “doc” Smith you don’t know SF. That said I find him almost unreadable today – and I have the advantage that my aunt ran Home Ec. and Extension at the University of Idaho so I can get many of the Easter eggs and Tuckerizations used in the Lensman series before people had those words for them.

    That’s my 3 for this post.

    I’ll close by saying that of current writers David Drake speaks to me and equally is the premier example of a writer criticized by folks who obviously didn’t read the same book I did or who trimmed their criticism to the prevailing winds.

    • I’d add Kratman to that last list. I put off reading Caliphate for a long time because I heard it had lousy writing, lousy ideas, and some weird sex stuff, then found myself in Russia with the Baen Free Library being my only available reading material.
      And, to my severe lack of astonishment, found that while the writing wasn’t that great, some of the ideas contained within weren’t that awesome, and that the book had some weird sex stuff, most of what had been said about the book had been said by people who hadn’t bothered to read it all the way through.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        “most of what had been said about the book had been said by people who hadn’t bothered to read it all the way through.”

        I find this true of many of Baen’s critics.

    • Gad, how could I overlook Sturgeon? Yes, anything by him!

    • I don’t think it’s that great a tribute to Sturgeon’s reputation to release a multivolume complete short stories as they have. Sturgeon wrote as many passable, rather forgettable stories as most people who made a living writing shorts, it’s just that his minority of good short stories are good beyond belief. “The Man Who Lost the Sea,” “It,” “And Now the News,” “Bianca’s Hands,” “Thunder and Roses.” If you end up with that multivolume set you need some guide to what you should start with. And I have to warn you about “Bianca’s Hands,” as Heinlein did in his last published essay, it’s a story like “Mary Postgate” by Kipling, a great writer felt the need to go as dark and disgusting as he possibly could, and did not hesitate or wimp out. And those two stories are still great stories. And, how do I put this, “Bianca’s Hands” and “Mary Postgate” end with probably the two most horrifyingly inappropriate orgasms in all of fiction.

  32. Christopher M. Chupik

    “5- F. Paul Wilson – Just go and read him.  I heard him dismissed as “cartoonish”

    What the actual WHAT?

  33. Larry Patterson

    One that really moved me was Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. I was appalled at the atheism, but enjoyed the novel. I think I was 13 that summer.

    Many mentioned above were also in my reading list. Another favorite of my youth was Harlan Ellison, both what he wrote and at least one anthology.

    Other books y’all have spoken well of are now in my list for future reading. Thanks, everybody.

    • That novel stays with me and I still haven’t re-read it. It’s… creepy.

      • Yes Childhoods End is very affecting. The last part with the children makes most horror stories seem me, gives me the creeps every time.

        • Yeah, I enjoyed it – my father was trying to get me into sci-fi outside of McCaffrey – but the section about the children seriously creeped me out, and I have problems articulating why.

          That and the mass suicide was part of the reason why I have problems trying to get to re-reading it still.

      • I read it at age 10 and didn’t see what the problem was. That may have creeped my teachers out even more than my reading it.

      • It was recommended to me by an abusive ex-boyfriend when I told him I was looking to get back into sci-fi and wasn’t sure where to start. Not sure if the relationship colored the memory but that book bugged me. A lot.

      • Two Clarke stories were my favorites Rescue Party and Superiority. Now in 2000 they reprint The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke but the first printing was actually missing Superiority. A miss binding problem. I returned that expensive book when the other copies at the store had the same problem.

      • Larry Patterson

        Near the beginning, the overlords ban cruelty to animals. Next scene is bullfight. The picadores starts picando, and everyone in the crowd feels the pain that the bull feels. Bullfights end worldwide…

        And I’m going YES!!
        (Not a spoiler, that is just setting the stage.)

    • You know, C. S. Lewis held “Childhood’s End” in the highest regard, he actually used it when trying to describe what he thought heaven might be like, that you would not just go somewhere, but would be changed beyond a living person being able to understand you.

  34. My intro to sci-fi came from “A Wrinkle in Time”, which I checked out of my school library so many times in 6th grade that the librarian gave it to me at the end of the school year. Almost 50 years later, I still have it.

    • Ditto. Although it was 3rd grade, it was after Star Wars and many kiddie cartoons, and I was also watching Star Blazers already.

      • Just so long as nobody here credits Captain Planet for their initiation to SF.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Captain Planet would make a “Good” Super-Villain. 👿 👿 👿 👿

          Note, Superman could beat him easily by knocking him into orbit. 😉

        • Larry Patterson

          Well, my very first SF book was Zip-Zip and His Flying Saucer,
          So there!

        • Captain Planet, he’s our hero!
          Going to take pollution down to zero!

          • I was *seven* and doing an MST3k on that bloody propaganda junk.
            It didn’t help that one of the first episodes I saw involved something cattle related, so my sister and brother and I *all* knew where they were doing Just Being Moronic junk.

            • IIRC, I was in my 20s or so, and thought of it as a guilty pleasure. 😀

              But the villains are intentionally polluting? Riiiiight

    • I am really, really hard pressed to think of a proper intro to sci-fi for myself; but outside of movies, the bande dessine (French/Belgian comics) Adventures of Tintin and Yoko Tsuno were probably the ones of my childhood that would count (I loved reading Asterix, as well.)

      Yoko Tsuno is the main reason why whenever I hear the bitching about there being no strong female/non-white heroes I simply think those people haven’t read much. Yoko (as evidenced by the name) was/is Japanese, her best friend Khany was a blue-skinned alien, and most of the stories featured strong characters of both male and female sexes, both heroes and villains.

      I didn’t like Tintin for some reason, I don’t know why to this day. I’ll have to give it another go.

      • Oh yeah. Does Star Trek count? (I used to watch it dubbed in German, and my mother used to order books.)

        I cheerfully admit having a crush on Spock as a child, and liking McCoy.

        • *ponder* Actually, forced to think about it some more, there was the old Japanese mecha animes I used to watch as a kid before we left the Philippines on assignment, Voltes 5 and Tosho Daimos – they were banned, apparently, but I think existing episodes were shown on TV because I remember watching it as a 3 year old kid. They were dubbed in English, locally.

          I think that would count as my earliest introduction to sci-fi.

          Talk about a trip down memory lane.

      • I’ve always liked Tintin.

        But some of the stuff has racial stereotypes that I suspect I might find insulting if I were part of the racial group being depicted.

  35. My dad’s bookshelf introduced me to Heinlein, Spider Robinson, Gordon R Dickson, and Joe Haldeman. I am a huge fan of the Baeniacs you mentioned above, and I also love both the Sassinak series and Paksenarrion series by Elizabeth Moon. My gr 7 teacher gave me the original Paks omnibus 1000 pager as a gauntlet-thrown-down and I brought it back a month later, “Please sir, can I have some more?”

  36. Professor Badness

    My favorite/most influential authors have already been mentioned; Sir Pratchett, Weber, and Bujold.
    But a little known gem that has been a favorite for a long time is the Bureau 13 books by Nick Pollotta. They are based on an older pen and paper RPG, but they opened my eyes to cross genre storytelling.
    The author writes primarily in pre-existing series, (Deathlands, Stony Man, Shadowrun, etc.) with a few original stories.

  37. F. Paul Wilson is a very good writer. The Repairman Jack series is great supernatural horror, a genre that doesn’t really move me usually. To tell the truth, I probably enjoyed Jack’s vigilante fix-its more than the supernatural elements.

  38. Kaleidoscope, Bradbury
    Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis

    And to whomever recommended The Bridge of Birds (I think it was in the comments somewhere here) – thank you!

  39. My introduction to SciFi was TV first. Lost In Space(hey give me a break I was a first grader), all the Irwin Allen stuff (Voyage under the Sea, Time Tunnel etc,), And ThunderBirds and Captain Scarlet. And of course Star Trek. I got to see it first run including the last season where I had to get a special dispensation as it was on 10pm Friday nights (past my 9 year old bed time). Was read The Hobbit in 4th grade and Bradbury’s Sound of Thunder in the 5th. The reading teacher that read us Sound of Thunder pointed out Asimov and Bradbury in the Middle School library. Then we had a book sale in 5th Grade. Got Starship Troopers and Have Spacesuit Will Travel and haven’t looked back.

    Three that no one has mentioned that strongly affected me were
    1) Of Men and Monsters by William Tenn (aka Men in the Walls). Love this
    sarcastic take on Humanity beating the Monsters
    2) The Dream Millenium be James White. The dreaming is just amazing
    and the world they leave feels a little too like ours
    3) Jams Blish the Seedling stars, especially Surface Tension
    4) (in the tradition of great Sci fi writers I can’t count to three properly)
    Under Pressure (Dragon in the Sea) by Frank Herbert. Here’s a world
    we lucked out and missed. Loved the Sub stuff (grew up with Kids whose
    dads were submariners). with just 4 characters (5 counting the sub) its a
    tight little story.

  40. I have a little list… there are some books I pick up used copies of whenever I see them, to give away later. They’re not “the best” or “classic” or “representative” SF; they’re books that grabbed me and yanked me into the story, and I pass them out to unsuspecting innocents who have read little or no SF. “Here, read this book. It won’t hurt you.” [evil laughter]

    The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
    Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds
    Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
    Necrom by Mick Farren
    The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
    Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
    Starrigger by John deChancie
    Sargasso of Space by Andre Norton
    Protector by Larry Niven
    They Walked Like Men by Clifford D. Simak

    I’m pleased to see several have been mentioned upthread…

  41. I share some of the same favorites. Some were wonderful at an earlier time and age, but when I re-read them they look quite different at 69 years old.
    I try not to take the economics or politics or morals too SERIOUSLY. It’s fiction. I’ve seen some fans destroy their lives and cause all kinds of hurt trying the free love stuff. They go against human nature as firmly as the liberals who deny gender.
    The few that don’t age are treasures.

    • There’s a post that Mrs. Hoyt referenced on Instapundit –

      It covers the economics/politics angle perfectly. I want my SF to be accurate. The whole beauty of SF compared to other genres is that you can take people (or non-people, if you’re clever) and put them in odd situations to see how they’ll react. Never had a true libertarian society? Let’s make one and see how that world functions. Want to meet something that’s truly inhuman? Make an alien and talk to it. (I adore a well written first contact story. Where are it’s eyes – side or front, predator or prey? How does it reproduce, is it expansionist?) Just calling it an alien and having it behave strangely doesn’t work for me. It has to be cohesive and behave strangely for defined reasons. (Most SF fails utterly at this, btw.) Want to see what ‘free love’ buys you? Lay that out, follow it to its logical conclusion, and practical experience will show you why all the successful civilizations – the ones still existing – control sex and reproduction. If the nuts and bolts don’t work, the whole thing doesn’t work.

      Westerns, romances, “literature”, even fantasy all have their predetermined canvas. The beauty of SF is that the writer gets to create the canvas and then paint on it.

      • Yes. Rubber forehead dude of the week is not just for television. It will throw you out of a story when the alien race uses exact same tech basis and morals (or preaches the author morals) as a human. Would likely have evolved differently and tech interfaces would likely be different

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        He correctly notes all but once that copper doesn’t rust, as that is specific to ferrous material. However, once, as the comments note at least twice, he makes the mistake of saying corrode instead.

        Blah, blah, blah, iron and iron oxide, copper and copper oxide, aluminum and aluminum oxide…

  42. floridaeditor

    Snow Crash

    • floridaeditor

      Really anything by Stephenson.

      And I’m not sure what genre it is, but The Brightonomicon by Robert Rankin.

      • Rankin’s mother must have dropped him on his head when he was a baby. That man is seriously twisted.

        Add Jasper Fforde, Tom Holt, and Christopher Moore; I didn’t discover any of them until a year or two ago.

        My wife is in the other room cackling at Moore’s “The Stupidest Angel” right now… it has zombies, angels, a murder, a warrior swordswoman, a talking bat, and some generally strange goings-on…

    • This.

      Cryptonimicon. Anathem. (One one-liner in that had me laughing hysterically for a timed five minutes.)

  43. Oh, this is going to be a very interesting article and comments sequence.
    I have a couple of entries for the “anything by this author” category. Heinlein, Niven, L. Neil Smith, James P. Hogan. E.E. “Doc” Smith is very old fashioned but loads of fun. And definitely H. Beam Piper (consider, for example, the wonderful politics of “Lone Star Planet”).
    As for specific stories, there’s All these Earths (F. M. Busby). “The Star” is one of the few stories of A.C. Clarke I’d recommend. Simak has some gems; I really enjoyed “Mastodonia” which my father must have read at least 30 times… A bunch of the stories by Spider Robinson are great fun.
    I recently picked up an eBook edition “The anthology of science fiction” (Golgotha Press, 2010), probably a special deal from B&N. It’s got a lot of good old works by several authors, including E.E. Smith, Philip Dick, and Murray Leinster.
    One author who I hope will become a success (he has one novel and one short story published so far) is Rolf Nelson.

    • Also: by John Wyndham: “The Midwich Cuckoos” and “Rebirth”. And while a lot of his novels are more techno-fiction, Dean Ing has a bunch of good ones that could be called science fiction.

  44. I, too, grew up reading Heinlein, Anderson, Simak, Sturgeon, Bester. etc. I think my first Heinlein was Starman Jones in about 5th grade. More recently I have greatly enjoyed Zelazny, Cherryh, Dan Simmons and others. However, after 60 years of reading SF/F, I think my favorite is Glen Cook’s The Dragon Never Sleeps. I find myself re-reading it every year or two and it never gets old.

  45. Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown was the first SF Fantasy book I’ve read, and it still holds up beautifully. Spacesuit will travel was another early one, and Cooper’s Grey King I read at a young age. They all stayed with me.

  46. Almost forgot: special mention to Alfred Bester’s short story, Oddy and Id, a beautiful little SF fable about social planners trying to control humanity and it blowing up in their faces due to human nature (albeit illustrated at the individual level, with a very odd individual).

  47. I’d recommend Thurber’s “The Thirteen Clocks”. It forever impacted my sense of humor. And it has the best agent of the devil ever!

    Then there’s P. C. Hodgell’s “God Stalk”. One of the most morally interesting universes around.

    And, then there’s Harlan Ellison’s short stories. I really don’t want to pick just one of them.

  48. Gotta add Fritz Leiber. Conjure Wife, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Our Lady of Darkness…

    • The original ideas behind Dungeons and Dragons make a lot more sense if you’ve read Leiber.

      • I warn people who read Three Hearts and Three Lions that if you think you hear dice rolling — you got it backwards. It’s the source of certain D&D elements.

  49. It is always hard for me to do such recommendations, because I am never clear on the criteria in play. Importance? That would have to be Heinlein, the genre’s neutron star whose effect on the field is akin to that of Babe Ruth in baseball in that RAH changed the structure of the game.

    Sheer fun? Well, okay, Heinlein again, because see prior comment. After him, I dunno – tastes may differ and I can’t be blamed for yours being so gawdawfully bad. Poul Anderson, probably, although I can easily name a half dozen others depending on my mood any given day.

    Craftsmanship? Well, okay, Heinlein again, because see prior comment. After him, Theodore Sturgeon had an uncanny ability to immerse me in his work, Roger Zelazny, Fritz Leiber, Larry niven were also impressive in the sheer craft of their writing — without being so much so as to force you to notice it.

    • I have several definitions of a good book. One is that when I reach the end, I I want more. Not because the book wasn’t finished, but because the author left enough on the table that I’m entranced by the possibilities of what might happen later.

      Of course that’s exactly the opposite of why Tim Powers’ “The Anubis Gates” has been on my “best book” list for the last 30 years. Powers was never able to write that well again, alas.

  50. Dad was not a SF’er but did cut my SF teeth by reading Verne to me. First SF that I recall reading on my own was Rossum’s Universal Robots. Started me on Asimov robots and it was all downhill (uphill(?)) from there.

  51. clark e myers

    Taking the subject to be suggestions for a hypothetical opinionated reader of current genre who lacks a grounding and who shows remediable ignorance – not suggestions for likes or worthy or all around great –      
    (1) The World Turned Upside Down
    ….. each story chosen for a startling breakthrough concept which left readers stunned and changed the course of science fiction.
    (2) Women of Futures Past
    (3) Arslan

    Readers here will have read most of the 2 collections elsewhere. Arslan is I suggest an apt suggestion for the hypothetical reader as described and I can’t think of anything in genre more highly praised.

  52. A bit off track. A. E. Van Vogt was one of the big guns of his day. But his political philosophy is so non PC. The weapon shop stories are soooo pro 2nd amendment that I feel that SJWs have successfully thrown him down the memory hole.

    • The right to own weapons is the right to be free. Yes.

    • Indeed. Read his Dark Destroyer then watch Alien.

      As for the Weapons Shops … so many of his readers had direct or second-hand experience of the “Wild West” that the premise was uncritically acceptable.

      • van Vogt’s original Weapons Shop stories (there were three, more or less) are in the public domain now and available online. The original stories are better-written and make a lot more sense than the later versions. Same with the Linn stuff, and a few others.

        At least half of van Vogt’s publications seemed to have been from fluffing up and/or crossbreeding earlier stories, which almost always suffered compared to the originals.

        Two interesting works most people don’t seem to have encountered: “The House that Stood Still” and “The Violent Man.” The first is usually shelved in ‘horror’ and the second as a mainstream novel about brainwashing circa the Korean War.

  53. Christopher Stasheff, too! I got into him via the Wizard in Rhyme, but such a fun read– and I (and a character in the series….) can make an argument for it being a modern scifi with a “what if the laws of nature were different” foundation.

    Theological scifi, basically.

  54. Well, my first SF novel was ‘Space Cat Meets Mars’ by Ruthven Todd. It is memorable only in its title, and a shout out to ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Madeleine L’Engle. For some reason, I read Starship Troopers in the 4th grade, my first Heinlein, and I did better with his ‘juvies’ after that. I appreciated it more when I re-read it as an adult. His top two in my mind are TMiaHM and SinSL and ‘Door Into Summer’ holds a special place in my heart.
    I’m with Misha that ‘The Lathe Of Heaven’ is Le Guin’s best. Roger Zelazny is one of my all-time favorites, but ‘Isle of the Dead’, ‘To Die in Italbar’, the Francis Sandow stories are his best. (That said, ‘Lord Demon’ finished by Jane Lindskold is the only novel I purchased a first edition out of print hardcover from Amazon, and ‘Lord of Light’ is the only novel I had to re-purchase because the original paperback was read to death. ) C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series is the last remaining books that I will buy in hardcover, everything else is Kindle. Now her last two, as well as the final four Pratchett novels, I bought the hardcover and then read the Kindle version.
    Bradbury, nothing he wrote impressed me. I must be a contrarian. ‘Out Of The Silent Planet’ et. allia by C S Lewis, I read in High School. I didn’t know about the Narnia books until my 30’s and have never read them. I noticed no one mentioned Asimov or Clarke… neither will I.
    Poul Anderson; the Time Patrol, Ensign Flandry, Nicholas van Rijn? Sorry, so many of them are so good I can’t choose among them. Pournelle/Niven books; same boat, but a special shout out to ‘Inferno’ and its sequel. McCaffery and Norton; the two females when only men wrote novels, and both were great and prolific. McCaffery’s ‘The Rowan’ series is greatness in the shadow of Pern. Nothing of Norton sticks in my mind, more from the fact that it has been a long time since I read them.

    • Bradbury went rather sentimental from the Sixties on, pressure from his lit friends to drop SF and go lit, and he dropped SF but his idea of literary was the style of the Saturday Evening Post just post WWII. Try “The October Country,” which is the affordable way of getting the great early horror from his Arkham House collection “Dark Carnival,” And any SF or fantasy from 40s up to mid 50s CR date. You may have happened just to read his stuff from “A Medicine for Melancholy”and later.

      • “Green Hills, White Whale”. Bradbury describes his stay in Ireland while working to write the script for “Moby Dick”. More or less real life, though there are some fantastic elements included.

  55. I’ll admit I feel heavily outclassed here. There are a couple old fantasy books I loved as a kid (Phantom Tollbooth is the first one to mind) and I read Orwell in 4th grade. I kinda snuck in the door under the service entrance since I enjoy the genre in television and movies (including the movie that dare not speak it’s name) initially and am still enjoying Heinlein for first time. I always gravitated to technothrillers when I was in school (I read a lot more then). I think I found Larry they his HK post and found him and Butcher and off down the rabbit hole we go.

    • The summer I turned eight my brother and my father, independently bought me Animal Farm, 1984 and Brave New world.
      I don’t know why they both wanted me to be suicidal.

      • I was only person in my class that saw the world of The Giver as a dystopia vs utopia

        • I have a student who thinks that the world of The Giver is a wonderful place. Thanks be, Student also understands that communism can’t work in the real world if it scales up and becomes involuntary.

          • Admittedly it was the child policy that broke me. But ya. I don’t take orders from assumed legitimacy well. When I signed on at FD I accepted the need. But some family flunky. No

      • I went to a crunchy granola type of private high school. One of the English classes was “Dystopias and Cataclysms” We read 1984, This Perfect Day, A Canticle for Liebowitz, Alas Babylon and Farenheit 451. How anyone thought this was a good idea for a bunch of angsty Highschoolers I don’t know. I’m surprised we didn’t all slit our wrists…

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          IMO Alas Babylon wasn’t bad (by itself).

          Those others, WTF!

        • When I was in High School, we had a movie marathon that we described as the “Suicide Triple-Feature.” It contained:

          Dr. Strangelove
          On the Beach

          In other words, “Almost a nuclear war,” “Nuclear war happens through a dark comedy of errors,” and “After the nuclear war and everybody dies.”

          It was a particularly effective combination during the Cold War. 😦

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      If you are around thirty and either extremely poor, or extremely busy, a lot of the older stuff might not be so accessible.

      I happened to find Baen before I got out of Star Wars, otherwise it isn’t clear where I’d be. (Zhan’s Star Wars, and lots of his other stuff. I also liked the X-Wing books. Aaron Allston’s Doc Sidhe was my gateway to Baen.)

      Different media are more comfortable for different people. For example, I prefer to watch my anime subtitled, despite only understanding English, because I have issues with sound.

      • I just wish the subtitle people would understand that just because you might be deaf, you’re not blind too. Some of the subtitles are so huge they blot out what’s going on.

        I use subtitles a lot, not because I’m so deaf I have to, but because most modern movies are “mumble mumble BANG! CRASH! mumble BLARING MUSICAL NOISE mumble mumble MORE NOISE! mumble…” and after a while my mute-button-finger gets tired…

  56. As for fantasy, my first indispensible is Lord of the Rings. I don’t think I need to discuss that.

    Garth Nix’s Sabriel (and its sequels, but it was Sabriel I fell in love with, about when I read the detailed list of how Sabriel ranked in a series of subjects from mathematics to swordsmanship—”and a runaway first in magic, but that wasn’t printed on the certificate”). Two wonderfully conceived systems of magic, a fascinating role for the heroine, and good sarcastic dialogue, especially from the demon cat.

    Probably Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time, my favorite of the Susan Sto Helit stories, and it also has one of the most brilliant portrayals of superhuman speed I’ve ever read. Oh, and the whole story of the Auditor who changes sides never fails to move me.

    • A few weeks ago I had a visit with my cardiologist. I had “A Thief of Time” along” to read while I was waiting. When he came into the room he saw it and mentioned he had just read the first three Discworld books. I gave the book to him. I have a spare copy on the shelf anyway…

      “Small Gods” was my entry into Discworld. but I’ve managed to hook several others with the DVD of “Hogfather” even though it took considerable explanation of the backstory afterward. For some years now, we’ve watched Hogfather every Christmas…

  57. My first “adult sci fi”, meaning it wasn’t a kid’s book like “Space Cat” or “The boy who saved the stars” (Boris Valejo. Yes, that Boris. The lovely little book is G rated) was either Norton’s Witch World, Azimov’s The Gods Themselves, or McCaffrey’s DragonSong. You can see how I turned out a bit Odd, because I was age 10-12 when I read all of them. The three-part reproduction in The Gods Themselves was my introduction to “not everything functions the way you think if might.” Sterling/Pournell’s Spartans and Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers brought me to mil-sci-fi, and I’d recommend “Go Tell the Spartans” even for non-mil-sci fi readers, because of what it says about obsession and the lust for vengeance. And it probably says something that I still recite all of the verses that go with Cooper’s Dark is Rising series, and Le’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

    • You might like this.

    • Though the Time Traders is easily my first SF love, I did not read the Witch World stories in their first publication, but have only within the last couple of years started picking up omnibus volumes. Previous gems to be rationed out a singly or a few at a time, rather than binged on greedily the way I did as a kid.


  58. Spaceling, and anything else by Doris Piserchia.

    Lord Darcy, and anything else by Randall Garrett (especially Takeoff! and Takeoff, Too!).

    Tuf Voyaging, and other older stories by George R. R. Martin.


    • My favorite novels by GRRM aren’t sci-fi or fantasy but horror: “The Armageddon Rag” and “Fevre Dream.” Not to change the subject or anything . . .

      • Same here. Liked both of those a lot. His other stuff, not at all. And then there was a long interval where I didn’t bother with new SF because everything I saw on the shelves was grey goo. And twenty-odd years later I returned, and now Martin is some kind of SF superstar, apparently because some sword-and-soap opera thing got picked up as a TV series.

        It was a bit like discovering I was in some alternate timeline… “Really? Martin? And what does that have to do with SF?” [shrug]

        • Well, it’d be more accurate to say that it got picked up as a TV series because the series was so popular. The success of the show has certainly added to his fame, though.

  59. Oddly enough we have much the same tastes although I might mention Wen Spencer and Louis Bujold.

  60. Something that keeps jumping out from reading this listing– there can’t be a “books you should read for scifi” because, as hokey as it sounds, reading a scifi/fantasy book is about interaction with the book.

    To give a really good recommendation, you’ve got to have an idea of what the person likes, and why— there’s some books I use to like when I was a kid that I can’t stand now, for the dripping racism in them.
    (Literally everyone outside of the tribe is written as at best only partly human, and their humanity depends largely on how useful they are to the main character or their tribe. When I read them the first time, that philosophical angle didn’t jump out at me because I hadn’t spent the last fifteen years dealing with people who honest to Allah view the world that way. If you’ve got the Christian assumption of universal personhood unquestioned in your mind, they’re fine; if you’re sensitive to the worldview of “those outside the tribe are not really people,” they’re…less so. Even the bad tribe members are somehow disqualified from being in the tribe by the end of the story….)

    • > what the person likes, and why

      That’s why my “little list” varies from light amusement to hardcore SF. You have to map out their headspace first, then select the right book to grab their attention.

  61. Speaking of much-beloved oddities, two authors — Ansen Dibbel (King of Kantmorie Saga) and M.A. Foster (Gameplayers of Zan, Waves, Morphodyte) come firmly to mind. I wish both could write more.


  62. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Someone forgot Barry Hughart, and I’m not sure who that was.

  63. these 3 authors have been noted above. I am remembering a comment by someone whose name I don’t remember. (common for me). he listed his top three SF/F author.
    Heinlein- grandmaster of SF
    Asimov- grandfather of SF
    Glen Cook- godfather of SF

  64. So many of my personal favorites have already been mentioned: Heinlein, particularly “Starship Troopers” and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” Niven and Pournelle’s “Lucifer’s Hammer” (which I just re-read last week).

    David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers stories, and also his Raj Whitehall novels (co-authored with Steve Stirling) and “Ranks of Bronze.”

    Keith Laumer, of course. Sir Pterry, ditto. I’m also partial to Michael Crichton.

    I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned Orson Scott Card and “Ender’s Game” yet, which is another favorite of mine.

    I’m also fond of Daniel Keys Moran’s “Tales of the Continuing Time” novels, particularly “The Long Run” and “The Last Dancer.” I’m amazed how well Moran’s sci-fi and speculative tech still holds up, given that he started that series back in 1986 or thereabouts. And it’s a fascinating and hugely epic storyline he’s got going. Unfortunately, Moran’s output is even slower than GRRM working on Game of Thrones; I gather some serious life issues got in the way of his writing. Which is a shame.

    More modern writers: Weber, of course. Correia, of course. John Ringo and Eric Flint, likewise. In Flint’s case, his original 1632 novel, and the Belisaurius series he and David Drake teamed up on. Along with the Raj Whitehall novels, he wrote with David Drake, I also really liked Steve Stirling’s “Conquistador,” “The Peshawar Lancers,” and the Nantucket novels.

    And lastly, I thought Ramez Naan’s Nexus Arc trilogy was mind-blowingly awesome.

    • My favorite of Card’s is Mikal’s Songbird.


    • Crichton wrote several novels as “John Lange” and a couple with his brother under another pseudonym. He thought using his own name would cause trouble with his school, like what happened to Asimov.

      I generally like the “John Lange” novels better than the ones he wrote under his own name.

  65. Brandon Sanderson writes books that are predominantly fantasy. But the settings tend to have sci-fi elements buried in them. He’s best known for the time and effort that he puts into constructing magic systems that work according to an understood (by him, if not the reader) framework of rules. While saying, “A wizard did it,” might someday be an actual line in one of his novels, he wouldn’t use it to hand wave something. The reader might not understand the rules that were used to cause something to happen, but he does. Many (but not all) of his novels are part of an expanded universe (and universe is quite literal in this case, as it encompasses multiple planets that are – so far – largely isolated from each other) called ‘The Cosmere’.

    His Reckoners trilogy is about what happens when there are supervillains, but no superheroes.

    Mistborn was his breakout novel, and the first of a trilogy. He followed it up with a new series – the Wax and Wayne books (named after two of the lead characters). And in doing so, he did something unusual for a fantasy setting. He advanced the timeline – and the technology level – a few centuries. Whereas Mistborn was set in a world caught in a (sort of) medieval stasis, the follow-ups are set in a country going through an Industrial Revolution. He plans to include two more trilogies in the series – one set in a roughly modern day analogue, and one that involves interstellar travel. This is a cosmere series.

    ‘The Way of Kings’ is his planned ten volume series (two release so far). It’s probably best known for having the books that double as heavy, blunt objects should you ever have a sudden need to give someone a concussion. 😛 This is also a cosmere series.

    He also has a Young Adult series called “Arcatraz versus the Evil Librarians”. The series is pure humor, and is Arcatraz’s autobiography (Alcatraz is the *real* author of the books, you see, but is having them published under the name of some fantasy author who writes boring doorstop novels that no one ever reads in an effort to throw off the librarians who secretly control most of the world and would ban the books if they found out about them) in which he explains how exactly he ended up on that sacrificial altar made up of old books, and why he isn’t the hero that everyone thinks he is. Book five was recently released. Alcatraz will not be writing the sixth book. Also of note – the books actively discourage you from flipping to the end of the book to find out what happened. The best example of this so far is the fake ending that was included in the last few pages of the second book, and that had absolutely nothing to do with anything that occurred elsewhere in the book.

    He’s got a few other one-off novels and short stories.

    He’s also the guy that Robert Jordan tapped to finish the ‘Wheel of Time’ series. A lot of people know him best because of that.

    I don’t own his Wheel of Time books (I can’t remember when I finally gave up on that series, but I did), but I own every other novel he’s written.

    • I was including fantasy. Hence, Correia.

    • Oh, and Douglas Adams probably goes without saying. I was reminded of him just now when I saw an ad for a new Dirk Gently series that’s apparently airing on BBC.

      ‘Mostly Harmless’ isn’t all that good, imo (and apparently Adams later agreed with that thought, and was planning on writing a more upbeat follow-up), but the first three Hitchhikers books are great.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Yes, Sanderson is very good. And his writing panels (which I attended when he was in town a few years back) are excellent.

  66. Patrick Chester

    Weber and Bujold, Niven and Pournelle, those are some of the popular authors I’ve read. I also remember a book called A Small Colonial War by Robert Frezza(?) and it’s sequels that were good.

    Add our hostess, Correia, Ringo and some of the other Baen greats to the list as well.

    • I have a copy of that one. He did a masterful job of showing the politics behind military action without letting it bog the story down.

      Frezza’s still around, but he quit writing twenty years ago. That happened to a bunch of writers I liked.

      • I have had the impression that a significant number of authors have not so much quit writing as quit putting up with publishers’ nonsense. Some have gone Indy but many, especially of the older, more traditionally established ones, have not.

        Imagine you’re a writer who has been successfully honing your craft for thirty-plus years, being told by a freshly minted English major that the company’s “market research” indicates the audience wants more female-focused works and that your last two books (dumped on the market in the dead of night) didn’t meet expectations, even though they’ve continued being regularly purchased as fans found out they existed.) Now imagine having that conversation multiple times.

        • Back in the late 1980s I used to chat with G. Harry Stine on Byte Magazine’s BIX forum. We shared a distaste for NASA and a fondness for old Mopars. Harry had a Barracuda.

          Anyway, one day I got a message from him. He had a space technology book that had gone through several reprints. He’d finished the latest edition and sent it off to his editor. She had been replaced with a Bright Young Thing who had told him she wa shis editor now, and she couldn’t possibly consider printing a book that advocating “polluting space.”

          I’m surprised Harry’s head didn’t explode… turned out they didn’t want any more of his fiction, either. But shortly after he swung a deal with Pinnacle for some kind of submarine series and another series about robots. I’ve never seen any copies of either; apparenltly distribution was spotty. But he said they were making him a bunch of money, so he had “and then you get paid” nailed…

          I’ve seen comments from a number of writers (and ex-writers) talking about the Great Cleansing of the 1990s, when solid midlist performers suddenly found themselves without a market. The industry went “bestseller or nothing.” Mostly, they got nothing…

          If I was a publisher, a stable of known performers with predictable sales, a solid fan base, and who could deliver on time would be worth a lot. I could predict my sales and profits fairly accurately.
          But what do I know about business? Other than there are some publishers who are going to bite the dirt when their single megastar author has an infarction…

          • richardmcenroe

            There is less vacuum between Earth and Mars tha. between that woman’s ears…

          • Okay, that explains why I had such trouble finding stuff to read in the 90s that wasn’t Star Trek, or Star Wars back in the Philippines. There was mostly fantasy (Richard A. Knaak’s Dragonworld was one of the series I picked up, because I knew him from Dragonlance – also, Larry Elmore artwork on a cover was pretty much magic and the book would end up in my hands, surrendered briefly at the cashier’s to pay for it, and probably read before I even reached home.) But it was hard for me to find older works (the few Andre Nortons I saw seemed to be part of a series) and there was of course, Mercedes Lackey.

            *sigh* I really missed out on a lot.

  67. Christopher M. Chupik

    1.) Robert E Howard. Still one of the most unsung and misunderstood writers in the Fantasy genre.

    2.) Edgar Rice Burroughs, who could sell you the same plot a hundred times and make you like it every time.

    3.) Leigh Brackett, who could say more in a paragraph than some authors can say in a novel.

    3.) Larry Correia, for many of the same reasons Sarah gave above.

    4.) F Paul Wilson. Ditto.

    5.) Karl Edward Wagner. His wild fusion of Horror and Sword and Sorcery isn’t for everyone’s tastes, but for those it is, he is an unheralded titan of the field.

    6.) Oh, John Ringo, no!

    7.) R M Meluch, for her defiantly quirky old-fashioned/new-fashioned Space Operas.

    8.) Taylor Anderson, for his skillful alt-history/military SF Destroyermen.

    9.) Jim Butcher, who has never let me down.

    10.) Sarah, last but certainly not least, an inspiration in my real life, a pleasure in my reading life.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Two threes and eleven authors. SIGH.

      • Probably worth noting that the most popular work by the first #3, Leigh Brackett, is a little movie that goes by the name ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. She wrote the initial draft of the script.

        • IIRC, Lucas thought she was some hack SF writer who also did screenwriting. Then she mentioned working on “The Big Sleep” with William Faulkner and he realized she was THAT Leigh Brackett. 🙂

      • So THAT’S how I inspire you! Pro tip, I try not to number my chapters because I end up with five chapters fifteen and no chapter eight.

      • Don’t sweat it — nobody’s counting.

        At least, nobody who counts.

    • Howard was almost as prolific writing Westerns as he was at sword-and-sorcery.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        I’ve only read a few of his Westerns. Even after all these years, there’s still stuff of his I have yet to discover.

  68. Hi. I’m a lurker here who feels compelled to write. I’m the wife of William H. Stoddard who commented upthread a few times. He told me about Sarah’s blog, which I love to read, along with the comments. I’m also the woman who, upon reading Sarah’s post on Facebook about the wonderful complement she received from some ill-intentioned commenter (about how Our Hostess is the daughter of Ayn Rand and RAH), posted “I’m thrilled! That’s quite a complement.” Having said all that, here’s some of my list(s) of my SF & F faves and/or first reads.

    1) Andre Norton’s Star Man’s Son, aka Daybreak: 2150 A.D. I loved this one. Unfortunately, when I tried to read her 5 years after Star Man’s Son, I bounced. The book I was reading (title unrecalled now) had characters addressing each other as “Gentle Homo.” I was reading this in the mid-70s, when “homo” was used by kids my age as an insult, so it’s no wonder I bounced.

    2) The second SF fictionalization I read was Isaac Asimov’s short story “The Fun They Had.” I loved this, too. It was in a collection called Reader’s Digest Short Stories for Young Children. It’s surprising they had any SF at all.

    3) Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.

    4) Eleanor Cameron’s “Mushroom Planet” series, which begins with The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, and ends with the now out-of-print Time and Mr. Bass, which taught me a little about Welsh history and introduced me to the stirring first verse of “Men of Harlech.”

    5) Sylvia Engdahl’s This Star Shall Abide, and Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains. There’s one more, titled, The Doors of the Universe, which I didn’t know about until I found all 3 on Amazon in Kindle editions.

    All of these I read by the time I was 13.

    Then came my Heinlein phase, which ran concurrently with my Asimov novel phase and my Bradbury phase (which didn’t last long) and my Theodore Sturgeon phase. Then came Niven. This was in the mid-70s, when my cities’ library system stopped segregating adult and childrens’ books. Whoo-hoo! I read every book that had the Bohr atom and rocket ship sticker on the spine. Unfortunately, I don’t recall a lot of them now, because I read them as though I was gorging myself on chocolates. My family were absolutely not readers and never could relate well to this strange child in their midst, and my dad cautioned me against SF because of the lurid magazine covers. By this time, it was the 70s and lurid covers were no longer fashionable, but he didn’t know that.

    Tolkien was another wonder. I go back to him a lot. I don’t like very much other fantasy—oops, there’s that pesky Sturgeon again…and Tim Powers— except for Robert Silverberg’s Nightwings and anything by Avram Davidson, who I discovered 10 years ago.

    I was glad to see MA Foster mentioned. I love the Gameplayers of Zan trilogy. There’s a lot more that I love but I know I’ve taken up a lot of time.

    Thank you. I will now return to lurking.

  69. I think “Pavane,” by Keith Roberts, a conservative English writer eccentric even by SF standards, is the best alternate history novel ever. And it has SF and fantasy details (the Fair Folk play and important part.)

  70. CJ Cherryh, Merchanter’s Luck, Downbelow Station, Cyteen. Or anything else she ever wrote, anything at all.

    Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination.

    Dave Wolverton, On My Way to Paradise

    • I will buy anything Cherryh writes. (Currently absorbed in the Foreigner series).

      Also, Elizabeth Moon, Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Glen Cook, Neal Stephenson, Williams Gibson, Elizabeth Bear, Jim Butcher, Tanya Huff … wow. The list gets longer. 🙂

  71. And speaking of which, whatever happened to Dark Fate? Will there be a Dark Fate 7 and beyond? I know you’re busy, just askin’.

  72. Over 200 comments and no mention of Dune? That was a pretty terrific read, if Herbert (& Sons) had only ended there.

    • End with the original novel itself? I’ve heard more than one person say that the best of the novels is, ironically, the only one of Frank Herbert’s that I haven’t read – specifically, God Emperor of Dune.

    • I was gobsmacked when I was eleven years old.

      Later, “not so much.”

      I still think “Whipping Star” was far and away his best work. Somewhere, I even have a (probably not very good) screenplay adaptation I wrote for it…

  73. Gordon Dickson. Especially his shorter work. Been climbing that wall for a long time.

    Keith Laumer. He should be remembered for far more than Retief. The stroke was truly a tragedy. (I still remember when and where I first read ‘The Last Command’. I was 9.)

    David Drake. The characters, the ethics, the surprising insight.

    Poul Anderson. Make you laugh and cry.

    Vernor Vinge. Prophetic. Good stories, too.

    John Steakley. Didn’t publish much. Doesn’t matter.

    Glen Cook. First read ‘Passage at Arms’ by chance. Got lucky.

    Lois Bujold. Another laugh and cry type.


    The ones I’ve discovered this century are a shorter list.

    Ringo. He’s posted *snippets* I can’t read without breaking into tears. While smiling.

    Larry Correia.

    Dave Freer.

  74. Hmm. Fascinating thread. Lots of titles I never heard of (being a child of the late 70s and 80s sf-wise), and a few opinions that I thought only I held… like my dislike of many of Heinlein’s ‘adult’ books. I tried reading “Farnham’s Freehold” once, maybe five years ago now, and couldn’t get through it.

    Being a kid I didn’t notice plot or characters or science-accuracy all that much — c’mon, technology could do just about anything, right? “Impossible” ain’t in a good engineer’s vocabulary. I went for books that generated a strong sense-of-wonder. Like Clifford Simak’s Mastodonia, in which the only flaw I ever found was the fact that it ended too soon. I always wanted (and still want) to know what happened to the main character next, and if my suspicions about what was happening to him were correct. Dragon’s Egg by Robert Forward was another early favorite. So was Pern.

    OTOH, over 250 comments (and counting), and nobody has mentioned a couple of _my_ favorite authors and/or works when growing up. For example, I believe the prevailing opinion on Jack Chalker is that he got very repetitive and predictable and dark’n’nasty — an opinion with which I agree — but when Midnight at the Well of Souls was first published, it was anything but predictable or repetitive. It remains one of the greatest expeditions into “sensawunda” land I have ever read.

    Then there’s James Hogan, who was never much for characters and made a hard turn into weirdsville in his later years, but his first couple of novels were pretty doggone good in at least one way: he understood the science part of “science fiction” better than many, and his very first novel, Inherit the Stars, made a point about science, particularly historical science, that I have never forgotten: you should never forget your assumptions, and never forget that you’re making them. We don’t know everything about the past, and thinking that we do can lead to serious problems.

    So many books, so little time…

    • I’ve read most of Hogan’s stuff. It was all technically proficient, and readable, but they just didn’t call out to be re-read later.

      Chalker’s stuff got a couple of re-reads, but all except “And the Devil Will Drag You Under” got purged a few years ago. I didn’t mind the consistent downbeat stories when I was younger, but I’ve lost tolerance for much of that now.

  75. Andre Norton. She was filed under kids books, not in science fiction, but the first REAL science fiction book I remember reading was her Sargasso in Space. I think I read that one just the once ( I usually reread favourites) but it stuck with me so well I never felt the need to reread it ( until now 🙂 )

    As an adult, Lois McMaster Bujold, the first few books of the Miles Vorkosigan series. I’m not sure why, but the last couple seem to have lost something that the first ones had.

    • Also C S Lewis (Narnia)
      The Dark Rising by Susan Cooper.
      Robin McKinley and Patricia C Wrede

      ( I know I’m cheating a bit on the three authors per post, but I avoided the Great Wall of Text!)

    • My parents weren’t readers, so there were no books in the house. The school library wouldn’t let me check out anything past “See Spot Run” in the first grade. When the second grade started I went to the shelves and picked out “Galactic Derelict.” I lacked the vocabulary to understand it all, but the story grabbed me. Shortly afterward I somehow got hold of a paperback copy of “Sargasso of Space.”

      It was Andre Norton’s fault that I became a science fiction addict… [grin]

      I still have copies of those two; I just listened to an audiobook version of “Sargasso” a few months ago while working.

  76. If putting your money where your mouth is is any proper barometer, I have to go with Starship Troopers. At 21, I read it. Two weeks later I was in boot camp, having thought that I needed to earn the right to bitch about our political class (Post-Reagan, I refuse to call them leaders.) As miserable as it was, I recall being disappointed that the Marine training did not seem to be as tough as that of the Mobile Infantry.

  77. I note that conspicuous by absence is Kurt Vonnegut, although I acknowledge that he insisted he never wrote SF. Still, at one time he was all the rage, bursting through the SF ghetto walls and being very widely read.

    I myself am very fond of him and credit his Tralfamadorians with helping me comprehend the workings of a G-D who is outside of Time and operates Simultaneously rather than Sequentially (although this makes viewing Him as First Cause slightly complicated, having eschewed Cause & Effect.)

  78. Christopher M. Chupik

    I was in the lunch room at work when I was reading the fourth installment of Ringo’s Black Tide Rising. When I got to the scene with the tank, I cackled uncontrollably for about a minute. I got funny looks.

  79. I was sawing lumber, listening to Ringo’s “Ghost” on the mp3 player. And finally had to step away from the saw because I was laughing too hard to safely operate power tools…

    “BDSM” and “ROFL funny” normally don’t go together…

    • richardmcenroe

      Andre Norton, Robert Silverberg’s Revolt on Alpha C, Dickson’s Secret Under the Sea, Danny Dunn, Tom Swift from Grandpa’s attic, EE Smith’s Lensman novels, Some Robert guy and a book about Space Soldiers, were all my earliest SF reading.

    • richardmcenroe

      Oh, come on…

      Osama bin Laden gargling VX?


      Ghost is the funniest feel-good novel since Kratman’s Watch On the Rhine!

      • Ghost is the funniest feel-good novel since Kratman’s Watch On the Rhine!

        Post that as a five-star review on Amazon and angry whores hordes will picket your IP address.

      • Actually, the funniest scene was from one of the later books:

        If the woman you’re “torturing” is giving you instructions between orgasms, you probably want another approach…..

  80. There’s no possible way you read 6 books a day there’s not enough hours in the day

    • You’d completely understand if you saw the state of those books. They got soaked in floor-scrubbing water, splattered with wax, and cooking stuff.
      And trust me, yes, there’s enough time. Though I haven’t done it in a long time. Since the concussion I read slower.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Depends on how fast you read and the books you read.

      IE Some books take longer to read than others.

    • I use to manage four while I was doing full time school and a bunch of chores.

      It’s not gonna be Wheel of Time sized tomes, but the old standard paperbacks that you could put in your hip pocket? Easily.

    • What they said. If you’re reading 150-200 page ’60s and ’70s paperbacks, it’s very doable.

    • I can read fast. But it’s more enjoyable to me to read at a speed where my mind can fill in various background details. Occasionally pause and soak up implications of a scene. Some go quicker but I like the ones that make me slow down and savor them.

    • I used to read that many when I was in school.

  81. +1 on Lloyd Alexander, so I just went on Amazon and ordered the whole Prydain series because I haven’t read them in years. I’ll probably donate them to my school library when I finish.

    +1 on Susan Cooper and her Dark is Rising series. I have them somewhere from my preteen reading years and will have to dig them out and read them again. (How do you lose a whole series of books when you are the only person in a house?)

    +1 on Orson Scott Card and I will expand the recommendation from Ender’s Game (the sequel’s were increasingly unreadable and philosophical until Shadow of a Giant came out which everyone should read as it’s the exact same story told from Bean’s perspective, outstanding) to his Mithermage and Lost Gate series. Oh, and read A War of Gifts.

    +1 on Brandon Sanderson, including his Jordan novels. Waiting anxiously for his next Way of Kings release. Ten books, huh? Wonder which not yet heard of or possibly born up and coming author they will hire to write the final two when he dies. Hopefully he will have left copious notes on exactly what is supposed to happen.

    Unfortunately, given the way my mind works, ask me for a list of favorite anythings and I immediately blank. I know there are lots and wish I could come up with them. I guess +1s will have to do.

    • +1 on Brandon Sanderson, including his Jordan novels. Waiting anxiously for his next Way of Kings release. Ten books, huh? Wonder which not yet heard of or possibly born up and coming author they will hire to write the final two when he dies. Hopefully he will have left copious notes on exactly what is supposed to happen.

      Fortunately, Sanderson writes much faster than Robert Jordan did.


      While his Mistborn books aren’t one long continuous string of sequels like Stormlight is planned to be, there were originally nine books planned for that world. Then ‘Alloy of Law’ caused the insertion of an additional four (Alloy itself, and the Wax and Wayne trilogy that resulted), bringing the grand total up to 13. And six of them have already been published (there will probably be a wait after the next one, though). He also just released the fifth Alcatraz book this year, though those books are much shorter than his usual novels (which Alcatraz himself comments on from time to time).

      Sanderson has commented that he writes fastest when he’s writing multiple novels at the same time. Presumably switching between worlds helps him to avoid burnout.

      • And a couple of other authors from your post –

        I add one more vote to all of the people who’ve mentioned Lloyd Alexander. Unfortunately he can be a bit difficult to find at times… which is why I bought my youngest sister the complete Prydain series. You don’t have to look for a book if you own it. As far as I’m concerned, at least one of those books should be required reading for kids in school.

        I used to like Card, but I’m not as big of a fan of his as I used to be. I think the tipping point was reading his first Gate book, and coming to the conclusion that Card’s dialogue these days is all sarcastic snark. Part of what originally drew me to him is still there. But the luster’s worn off. On the other hand, a list of his is what tipped me off to Brandon Sanderson. It was a list of good new sci-fi writers, and it included a quick one sentence description of Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy (along the lines of, “Heroes defeat the big bad, and then discover that the big bad was protecting them from something even worse.”).

    • > donate

      Check with them first. The local public and school libraries don’t shelve donations. The schools won’t accept them at all, and the public library will only accept titles already approved on their acquisitions list; everything else goes to “Friends of the Library” for their annual book sale.

      • Children’s wards at the hospital might have more generous acceptance policies.

        Does anyone know if Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys’ Club, Girls’ Club do anything of that sort?

  82. Well, next time I’m trying to find something new to read, I’m coming to this comment section. I’ve been reading SF since middle school in the ’60s and while I’ve read a lot of what’s listed here, there is even more that I haven’t.

  83. I enjoyed the Danny Dunn books when I was a kid. Haven’t gone back much to see how they’ve aged. 🙂

  84. OK< three books per comment, SF only, no Fantasy.
    1. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. RAH. This book was written in the SIXTIES, and could be PUBLISHED TODAY WITH DAMNED LITTLE EDITING, mostly moving the dates out a bit. READ THIS BOOK. PERIOD.
    2. The Mote in God's Eye.Niven/Pournelle. Again, READ THIS BOOK. PERIOD. Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven are great separately. Together, they are unbeatable.
    3. Dune. Frank Herbert. Again, READ THIS BOOK. PERIOD. Only the first book, the rest are optional, but you owe it to yourself to read Dune.

    Those three stand as a basis for beginning SF addiction. Get through those three, and you will be ready to add the rest of the first tier.

  85. I would recommend all of the Horatio Hornblower books. IIRC it was originally pitched to the publishers as ‘Star Trek set in the Napoleonic War.’

  86. To stay within the “three authors” restriction, I’ll pick one subgenre. So, to start with hard SF (and omitting Hal Clement, whose _Mission of Gravity_ is the exemplar for the genre, but which has already been mentioned), I’d point to Poul Anderson (whose works show up in lots of subgenres, and who is arguably the finest SF writer of his time, for sheer numbers of brilliant works) — _Tau Zero_ (it lost the Best Novel Hugo in 1971 — but it was to _Ringworld_, along with Clement’s sequel to _Mission of Gravity_, Tucker’s _Year of the Quiet Sun_, and a pretty good Silverberg novel). For more recent works, I’d suggest Vernor Vinge’s _A Fire Upon the Deep_ and _A Deepness In the Sky_, and Alastair Reynolds _Revelation Space_ (or, for that matter, the five novels and multiple short stories set in that universe).

  87. I’m a couple of days late to this conversation, but there are a couple of writers I’ve not seen mentioned.

    Those would be Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore, both individually and collaboratively,Charles Beaumont (wrote mainly short stories and some Classic Twilight Zone episodes), and Jack Williamson. I started reading sf in the late 70s when Ballantine’s Best of series was still being published, which is partly why I prefer shorter works from the middle of the previous century. “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” was like a gateway drug, followed by the Hogben stories, the Gallagher stories, and so many others. I came to Williamson through his short fiction. “With Folded Hands”, and to a lesser degree its sequels were amazing.

    Writers that I still read and reread include (in addition to Moore, Kuttner, Beaumont, and Williamson) Leigh Brackett, Ray Bradbury, Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Robert Heinlein, Edmond Hamilton, Harlan Ellison, Poul Anderson, Randall Garrett, Larry Niven, Manly Wade Wellman, Karl Edward Wagner, C. M. Kornbluth, Richard Matheson, Kage Baker, and Fred Pohl.

    And before someone says that’s more than 10, it is 10, just in base 19.

  88. Note that, in particular, the Moore/Kuttner works can be in any subgenre — they wrote a bit of everything (both before they were together, and afterwards — and while their early stuff is possible to attribute to either Moore or Kuttner, everything afterwards, until Kuttner’s death, is impossible to decide which of them wrote). And while it’s reasonable to claim that their best work was at shorter lengths (“Shambleau”, “Mimsy”, “Vintage Season”, …), their novel _Fury_ is as good as anything else they wrote.

  89. Ok – 3 books I think should have made your list:
    1. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
    Love it, hate it but it is relatively impossible to be indifferent to it. It is a beautiful concept novel and the “Three Laws of Robotics” has had a resounding impact down the line.

    2. Dune by Frank Herbert
    The entire series went sideways somewhere along the way, but Dune remains a classic as a stand alone. Frank Herbert created not only a new history of the future, but perhaps one of the first books where the entire ecology of the planet was !$# near another character. Immensely rich in detail, Frank set new standards for those to follow.

    3. 20,000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne
    Reality has somewhat caught up with this one – but, in its day, it was a breath-taking leap forward with underwater breathing apparatuses, wet suits, electrically-powered submarine, etc.

    • Note my list was intensely personal, and I called on people to make theirs. While I’ve read those, I’ve never re-read robots, I find Dune grating for personal reasons, and 20k Leagues bored me to tears (though I read it more than once, as there was a scarcity of books in my childhood.)
      HOWEVER I agree they’re classics and people should at least try them.

  90. I admit to leaning a bit more towards fantasy, though I’m very catholic in my tastes, liking good mysteries and historical fiction, and the occasional Georgette Heyer in with my sci-fi and fantasy.

    No one has mentioned R. A. MacAvoy yet. I’ve read a lot of her stuff but the Damiano Trilogy is my particular favorite.

    And one I read when it came out in ’93, which is one of those that has stuck with me, is In The Cube by David Alexander Smith, a decent mystery, but made memorable by interesting aliens.

  91. And now, rather than picking three writers in one subgenre, I’d call out L. Sprague DeCamp, whose book, _Lest Darkness Fall_, was the defining book for alternate history/timeslip. And whose short novel, _Divide and Rule_, has probably one of the finest opening paragraphs the field has seen — taking the reader, in a few sentences, from a pastoral scene in what could be a contemporary setting, and, without telling you, *shows* you that it’s a very different setting. And throw in scientific magic in his (and Fletcher Pratt’s) Harold Shea stories (collected in various collections, mostly with “Incompleat Enchanter” in the title). And a bunch of fantasy, time travel, planetary romance, and SF stories (although his Conan rewrites of unpublished Robert E. Howard stories are definitely inferior to Howard’s originals) combine to give us another major neglected author, whose works are well worth reading.

  92. R. Rutherford

    OK, I hope I am not just repeating other people’s lists but these are books i can’t help rereading when I get the chance.

    1. The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
    2. This Immortal, by Roger Zelazny
    3. True Names, by Vernor Vinge

    I know this dates me, but spare me any psychoanalysis, please. My more current reading is mostly series:

    1632 et seq (Flint et al)
    The Chalion series (Bujold)
    The Thief series (Whalen-Turner)

    and I should stop here while I still can.

  93. “Minions of the Moon”(author?) One of the first SF books I found in the adult section of the public library – after my mother signed for me to be allowed to check out books in the adult section. Also “A Gnome There Was”.
    I was ten and had read everything of Burroughs, Vern, and other “approved” authors that I could find in the children’s section. I also remember Norton’s “Starman” and “Starman’s Son”. I think like, most S/F authors of the time, some of her stuff was in the children’s section and some in the adult section. This was around ’54 or ’55.

  94. Sigh. I remember when Robert Silverberg strode the SF genre like a colossus. It seems there wasn’t a year went by without something of his in the lists for Nebula and Hugo nominations.

    Even when I wasn’t particularly taken with one of his works it seemed worth the time spent reading. Other than his Majipoor series, and Dying Inside nothing of his specifically lingers in memory, but I daresay that were I to pull out the box(es) wherein his books are stored I would found more than a couple worth revisitiing.

  95. This was a really cool read! I love that science fiction became something that you and your bother were able to share together. Also there are a lot of interesting suggestions, both in your post and in the comments. That said, I don’t really think that my reviews are “scathing” by any means as a book reviewer I try to be as fair and honest as possible. Also just because I’ve haven’t sad down and read Heinlein cover to cover doesn’t mean I can’t comment on the themes and issues surrounding the genre. That But I did take your suggestion into account and over the past two days I read The moon is a harsh mistress and will be posting my review soon. And while I still stand by my previous statements, that your writing reminds me of both Heinlein and Rand. I mean that as a critique and a compliment.

    • Meh.
      You might be interested in today’s post.

    • Sorry, you deserve MORE than meh. If you think my writing resembles BOTH Heinlein’s and Ayn Rand’s, you really have no business critiquing ANY science fiction of any type. You might also not have a grasp of what “style” or “ideas” are.
      Sorry to be blunt, but you deserved an explanation.

      • I’m actually basic my critique off your blog posts not your actual work, you resemble these authors in tone and the way you express your political opinions. Which I do find interesting and in some ways refreshing although I am prone to disagree with you. And to be perfectly honest I don’t care if you believe I have no business critiquing science fiction. That’s your opinion and that’s fine, but remember a critique is also an opinion and I as a reader and fan of sci-fi I have just as much of right to an opinion as you or anyone else for that matter. That said thank for taking the time to recommend me books and responding to my comments. I enjoy your insight and perspective. I hope we can continue our conversation or sparing match.

        • You do understand you’re sort of saying “your writing resembles Marx’s and Hayek’s” right? While not that antagonistic, Heinlein’s and Rand’s philosophies don’t have that much in common. The band of coherence is very narrow.
          Seriously, it’s not a sparring match. You see me to unarmed.

        • Or perhaps I’m wrong. Are you basing this on Ayn Rand’s and Robert A. Heinlein’s blog posts, in a parallel universe? (Since you quite clearly have either not read them or lack the capacity to interpret writing.)

          • sfgarbagefire

            Well I could argue that, your overall tone and the way you state your opinions remind me of Rand. They way you structure some of your writing and the libertarian nature of your politics remind me of Heinlein. Also I’ve read some scanned copies of his personal letters regarding science fiction and writing. And I’ve actually read Atlas shrugged, which is a “literary classic” is also week of my life I’ll never get back. As for your statement regarding my ability to interpret writing- well I’m sorry that I view and interpret things differently than you. However to imply that I lack the capacity to interpret writing is just so charmingly antagonistic. Also what prey tell makes you think my book reviews so scathing? The fact that I’m honest or is it because I rated some some of the authors you like lower than you would like?

            • You could also argue that you have wings.
              No. Because you’re so wrong you’re not even speaking the same language, and you don’t seem to understand it.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                Maybe I’ve been drinking Red Bull, and I’m interpreting ‘gives me wings’ as ‘making me more incoherent and nonsensical than usual’?

                (I don’t touch Red Bull or other energy drinks. I’ve nothing beyond myself to blame for oddities of writing.)

            • Okay, I’ve been holding this back. “Oh, you sweet Summer child.”
              Rand is not my favorite author. I find her unreadable because of word choice.
              Heinlein IS my favorite author, but consider the “libertarian” nature of his politics ignores about… 2/3 of his body of work. Also, I have it on his wife’s authority he never was libertarian. She got him to vote non-dem in his LAST election, and that was it.
              But you know so little about the fargin field and have read so fargin little that when you think I’m libertarian (BTW what kind of libertarian do you think I am, precisely?) you immediately think Rand and Heinlein.
              That tone you detect is exasperation. I feel like when my kids wanted me to tell them what computer games I played as a kid. It’s that insane.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                Everyone knows they only had Quake, Candy Crush, Wolfpack Empire, and Shin Megami Tensai.

              • sfgarbagefire

                ” I find her unreadable because of word choice.” I completely agree. I also see that you don’t like to be compared to Rand, which obviously bothers you so I’ll stop. Just know that I was not trying to malicious. As for the fact that you obviously know more about Heinlein’s personal politics than I do, well congratulations. As for when I use the term “Libertarian” I mean it in the purist sense of the word, as in the literal definition. I was just basing my opinion off of the the work that I have read. Which thanks to you I’ve just reading The moon is a Harsh Mistress. I now I have more incite and yes I will be reviewing the book. That’s what I do. I write reviews on the science fiction books that I’ve read. Also what makes you think that I’ve read so little? Is it because I just now got around to reading Heinlein? Do you really need to see my sci-fi reader credentials?

                • “Also what makes you think that I’ve read so little? Is it because I just now got around to reading Heinlein?” Well, yes. It’s a bit like talking to a reviewer of English language plays, and bringing up Shakespeare, and hearing “I’ve never read any of his stuff, thanks for bringing up that name”.

                  • No, you’re missing the full sequence. SHE brought him up. This is like someone telling you “I know what Shakespeare wrote, I read As You Like It. You write a lot like him.”
                    See that dent on my desk?

                  • sfgarbagefire

                    So does this mean that all the other author’s I’ve read mean nothing… I’ve read Niven, Bradbury, Orwell, Dick, Herbert, Orwell,Le Guin, ect. is meaningless because up until recently I hadn’t bothered with Heinlein?

                    • No, it means you shouldn’t have been comparing anyone to an author you still haven’t read.
                      You seem not to realize that Heinlein’s novels pose questions not solutions, and the questions are different with each novel.
                      It also means you’re rather pouty and stompy footy and I hope you’re under 20.

                    • Other concepts you toss around without understanding include “next level crazy” (though perhaps that’s a projection thing?) and “libertarian.” You don’t seem to understand where libertarianism starts or what it means (Hint, neither Heinlein nor I would ever qualify as capital L libertarian.)
                      Again, I’m horrified that you think yourself qualified to critique ANYTHING or think your opinions should be taken with any degree of seriousness.

                    • sfgarbagefire

                      You know I actually apologized for the crazy comment a few days back (it was uncalled for and has seemed to have really bothered you) but you do have a large group of readers who comment perhaps you missed it. So again I apologize for making such a rude remark regarding you and your writing. It was simply an observation made off hand. I also apologize for simply asking you a question regarding one of your posts. Its seems to be that I’m doing a poor job of expressing my point of view, I also promise that the next time I bring up an author’s work/book/series, it will be one who’s work I have thoroughly read. Regarding my reviews and opinions, looks like we have reached an impasse. Also thank you again for your time and consideration, you comments have proven to be very interesting and thought provoking.

                    • I’m horrified that you think yourself qualified to critique ANYTHING

                      I will have you know that I’ve eaten at McDonalds, Burger King and Hardee’s/Carl Jr.s so I am eminently qualified to review hamburgers from any restaurant, even Red Robin and Five Guys, although I’ve only seen their ads on TV.

                    • Wow, nice non sequitur, dumpster fire.

                      Nobody said a damn thing about other authors you have read. What they said, and quite correctly, is that you appear to have read neither of the authors to whom you compared Sarah. Certainly, you have not comprehended them at any level beyond the superficial.

                      When making comparisons, dearie, it helps to know what the fuck you are talking about.

                      On the evidence, you do not.

                      Pro tip: If you want to fake a knowledge of Rand and Heinlein, the tack you took might work at a place where nobody reads either, such as the Huffington Post. But around here? You have simply got to do better than the lefty caricatures that pass for “deep knowledge” amongst the Anointed. People here actually read both. Some even make lengthy studies of one or both. So posturing like you know something about them when what you’re doing is relying on trite clichés of the left won’t get you far, and whingeing that you read all these other authors but “never bothered” with the ones you were actually talking about will get you nowhere.

                    • sfgarbagefire

                      Thank you for your input Jason. I will take that under consideration, but simply put I made a off hand and flippant comment comparing Mrs. Hoyt to an author I had read and an author who I thought I knew enough about to make an observation, clearly that was not the case then. I have clearly offended your literary sensibilities, apologies.

                    • Thank you for your input Jason. I will take that under consideration,

                      Anybody ever tell you that you’re an obnoxious, passive-aggressive little prat? Hell, I bet you think that this is “being polite”, because everybody’s always coddled you.

                      but simply put I made a off hand and flippant comment comparing Mrs. Hoyt to an author I had read and an author who I thought I knew enough about to make an observation, clearly that was not the case then. I have clearly offended your literary sensibilities, apologies.

                      Oh, little Miss Superior, you didn’t offend my “literary sensibilities”, you irked me with your rude and arrogant presumption that you had some kind of authority to make such a pronouncement, when in fact what you are is a preening little dilettante who’s never had her airs and notions exposed for the frauds they are by people who actually know things.

                    • I think her boomer parents tried to empower her and no one has ever told her “no.” Also, she’s never eaten from an un-sterilized spoon, to quote Heinlein.
                      It’s a disservice done to girls, and a mark of talking down to them not to demand of them the same intellectual rigor and politeness we demand of boys. True sexism, not that the princesses will ever get it.

                    • sfgarbagefire

                      I just wanted to keep it civil, but if you want to take that as passive agressive that’s your prerogative. And while I do enjoy your vocabulary, (you had me a trite and reeled it in at dilettante) I’ve apologized to the person who’s opinion matters to me at this moment, so I’m moving on.

                    • I just wanted to keep it civil, but if you want to take that as passive aggressive that’s your prerogative.

                      How on earth can you keep civil that which, due to your own actions, never was civil in the first place?

                      That’s like when someone claims I’m trying to defend my masculinity…

                    • You know I actually apologized for the crazy comment a few days back

                      You know, actually apologizing is a good first step, but it doesn’t really give you license to continue being a condescending classless twit. Saying “I apologize” doesn’t help if your behavior continues to go along exactly the same lines.

                      (it was uncalled for and has seemed to have really bothered you)

                      “Uncalled for” is putting it mildly, but the observation about it “seeming to have bothered” anybody is neither here nor there. That’s the observation of someone who is not engaging in an honest discussion, but who is trying very hard to score points in a competition.

                      And it strongly suggests that any apology you made was insincere, made purely as a tactical move, and therefore worthless and best treated as a feint in rhetorical combat.

                      but you do have a large group of readers who comment perhaps you missed it.

                      Again with the passive-aggressive condescension. Perhaps she missed it, or perhaps she dismissed it after accurately judging what the apology was worth.

                      I know which way I’d bet.

                      So again I apologize for making such a rude remark regarding you and your writing.

                      This would be a good start. If you didn’t immediately attenuate it with clumsy impression management to minimize how in the wrong you were.


                      It was simply an observation made off hand.

                      Then perhaps you need to learn some manners. You do not walk into another person’s house (or blog, in this case) and start urinating on the carpets, and then shrug and go “Whoops, my bad.” And when it is pointed out how out of line you were, responding with “Hey! I said I was sorry, what more can you want!?” doesn’t really demonstrate that you are ready for adult company.

                      I also apologize for simply asking you a question regarding one of your posts.

                      And I apologize for simply calling you an entitled, self-opinionated little princess.

                      Its seems to be that I’m doing a poor job of expressing my point of view,

                      No, your smug sense of unearned superiority comes through loud and clear. Also, your lack of basic courtesy is blindingly apparent.

                      I also promise that the next time I bring up an author’s work/book/series, it will be one who’s work I have thoroughly read.

                      The “thoroughly” part is not the sticking point; the “reading with your eyes open and actually understanding it” part is.

                      You are either oblivious to how these things could be different, which I am inclined to believe, or else you are straw-manning in yet another fit of passive-aggression because You Are Just Always, Always Right About Everything. But, in this case, obliviousness is not just the polite thing to assume, it also seems to be true.

                      Regarding my reviews and opinions, looks like we have reached an impasse.

                      Everybody has opinions. Doesn’t mean that yours are worth the electrons spent in transmitting them. Your opinions were, as even you now admit, ill-informed. You could fix that, but it seems that you never had an education to learn how, all you had was unearned praise and regurgitation of other people’s possibly-informed thoughts.

                      Also thank you again for your time and consideration, you comments have proven to be very interesting and thought provoking.

                      It is impossible to read everything you said preceding this, and not take this as still more passive-aggressive sarcasm.

                      When you learn how to behave like an adult, let us know, would you?

                    • sfgarbagefire

                      I did not make the crazy comment on her blog I made on mine a couple of weeks ago, a few days later I asked a question about freedom on one of Mrs. Hoyts posts. Before she answered my question, she looked through my blog and that’s how this started. You know I was genuine in my apology the first two times I did it. But the posts keep coming. So what should I do. I also never claimed to be superior to anyone here. I’ll drop the pretense, I was wrong, I do regret that post, I do actually value the input from other’s when its not so hyperbolic. I actually really enjoy Mrs. Hoyt’s posts, and she raises a lot of interesting questions and new ideas for me as a reader. My remarks lately have just been me trying to clarify the original point of my post. That’s it.

                    • It ought be acknowledged, certainly amongst we who eschew SJZ frenzies of nonsense, that “crazy” can have multiple meanings, not all of which are negative.

                      For example, if I announced I was dressing up as Maynard G. Krebs this Halloween you might reasonably respond, “Like, crazy, man.”

                      Or it might be asserted that a particular movie, such as Dr. Strange (aspires to be), is “Crazy good.”

                      Context matters and we probably want to avoid the effects commonly associated with the excessive peering into the Abyss that is this culture.

                    • sfgarbagefire

                      While you do make a good point. I fully acknowledge that I was being sort of an ass when I made the post that I made. Which in retrospect was not the best way to go about things. It was immature and uncalled for.

                    • “[I]mmature and uncalled for” is a condition afflicting many of we who are fans of SF have experienced.

                      Some of us have even (somewhat) grown out of it.

                      I am minded of Isaac Asimov’s introductory essay in (IIRC) Dangerous Visions, recounting the reaction of a number of old hands to an observation that a new fan was reminiscent of a young Harlan Ellison: “Let’s kill him now.”

                    • Hey, I’ve been called crazy by better people, like the language arts teacher who said I could only have an A if I joined the communist party (she was a member) which caused me to say “then I’ll take a B” and occasioned that “crazy” claim. In the end she gave me an A anyway, because she was honorable. Wonder how long she stayed with the red comrades?

                    • If they were like the Communists in most other places where they’ve held power, the rest of her life (or until the regime collapsed, whichever came first.)

                      I gather ISIS is experiencing an increase both in martyrs to the faith and apostates.

                    • just wanted to keep it civil, but if you want to take that as passive agressive that’s your prerogative.

                      Oh yes, that’s not passive-aggressive at all. Also, you are soooooooo superior to me. Ayup.

                      Pro tip: If you’re wrong, you own it, and don’t try to score points in an underhanded way. Like you’re doing here.

                      And while I do enjoy your vocabulary, (you had me a[t] trite and reeled it in at dilettante)

                      Yep, nothing passive aggressive about condescendingly complimenting my vocabulary while feigning an oh-so-superior attitude with an implied pat on the head and “good doggie!” to boot.

                      I’ve apologized to the person who’s opinion matters to me at this moment, so I’m moving on

                      “Whose”, dearie. I mean, if you’re going to convince me that you’re so far above me, it might be best to actually be, you know, actually better, or smarter, or more knowledgeable, or something.

                      And while you apologized, you have yet to drop your attitude, so you have not actually shown any contrition.

                      Keep trying, though.

                    • sfgarbagefire

                      No, I actually really do like your vocabulary. And thanks for the grammar save that was my bad.

                • Heinlein was Libertarian because of Moon is a Harsh Mistress?

                  Geeze, he sure went from fascist (read Starship Troopers) to the big-L almighty quickly. His presentation of Mr. kiku in Star beast seemed awfully sympathetic to the administrative state, so perhaps he was Progressive when he wrote that. Double Star is an interesting exposition of realpolitik, so that would mean he was a Kissingerian Republican when he wrote that?

                  Or perhaps, especially in SF/F, an author’s works do not reflect his politics but are merely a method of exploring the societal implications of a given set of premises?

                  Nyah, that couldn’t be right!

                  • They have not developed their own imaginations, except that involved to believe in much of the hogwash they believe. They are unable to think of anyone writing anything that is not a reflection of themselves.

                  • What we have here, Mr. S. is a case of leading with the mouth and repeating things she heard “out of the air” which because they agreed with the zeitgeist of her schools got her labeled as “insightful” without anyone ever realizing she had no clue what she was talking about.
                    I caught Robert in something like this in third grade, and made him write me a n essay justifying his opinions. He couldn’t, so he had to read and then his opinions evolved, and then he read some more. All told he wrote five (I think) essays and says now I taught him all the paper writing he’d need through college, in third grade.

                    You know, it occurs to me that one raises boys differently. I taught my sons not to lead with the mouth, because if they approached a stranger out of the blue and said “you’re crazy” they’re likely to get beaten. But girls? Particularly now? No one says anything. And they go through life thinking they’re entitled to forgiveness and not even realizing the opportunity costs that befall them because no one ever tells them they infantile and nowhere near as smart as they think they are.

                  • Geeze, he sure went from fascist (read Starship Troopers) to the big-L almighty quickly.

                    A lot of self-described Libertarians do do that. (You know, the ones that drive even me to defend libertarianism from them. :/ )

            • So, he/she/it comes onto your blog, makes disparaging remarks about any number of things, doubles down on how well read and smarter zee is, and objects to your tone.
              Understood, got that, seems remarkably similar to a good many rude, offensive, and incredibly misguided rantings of late. Usually over on vile 666 though, not here.
              Sarah darlin’ are you feeling poorly, you usually do not suffer fools with this much patience and grace.