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sci fi and me

I was reading an author's blog, and he mentioned that Frederick Pohl ("one of sci fi's living legends") now has a blog... It's a sad statement about me, I think, that the reason I recognized his name as that of a sci-fi author, is that the EECS cluster at MIT had a workstation named after him back in the day.

As a sci-fi geek, I'm pretty mass-media bound. I think I'll resolve to read classic sci-fi novels that I haven't already read, one a month in 2009. Suggestions?

Comments

( 79 comments — Leave a comment )
rooneg
Jan. 20th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC)
Might want to try out the Uplift War novels by David Brin. I've only read the first one (Sundiver), but it was pretty good, and you'll get to see the source material for the Uplift cards in RftG.
mathhobbit
Jan. 20th, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
Startide Rising is the best of the lot, and mostly stands alone.
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lemurtanis
Jan. 20th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC)
Yes! I have been wanting to do this -- we should do it together.

I'm trying to find "The Skylark in Space" by Doc E. E. Smith. Shall we?
geekosaur
Jan. 21st, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
The Skylark of Space seems to have been out of print for a while. I have one, read Skylark Three and Skylark Valeron from the library, never found Skylark Duquesne.
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nathanw
Jan. 20th, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
You could do worse than looking at Hugo and Nebula award lists. I'd work forwards in time rather than backwards, though, just to get some different stuff.
mathhobbit
Jan. 20th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
I was thinking about suggesting _Foundation_ or _The Time Machine_ or even _Stranger in a Strange Land_, but I think I have to wear my feminist hat here.

Ursula LeGuin, C.J. Cherryh, Octavia Butler and Sheri Tepper are classic female sci. fi. authors. For your purposes, I'd recommend them in that order of priority.
abce
Jan. 21st, 2009 04:34 am (UTC)
Start with Cherryh over LeGuin - much more consumable.

C'mon, no Elizabeth Moon? Lois McMaster Bujold?
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aetatis
Jan. 20th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
If you're starting with Pohl, Gateway has some neat ideas in it. If you're looking for authors you might like, the Locus Awards 30 years short story collection (named, I think, Locus Awards) brought a bunch of cool writers to my attention.

This is a great idea!
crs
Feb. 8th, 2009 03:58 am (UTC)
Gateway, or The Space Merchants? Also, kvarko had a good list; I'll have to dig in if I like what I see here.
tirianmal
Jan. 20th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
Brin is not classic. Go for names like Sturgeon, Pohl, Blish, Asimov, AE Van Vogt, Bradbury, Heinlein (yeah, he's a drunk, high son of a bitch but he's still a classic), Ellison, etc.

Anyone from before 1970 ... :)

Edit: Hugo and Nebula lists are a good suggestion btw.

Edited at 2009-01-20 07:31 pm (UTC)
gentlescholar
Jan. 20th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
Heinlein, of course.
Have Space Suit, Will Travel
Stranger in a Strange Land
Friday

Mission of Gravity
by Hal Clement
Dragon's Egg by Robert Forward
short stories by A.C.Clarke
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
early William Gibson

as a kid, everybody good seemed to be in A-C and H alphabetically.
mathhobbit
Jan. 21st, 2009 02:42 am (UTC)
I liked the concept of _Stranger in a Strange Land_, but it seemed to fall apart at the end. If you read that, please also read _The Disposessed_ which always struck me as what _Stranger in a Strange Land_ ought to have been.
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jadia
Jan. 20th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
jsmthng and i went to the seattle sf museum which had a good list of sf they thought was important. we made scifibookqueue in LJ but largely have neglected it. I enjoyed Helleconia, at least, the first one.

I'm also going to assume you mean "classic" as in "things people are going to assume you have heard about if you are an SF geek" rather than "highly influential and literary SF books". The former skews towards modern writers, of course.

Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451)
George Orwell (1984)
Philip K. Dick (dunno if anything in particular stands out)
Kurt Vonnegut (Cat's Cradle)
Ursula Le Guin (Left Hand of Darkness)
Isaac Asimov (Foundation)
William Gibson (Neuromancer)
Connie Willis (Doomsday Book)
Robert Silverberg (?)
Harlan Ellison

Also not all of this is strict SF at all.

...Okay, I need to stop writing. I am way too much of an SF geek. :-) I will talk your ear off if you give me half a chance!
crs
Feb. 8th, 2009 04:10 am (UTC)
I've read 1984 and Foundation... and maybe Fahrenheit 451? Cat's Cradle and Left Hand of Darkness are going on the list.

Yoav helps narrow down the Philip K. Dick recommendation to Ubik—I've not read any of his stuff, but I do love every movie they've made from his stuff...

Harlan Ellison? Hm, I have the book with the script for "The City on the Edge of Forever" around here somewhere...
firstfrost
Jan. 20th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC)
Mote in God's Eye, since nobody has mentioned it yet. It's not quite pre-1970, but was one of my classics.
tirianmal
Jan. 20th, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
Now that's a great one.
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ext_33407
Jan. 20th, 2009 08:15 pm (UTC)
ooh my turn
Tons of different types of sci-fi out there..

Some other things I haven't seen mentioned yet (mostly I like the sci-fi that explores philosophical questions):

REALLY classic sci-fi:
Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
Somnium (Johannes Kepler)

Modern 'classic' sci-fi
Ubik (Phillip K. Dick)
A Canticle for Leibowitz (Walter Miller)
1984 (George Orwell)
The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)

Or if you want to be 'different' why not pick up collections of short stories published in those pulpy sci-fi magazines in the 1940-50's? A lot of them form the basis for later books too (like Asimov's Nightfall).
geekosaur
Jan. 21st, 2009 06:00 am (UTC)
Re: ooh my turn
I'll second Ubik and add Simak's A Choice of Gods
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(Anonymous)
Jan. 20th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
lucian - a true story
ext_33407
Jan. 20th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
The Cyberiad
My mom would be very disappointed that I didn't mention Stanislaw Lem...

But hey, I found a copy of my favorite short story from his Cyberiad. So here you go ... classic sci-fi, and you can read it in 5 minutes!

http://www.lem.pl/cyberiadinfo/english/dziela/cyberiada/cyberiadapl.htm
chriswicke
Jan. 21st, 2009 03:40 am (UTC)
Re: The Cyberiad
LEM!!!!!

Love his stuff. Absolutely worth reading.
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yakshaver
Jan. 20th, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
I can't believe I'm the first to mention these:*
  • Cordwainer Smith, Nostrilla and The Rediscovery of Man.
  • Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz
  • Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
  • Pohl & Kornbluh, The Space Merchants
And some specific suggestions for authors people have mentioned:
  • LeGuin: Fantasy, not SF, but the Earthsea stories are among the best things I've ever read.
  • Harlan Ellison (mostly short stories): "Shatterday", "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman", "Jefty is Five", and his (sadly unmade) screenplay for I, Robot.
  • Heinlein, Glory Road. Also, if you didn't read some of the 50s juveniles when you were a kid, it's not too late; my sentimental favorite is Have Space Suit, Will Travel, but they're all fun.

* And, it turns out, by the time I was done writing it, Yoav had posted two of them.
tirianmal
Jan. 20th, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC)
I can't believe I'm the first to mention these:*

* Cordwainer Smith, Nostrilla and The Rediscovery of Man.
* Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz
* Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
* Pohl & Kornbluh, The Space Merchants


All good books. Sorry, they just didn't come to mind as "classics" but then maybe my view is a bit skewed by my dad's collection.

I think I'll keep my mouth shut on Glory Road though. :)

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kvarko
Jan. 20th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, _The Space Merchants_ is a great extrapolation of marketing gone to extreme wrong. There was a sequel to it, too, _The Merchants' War_.

As someone else mentioned, _Gateway_ and the rest of the Heechee trilogy (actually, more books were added) is perhaps Pohl's most famous. I remember enjoying it when I was a lad. However, _The Coming of the Quantum Cats_ was my all-time favorite Pohl book. The first Pohl book I read, that got me hooked on him, was _Black Star Rising_. I think _Narabedla Inc_ was good, and I wrote a book report on _Midas World_ in school once :) I vaguely remember _Jem_ being good. And also _The World at the End of Time_, I think. That was the most recent book of his that I've read (1990) -- I stopped reading for fun when I got into high school and college.

I have still have my huge Pohl collection, if you can't find any of these at your local library.

kvarko
Jan. 20th, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
Also: What?!?!? How can you not know Pohl?! *I've* never read an Isaac Asimov book, yet I've read 30+ Pohl books. He was my favorite author ever when I was a kid.
drnuncheon
Jan. 20th, 2009 11:16 pm (UTC)
Some great suggestions here. I'm going to add John Brunner's "The Shockwave Rider" as being one of the precursors of the cyberpunk movement.
flexagon
Jan. 21st, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
I agree with John Brunner, and suggest you also check out John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos.

And, nobody's mentioned Ben Bova yet, have they? The Exiles Trilogy!

And Asimov's The Gods Themselves.

And on a more recent/modern note, the short stories of Ted Chiang, now collected in Story of Your Life and Others. He's a guy who's only written like 8 stories ever, and almost all of them have won major prizes.
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readsalot
Jan. 21st, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)
Not novels, but a good way to read classic stories: The Hugo Winners, edited by Isaac Asimov, and The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, edited by Ben Bova. Both come in several volumes, and both have lots of good stuff. They're also a good way to sample a bunch of different writers from earlier periods.

In earlier years, most new stories were published in magazines; many novels were originally serialized in magazines before being published in stand-alone form, and others were expanded from shorter versions. For example, the Foundation trilogy is really a compilation of a bunch of related stories, and Dune was originally serialized in Analog. Ender's Game was originally a novelette, published in Analog (and I think that that version was better than the novel.)

A warning: I will note that Asimov's fiction writing style is not that great. My sister-in-law read the Foundation trilogy because my brother kind of forced it on her, and was convinced for years afterward that all SF writing must be bad.
gentlescholar
Jan. 21st, 2009 01:17 am (UTC)
Asimov wrote one good novel, Foundation, and then rewrote roughly the same novel hundreds of times. The guy had no problems with small ego, but still I can imagine it must have been a touch frustrating that his very first novel was always considered his best, as well as his first short story, Nightfall. (Nightfall is a must read, if you haven't.)
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Asimov's 'repeat key' - ext_33407 - Jan. 21st, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
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wemble
Jan. 21st, 2009 01:36 am (UTC)
Another vote for Have Space Suit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein. It's a really fun read. Heinlein has done some entertaining short stories too. I remember reading a collection that I THINK was called The Menace from Earth (included the story that I liked of the same name).

Also a seconding on The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.

I intend to eventually read Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the book Blade Runner is based on) by Philip K. Dick.
crs
Feb. 8th, 2009 04:46 am (UTC)
I seem to recall reading The Martian Chronicles long, long ago... and I don't remember anthing else about it.

Isn't "Electric Sheep" a short story?
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kvarko
Jan. 21st, 2009 01:49 am (UTC)
I've not read Arthur C. Clarke's _Rendezvous With Rama_, but it strikes me as one of those classics up there with the others people have mentioned.

gentlescholar
Jan. 22nd, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC)
I have. Good hard sf. Which makes it a little boring from the emotional/character perspective, but for plot and world it is excellent.
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jencallisto
Jan. 21st, 2009 02:04 am (UTC)
My votes, irrespective of others' suggestions (of which many are awesome) and without trying to predict what you've already read (and also with a possibly-wonky idea of "classic"):

George Orwell, 1984 (1949) (one of my favorite near-future dystopia novels; changed my life)

James Schmitz, The Witches of Karres (1949) (an early space opera and extremely fun romp)

Isaac Asimov, Foundation (1951) (I got stuck midway through book 2, but the first one is very interesting, and a true classic)

Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) (in my mind, the post-apocalypse novel; absolutely incredible)

Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time (1962) (*grin* Children's books, represent!)

Arthur C. Clarke, Rendezvous with Rama (1972) (one of the first adult hard sf novels I ever read, a classic of the hard-science space exploration genre)

Tanith Lee, Biting the Sun (1976-77) (gorgeous and unusual)

Joan D. Vinge, The Snow Queen (1980)

William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984) (oddly, I didn't even enjoy this book that much, but it was very useful to have read)

Margaret Atwood, A Handmaid's Tale (1985) (my other dystopian near-future SF novel)

Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game (1985) (I'd be surprised if you haven't read this one -- if you haven't, move it to the top of your list!)

Pat Cadigan, Mindplayers (1987) (seminal cyberpunk, transformative -- a key link between Gibson and Stephenson, I'd argue)

C.J. Cherryh, Cyteen (1988) (this short trilogy is incredible)

Connie Willis, Doomsday Book (1992) (A unique and moving novel about time travel and humanity and history)

Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash (1992) or The Diamond Age (1995) (I would consider these cyberpunk/post-cyberpunk classics, but ymmv)

I don't have specific novels to recommend, but you might consider Doris Lessing or Andre Norton if you wanted more classic-era female sf authors on the list.

There are also a few things I haven't actually personally read that I'm pretty sure should be on the list:

John Wyndham, Day of the Triffids (1951)
Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966)
Ursula K. LeGuin, Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
Larry Niven, Ringworld (1970) or The Mote in God's Eye (1974, with Jerry Pournelle)
Harlan Ellison, Deathbird Stories (1975) (well, this is actually a short story collection, and I've read bits of it, but still)

Edited at 2009-01-21 02:06 am (UTC)
wemble
Jan. 21st, 2009 02:32 am (UTC)
A Wrinkle in Time! That was one of my favorites as a kid. I think it was also the first sci-fi book I ever read.
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abce
Jan. 21st, 2009 04:40 am (UTC)
Robert L. Forward. Dragon's Egg ("a textbook on neutron star physics disguised as a novel") and Camelot 30K. Truly amazing stuff.
crs
Feb. 8th, 2009 05:00 am (UTC)
Huh. Ok, you and gentlescholar agree on something, that has to be a good sign. Dragon's Egg goes on the list.
rifmeister
Jan. 21st, 2009 12:18 pm (UTC)
It's more classic fantasy than classic sci-fi, but if you haven't read Jack Vance's Tales of the Dying Earth, you totally have to.
crs
Feb. 8th, 2009 05:01 am (UTC)
Mmm, I do need to read those at some point. If only for their influence on D&D :)
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yakshaver
Feb. 8th, 2009 05:07 am (UTC)
Hey. I got a reply from you today to my comment, but you seem to have subsequently deleted your reply. I just want to point out that when I said Glory Road, that was a braino: I meant Starship Troopers. Unless you're a hardcore Heinlein fan or a sixteen-year-old boy (the latter was my excuse), you probably don't want to bother with Glory Road. Sorry for the confusion.
crs
Feb. 8th, 2009 05:15 am (UTC)
I've alread read, and enjoyed, Starship Troopers. :) Ok, readjusting the list...
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