I don’t often play these meme games but since none of the other female SciBlings have jumped on the bandwagon, and I’ve read at least as much science fiction as some of the other Scibs in the game (PZ, Mark, Afrensis, Orac, Joseph, Bora, and John), I just had to join in.
First, for the record, I think whoever came up with this “The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years, 1953-2002″ overlooked some truly wonderful authors. I’ll share some of my favorites in a little bit.
How did I get started reading SF?
When I was a child, we lived in a house with a crawl space underneath. Dark, and musty, with a dirt floor, and the promise of hidden treasure, it was a wonderful place to explore. My brother and I spent hours crouched inside with our flashlights, pretending we were in a pirate cave looking for booty.
We found it, too. Boxes and boxes of books with intriguing artwork on the covers. Half naked women with spears fighting monsters. Alien beings cavorting in mystical landscapes and spaceships. And hours more of fantastical adventure. No one ever said I couldn’t read those books I found, but somehow, discovering them under the house, hidden away made them more appealing.
And read them, I did.
At the same time, some of the cover art gave me pause. I know you should never judge a book by it’s cover, and certainly the stories inside of science fiction books rarely resembled the cover at all. But let’s face it. The cover art often made the books a bit difficult for me to buy. A book with a skimpily dressed maiden fighting a huge ugly beast doesn’t look like it’s meant for girls to read.
Even if the writing is good, who wants to be seen buying a book that looks like it’s been written for an adolescent boy?
Consequently, for most of my life, I only read science fiction books that people gave me. Even so, I read quite a few. And I’ve certainly read enough to know that some of the best and yes, most important, science fiction works are missing from the long list that my fellow SciBlings have been knocking around (here, here, and here).
First, then, for the record, I will share the authors and books (or series) that were missing from that list. Then, I’ll add the list from the “The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years, 1953-2002” meme with the books I’ve read marked in bold.
My favorite SF & F authors and books:
I said earlier that I never purchased science fiction books myself, but Andre Norton is an exception. If I can hand a pile of Andre Norton books to a librarian without blushing, you know that they must, at least, look okay. And for me to do that on a regular basis, means that they read very well, too.
I loved Norton’s stories about communicating with animals, searching for artifacts from ancient inhabitants of the universe, and traveling between the stars as traders. “Moon of Three Rings” was the first SF book that I ever checked out from the library. What could be better? The Free Traders land on a new planet, and one trader ends up in the body of a wolf-like creature, under the protection of one of the magical moon singers. The story continues through a few other books while the trader tries to recover some kind of human body and the moon singer loses hers. Simply wonderful.
Now that I’ve been inspired to revisit her writing, I’m going to buy some of her books for my kids. I know they’ll love these.
Sheri Tepper is a fantastic story teller and like Andre Norton, she is such a wonderful author that I have a hard time picking my favorite from all of her books. One moment it’s “Gateway to Women’s Country,” where she builds a scenario from some interesting views of genetics and eugenics. Another moment it’s “Grass,” the novel that originally got me hooked on her writing. If you can picture a science fiction novel derived from a love of horse-back riding, this would be it. Tepper’s work contains the sort of ideas that quietly slip into your mind on a still night and shake you up a bit, leaving you pondering the fate of “Beauty,” or obsessively building a tiled monument in “Raising the Stones.”
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
A truly frightening book that explores what life might be like if the US were ruled by religious fundamentalists. This should be required reading for anyone who doesn’t understand why separating the church from the state is an important thing to do. Fortunately, it’s entertaining as well as alarming.
Too many years of reading Heinlein and Ayn Rand left me with an intense hatred of preachy literature.
I would propose the “Winter in Eden” trilogy. This series explores what might happen if one species of dinosaur were intelligent.
The Dragon and the George
Written by Gordon R. Dickinson, these books don’t contain troubling concepts or important ideas. They are quite simply, lots of fun. Our hero, a struggling graduate student, is magically transported to a medieval world, where magic replaces physics and somehow he can turn into a dragon. My daughters really enjoyed these.
And last, the famous 50:
The books I read are in Bold.
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Dune, Frank Herbert
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr
The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
Cities in Flight, James Blish
The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
Gateway, Frederik Pohl
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
Little, Big, John Crowley
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
On the Beach, Nevil Shute
Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
Ringworld, Larry Niven
Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Timescape, Gregory Benford
To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer