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Author Topic: Digging Deep into Old / Literary Science Fiction
Herblay
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So, I've nearly completed reading Slaughterhouse Five, and it's blowing my mind. The only other Vonnegut I'd read before was Cat's Cradle, and this book blows the doors off of it.

I've read a little Heinlein as well: Starship Troopers was poorly written, Stranger in a Strange Land was very thought provoking (as was For Us The Living), and Have Spacesuit Will Travel was really fun.

I've never cared for Bradbury or Asimov -- at least in the sampling I read when younger. Dune was fairly good (though the first two thirds was BORING) and Clark kept my interest through the 2001 series (but it was nothing special).

Where do I go from here? More Vonnegut? More Heinlein? Dick, possibly? I'm running out of books on my Kindle . . . I might have to read Tales of the Jazz Age by Fitzgerald if I don't find something quick.

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Sean Monahan
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I would recommend some short fiction. It's a great way to sample authors. There's the "Year's Best SF", edited by David Hartwell, I think all 15 volumes are available on Kindle. There's the "Year's Best Science Fiction", edited by Gardner Dozois, many (most?) of which are available for the Kindle. If you want some older "golden age" stuff, there are the "Golden Age of Science Fiction" collections. I'm not sure how many volumes there are now... 11? 12? Each one is huge (50 stories), and I believe each one is only two dollars for the Kindle version.
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advice for robots
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I still love Starship Troopers, although not as much on my last reading as the several times before. I think it's quite well written. But I tend to like stories about military training. I like Space Cadet for the same reason. Heinlein has a special spot in my heart, I guess, not necessarily for his philosophy on things but for his mastery of a certain type of story. I think he had only two characters in his arsenal, but he got really good at using them in a lot of satisfyingly sci-fi ways. That said, I've only ever finished one of his "later" novels and have no desire to read more.

Does Frederick Pohl count as old sci-fi? The Heechee Saga might be worth reading. Also, Fred Saberhagen's Berzerker stories.

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Herblay
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Frederick Pohl does sound interesting. As far as the rest, I've done a lot of short stories in the past. I hate to admit it, but I've never been a fan. Usually I have to fall in love with an author and read all of his / her novels -- then I'll read the short stories if I'm still enamoured.

It always struck me as odd, though. I've always felt that an author's writing is considerably different in short story than novel form.

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natural_mystic
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I'm just getting into Gene Wolfe's New Sun books. Perhaps more fantasy than SF, tho (I gather it's debatable, but can't say first hand yet). Definitely literary.
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Blayne Bradley
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With that thread title I'ld recommend Lovecraft.
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King of Men
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Try Poul Anderson; start with "Three Hearts and Three Lions" and "A Midsummer Tempest", if you can find them.
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Flying Fish
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Gordon Dickson, Clifford Simak, and Fritz Leiber.
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DDDaysh
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Wow, I couldn't make it more than twenty pages into Slaughterhouse Five, but I rather like Starship Troopers.

Have you read Wells?

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Destineer
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CORDWAINER SMITH.
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Destineer
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And Alfred Bester. But especially Cordwainer Smith.

For Smith, start with the short stories and read the novel (only one) later. "Scanners Live in Vain" is a good story to start with, but if you want to read the best first, it's probably "A Planet Named Shayol."

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Flying Fish
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Yes, Bester, The Stars My Destination, arguably the best sf novel ever. Radiates wild ideas, paced like a hockey game, sophisticated and bravura.
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advice for robots
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I remember reading a few books by Poul Anderson long ago, and liking them, but I can't remember which ones they were. I went through a list of his titles but nothing sparked my memory.
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Destineer
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Stars My Destination (aka Tiger Tiger) is indeed a masterpiece. Much better than Demolished Man, which is nonetheless very good.

If you like Stars My Destination, I'd check out Samuel Delany's NOVA.

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Dr Strangelove
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My persona favorite Vonnegut is Player Piano. It's not one that I hear people talk about it a lot, but it made a huge impression on me when I was younger. Also his Welcome to the Monkey House collection of short stories is fantastic.

What Aasimov have you read? If you haven't tried it out, I would recommend Caves of Steel, especially if you like detective stories.

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Jake
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I like Vonnegut as a novelist, really like him as a short story writer, and love him as an essayist.

Back before the internet had developed enough to make this kind of thing easy, I worked my ass off to find a copy of The Stars My Destination. For several years, it was my holy grail of SF. It was definitely worth the search once I finally tracked a copy of it down.

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kmbboots
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If you want to go really old, try Jules Verne.
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Destineer
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Another old favorite -- should be as famous as The Stars My Destination, but isn't -- is a forgotten classic called Star Bridge, by James Gunn and Jack Williamson.
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Jake
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James Gunn is pretty bitter about being the forgotten Golden Age big name.
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Yebor1
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A. E. Van Vogt

quote:
Alfred Elton van Vogt (April 26, 1912 Ė January 26, 2000) was a Canadian-born science fiction author regarded by some as one of the most popular and complex science fiction writers of the mid-twentieth century: the "Golden Age" of the genre
i found a copy of Far Out Worlds of Van Vogt (1973) in a used book store and was impressed
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Destineer
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The Weapon Makers and The Weapon Shops of Isher are v good Van Vogt novels.
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Paul Goldner
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"Try Poul Anderson"

THirded.

THe Shield of Time, or The Time Patrol.
The later is a collection of short stories. The former is a novel.
Harvest of Stars, and the rest of the series.
The Boat of a Million Years.

A lot of this stuff is newer (1990ish) but... not always well known.

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Noemon
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While I like a lot of Poul Anderson's stuff, Boa of a Million Years is pretty much crap.
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Dogbreath
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I think you'd really like Ursala K. Leguin... though being from the late 60s maybe it would be too modern to count. Rocannon's World is very simply written and acts as a good introduction to her work. The Dispossessed is fairy easy to get into as well. If you want to delve deeper, there's The Left Hand of Darkness (which is one of the few books I've read that postulates a genderless society), and I really enjoyed her short story collection "A Fisherman of the Inland Sea." "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" is one of the greatest short stories ever written.

I also really enjoyed Philip K. Dick... his work really has that classic 1950s feel to it.

If you enjoy his style, check out Roger Zelazny. "For a Breath I Tarry" is a good introduction. (if you want to read it online, just search for "For a Breath I Tarry" in Google and click the second link)

My favorite sci-fi book by him is probably Jack of Shadows. He's written several excellent fantasy books to... short stories are really where he excels, though. I have a very old copy of "The Last Defender of Camelot" on my bookshelf that I reread every year or so.

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advice for robots
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quote:
Originally posted by Noemon:
While I like a lot of Poul Anderson's stuff, Boa of a Million Years is pretty much crap.

Boa of a Million Years sounds like a fascinating read. Might get a little kinky in places, though? [Razz]
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Flying Fish
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I've never read this -- _Sinister Barrier_ by Eric Frank Russell -- but I've read places where Isaac Asimov said it was great. Maybe one of the first sf novels to be serialized in a genre magazine.
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Jhai
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The Baen Free Library has some good old authors available, mostly collected short fiction. Howard L. Myers and James H. Schmitz were two authors I remember enjoying.
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Flying Fish
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And some things I read as a youngster:

* Poul Anderson -- Tau Zero
* Isaac Asimov -- The Gods Themselves
* Fredric Brown -- Martians Go Home
* Hal Clement -- Mission of Gravity
* L. Sprague de Camp -- Lest Darkness Fall
* Fritz Leiber -- The Silver Eggheads, The Big Time, Gather, Darkness!
* Clifford D. Simak -- City
* Theodore Sturgeon -- More than Human

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Noemon
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quote:
Originally posted by advice for robots:
quote:
Originally posted by Noemon:
While I like a lot of Poul Anderson's stuff, Boa of a Million Years is pretty much crap.

Boa of a Million Years sounds like a fascinating read. Might get a little kinky in places, though? [Razz]
[ROFL]
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iglee
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Herbley, Iíve heard some people complain about some classic science fiction that some of it is so dated. Like for instance using slide rules for starship navigation, or Venus having a tropical Amazonesk climate, or being able to breath on Mars. This stuff doesnít bother me. The stories are still fun anyway. Well, I donít know what is available for the Kindle but in addition to what others have recommended, here goes my recommendations.

Iíve always enjoyed Heinleinís stories. Most of them anyway, and there some that I reread from time to time. You mentioned Have Spacesuit - Will Travel as being really fun. I think all of his young adult novels are that way. Some of my favorites are:

Tunnel in the Sky
Citizen of the Galaxy
Red Planet
Farmer in the Sky
Between Planets
The Star Beast
Time for the Stars
Podkayne of Mars

Of his other novels I especially like The Puppet Masters; Double Star; and The Door into Summer; and these other ones are pretty good too:

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
Friday
Job: A Comedy of Justice
Glory Road

Iíve enjoyed a lot of his short stories but especially these:

And He Built a Crooked House
By His Bootstraps
The Menace from Earth
All You Zombies
Goldfish Bowl


I also recommend these short stories form A.C. Clarke:

A Walk in the Dark
The Possessed
The Nine Billion Names of God
The Star
The Haunted Spacesuit

And just about any of Asimovís short stories but especially these:

Nightfall
The Ugly Little Boy
The Secret Sense
Green Patches
The C-Chute
The Martian Way
Youth
It's Such a Beautiful Day
Insert Knob A in Hole B
The Billiard Ball
Sucker Bait

And these novels by John Wyndham are good:

The Day of the Triffids
Planet Plane
aka Stowaway to Mars
The Kraken Wakes
aka Out of the Deeps
The Midwich Cuckoos

And Hal Clementís novels:

Needle
Through the Eye of the Needle
Mission of Gravity

Then there is A.E. Van Vogtís novels The Voyage of the Space Beagle; The Silkie and Clifford D. Simakís novels Time is the Simplest Thing; The Werewolf Principle.

Well, that ought to keep you supplied with some good reads for a couple of days. [Wink]

(For anyone who is interested, here is a really good tribute to Heinlein by Spider Robinson)

http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/works/articles/rahrahrah.html

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Destineer
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I never liked Heinlein very much. He made some stylistic leaps forward, but the characters were always so bad -- especially the women.
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Flying Fish
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I'll have to disagree about Heinlein, particularly if you place him in the context of the 1930's to the 1960's, when I think he was doing his best work. Look at what other people were writing. The men in the stories were likely to be superheros or mad scientists or wisecracking journalists or other stereotypes. The women were likely to be seductive villianesses (sp), or empty-headed background characters.

I will admit that Heinlein had a tendency to people his stories with types, like the "competent man", or even worse, the wise old mouthpiece, but his women in the future were apt to be engineers and soldiers and independent thinkers.

For anyone who hasn't read Heinlein, stay away from the big giant novels post "Moon is a Harsh Mistress." He got so big that he demanded complete creative control, so nobody could edit him, and the work suffered. (anticipating M Night Shamalyan).

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iglee
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Well, it is certainly ok to not like Heinleinís books. Everyone is entitled to their own tastes. And there is so much great stuff out there to read that one canít read it all. Iím certainly not a literary expert so I would be hard pressed to say what makes a good female character or good literary style. Which is too bad because I have read almost all of what Heinlein has written and many of his stories I have reread several times. So If I were an expert on what makes good or bad ďlitrachaĒ Iíd be a danged expert on Heinlein and able to criticize better. But alas all I am really expert on is knowing what I like. And that is a subjective thing.

I will say this though, I didnít particularly like, Stranger in a Strange Land; Number of the Beast; I Will Fear No Evil; Time Enough For Love and I have no desire to reread them. But that was for reasons of content and not for any objection of whether they were well written or not since Iím not qualified to judge such things. And I got so disgusted with To Sail Beyond the Sunset that I didnĎt get more than about a third of the way through it.

One thing Heinlein said in Starship Troopers, or maybe in Expanded Universe in his comments about Troopers, that I have always wondered about was that women tend to make better fighter pilots than men. What with better reflexes and tolerance to physical stress and stuff. But Iíve never been able to ask any experts about it so I donít know if there is any truth to it or if it that sort of thing is in no way gender specific.

But all this is sort of off the subject of the thread, sorry.

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Destineer
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quote:
I'll have to disagree about Heinlein, particularly if you place him in the context of the 1930's to the 1960's, when I think he was doing his best work. Look at what other people were writing.
Well, that's the thing. Some of the less famous writers of that period -- Bester, Delany, Cordwainer Smith -- were producing much better work than the biggest luminaries (I'm thinking of the big three, Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein). Their characters were characters. Gully Foyle from The Stars My Destination is a fascinating person. And their work, while sometimes dated, was not written from a place of prejudice the way Heinlein's clearly was.

(I'm not saying Heinlein was a bad guy overall. But it's obvious from his writing that he was a sexist in the same way as the male characters from Mad Men are sexist.)

To borrow a phrase from iglee, there's nothing wrong with liking Heinlein. But Heinlein-lovers should keep in mind that in liking the work, they're looking past some serious flaws that other writers of the time didn't have.

BTW, although I lumped Asimov and Clarke in with Heinlein, I don't have the same problems with their work. They each had a few masterpieces (well, just one for Clarke, Childhood's End). The characterization was never very good. But it wasn't because their characters were stereotypes.

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iglee
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I certainly agree with you that there was a lot of great work being done by other science fiction authors of that period.

One of the things that surprises me is that it took so long for the great snobby academic world of ďlitrachaĒ to acknowledge that SF was anything but trash. The funny thing is that I wasnít even aware until recent years that the prejudice existed. I guess I should have taken more literature classes in college.

Here is a great essay on that subject by Dave Wolverton for anyone who is interested:

http://www.sff.net/people/dtruesdale/wolverton1.htp

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Destineer
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Meh. Of course he's right that there's a lot of anti-genre snobbery in the mainstream. I don't think his explanation for the problem holds up to scrutiny. His taste in movies isn't very good.

And who chose that hideous photo for his byline?

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Destineer
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Also, I disagree utterly with his view that the incursion of mainstream sensibilities into SF (or the minds of SF editors) is a problem. The absolute best work that's been done in the field over the last few decades has resulted from this cross-pollination. (I'm thinking of Gene Wolfe, Paul Park, Dan Simmons, Iain M. Banks...)
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