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  #101  
Old 05-02-2014, 06:39 AM
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Solaris is on the second list.
Definitely one of the best Science Fiction novels ever IMHO. I wanted to read for years before I got my hands on it. Usually, that's a great way to be disappointed but in this case, I'd say that it was even better than I expected. Essential reading.
  #102  
Old 05-02-2014, 07:03 AM
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I've read all the Gold Age Astoundings. Heinlein created modern science fiction from the writing side - Campbell did it from the editing side.
While Clarke, Asimov, Pohl and a host of others stood on the sidelines and did nothing. Riiiiiight.
  #103  
Old 05-02-2014, 08:25 AM
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I'm going to put some lesser-known works and authors in my list, since I figure others will hit the big ones that end up on every "essential" list. Some of these should be much more famous than they are.

Effinger, George Alec — When Gravity Fails. It's set in the Middle East, which is vastly different from most SF. One of the first depictions of cybernetic technology that modifies personality, as well as providing "downloadable" skills and abilities.

Vinge, Vernor — True Names … and Other Dangers or a later story collection with both True Names and Bookworm, Run!. The first because it's one of the first depictions of "cyberspace", predating Neuromancer by at least 3 years, and the second because it's one of the first stories with technologically-enhanced intelligence.

A Fire Upon the Deep is interesting and ambitious, but I think the stories in the True Names collection provide access to most of his groundbreaking ideas. A Fire Upon the Deep won an award, but I think it's not as good overall as some of his short stories.

Across Realtime collects his Bobble books, which flesh out his technological singularity idea, something which is introduced in those True Names stories. Not essential, but I actually consider these better than A Fire Upon the Deep or possibly even A Deepness in the Sky which must have been difficult as hell to write since much of the narrative takes place from an alien point of view.

Williams, Walter Jon — Aristoi. This book takes risks on every level and is executed brilliantly. He depicts a post-scarcity society with massive resources, mutable bodies, and mastery of nanotech. There's an elite class that are quite literally insane by our standards, who are in fact required to become functional split personalities. The very format of the text is experimental as he shows simultaneous points of view and concurrent action by splitting the narrative into columns.

A short story collection containing The Machine Stops is almost essential. This is the earliest predictive depiction of many later technologies and social developments such as instant messaging, reliance upon technology for survival, and constant connection to entertainment and information.

Bear, Greg — Blood Music, Forge of God, or Queen of Angels deserve a place, in that order of precedence. The first is both one of the first depictions of a "grey goo" nanotech apocalypse and an ambitious narrative experiment. The second deals with some big ideas about cosmology and human development, as well as showing a realistic way to destroy the earth. And the third shows some realistic social developments in response to technological advances, as well as a really well-done "alien" point of view in the AI character.

Varley, John — The Persistence of Vision or Steel Beach. The first is a short story collection. The title novella is hauntingly beautiful and painful; absolutely excellent. There are introductions to many of his other common themes and ideas in other stories in the collection, and every single one is damn good. Steel Beach is the best single novel in his Eight Worlds setting, which features ambitious explorations of gender and social roles in a society kicked off earth by invading aliens, but who enough technology to live just about anywhere.

Butler, Octavia — Her Xenogenesis series has "human" protagonists with a very alien viewpoint. The main characters are human hybrids created by an alien race that uplifts humans after we bomb ourselves back into the stone age. Deserves a place for the alternate point of view and incorporation of genetic alterations and aliens into society, if nothing else, but she also is an excellent writer.

Tepper, Sheri S. — Probably The Gate to Women's Country would be the best single novel to choose, but with a few exceptions almost everything she has written is excellent. She writes "soft" SF, concerned with cultural and linguistic changes in response to a change in society, and often has strong feminist themes without stridency. If there's a True Game collection, that would also be ideal. Any of those 9 books are good, and they are all interconnected, though each stands alone quite well.

LeGuin, Ursula — Damn near everything she wrote is worthy of a place in some top 50 list. The Left Hand of Darkness is both beautifully written and deals extremely well with gender politics in a society of humans who shift gender and sexes. The Dispossessed contrasts two societies in a nearly allegorical treatment of capitalism and collectivism. The Lathe of Heaven is probably her most SF-y story, since it deals with speculative technology instead of the "softer" social/anthropological stories she usually writes.

Vinge, Joan D. — (Yes, she was married to that Vinge when she established her career.) The Heaven Chronicles are an excellent hard science treatment of a semi-anarchist society of people who live in the asteroid belts. The Snow Queen deals with a society on a planet that is periodically visited by an imperial court traveling at relativistic speeds, also early depictions of nanotechnology and bioengineering. Her writing is similar to LeGuin in the depth of societies she develops and in her use of language.

L'Engle, Madeline — A Wrinkle in Time is a classic in literature, a classic in science fiction, and a great children's story. Her explanation of a tesseract prepared me for dealing with Lorentz Contractions and General Relativity later on.
  #104  
Old 05-02-2014, 10:14 AM
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...
Walter M. Miller - A Canticle for Liebowitz
...
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Originally Posted by Green Bean View Post
...Also, a public library in an affluent town of 30K really ought to have Starship Troopers on the shelf....
A Canticle for Liebowitz and Starship Troopers are both good, classic examples of the human/social side of SF, but in different ways.

Canticle discusses how technological change and social change interact with each other to produce the future - what humanity becomes depends on both factors. It also vividly expresses the opinion that

SPOILER:

Humanity is trapped in an endless cycle of war, destruction, recovery, and renewed war.


Starship Troopers goes heavily into discussions of social structures, hierarchies, and attitudes toward leadership, and the qualities, qualifications, and expectations of leaders. The SF is really more for color and background - it's very much a people story, which is a refreshing break from SF that spends dozens of pages discussing the blast radii of quasar bombs and why jumpgates don't work within ten parsecs of a white dwarf. Shines the name!

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Originally Posted by Green Bean View Post
...
Heinlein, Robert A. - The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
...
If they don't include this book in the collection, you can throw rocks.

Last edited by robert_columbia; 05-02-2014 at 10:17 AM.
  #105  
Old 05-02-2014, 10:52 AM
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...LeGuin, Ursula — Damn near everything she wrote is worthy of a place in some top 50 list. The Left Hand of Darkness is both beautifully written and deals extremely well with gender politics in a society of humans who shift gender and sexes....
It's a great book and definitely deserves to be on the list, but the gender-shifters are humanoid aliens, not humans.

Stephen King's 11/22/63 is a time-travel story that deals at some length with temporal paradoxes and alternate universes. I have no problem calling it sf (and a damn good read, too).
  #106  
Old 05-02-2014, 01:26 PM
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I love pretty much everything N. Shute has ever written, but if you needed to make room on the list I think it is maybe a bit of a stretch to define On The Beach as primarily science fiction. I found The Road both unbearably painful to read and quite well done, but would offer it in the same "not necessarily primarily science fiction" grouping.
  #107  
Old 05-02-2014, 01:28 PM
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I love pretty much everything N. Shute has ever written, but if you needed to make room on the list I think it is maybe a bit of a stretch to define On The Beach as primarily science fiction. I found The Road both unbearably painful to read and quite well done, but would offer it in the same "not necessarily primarily science fiction" grouping.
Yeah; these (and Stephen King) are books I'd expect to find in a library's (general) fiction collection, not its SF collection.
  #108  
Old 05-02-2014, 03:48 PM
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Yeah; these (and Stephen King) are books I'd expect to find in a library's (general) fiction collection, not its SF collection.
Where they might be shelved doesn't matter.

Of the books that they have from the original list of 47, nearly half are shelved with general fiction.

More later....
  #109  
Old 05-02-2014, 03:54 PM
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I'd like to throw in an outlier here, Wool by Hugh Howey.

A very recent book (and the first part of a trilogy).
I was given it and really expected to be disappointed with it but found it very compelling.

Also, as an alternative to the already mentioned books of Iain M Banks (RIP), I think that Against A Dark Background is possibly his best novel.
  #110  
Old 05-02-2014, 04:36 PM
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Public librarian checking in.

If you want to save a slot in your 50, Frankenstein (actually, ALL of those) would already be in the catalog as a classic (required in the collection for schoolwork) so it doesn't have to be in the SF list.

I'd say the others (1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451) were too far into speculative fiction to be on a specifically SF list, but that tends to be a very personal judgement call.


Asimov needs to have Foundation, and something with the Robots. Actually, for the Robots, a good short story collection would be the best representation of the 3 Laws universe. I nominate The Complete Robot for the spot.

Anyone noted Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars yet?

Also, I think Snow Crash was pretty influential.

Something from Bank's Culture ought to be on the list, but I don't know the series well enough to say which. Likewise Brin's Uplift series is notable, but I don't know which of them would be best to list. Personally I'd choose Brightness Reef, but I'm a sucker for dolphins.
I love David Brin- But I like 'Startide Rising' best.
  #111  
Old 05-02-2014, 04:38 PM
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I am making a list of the 50 science fiction novels that every public library, large and small, should have on the shelf.



To save us some time and effort and to get us started, here are a few books that are on the list that I don't think too many people would argue with.
Adams, Douglas - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Bradbury, Ray - Fahrenheit 451
Card, Orson Scott - Ender's Game
Herbert, Frank - Dune
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
Le Guin, Ursula K. - Left Hand of Darkness
Orwell, George - Nineteen Eighty-Four
Pohl, Frederik - Gateway
Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
Simmons, Dan - Hyperion
Wells, H.G. - War of the Worlds

So whatcha' got?
I have read and enjoyed 'Hitchhiker's Guide", but really NOT so important or seminal.
  #112  
Old 05-02-2014, 09:21 PM
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THE LIST OF 50

Adams, Douglas - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Asimov, Isaac - Foundation
Asimov, Isaac - I, Robot
Asimov, Isaac - The Caves of Steel
Atwood, Margaret - The Handmaid's Tale
Bacigalupi, Paolo - The Windup Girl
Bester, Alfred - The Stars My Destination
Bradbury, Ray - Fahrenheit 451
Brin, David - Startide Rising
Brooks, Max - World War Z
Burgess, Anthony - A Clockwork Orange
Card, Orson Scott - Ender's Game
Chabon, Michael - The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Clarke, Arthur C. - 2001: A Space Odyssey
Clarke, Arthur C. - Childhood's End
Clarke, Arthur C. - Rendezvous with Rama
Dick, Philip K. - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Dick, Philip K. - The Man in the High Castle
Frank, Pat - Alas, Babylon
Gibson, William - Neuromancer
Haldeman, Joe - The Forever War
Heinlein, Robert A. - Starship Troopers
Heinlein, Robert A. - Stranger In A Strange Land
Heinlein, Robert A. - The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Heinlein, Robert A. - The Past Through Tomorrow
Herbert, Frank - Dune
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
Le Guin, Ursula K. - The Dispossessed
Le Guin, Ursula K. - The Left Hand of Darkness
McCarthy, Cormack - The Road
Miller Jr., Walter M. - A Canticle For Leibowitz
Niven, Larry - Ringworld
Niven & Pournelle - Lucifer's Hammer
Niven & Pournelle - The Mote In God's Eye
Orwell, George - Nineteen Eighty-Four
Pohl, Frederik - Gateway
Russell, Mary Doria - The Sparrow
Scalzi, John - Old Man's War
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft - Frankenstein
Shute, Nevil - On the Beach
Simak, Clifford - Way Station
Simmons, Dan - Hyperion
Stephenson, Neal - Snow Crash
Verne, Jules - Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Vinge, Vernor - A Fire Upon the Deep
Vonnegut, Kurt - Slaughterhouse Five
Wells, H. G. - The War Of The Worlds
Wells, H.G. - The Time Machine
Willis, Connie - Doomsday Book
Wilson, Robert Charles - Spin

Comments:

- I ask you to consider the parameters and the comments below as stated before criticizing this final list.

- Most importantly, remember that this is a list of individual books, not authors, so comments like "no love for Joe Blow?" didn't affect this list of 50. It's no insult that they're not on this particular list. The overall importance of the author's oevure was only the most minor of considerations. Your input will have an enormous impact on Group 2, however.

- All comments and criticism were considered and taken into consideration. I spent an enormous amount of time and effort in research and contemplation before putting together the initial list, and quite a bit more since I posted this thread. You may not agree with everything on it, but it was absolutely not pulled out of thin air or my own imagination.

- In doing the final tie-breaker, I introduced a new factor that is a bit contrary to the spirit of the list - year published. I looked at how many books of the 47 were from each decade from 1950 - 2010, and found that the 70s, 80s, and 90s were really underrepresented. Thus, The Sparrow, Startide Rising, and The Dispossessed filled the final slots. I'm pretty satisfied with that. The '00s are probably a little over-represented, but I don't mind that as it adds a bit of freshness to the list and also acknowledges that there is some great stuff happening in the field right now.

- I admit that I'm iffy on whether The Yiddish Policemen's Union should be on a SF list, and I've thought long and hard about whether to cut it. In the end, the fact that it won the Hugo, the Nebula, the Locus for best SF novel (not fantasy) and was the first runner-up for the Campbell can not be ignored. As a bonus, it's written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author well-known amongst general fiction readers. It deserves its spot.

- I'm sort of dreading doing Group 2, but I shall soldier on. Do you all want to see it?

Thanks again for all the comments and discussion!


P.S. Special thanks to Kerry, who exists In Real Life. She may not be a hardcore sci fi geek, but I trust her more than y'all put together.

Last edited by Green Bean; 05-02-2014 at 09:22 PM.
  #113  
Old 05-02-2014, 09:27 PM
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Damn. Where's Robert Silverberg?

My nominees: Hawksbill Station, Dying Inside, Shadrach in the Furnace

I blame myself!
  #114  
Old 05-02-2014, 10:03 PM
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It's the oddest sort of discrimination to exclude literature from science fiction. Atwood, Pynchon, and Orwell are obviously not thought of as science fiction authors in the way that Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov are. The former three made forays into science fiction (probably without even thinking about it, at least in Orwell's case); the latter three made their names in the genre. It should be noted that the latter three have all written in other fields-- in Asimov's case, extensively and often.

The claim that science should be the heart of the science fiction story excludes many classics of the genre. The science of Starship Troopers is laughable, and was at the time when it was written. Heinlein must have known that his giant exoskeletons aliens were impossible, and the explanation for the MI's armor is pretty much "negative feedback". Further, the focus of the story is not science, it's social. Heinlein spends many pages explaining his setting and none, to my recollection, on how they manage to gallivant around the galaxy like a battleship sailing across the Pacific. It's clear to me, anyway, that Heinlein by this point was no more letting physics get in the way of his story than Vonnegut did.

Even odder, the science fiction purist may grudgingly accept fantasies like Star Trek and Star Wars as part of the genre, apparently due to popular misconceptions. Why on Earth would anybody, having made that unfortunate concession, then want to exclude a classic like 1984?

Added: The final list is fine, I've seen many worse and few better.

Last edited by Dave Hartwick; 05-02-2014 at 10:06 PM.
  #115  
Old 05-02-2014, 10:22 PM
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I thought about suggesting John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar in my earlier post, but it's been more than 20 years since I read it. I had reservations that it might not have held up, or that my impressions from so long ago wouldn't.
It's definitely highly regarded, especially in the apoc subgenres. I haven't read it yet, but it's on the shortlist. I look forward to keeping an eye out for his predictions.
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No love for Bruce Sterling? He's the best idea guy in SF. He invented cyberpunk. I recommend his Islands in the Net - great characters, great story, and the best near-future extrapolation I've ever read. It's also very accessible. His short story collection Crystal Express kicks ass!
Have you read the collection A Good Old-Fashioned Future? I don't think it's particularly well-known, but it's pretty good. I've read through it a few times because I own it.
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And you have got to have something by Brian Aldiss - Hothouse, Non-Stop or the Heliconia Trilogy would be my choices.
All 3 are being considered for group 2. Hothouse is on my apoc reading shortlist. I think I ordered it from Amazon earlier in the week, but I got a number of books, so I'm not sure.

Incidentally, I ordered a stack of apocalyptic stuff from a place called Quality Bargain Mall of all things. I'm only mentioning it because it was a surprisingly good source for cheap used books, including out-of-print and hard to find titles. They have a really wide selection of SF in stock and I found it easier to order a bunch through there than getting every one piecemeal through Amazon Marketplace. Shipping is $4.99 for the first book and $2.49 for each additional book, which is at least better than Amazon's minimum of $3.99 per book. A lot of the books were 99 cents, including a near-perfect hardcover of Eternity Road! Overall the condition of the books was satisfactory, but I'm not too picky about that.

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Originally Posted by Les Espaces Du Sommeil View Post
Definitely one of the best Science Fiction novels ever IMHO. I wanted to read for years before I got my hands on it. Usually, that's a great way to be disappointed but in this case, I'd say that it was even better than I expected. Essential reading.
Have you read The Cyberiad? Lem sure has an interesting way of looking at things. Really weird and fun.

It occurred to me that once I get Group 2 in place, it would be fun to make some companion lists that have included items that fall into various categories, like female authors, non-white authors, or books originally written in another language. Translations can never quite capture everything. Maybe some person who reads Polish would like to know about Cyberiada.
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Originally Posted by Sleel View Post
I'm going to put some lesser-known works and authors in my list, since I figure others will hit the big ones that end up on every "essential" list. Some of these should be much more famous than they are.
I've read a ton of Tepper, most of them multiple times, and I agree she should be more known than she is. She offers a great combination of interesting ideas and compelling plots. I'd say her stuff generally has a foot in each of sci fi and fantasy, but I'm willing to put up with the magical/fantasy elements because she's worth it. The more time goes by, the more I'm disturbed by her anti-sexual attitude, however. I agree that Gate to Women's Country is the one to pick. (Sometimes I get the urge to remark "There's no fucking in Hades!" but I resist.) Grass is popular, but is definitely much more on the fantasy side of things. I was so blown away by the twist in The Family Tree that as soon as I finished it, I immediately read the whole thing again. My personal favorite is The Visitor. I'm still not sure how she managed to cram ALL those elements into one book and still not have it feel rushed or cramped.

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Originally Posted by Myglaren View Post
I'd like to throw in an outlier here, Wool by Hugh Howey.

A very recent book (and the first part of a trilogy).
I was given it and really expected to be disappointed with it but found it very compelling.
I see Wool being mentioned more and more, but I thought it was awful. So many things just didn't add up, and it was boring besides. But a lot of people seem to have really enjoyed it. I'll give it props for a catchy title.

Speaking of catchy titles, I have to give a shout-out to How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu. I didn't enjoy it too much but damn, that's a good title.
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I have read and enjoyed 'Hitchhiker's Guide", but really NOT so important or seminal.
You can't possibly be serious.
  #116  
Old 05-02-2014, 10:57 PM
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Added: The final list is fine, I've seen many worse and few better.
Well, thanks. It's nice to get some positive feedback for a change.

Here are some lists that I really liked, though they are very different than my own:

The Forbidden Planet list.
https://forbiddenplanet.com/picks/50...you-must-read/
My list is 50 books that should be in the library. This is a list of books you should actually read. My list makes for a good reading list on its own, but in many ways, this one is better. It omits a lot of items that are also considered literary classics and goes light on Heinlein/Asimov/Clarke, leaving room for more breadth. It puts things in a pretty unusual order too. It's really top-notch.

The abebooks list of 50
http://www.abebooks.com/books/featur...on-books.shtml
This list has a one book per author limit and they went for variety in themes, etc. There is some neat stuff here that you don't usually see. Check out the awesome old book covers. I loved this comment: "I wanted to show the unbelievable breadth of this galactic-sized genre and, of course, I failed because this is just the tip of the spaceberg – there are probably 500 essential science fiction books, not 50." Yup, I know the feeling.

The Basic Science Fiction Library from the Gunn Center at U of Kansas
http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/sflib.htm
IMHO, it includes far too much to be called a basic library but it's a great resource.

Also, in the "not too different than my own" category:

The NPR Top 100
http://www.npr.org/2011/08/11/139085...-fantasy-books
This was done by popular vote and includes fantasy novels. Any popular-vote list will be heavily skewed against lesser-known and newer works. Then again, if it's popular, it's probably for a reason.
  #117  
Old 05-03-2014, 01:29 AM
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While Clarke, Asimov, Pohl and a host of others stood on the sidelines and did nothing. Riiiiiight.
Asimov gives full credit to Campbell. Have you read his first stories? Clarke came later - Rescue Party was past the Golden Age already.
Astoundings from the first half of 1939 had a lot of the old style stories. The difference is obvious. Heinlein, who had the wisdom to shove his first novel deep into his desk drawer, came out with great stories from the beginning.
  #118  
Old 05-03-2014, 09:14 AM
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doesn't science fiction need to be set in space, have aliens visiting earth or involve time travel. i would say that is the bare minimum for science fiction.
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I'm sorry, but that's incorrect.
Right, it doesn't. "Space" stores only became dominant in SF in the 1930's. There were some space stories published in the 1800's (e.g. From the Earth to the Moon, War of the Worlds), but stories about creating, altering, and enhancing human life were important in a major way. E.g. Shelley's Frankenstein, and Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
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Old 05-03-2014, 11:46 AM
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This thread has provided me with much pleasant diversion as I go throughout my day, considering this, rejecting that. It has been many years since I read it, but anyone have any thoughts about David Gerrold's When Harly Was One?
  #120  
Old 05-03-2014, 03:21 PM
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I was planning to do exactly that! I was thinking that for each book I could do 1-3 sentences with whatever information seemed right. That could include subgenre, impact, key sequels, what it's about, major awards, etc. I don't know that anybody outside the sci-fi world cares about sci-fi awards, but I'd say a Pulitzer is worth mentioning. I don't want to make a big deal out of adaptations in other media (this is about books, dammit!), but I'm not going to be able to resist saying that Starship Troopers is totally unlike the movie.

I figure that if someone is scanning through the list, something in one of those blurbs is likely to catch their eye. "Time travel from the future Oxford to the time of the black plague? Cool!" Or "I don't know what 'cyberpunk' is but I want to find out." Does that sound about right?
Close. I would put some work into the introduction. Personally, I'm looking for an entry point: when I visit a Sci-Fi bookstore or one of your internet lists, my eyes glaze over. So write about your intent when you compiled the list, and include some hand holding. Oh. You might include references to other works in your 1-3 sentence review, to convey an idea of possible reading paths.

(Currently I have a collection of short stories by Vignor Vinge on my kindle, along with this this 2013 work which was on sale.* I should probably read Dune some day. But I really want to read Foundation. So that one comes next. )




* It alludes to regressions and big data. Cool! My back of the mind worry is that the author might have nothing to say about that: I tend to prefer theme over characterization. And sometimes the underlying ideas can be pedestrian, in which case I feel I've sorta wasted my time and effort. That's a critique of fiction in general and not sci fi.


ETA: What are the genres of sci fi and fantasy anyway? I'm guessing somebody here knows of a good annotated internet list. (I'd google for it, except that I couldn't assess quality.)

Last edited by Measure for Measure; 05-03-2014 at 03:23 PM.
  #121  
Old 05-03-2014, 03:45 PM
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Waaaaaaaay back in the 60's, a few of us girls were into science fiction, yes, hard to believe....
Ooh, lady, ooh lady - space?

Gotta go to space.

Wait, I know, I know.

Spaaaace!

Hey, where are we goin?
  #122  
Old 05-03-2014, 07:46 PM
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It looks like a pretty good list.

My one criticism. I love Lucifer's Hammer and re-read it every few years but I don't think it's one of the 50 Essential Science Fiction Novels. Someone mentioned earlier, and I'd agree, the list would be improved if you swapped it out for a collection of Niven's short stories. I'll suggest N-Space but realize there might be a better collection.

Lucifer's Hammer would be a great candidate for the second list though.
  #123  
Old 05-04-2014, 01:04 AM
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If you're going to do a collection of short stories, one author, you have to include The Essential Ellison, the Harlan Ellison anthology.

It really is a shame that he is left out, possibly the most glaring author omission. Sturgeon is another (as is Silverberg), and I'm really surprised Flowers for Algernon didn't make the final list.
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Old 05-04-2014, 01:54 PM
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Philip K. Dick, The Unteleported Man can't figure why there is so little Dick in this thread.

Another vote for Solaris as possibly the greatest SciFi novel ever.
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Old 05-04-2014, 04:41 PM
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I just realized that On the Beach is still on the list! I thought I had taken it off. I guess I have an extra spot.

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My one criticism. I love Lucifer's Hammer and re-read it every few years but I don't think it's one of the 50 Essential Science Fiction Novels. Someone mentioned earlier, and I'd agree, the list would be improved if you swapped it out for a collection of Niven's short stories. I'll suggest N-Space but realize there might be a better collection.

Lucifer's Hammer would be a great candidate for the second list though.
I've thought about cutting Lucifer's Hammer, actually. I'll just see how it goes and I work through group 2.

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If you're going to do a collection of short stories, one author, you have to include The Essential Ellison, the Harlan Ellison anthology.

It really is a shame that he is left out, possibly the most glaring author omission. Sturgeon is another (as is Silverberg), and I'm really surprised Flowers for Algernon didn't make the final list.
Remember that this is a list of books, not authors. There can be no such thing as an author ommission from group 1.

That said, I do want to get some Ellison in group 2, but it's a tough call because he has no novel or short story collection that particularly stands out. The Essential Ellison doesn't count because it is a "best of," but I might make an exception in this case. Thanks for the tip.

This does not mean the door is open to making sure other important short stories are on the list. Starting with the short stories would expand the scope of the project way beyond feasibility. Maybe down the road, but not now. I have 1570 books on my spreadsheet to sort through as it is.
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Philip K. Dick, The Unteleported Man can't figure why there is so little Dick in this thread.
Maybe because there are two Dick novels on the list already?
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ETA: What are the genres of sci fi and fantasy anyway? I'm guessing somebody here knows of a good annotated internet list. (I'd google for it, except that I couldn't assess quality.)
This question deserves a thread all its own, but to start, here are a few well-known subgenres of sci fi:

- Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic - Takes place during and/or after some cataclysmic event usually leading to widespread death and breakdown of the social order. (Lucifer's Hammer, World War Z, Alas, Babylon)

- Cyberpunk - Humans and technology, often involving virtual realities and artificial intelligences. (Snow Crash, Neuromancer)

- Dystopian - Usually a near-future setting in a tightly controlled society where things are pretty awful for many or most people, but there are variations on this. I'm not exactly sure where to draw the line between a dystopia and a world where things just suck. (Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid's Tale)

- Alternate History - Less a genre of science fiction than one that often overlaps it, alternate history depicts a world where something that happened in the past caused the world to develop differently than our own. (The Man in the High Castle, The Yiddish Policemen's Union)

- Space Opera - Action and adventure in outer space! I don't know that anything on the list of 50 is part of this subgenre, so let's use the Honor Harrington series as an example. The author calls it "Horatio Hornblower in outer space." Star Wars and Star Trek can also be considered space opera.
  #126  
Old 05-05-2014, 07:08 AM
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It's a great book and definitely deserves to be on the list, but the gender-shifters are humanoid aliens, not humans.
Nope, Earth and basically all of the other worlds she mentions were seeded by the Hainish. Humans are their genetic descendants.
  #127  
Old 05-05-2014, 07:10 AM
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OK, Antartic explorers discover proofs of an ancient extra-terrestrial society on Earth, which has survivors which may extend much further around the planet...

how is H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness not a worthy SciFi novel?

Or, if you are allowing single-author anthologies, a collection of HPL's SciFi stories?

For the record, I'd say Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is more SciFi than F-451. I'd question Atwood's Handmaid's Tale as SciFi at all.

No Andre' Norton?
  #128  
Old 05-06-2014, 08:24 AM
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I subbed in The Martian Chronicles for On the Beach for Group 1.

I have an early draft of Group 2 done. I'm not near happy with it yet, but I figured I should throw it out there. I relaxed the parameters a bit with group 2. I also decided to limit the number of books per author to 4 between the two lists, then immediately violated that by putting two Clarke on instead of one. I also tried to get closer to representing a variety of styles/subgenres/authors, but that is not a major concern.

I'm also processing through all the suggestions in this thread as there are so many good ones to research/ponder. Feel free to reiterate something if you feel strongly that something ought to be on here or not on here. Remember that these have to be amongst the best-known works and not the ones you personally feel are an author's overlooked treasures.

"S1" means "Series 1," or the first book in a series. [c] means it's a collection of stories.

Spoiler-boxed for space reasons...

SPOILER:
Aldiss, Brian - Helliconia Spring (S1)
Asimov, Isaac - The Gods Themselves
Atwood, Margaret - Oryx and Crake (S1)
Ballard, J.G. - The Drowned World
Banks, Iain M. - Consider Phlebas (Culture Series S1)
Bear, Greg - Darwin's Radio
Bear, Greg - The Forge of God
Bellamy, Edward - Looking Backward, 2000-1887
Benford, Gregory - Timescape
Bester, Alfred - The Demolished Man
Brunner, John - Stand on Zanzibar
Bujold, Lois McMaster - Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga S1)
Butler, Octavia - Kindred
Card, Orson Scott - Speaker for the Dead
Cherryh, C.J. - Downbelow Station
Christopher, John - The Death of Grass (AKA No Blade of Grass)
Clarke, Arthur C. - The City and the Stars
Clarke, Arthur C. - The Fountains of Paradise
Clement, Hal - Mission of Gravity
Delany, Samuel R. - Dhalgren
Dick, Philip K. - Ubik
Ellison, Harlan - The Essential Ellison [c]
Haldeman, Joe - Forever Peace
Hamilton, Peter F. - The Reality Dysfunction
Harrison, Harry - The Stainless Steel Rat (S1)
Keyes, Daniel - Flowers For Algernon
King, Stephen - The Stand
Lem, Stanislaw - Solaris
Matheson, Richard - I Am Legend
McIntyre, Vonda N. - Dreamsnake
Mieville, China - Perdido Street Station
Mieville, China - The City & The City
Moore, Alan and Gibbons, Dave - Watchmen
Morgan, Richard - Altered Carbon
Norton, Andre - Star Man's Son
Pangborn, Edgar - Davy
Robinson, Kim Stanley - Red Mars (Mars Trilogy S1)
Russ, Joanna - The Female Man
Shute, Nevil - On the Beach
Smith, E.E. - Triplanetary (Lensman S1)
Stephenson, Neal - Anathem
Stephenson, Neal - The Diamond Age
Stewart, George R. - Earth Abides
Sturgeon, Theodore - More Than Human
Tepper, Sheri S. - The Gate to Women's Country
Varley, John - Titan
Weber, David - On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington S1)
Wyndham, John - The Day Of The Triffids
Zamyatin, Yevgeny - We
Zelazny, Roger - Lord of Light


Have fun!

Last edited by Green Bean; 05-06-2014 at 08:24 AM.
  #129  
Old 05-06-2014, 12:50 PM
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I don't remember whether it's been mentioned yet or not, but Pohl & Kornbluth's The Space Merchants really needs to be on one of these lists!
  #130  
Old 05-06-2014, 01:12 PM
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I don't remember whether it's been mentioned yet or not, but Pohl & Kornbluth's The Space Merchants really needs to be on one of these lists!
Yeah, it really does.

Any thoughts on what to cut from Group 2?
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Old 05-06-2014, 01:35 PM
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I used to own a copy of Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels 1949 - 1984, which I found a good starting point.

Now of course there's a sequel, Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985 - 2010.

These might give you some ideas. If you look them up on Amazon and "Look Inside!", you can see the titles in the books without buying the books.
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Old 05-06-2014, 03:28 PM
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how is H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness not a worthy SciFi novel?
Great story, but not a novel.
  #133  
Old 05-06-2014, 03:32 PM
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As much as I argued for Mieville, I'm not sure that I'd put Perdido Street Station on a science fiction booklist: it's definitely new Weird, but it's more on the fantasy side than on the SF side of that line.

I really disliked Oryx and Crake: it looked to me like a literary author slumming in the SF field, a second-rate effort from a first-rate author.

OTOH, much as I dislike Michael Crichton, I wonder whether something like The Andromeda Strain belongs on the list; it's pretty famous, often referenced (at least it used to be), and isa major player in the major disease genre.
  #134  
Old 05-06-2014, 04:44 PM
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Oh, good you added
Zamyatin, Yevgeny - We
Though the spaceflight plot is a bit dated now (not surprising) the dystopia and plot in general are amazingly modern. It doesn't have the same influence as 1984 and Brave New World, but I liked it better. Excellent choice!
  #135  
Old 05-07-2014, 12:47 PM
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I used to own a copy of Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels 1949 - 1984, which I found a good starting point.

Now of course there's a sequel, Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985 - 2010.

These might give you some ideas. If you look them up on Amazon and "Look Inside!", you can see the titles in the books without buying the books.
Also, the lists are reproduced on various blogs and so forth. I've consulted Pringle's list, but I didn't know about the update. Pringle's list is good. I wonder whether he'd make some different choices for the same period if he were to re-make the list today, but there is a ton of great stuff on the list. I plan to get it from the library or buy it because I want to read what he has to say about everything.

The newer list is...odd. About half of the 101 titles on it weren't even in my database, which is pretty weird at this point. I don't know if it contains a bunch of lesser-known treasures or whether the choices are just wacky, but I figure if somebody cares enough to put it in an actual book and publish it, it's worth looking into.

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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
As much as I argued for Mieville, I'm not sure that I'd put Perdido Street Station on a science fiction booklist: it's definitely new Weird, but it's more on the fantasy side than on the SF side of that line.
I'll look farther into Perdido Street Station's status. I've seen it on many sci-fi only lists, but it definitely looks like it has feet in both worlds. (I haven't read it) If something is "science-fantasy," I don't necessarily consider that a disqualification, as long as the sci fi elements are strong, but it is a minus.

Quote:
I really disliked Oryx and Crake: it looked to me like a literary author slumming in the SF field, a second-rate effort from a first-rate author.
I disliked it too, especially since I felt like I had read it before many times. It also doesn't seem to be held in as high regard as it was when it was newer (published 2003). The fact that it's known to non-SF readers is a plus, but it's a good candidate to be knocked down into group 3.

Quote:
OTOH, much as I dislike Michael Crichton, I wonder whether something like The Andromeda Strain belongs on the list; it's pretty famous, often referenced (at least it used to be), and isa major player in the major disease genre.
There are a lot of books that I would consider science fiction based on setting/plot/elements, but that are rarely regarded as such. As much as people here have quibbled about whether various entries on the top 50 are "really" science fiction, the fact is that they are widely regarded as such, particularly by those knowledgeable about the field, or else they wouldn't have been on there. For other works, it's not so easy. For some, their or their author's association with some other genre so far exceeds their association with science fiction that I'm perfectly happy to bump them into a lower category regardless of how major or how genuinely science-fictiony they are. Atlas Shrugged would be one of these. Michael Crichton, Stephen King, and Robin Cook are all authors who are simply not considered science fiction writers, even though they have written an awful lot of it. Yet I can't shake the feeling that they don't belong on a "science fiction essentials" list. I made an exception for The Stand because it is one of the two or three most major players in the post-apoc genre. The Andromeda Strain is referenced much more rarely, but I agree that it is very important in that subgenre, and will keep it in mind.
  #136  
Old 05-07-2014, 01:05 PM
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I never thought of Crichton as anything other than a sci-fi writer.
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Old 05-07-2014, 01:54 PM
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I never thought of Crichton as anything other than a sci-fi writer.
Me, too--especially given that his most famous work is arguably Jurassic Park, and his next most famous probably Andromeda Strain, and after that is probably Sphere, and all of these are SF.
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Old 05-07-2014, 03:45 PM
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My point exactly. Many of his novels ARE sci fi, but as an author he gets lumped into the "thriller" or "techno-thriller" group. You can't always fight city hall, you know? In the end, all of his sci fi works are being included in the more comprehensive list, so I don't suppose it matters too much.
  #139  
Old 05-08-2014, 01:09 PM
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My point exactly. Many of his novels ARE sci fi, but as an author he gets lumped into the "thriller" or "techno-thriller" group. You can't always fight city hall, you know? In the end, all of his sci fi works are being included in the more comprehensive list, so I don't suppose it matters too much.
Your list, your rules, but if the focus is supposed to be on books and not on authors, I'd put several of his books--including Andromeda Strain--in SF.
  #140  
Old 05-08-2014, 01:15 PM
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Don't forget this isn't a list of "essential SF novels" but a list of "essential SF novels that we have to budget for, and if we can get wedge some SF' novels onto the budgets of the 'mainstream' books (like King, Rand, and Crichton), therefore allowing us to have more SF than the original budgeted-for 50, so much the better."

That's the way I've been understanding the rules...

Last edited by JohnT; 05-08-2014 at 01:15 PM.
  #141  
Old 05-08-2014, 02:52 PM
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I knocked Oryx and Crake down a group (take that, Atwood!) and did the same with Perdido Street Station on the basis of being a little too far into fantasy and also I had to cut something. I added in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. With the previous addition of The Space Merchants. I'm back to 50.

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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Your list, your rules, but if the focus is supposed to be on books and not on authors, I'd put several of his books--including Andromeda Strain--in SF.
I'm not disputing that he wrote many science fiction novels. The question is only whether any of his novels will go in group 2 of this list.

For what it's worth, here is how I am conceptualizing the categories right now (subject to change, void if prohibited)

A1 - Must Haves, First Priority (50) [aka acquire all missing titles ASAP]
A2 - Must Haves, Second Priority (50) [aka acquire all missing titles as soon as reasonable]
B - Should Def Have In Collection (100-200) [Acquisition of missing titles is important]
C - Works a Comprehensive SF Collection should Contain [Acquire as good opportunities arise.]
D - Might be nice to have, but not strictly necessary. [Catchall category for items that don't quite rise to the level of the above categories, but still should be "on the list." Admittedly, the line between C and D is fuzzy]
E - Stuff I haven't quite decided what to do with yet.

Most of the items on the list aren't even in those categories yet. I'd like to at least get through the Bs. I don't think C or D can really be nailed down, but I'm not worrying too much about them for now.

For all of this, assume I mean "in the library." I'm disregarding where the items might be shelved. Fixing the shelving issues is a different can of worms. *




Quote:
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Don't forget this isn't a list of "essential SF novels" but a list of "essential SF novels that we have to budget for, and if we can get wedge some SF' novels onto the budgets of the 'mainstream' books (like King, Rand, and Crichton), therefore allowing us to have more SF than the original budgeted-for 50, so much the better."

That's the way I've been understanding the rules...
I'm not sure 100% of what you're saying here. Could you re-phrase?

* It's not that certain authors are in reg fiction. It's that a number of authors are split between sf and regular fiction.
  #142  
Old 05-08-2014, 03:04 PM
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I knocked Oryx and Crake down a group (take that, Atwood!) and did the same with Perdido Street Station on the basis of being a little too far into fantasy and also I had to cut something. I added in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. With the previous addition of The Space Merchants. I'm back to 50.

I'm not disputing that he wrote many science fiction novels. The question is only whether any of his novels will go in group 2 of this list.

For what it's worth, here is how I am conceptualizing the categories right now (subject to change, void if prohibited)

A1 - Must Haves, First Priority (50) [aka acquire all missing titles ASAP]
A2 - Must Haves, Second Priority (50) [aka acquire all missing titles as soon as reasonable]
B - Should Def Have In Collection (100-200) [Acquisition of missing titles is important]
C - Works a Comprehensive SF Collection should Contain [Acquire as good opportunities arise.]
D - Might be nice to have, but not strictly necessary. [Catchall category for items that don't quite rise to the level of the above categories, but still should be "on the list." Admittedly, the line between C and D is fuzzy]
E - Stuff I haven't quite decided what to do with yet.

Most of the items on the list aren't even in those categories yet. I'd like to at least get through the Bs. I don't think C or D can really be nailed down, but I'm not worrying too much about them for now.

For all of this, assume I mean "in the library." I'm disregarding where the items might be shelved. Fixing the shelving issues is a different can of worms. *




I'm not sure 100% of what you're saying here. Could you re-phrase?

* It's not that certain authors are in reg fiction. It's that a number of authors are split between sf and regular fiction.
I interpreted it to mean that this list should be sci-fi books by authors you couldn't fit into any other genre, for a dedicated sc-fi purchasing budget. If there are other sci-fi books you can slip into the library through some general fiction acquisition budget, like most of Crichton and some of King, better to ldo that and spend your limited sci-fi money on others.
  #143  
Old 05-08-2014, 03:39 PM
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Yeah, sorry, was in a hurry when I typed that...

What Boyo said was accurate. For some reason (and this comes from half-assed reading this threads), I thought you were actually going to start a SF section in a small library. Thinking like a finance guy, any "SF" books you can purchase using non-SF earmarked funds is a bonus. Hence, no need to buy Crichton, King, Rand, etc with "SF funds" if they can be bought using "general fiction" funds.

Last edited by JohnT; 05-08-2014 at 03:41 PM.
  #144  
Old 05-08-2014, 04:23 PM
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This one stood out for me:

Quote:
Chabon, Michael - The Yiddish Policeman's Union
I love that book, and I know it won science-fiction awards, but I do not think it is really science fiction. More an alt-history detective story.
  #145  
Old 05-08-2014, 06:23 PM
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What Boyo said was accurate. For some reason (and this comes from half-assed reading this threads), I thought you were actually going to start a SF section in a small library. Thinking like a finance guy, any "SF" books you can purchase using non-SF earmarked funds is a bonus. Hence, no need to buy Crichton, King, Rand, etc with "SF funds" if they can be bought using "general fiction" funds.
Ah, I see where you're coming from.

The impetus for making the list was to help my local public library fill in their science fiction offerings, as in "you need to have these 50. You have 38.* We need to find a way for you to get the remaining 12." I think it would work just as well as a stocking list for a new library too. If the budgetary concerns that you mention came into play, you'd just subtract whatever the general fiction buyer would get. There's little rhyme or reason as to what gets put into which section anyway, at least in my library, so which budget heading each book might fall under is just not worth worrying about.



* 38 is an estimate, not the actual number.
  #146  
Old 05-08-2014, 07:49 PM
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I spotted a graphic novel in Group 2: Moore, Alan and Gibbons, Dave - Watchmen. I think it's a good choice for the token graphic novel and agree with its Group 2 placement. I'm going by the joint criteria of notoriety, influence and quality in that order.

Here are 3 possible alternatives:

Bryan Lee O'Malley: Scott Pilgrim, Book 1
Frank Miller: Daredevil, Born Again
Frank Miller: The Dark Knight Returns
Paul Chadwick: Concrete


I'd place Scott Pilgrim on list C. I'm a little uncomfortable characterizing superhero stuff as science fiction frankly, and I'd be inclined to leave them off all of the lists. I'm not even sure Scott Pilgrim qualifies for that matter.


If we could include anime (we can't) I'd probably put Neon Genesis Evangelion on one of the lists. Also The Girl Who Leaped Through Time. Both have manga adaptations, but that's really cheating.

Manga possibilities

Full Metal Alchemist. Note that the author doesn't hit her stride until Volume 2. Also note that the whole series is 27 volumes. List C recommendation. Except maybe it's fantasy.
Astro Boy by Tezuka - for list C
Black Jack by Tezuka
Akira
Nausicaδ of the Valley of the Wind
Parasyte - list C
Chobits

Nausicaa and Akira are densely illustrated: they aren't the easiest read actually. Parasyte is a little obscure frankly. Osamu Tezuka is considered the godfather of manga and his work had a lot of sci fi or fantasy settings. Then again so does most manga.
  #147  
Old 05-09-2014, 12:26 PM
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Iain M. Banks: Consider Phlebas (not my personal favorte though)
  #148  
Old 05-09-2014, 03:35 PM
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Iain M. Banks: Consider Phlebas (not my personal favorte though)
I agree a Banks book needs to be on this list. Consider Phlebas is my favorite, but probably not the one that needs to be there. I think Use of Weapons is the right one, it covers the whole Culture pretty well and is early enough in his writings of the Culture that not having read Consider Phlebas and Player of Games would not be a big deal. The later ones, whilst not in a series as such , would be better if you had read the earlier ones. Use of Weapons is stand alone. Player of games is somewhat limited in the scope of places and events.

I prefer Consider Phlebas, but probably more because I found it refreshing and different , but he is still trying to work out the culture universe and the writing/pacing is not the tightest.
  #149  
Old 05-10-2014, 11:41 PM
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Consider Phlebas is in the second group.

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I'd place Scott Pilgrim on list C. I'm a little uncomfortable characterizing superhero stuff as science fiction frankly, and I'd be inclined to leave them off all of the lists.
Are you counting Watchmen as superhero stuff? I don't know that I really do, even though they sort of are, if that makes sense.

Meanwhile, I stopped by the library to see what was actually there and what section it was in. That info is available through the library website, but I thought I'd do a reality check. Most things were more or less where they were supposed to be.

I mentioned earlier that some authors are split between fiction and science fiction. I found that there were a ton of these and the splits didn't seem to make much sense. For example, why would The Forever War be in fiction when there was other Haldeman in SF? This makes things much harder to find and also gives an incorrect impression to browsers.

Shelving issues aside, I counted how many of the first 50 they had available to borrow in book form. The answer is 38. That's worse than I expected, but not completely tragic. Things went downhill fast with the second 50, however. They only had 21 of them. (I checked the second 50 through the catalog only, but from doing the first 50, I have no reason to think it's not accurate.)

These are the 12 that they didn't have from the first 50:

SPOILER:
Asimov, Isaac - The Caves of Steel
Bester, Alfred - The Stars My Destination
Brin, David - Startide Rising
Clarke, Arthur C. - Childhood's End
Dick, Philip K. - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Frank, Pat - Alas, Babylon
Heinlein, Robert A. - Starship Troopers
Heinlein, Robert A. - The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Heinlein, Robert A. - The Past Through Tomorrow
Le Guin, Ursula K. - The Dispossessed
Pohl, Frederik - Gateway
Stephenson, Neal - Snow Crash
  #150  
Old 05-11-2014, 01:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Green Bean View Post
Are you counting Watchmen as superhero stuff? I don't know that I really do, even though they sort of are, if that makes sense.
Well... Watchmen is technically a superhero comic... but it's not part of the DC/Marvel conglomerate so I'm giving it a pass. Basically it would be nice to have one graphic novel in the first 2 lists, and Watchmen is a decent candidate.

DC/Marvel has a huge fan-base and for not unrelated reasons I would give it its own genre.


Incidentally I'll share my manga methodology. This guidebook had a listing/discussion of sci-fi manga: I scanned it and pulled out promising candidates.
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