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Old 04-28-2014, 11:42 AM
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50 Essential Science Fiction Novels for a Public Library


I am making a list of the 50 science fiction novels that every public library, large and small, should have on the shelf.

There are many "best" and "most important" lists out there, and some of them are very good, but none are exactly what I'm looking for. I'm well aware that no consensus will ever be achieved here, but having done a ton of research over the years, I'm pretty satisfied with the preliminary list that I've created. I thought I'd throw the question out to you guys as well to see what you come up with as well. I'll share my own list and more details downthread some. Nitpicking expected.

The list is to be of novels that are fundamental to the genre, so please try to look beyond what you are personally enthusiastic about and consider what is important to the genre as a whole. Assume that shelf space and cost are not at issue.

Note that this list of 50 is a subset of a larger list of science fiction books that a given library ought to have, so exclusion from this list does not mean that the book will not be a recommended acquisition. The parameters of the larger list are not as strict.


Parameters:

- The list will not be ranked 1 - 50. The only question is whether it is on or off this particular list.

- The list is for science fiction only. Fantasy should not be included. Science fiction with some fantasy elements will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

- Simple popularity as measured by sales or circulation numbers is not enough to get a book on this list.

- Maximum of 3 books by an author.

- Sequels and series - Only the first book in the sequence will be listed. I can add a note on crucial sequels if needed. (I've made one exception to this in my own list.)

- Short stories - Multi-author and "best of" anthologies are not to be included. Regular single-author short story collections may be.

- Young Adult - YA science fiction may be included if it is genuinely important to the genre as a whole.

- Links to other lists and previous threads are welcome, but please give us your personal input.


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?
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Old 04-28-2014, 12:06 PM
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William Gibson, Neuromancer
Vernor Vinge, A Light Upon the Deep
Isaac Asimov, Foundation
AE Van Vogt, Voyage of the Space Beagle
Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End
C. J. Cherryh, Downbelow Station
Iain Banks, Use of Weapons

that should do for starters
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Old 04-28-2014, 12:11 PM
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Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination
Robert Heinlein Double Star
Samuel R. Delany Dhalgren or The Einstein Intersection
Edgar Pangbourn, Davy
John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids
Jasper fforde, Shades of Grey
Andreas Eschbach, The Carpet Makers
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Old 04-28-2014, 12:13 PM
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The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch - Philip K Dick
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Old 04-28-2014, 12:17 PM
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Bradbury, Ray - Fahrenheit 451
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
Orwell, George - Nineteen Eighty-Four
Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
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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Old 04-28-2014, 12:20 PM
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OK, I read the Amazon preview of Fforde's book and I had no interest in it based on the preview, so I'm gonna challenge that one. I would say it is not even a good book, much less an essential.
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Old 04-28-2014, 12:24 PM
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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.
I'm sorry, but that's incorrect.
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Old 04-28-2014, 12:28 PM
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Perhaps this is a larger conversation for another thread but I've never thought of 1984 as science fiction. It's merely set in the future. And it turns out that Asimov agrees with me!: http://www.newworker.org/ncptrory/1984.htm
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Old 04-28-2014, 12:31 PM
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Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash and The Diamond Age
Larry Niven, Ringworld
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Old 04-28-2014, 12:44 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.
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Old 04-28-2014, 12:50 PM
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Are we limited to novels? I and many other fans believe that the short story is a much more apt medium for the genre, and you can fit a whole collection of short stories into the same shelf space as a single novel. Any volume of The Hugo Winners would be a good choice; they're all regarded as good, and give the reader exposure to a wide variety of authors, whom they can pursue more of on their own.
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Old 04-28-2014, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Fiendish Astronaut View Post
Perhaps this is a larger conversation for another thread but I've never thought of 1984 as science fiction. It's merely set in the future. And it turns out that Asimov agrees with me!: http://www.newworker.org/ncptrory/1984.htm
And Margaret Atwood doesn't think she's written any science fiction! Thanks for the link to the article.

For the purposes of this thread, let's say that we'll just follow the generally accepted definition of what constitutes science fiction.

Suggestions so far:

William Gibson, Neuromancer - It's on the list
Vernor Vinge, A Light Upon the Deep - Do you mean A Fire Upon the Deep? I'm considering it, but it may get bumped down.
Isaac Asimov, Foundation - On the list, with a note that the whole trilogy should be included.
AE Van Vogt, Voyage of the Space Beagle - Not sure this is really top-50
Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End - This would be my choice for one of Clarke's 3 spots.
C. J. Cherryh, Downbelow Station - Currently grouped in second tier.
Iain Banks, Use of Weapons - I have no Banks on the list right now. Why this one, especially since it looks like the 3rd in a series?



Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination - On the list
Robert Heinlein Double Star - With only 3 slots for Heinlein, there are others I'd call more essential.
Samuel R. Delany Dhalgren or The Einstein Intersection - I'm not quite sure what to do about Delany!
Edgar Pangbourn, Davy - Essential to the post-apoc subgenre, but I'm not sure it makes the top 50 as a whole.
John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids - Same as above, sadly.
Jasper fforde, Shades of Grey - Haven't heard of it before now. I'm going to read it for sure, but I can't see that it's essential.
Andreas Eschbach, The Carpet Makers - Another that doesn't seem essential.

The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch - Philip K Dick - Other Dick works will probably fill the top spots.

Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash and The Diamond Age - Ah yes, the Stephenson problem! He needs to be on the list, but I'm not sure which to choose. I'm leaning towards Snow Crash and possibly one other.
Larry Niven, Ringworld - On the list.
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Old 04-28-2014, 01:00 PM
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I would demand a science fiction library featuring an ABC of the overlords of the genre: Asimov, Bester, Clarke!
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Old 04-28-2014, 01:00 PM
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Arthur Clarke -- Rendezvous With Rama and Fountains of Paradise.
Isaac Asimov -- the whole Foundation trilogy, also I, Robot
Joe Haldeman -- The Forever War
Tolkien - Lord of the Rings (the whole trilogy)
Heinlein -- Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers
Philip Dick -- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Anthiny Burgess -- A Clockwork Orange
Walter Miller -- A Canticle for Liebowitz
HG Wells -- The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds
Jules Verne -- 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea
Danial Keyes -- Flowers for Algernon
Larry Niven -- Ringworld and Lucifer's Hammer
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Old 04-28-2014, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Shalmanese View Post
I would demand a science fiction library featuring an ABC of the overlords of the genre: Asimov, Bester, Clarke!
What about Ray Bradbury?
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Old 04-28-2014, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Are we limited to novels? I and many other fans believe that the short story is a much more apt medium for the genre, and you can fit a whole collection of short stories into the same shelf space as a single novel. Any volume of The Hugo Winners would be a good choice; they're all regarded as good, and give the reader exposure to a wide variety of authors, whom they can pursue more of on their own.
See the parameters in the OP regarding short stories. The purpose of the project is not exactly what you're assuming it is.

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Originally Posted by Lasciel View Post
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.
The list is of essential science fiction, so it belongs on the list. The fact that it is also a literary classic does not change that. It's fine that it would already be in the collection.


Quote:
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.
Do you mean that you don't consider them science fiction?

Quote:
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.
Does the Complete Robot include everything in I, Robot? If so, I will replace I, Robot with the Complete Robot on the list.

Quote:
Anyone noted Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars yet?
It's in the second category right now.

Quote:
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.
Things get kind of complicated when we talk about notable series instead of notable books, you know?
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Old 04-28-2014, 01:15 PM
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Arthur Clarke -- Rendezvous With Rama and Fountains of Paradise. - Rama is firmly on the list. I have Childhood's End, 2001, and Fountains of Paradise battling it out for the other two slots.
Isaac Asimov -- the whole Foundation trilogy, also I, Robot - Both on the list
Joe Haldeman -- The Forever War - On the list.
Tolkien - Lord of the Rings (the whole trilogy) - Not science fiction.
Heinlein -- Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers - Starship Troopers is on. I have 2 others before SiaSL, so it's currently second-tier, due to the 3 per author restriction.
Philip Dick -- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - On the list.
Anthiny Burgess -- A Clockwork Orange - On the list.
Walter Miller -- A Canticle for Liebowitz - On the list
HG Wells -- The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds - Both on the list
Jules Verne -- 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea - On the list
Danial Keyes -- Flowers for Algernon - Currrently in the next tier
Larry Niven -- Ringworld and Lucifer's Hammer[/QUOTE] - Both on the list.
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Old 04-28-2014, 01:15 PM
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What about Ray Bradbury?
Iím aware of his work.
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Old 04-28-2014, 01:23 PM
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And Margaret Atwood doesn't think she's written any science fiction! Thanks for the link to the article.

For the purposes of this thread, let's say that we'll just follow the generally accepted definition of what constitutes science fiction.

Suggestions so far:

William Gibson, Neuromancer - It's on the list
Vernor Vinge, A Light Upon the Deep - Do you mean A Fire Upon the Deep? I'm considering it, but it may get bumped down.
Yep, A Fire Upon The Deep. Its concept of an interstellar internet functioning as an audience for all that happens was brilliant, I thought.

Quote:
Isaac Asimov, Foundation - On the list, with a note that the whole trilogy should be included.
I'd be OK with the whole trilogy but not any of those that came after.

Quote:
AE Van Vogt, Voyage of the Space Beagle - Not sure this is really top-50
Van Vogt was an original thinker who knew how to tell a story. Don't let that disgruntled fanboy Damon Knight fool you.

Quote:
Iain Banks, Use of Weapons - I have no Banks on the list right now. Why this one, especially since it looks like the 3rd in a series?
Well, first of all, the Culture novels are not a series, they're all written as stand-alones. You don't have to know jack-squat about any of the other novels to enjoy one of them. I chose Use of Weapons because it's a very good representation of how the Culture deals with non-Culture societies, and it had some VERY powerful character development. Any of his other strong Culture novels would make the list. "Consider Phlebas" about the Idiran war or Excession about an encounter with an artifact whose technology is well in advance of the Culture's, would also work just fine.

Quote:
Samuel R. Delany Dhalgren or The Einstein Intersection - I'm not quite sure what to do about Delany!
I've TRIED to read Delaney, but I find him hopelessly dull.

Last edited by Evil Captor; 04-28-2014 at 01:24 PM.
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Old 04-28-2014, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Are we limited to novels? I and many other fans believe that the short story is a much more apt medium for the genre, and you can fit a whole collection of short stories into the same shelf space as a single novel. Any volume of The Hugo Winners would be a good choice; they're all regarded as good, and give the reader exposure to a wide variety of authors, whom they can pursue more of on their own.
I agree. IMHO the best science fiction focuses on a single aspect of future or scientific novelty and it's ramifications. I'm sure there are plenty of people who do enjoy the novels and broadly constructed worlds created also, but the short stories starting in the pulp era and onward were highly influential.

I would include the Weapons Shops of Isher in the list, either the novel or the short stories it was based on. Also Dragon's Egg, which to me is the best hard science fiction novel ever written.
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Old 04-28-2014, 02:31 PM
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Young Miles, by Lois McMaster Bujold. (Contains The Warrior's Apprentice, The Mountains of Mourning, and The Vor Game.)
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Old 04-28-2014, 03:07 PM
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As for Iain M Bainks I would go for Excession or Consider Phlebas. I thnk they are both better than Use Of Weapons but its highly subjective.
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Old 04-28-2014, 06:41 PM
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Further explanation:

One of the librarians at my local public library suggested that the science fiction book buyer might be interested in speaking to me about how to improve their collection. (I was grousing about it, and I guess I sounded more constructive than crank-ish.)

Given that I've spent the last 10 years or so trying to identify and read the "core canon" of science fiction and of the post-apocalyptic subgenre, I find myself in a good position to be useful in that regard. I've read a LOT of lists and and commentary over the years, including many threads from this board, and I have I let those guide me in creating my own reading program. Some lists out there are just some random guyís personal favorites, but there are many others that represent attempts more objectivity or widespread consensus. I also found it helpful to see what books won important awards. There is a lot of variation between lists, but many books pop up over and over. Those are the ones I wanted to read.

The local library proved to be a poor source of books as their SF collection is sorely lacking. They do have a pretty good selection of notable books released in the last 15 years or so, and they're covered on works that are general literary classics, but I just wasnít finding most of the books on this or that list. Also, a public library in an affluent town of 30K really ought to have Starship Troopers on the shelf. And The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Caves of Steel, Childhood's End...okay, Iíd read all those before I started this, but you get the idea. The situation gets worse as you move away from the best-known authors and books. They do have some good stuff, but the selection is extremely spotty. (And to be clear, Iím not criticizing the librarian who chooses the new acquisitions!) The inter-library loan system helps a little, but it seems to be designed specifically to discourage you from using it and other local libraries collections seem to be not much better.

Ultimately, Iíd like to see the library have most or all of the more freqently-recommended science ficiton books, including at least a few of the most important works in various subgenres.This list of 50 is the beginning of my attempt to improve the situation. 50 wonít cover it, but itís a start.

As for why I'm keeping this initial list to 50 - By keeping the "absolute essentials" list to 50 and including literary classics, Iím minimizing the number of books that Iím suggesting they get as soon as possible. They do have the vast majority of items on my preliminary list. I don't want to walk in there and say "your collection sucks," you know? I'd rather start off with a more positive spin, establish some cred, and emphasize that I'm trying to be constructive more than critical. If they seem interested in further improving the collection, then we can move to the next tier on the list.

I stipulated in the OP that neither shelf space nor budget was an issue for this list of 50. Perhaps that was an over-simplification, but I didn't want those concerns to affect the discussion. They certainly have enough shelf space to add the few books that they would have to get to fulfill the list, but I don't know how much more they have for further expansion. It looks like they have lots of empty space, but I don't know how these things work in practice. Budget need not be an issue if they will accept donations and would support me working to fundraise for further expansion of the sci fi collection. Naturally I'd only be donating or working to get what they would actually put on the shelf.

I hope you can see why I also stipulated that short-story anthologies are not to be included in the list of 50. They should definitely be in the collection, but donít fit with this list.


My preliminary list coming later tonight.
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Old 04-28-2014, 06:42 PM
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For Banks, do either Use of Weapons or The Player of Games. Heck, do both.

Which Heinlein's do you have ahead of Stranger? Besides The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress?

For Clarke: my vote's for Rama, 2001, and Childhood's End. See that some of his great short stories, like (The Sentinel, The Star, the Nine Billion Names of God) make it into one of the collections that Chronos mentioned.

For Niven and some Jerry Pournelle, I'd pick Ringworld, Lucifer's Hammer and The Mote in God's Eye. I like Dream Park and The Magic Goes Away setting too, but can't pick them above those three.

Be sure to have your short story collection contain Inconstant Moon and The Jigsaw Man. Maybe Death By Ecstasy too?

I love Alastair Reynolds---the Revelation Space setting is one I'd absolutely love to see hit the big screen---and Charles Stross, but I'm not sure that any of their novels crack the top 50 all time SF stories.

Any love for Harry Harrison's Deathworld? Or, A Stainless Steel Rat is Born? How about Nolan and Johnson's Logan's Run? I've no problem with calling Fahrenheit 451 sci-fi. Not Bradbury's fault that technology caught up to the things he was predicting: immersive interactive 3-D entertainment, drones tracking people by scent, dialysis as a means of poison treatment. I'd throw Kurt Vonnegut in, but only for his short stories.
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Old 04-28-2014, 07:10 PM
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Good luck working with your library. A few months back I reviewed the material available at the Wisconsin Digital library and found a disturbingly high proportion of them (20%) were Star Wars spin offs. I posted about it.
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Old 04-28-2014, 07:36 PM
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Can I make a few comments as a purchasing librarian? I purchase sf and fantasy for my system, and have for several years now.

One issue that libraries face that regular buyers don't is the question of whether a book is still in print and available to the library.

Consumers now are very blessed. If you want a book, you can pretty much guarantee that you can find it somewhere. Amazon, abebooks, hell, look overseas and ship it in from India, or get it printed-on-demand from Lulu.

Most libraries cannot do this. Because they are spending government money, there are a shit-ton of restrictions governing how - and pertinent to this issue - WHERE they can spend. Most of us have to spend funds in specific places, which are usually big book "jobbers" like Brodart or Baker & Taylor, and once those places are out of copies in their warehouses, the libraries are shit outta luck.

Now, that's not a total death knell. There are usually paperbacks available - but some library policies prevent purchasing above a certain total collection percentage of paperbacks (because they wear out so much faster than hardbacks), or require that paperbacks be pre-bound, which is costly - our pre-bindery service runs about as much as each actual book costs us. (So, yes, every paperback I buy I'm essentially paying for it twice. With a limited budget and a multi-location system, that makes me think real hard before I pick those titles, which I hate, but I have to spread the money as far as I can.)

If you're starting a library from scratch and know you need to scrounge for your core collection, you can sometimes get a waiver into your policies to allow one-time purchasing through a place like Amazon, but until recently, the idea that a genre collection like fantasy or sf could even HAVE a "core collection" was laughable to most (non-nerdy) librarians.

So, what you're doing is great, and it's good that you are interested and want to help, but if it takes a while before your suggestions make it onto the shelf, they aren't stonewalling you - they're just damn hard to get.

I may or may not have purchased specific books myself as a private citizen for the express purpose of donating them to the library so we could catalog them. Even there, because I'm a librarian, I can force the issue from inside my own system, but some places have really archaic and restrictive rules on what can be accepted as a donation (for example, our official rules are nothing 'used', nothing more than 5 years old, only hardcovers with pristine slipjackets) and those rules don't really take the concept of a historically-accurate 'core collection' into account.

Frankly, it's frustrating as hell.
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Old 04-28-2014, 07:41 PM
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And don't even talk to me about digital collections. It's like a fucking wasteland out there, and it doesn't seem to be getting better any time soon. So many good genre title don't have digital editions available for libraries (don't assume that because you can get an e-book, that the publisher has made one available to the library - more times than I can count they have not, and I want to scream.)

I try to look at how audiobooks have taken off and have hope, but it's just so damn awful that it's hard to have any optimism.
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Old 04-28-2014, 08:00 PM
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doesn't science fiction need to be set in space, have aliens visiting earth or involve time travel.
Well, no.
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Old 04-28-2014, 08:54 PM
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A few that haven't received mention yet (assuming I searched well):

Jules Verne - Journey to the Center of the Earth
Edgar Rice Burroughs - The Barsoom Series (A Princess of Mars, etc.)
Ray Bradbury - The Martian Chronicles
Michael Crichton - The Andromeda Strain
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Old 04-28-2014, 09:23 PM
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I'd replace Stranger in a Strange Land with The Menace From Earth, to go along with The Moon/Mistress. I'd second Joe Haldeman's The Forever War. Gotta have a collection of Sturgeon short stories, I'm a complete sucker for Sturgeon, I'd nominate Case and the Dreamer but YMMV.

Last edited by Truman Burbank; 04-28-2014 at 09:27 PM. Reason: missed Forever War's nomination...people are posting faster than I can think...
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Old 04-28-2014, 09:51 PM
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Charles Sheffield - Brother to Dragons
Hal Clement - Mission of Gravity

It seems almost heretical to me to not include something by E. E. Smith. But his best known novels are all integral parts of series, I am at a loss to suggest a single title.
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Old 04-28-2014, 10:31 PM
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Two important classics:

Walter M. Miller - A Canticle for Liebowitz
Daniel Keys - Flowers for Algernon
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Old 04-28-2014, 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Evil Captor View Post
OK, I read the Amazon preview of Fforde's book and I had no interest in it based on the preview, so I'm gonna challenge that one. I would say it is not even a good book, much less an essential.
Don't judge it by the preview. The novel is not only very funny, but it's one of the most detailed and clever bits of world building in the genre. Everything in it sounds totally bizarre at first, but it turns out to all be based on some very logical social extrapolations, all of which deal with the issues of class stratification in society. It's one of the best SF books of the last ten years and one of the worst things about a similarly titled best seller is that it put the sequel on hold.

If you stll don't want it, replace it with Kit Reed's sensational Enclave or Thinner Than Thou.
8
  #34  
Old 04-28-2014, 10:55 PM
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Good luck working with your library. A few months back I reviewed the material available at the Wisconsin Digital library and found a disturbingly high proportion of them (20%) were Star Wars spin offs. I posted about it.
As far as I know, libraries buy certain crap because it's crap that circulates. I'm not sure if your statistical snapshot fits in with the overall trend, but maybe Lasciel could give some insight.

Any look at the "14-day" science fiction books (aka new acquisitions) at my library does reveal that a number of them are either Star Wars or similar spin-offs and lame series extensions like the eleventeenth sequel to Dune. I'm assuming that these are purchased because they circulate. Fortunately, there's always good stuff to balance it out, whether it be a new book by a great author, or some oddball thing I'd never heard of that looks really interesting.

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For Banks, do either Use of Weapons or The Player of Games. Heck, do both.
The list is only 50. Gots no room to do both!

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Which Heinlein's do you have ahead of Stranger? Besides The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress?
Starship Troopers and The Past Through Tomorrow.
Quote:
For Niven and some Jerry Pournelle, I'd pick Ringworld, Lucifer's Hammer and The Mote in God's Eye. I like Dream Park and The Magic Goes Away setting too, but can't pick them above those three.
I just added The Mote in God's Eye to the list. The other two are on.

Thanks for all your other great suggestions. The Stainless Steel Rat is definitely included in the second group, hopefully in a volume that contains a few novels. Strangely, they have 4 Stainless Steel Rat sequels, but not the original. I'm thinking a lot of the spottiness in the collection is because books that were originally there were lost/damaged and not replaced.

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Originally Posted by Truman Burbank View Post
I'd replace Stranger in a Strange Land with The Menace From Earth, to go along with The Moon/Mistress. I'd second Joe Haldeman's The Forever War. Gotta have a collection of Sturgeon short stories, I'm a complete sucker for Sturgeon, I'd nominate Case and the Dreamer but YMMV.
SiaSL wasn't included. The Menace from Earth is all kinds of awesome, but I think Past Through Tomorrow edges it out given the parameters of the project. I was planning to include Sturgeon's More than Human somewhere. The short stories aren't frequently reference, but I'll take a look (and at least read them myself!)

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Originally Posted by Suburban Plankton View Post
A few that haven't received mention yet (assuming I searched well):

Jules Verne - Journey to the Center of the Earth
Edgar Rice Burroughs - The Barsoom Series (A Princess of Mars, etc.)
Ray Bradbury - The Martian Chronicles
Michael Crichton - The Andromeda Strain
I wish I could include all those, but just not enough space. They'll be on the larger list, though. Martian Chronicles may be on the list of 50 though. I'm treading lightly with Crichton and Stephen King because of the inevitable "but they're not sci fi writers" thing. :: sigh ::

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Originally Posted by Lasciel View Post
Consumers now are very blessed. If you want a book, you can pretty much guarantee that you can find it somewhere. Amazon, abebooks, hell, look overseas and ship it in from India, or get it printed-on-demand from Lulu.

Most libraries cannot do this. Because they are spending government money, there are a shit-ton of restrictions governing how - and pertinent to this issue - WHERE they can spend. Most of us have to spend funds in specific places, which are usually big book "jobbers" like Brodart or Baker & Taylor, and once those places are out of copies in their warehouses, the libraries are shit outta luck.
First, thank you so much for all your insight. I know that there are all sorts of odd issues like those that you mention, which is why I would get total buy-in from the library and details on what exactly can be accepted for donation before I embarked on anything. There's no point in working to get something they can't (or don't want to) use.

In chatting with the reference librarian, she said that they mainly get books from Baker & Taylor and that they also get things unavailable from them through alibris or similar, so at least the door is open to get things from other sources.

I'm hoping we can do this primarily with donations from outside the library's budget. I don't expect them to be able to freely divert funds from other programs. And by donations, I mean cash, so we can acquire volumes that meet whatever standards they have. Hopefully it won't matter where private citizens get them from.

Quote:
Now, that's not a total death knell. There are usually paperbacks available - but some library policies prevent purchasing above a certain total collection percentage of paperbacks (because they wear out so much faster than hardbacks), or require that paperbacks be pre-bound, which is costly - our pre-bindery service runs about as much as each actual book costs us. (So, yes, every paperback I buy I'm essentially paying for it twice.
I'll check on the rules for paperback vs. hardback. There are a number of trade paperbacks in the sci fi collection and a couple of mass-market. I assume they'd want to avoid MM paperbacks as much as possible, but there have been a lot of trade paperback re-releases of classics lately, so we might be okay there.
I rarely see any pre-bound books. There are also a couple of key titles such as Rendezvous with Rama over in the relatively disorganized "paperback" section. Since they do have a few MMs in the regular sci-fi section, I'm going to suggest that a few titles be move over if possible.


Quote:
Frankly, it's frustrating as hell.
Yeah, it sounds that way. Keep on fighting the good fight, though. Your work is appreciated.



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Originally Posted by danhanegan View Post
Charles Sheffield - Brother to Dragons
Hal Clement - Mission of Gravity

It seems almost heretical to me to not include something by E. E. Smith. But his best known novels are all integral parts of series, I am at a loss to suggest a single title.
I'm considering Mission of Gravity and will look at Brother to Dragons for the next group. I plan to use First Lensman as the main title for the Lensman series with a note that it represents the series. (I know it's not actually first, but it sounds first-y and has Lensman in the title. Oh well)

On preview -
Liebowitz is on the list. Algernon is borderline at the moment.

And next...the list
  #35  
Old 04-28-2014, 11:05 PM
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IMO dump The Past Through Tomorrow for Stranger in a Strange Land. I don't even consider them in the same league, though YMMV of course.

As far as the Star Wars crap, it doesn't disturb me that there's some crap, but it really bothers me that 20% of the entire collection is spin off crap from one single series. I can only hope that someone with exceptionally bad taste is buying this stuff for the library, a far better situation than that of the library spending its own limited acquisition money on it.
  #36  
Old 04-28-2014, 11:09 PM
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Here is the list so far. Only 47 at the moment. I just yoinked the two YAs off the list (The Giver and A Wrinkle in Time). I can do YAs separately if needed. I also bumped Forever Peace to the next category. I added A Fire Upon the Deep and The Mote in God's Eye and still thinking about various suggestions. One thing you'll notice is that I've included a number of more recent works.

Have fun tearing it apart!!


Adams, Douglas - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Asimov, Isaac - Caves of Steel
Asimov, Isaac - Foundation
Asimov, Isaac - I, Robot
Atwood, Margaret - The Handmaid's Tale
Bacigalupi, Paolo - The Windup Girl
Bester, Alfred - The Stars My Destination
Bradbury, Ray - Fahrenheit 451
Brooks, Max - World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Burgess, Anthony - A Clockwork Orange
Card, Orson Scott - Ender's Game
Card, Orson Scott - Speaker for the Dead
Chabon, Michael - The Yiddish Policeman'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. - The Past Through Tomorrow
Heinlein, Robert A. - Starship Troopers
Heinlein, Robert A. - The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Herbert, Frank - Dune
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
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, Larry and Pournelle, Jerry - Lucifer's Hammer
Niven, Larry and Pournelle, Jerry - The Mote In God's Eye
Orwell, George - Nineteen Eighty-Four
Pohl, Frederik - Gateway
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
  #37  
Old 04-28-2014, 11:11 PM
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IMO dump The Past Through Tomorrow for Stranger in a Strange Land. I don't even consider them in the same league, though YMMV of course.

As far as the Star Wars crap, it doesn't disturb me that there's some crap, but it really bothers me that 20% of the entire collection is spin off crap from one single series. I can only hope that someone with exceptionally bad taste is buying this stuff for the library, a far better situation than that of the library spending its own limited acquisition money on it.
I think I may have to violate my own 3-per-author rule and include SiaSL.

WRT Star Wars junk - yeah, that it is all from a single series is pretty unbelievable. I agree that some diversity in crap is called for.
  #38  
Old 04-28-2014, 11:42 PM
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I would dump Speaker for the Dead for one of your second tier. Another Heinlein, or Algernon.

I'm rethinking 1984 -- I'm wonder if it's more Cold War political polemic than science fiction. And you could say the same thing about On the Beach. Both are outstanding books, but IMO are more fiction than science fiction.

Generally speaking, though, it's a very fine list.
  #39  
Old 04-29-2014, 12:01 AM
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Thanks.

1984 has to stay on the list because it's on so many "top science fiction lists." I consider it firmly in the sci-fi genre myself, but it's really the former reason that it needs to stay.

On the Beach is post-apocalyptic, and thus science fiction. It's certainly an essential of the post-apoc subgenre, but I might be willing to bump it off this list. (hate to see it go, though!)
  #40  
Old 04-29-2014, 12:34 AM
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I would dump "Old Man's War" for sure. It's got an interesting setup, but it's basically military SF.
  #41  
Old 04-29-2014, 12:34 AM
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Clifford Simak - City
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - Cat's Cradle

and as much as I dislike it...

Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged
  #42  
Old 04-29-2014, 12:45 AM
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I see you dropped Heineiln's Stranger in a Strange Land. I'm sorry, but that must be on the list. It's one of the most influential American novels of all time. It may not be a great book, but it's an important one.
  #43  
Old 04-29-2014, 12:47 AM
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What about anything by Stephen King? The Stand? The Gunslinger books?

I noticed you knocked Tolkien's books as "not science fiction"...I presume we're eschewing fantasy altogether? Because to me, books like Clockwork Orange are also only vaguely sci-fi...more like "possible near future" type books, if you get what I mean. What about a book like The Road, then?

What about Sagan's Contact?
  #44  
Old 04-29-2014, 01:26 AM
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Thanks for the compliment, Green Bean. This'll be brief; I'm heading to bed, but FGIE has a point: including books like On the Beach, A Clockwork Orange, The Man in the High Castle, and The Yiddish Policeman's Union, really makes me wonder where the line is that we're drawing between fantasy and SF. If The Road counts, then why not The Stand? If Alt-History is on the table, then why no Turtledove?

I'd swap out On the Beach for Warday. Warday does the "post-nuclear war" thing much better, IMHO, and Childhood's End does the,
SPOILER:
"What do we do when we're the last humans and this is it?"
question much, much better.

(People, CE's been out forever: I feel silly for hiding my point with a spoiler tag, but you really should go read it if you haven't already. It's short, too.)

Iain Banks is on a very short list of the Best Sci-FI Writers of the last 20 years. Not to have one of his on your list is a mistake, IMHO. Pick Use of Weapons if you're a frustrated English Lit grad student, though the unconventional structure actually adds a lot to the story, IMHO. Pick The Player of Games (or Excession or Look to Windward) if you want an interesting, seductively easy to read tale, with several interesting things to say about whichever topic he was addressing (Out of Context problems, how people heal from wartime trauma, etc...) All of his previous ones that others and I have mentioned, are much more than space opera or a list of the new and shiny. Pick whichever one you want, but you need one, again IMHO.

I'd dump Slaughterhouse Five and World War Z; the first because his short stories are much better at getting to the point---I'd support Welcome to The Monkey House on your list---and WWZ because it's more fantasy than SF.

This is fun; thanks for the OP.
  #45  
Old 04-29-2014, 03:26 AM
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I'm sorry, but that's incorrect.
by whose standards?
  #46  
Old 04-29-2014, 07:48 AM
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by whose standards?
Mine, for one. If that doesn't convince you, there are plenty of novels and stories recognized as science fiction don't involve space, aliens, or time travel. Even popular science fiction films don't always have such-- consider The Matrix and Inception.

As for the list, I applaud the decision to omit SiaSL. It's probably not even RAH's best-known novel any more-- Starship Troopers probably has that honor, due to the film and TV adaptations. Science fiction authors who seek to emulate Heinlein no longer, as far as I can tell, emulate SiaSL. John Varley appears to emulate the juvies, actually. I don't deny that the book was influential in the 60's, though.

Speaking of Heinlein's juvies, I'm partial to Tunnel in the Sky and would rate it above The Past Through Tomorrow. I'd not mind seeing Heinlein limited to two titles, though, and would suggest that two is a better limit than three, as it adds room for scope but still allows masters to be recognized.

However, Greenbean's list has a lot of honorable choices-- Wells, Shelley, Verne, and so on, books I don't particularly like but understand appearing on the list. Maybe SiaSL should be on there for similar reasons.

I'd like to commend Gene Wolfe to the list, although my suggestion would be The Shadow of the Torturer, which is probably too far toward the fantasy end of the speculative spectrum.

I'd also suggest that Card be limited to Ender's Game.

Stanislaw Lem strikes me as a noticeable omission, although I'm not really a fan of his work.

Speaking of Varley, I'm partial to his stuff and would suggest Titan, the starting point of his Gaea Trilogy. His Hugo and Nebula wins were for novellas and short stories, though.

Edit: remembered Poul Anderson-- maybe Tau Zero, although it's been a long time since I read it. I'm fond of Brain Wave as well.

Last edited by Dave Hartwick; 04-29-2014 at 07:52 AM.
  #47  
Old 04-29-2014, 09:55 AM
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Green Bean, you include Hyperion, which I agree with, but it's only the first half of the story unless you also include Fall of Hyperion, which I think is just as well-written.
  #48  
Old 04-29-2014, 10:03 AM
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Thanks to all for all the input!

Heavily line-by-line here...

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Originally Posted by Evil Captor View Post
I would dump "Old Man's War" for sure. It's got an interesting setup, but it's basically military SF.
It's also one of the most acclaimed, recommended, and popular of the newer science fiction novels. I agree that it's not terribly original, but according to the scope of the project set out in post 23, it must be included. It's probably the first thing I would say if people asked me for some recommendations of some newer works. (I picked it up because of this thread I made in 2009, by the way.)

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Originally Posted by MrKnowItAll View Post
Clifford Simak - City
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - Cat's Cradle

and as much as I dislike it...

Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged
The first two are on the second list. As far as Atlas Shrugged...I agree with you 100% that it's an important work of science fiction, but having it on this list of 50 wouldn't serve my purposes. It would just be a distraction. I mean, you couldn't even mention it without saying you disliked it. I can't mention it without saying something like "in spite of the philosophy..." I tried splitting out the ones that were considered more as literature than sci fi, but that ended up creating more problems than it solved. Judged as science fiction alone, it wouldn't get near the top 50, IMHO. It will certainly be on the list somewhere, though, along with Anthem. (I can't decide whether The Fountainhead counts.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by FoieGrasIsEvil View Post
What about anything by Stephen King? The Stand? The Gunslinger books?
As I said somewhere upthread, I'm treading lightly with King. The Stand is absolutely one of the top books in (post-)apocalyptic sci fi, but I can't put it in the top 50 for some of the same reasons as I cited for The Fountainhead. As far as the Gunslinger, I've put a lot of thought into whether it falls more on the side of sci fi or fantasy (or maybe something else entirely), and whether it can be considered post-apocalyptic. The answer for now is "I dunno," but it will end up on a list somewhere.

Quote:
I noticed you knocked Tolkien's books as "not science fiction"...I presume we're eschewing fantasy altogether? Because to me, books like Clockwork Orange are also only vaguely sci-fi...more like "possible near future" type books, if you get what I mean. What about a book like The Road, then?
So people dealing with the aftermath of a nuclear war is somehow more fantastical than a bunch of orcs and hobbits running around looking for a magical ring? "Possible near-future" is science fiction. I know some people do like to define it more narrowly, but I'm going with the broader consensus for this list. That definition excludes most of what we consider "fantasy," but some works have feet in both worlds.

Sagan's Contact is notable but not essential.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gray Ghost View Post
This'll be brief; I'm heading to bed, but FGIE has a point: including books like On the Beach, A Clockwork Orange, The Man in the High Castle, and The Yiddish Policeman's Union, really makes me wonder where the line is that we're drawing between fantasy and SF. If The Road counts, then why not The Stand? If Alt-History is on the table, then why no Turtledove?
See my answer above to some of this. For the purposes of this list, I'm including alternate history in the science fiction category. Turtledove will be included in the larger list, but thanks for reminding me. I'm not sure why you mention On the Beach as it doesn't have any fantastical elementas at all. IIRC, A Clockwork Orange doesn't either. (I haven't read The Man in the High Castle yet)

As for where the line is between fantasy and science fiction - well, to a large extent it just comes down to a judgment call. There's lots of information out there to help me make a decision, and all of these choices are based on broad-based research, but utimately I just have to decide what counts and what doesn't. The presence or absence of magic/supernatural elements is one important factor, but clearly not the only one.


Quote:
I'd dump Slaughterhouse Five and World War Z; the first because his short stories are much better at getting to the point---I'd support Welcome to The Monkey House on your list---and WWZ because it's more fantasy than SF.

This is fun; thanks for the OP.
Which point? People will be looking for Slaughterhouse-Five. WWZ is an apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic novel that deals with a global pandemic, so I'm not sure why it would be considered fantasy. Because the virus turns people into zombies?

And you're welcome. This is fun for me too.

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Originally Posted by Dave Hartwick View Post
As for the list, I applaud the decision to omit SiaSL. It's probably not even RAH's best-known novel any more-- Starship Troopers probably has that honor, due to the film and TV adaptations. Science fiction authors who seek to emulate Heinlein no longer, as far as I can tell, emulate SiaSL.
Those reasons all play into my leaving it off in the first place. It has simply faded in importance as time has passed. But I think I have to add it in.

Quote:
I'd not mind seeing Heinlein limited to two titles, though, and would suggest that two is a better limit than three, as it adds room for scope but still allows masters to be recognized.
Allowing more from each author better serves the purpose of this particular list. More scope will be found in the expanded list. There are certainly pros and cons to both approaches, and there are some great lists out there that only allow one book per author.

Quote:
However, Greenbean's list has a lot of honorable choices-- Wells, Shelley, Verne, and so on, books I don't particularly like but understand appearing on the list. Maybe SiaSL should be on there for similar reasons.
To be clear, there are a lot of books on the list that I don't particularly like! They're on the list because they should be on the list, not because I personally thought they were enjoyable. I'm trying to make it as unbiased as possible.

Quote:
Stanislaw Lem strikes me as a noticeable omission, although I'm not really a fan of his work.

Speaking of Varley, I'm partial to his stuff and would suggest Titan, the starting point of his Gaea Trilogy. His Hugo and Nebula wins were for novellas and short stories, though.

Edit: remembered Poul Anderson-- maybe Tau Zero, although it's been a long time since I read it. I'm fond of Brain Wave as well.
Solaris is on the second list. The Cyberiad will be included somewhere as well. Titan is under consideration as is Tau Zero, but I think they'll likely end up on the second list.
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Originally Posted by Robert163 View Post
by whose standards?
Hey Margaret - if you want to argue that "science fiction" is something entirely different than what everybody else thinks it is, please start a new thread about it and stop hijacking this one.
  #49  
Old 04-29-2014, 10:20 AM
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It's also one of the most acclaimed, recommended, and popular of the newer science fiction novels. I agree that it's not terribly original, but according to the scope of the project set out in post 23, it must be included. It's probably the first thing I would say if people asked me for some recommendations of some newer works. (I picked it up because of this thread I made in 2009, by the way.)
Still not buying it, but it's your list. Early on reading the book I was V ERY excited, thinking this would be a fascinating exploration of what happens when someone who has lived a full life and isn't just a malleable kid gets made into a soldier. But by the end I found myself wishing heartily that a more accomplished writer had had the same idea. He missed a lot of good opportunities.

Quote:
WWZ is an apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic novel that deals with a global pandemic, so I'm not sure why it would be considered fantasy. Because the virus turns people into zombies?
Yes, because the virus turns people into zombies, a well known fantasy creature. It would also be considered fantasy if the virus turned people into werewolves or vampires. Just because a writer has come up with some technological jazz hands for their story doesn't mean it's not fantasy.
  #50  
Old 04-29-2014, 10:36 AM
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Green Bean, you have a list of science fiction books people like. There is no particular significance to most of the books on your list. You could break this out based historical growth of the genre, a breakdown of the different themes of science fiction, quality of writing, or some other meaningful criteria. Otherwise you're just providing a list of popular books which should really be full of Star Wars and Star Trek fan novels which have probably outsold all the rest. IMHO that is, make your list however you like.
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