What every well-read Science-Fiction fan should read-maybe. (very long!)

Sorry, I tried responding yesterday, and couldn’t seem to post to the site.

Anyway, sorry about missing Willis (hey, it was a long list). I’m not actually a fan of Tepper’s, but her books seem to get talked about a lot.

I’d second a vote for The Diamond Age; a good treatment of nanotech, and one of the more current “futurist” books.

It seems Sterling has a couple of fairly influental books that you don’t mention, but I’m drawing a blank on them.

Some quick thoughts:

I’d third The Diamond Age.
I’d toss Chalker and Zenna Henderson - Yes I love those books too, but they’re really not first tier :slight_smile: .
I might add a Greg Bear and possibly a Sherri Tepper to the modern list.
I would definitely keep The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which I consider Heilein’s finest work. I would cut Tunnel in the Sky.
I might add Pohl and Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants.
I am very equivocal on this, but I might add one of Cherryh’s space operas. Either Downbelow Station or Cyteen.
I probably would add Samuel R. Delaney’s Dhalgren

Maybe more later… :slight_smile:

  • Tamerlane

::Arm…being…twisted…“Pain, doctor!” ::

OW! OK! I GIVE! Diamond Age is in, but I’m not budging on Caves of Steel! It’s either the first or second SF mystery and it’s absolutely perfectly representative of Asimov. :stuck_out_tongue:

Captain A.: 2001: Maybe, but I’d rather put the Clarke collection that has the story “The Sentinel”. Make Room[sup]2[/sup] : good stuff, but not important enough.

Regarding Hubbard, I’d rather put some of his decent stuff in. He was actually pretty popular for about 5 years or so. Maybe Typewriter in the Sky

Saint Zero: I love the first three or so Stainless Steel Rat books, but I don’t think they’re important enough. I’d be more inclined to choose either Deathworld: 1 or West of Eden and I don’t think either one are quite important enough. Riverworld is a series, and I’m avoiding series.

ENugent: I bounced off of Doomsday Book, so I’m biased. I know it won a Hugo so it’s obviously important, but would you call it influential?

Kress is a serious contender. I read the series in one lump, does Beggars in Spain stand alone pretty well?

Chalker: I might be able to make the case that it was a return to unashamed “Doc” Smith type BIG ideas. Would you buy that arguement? (<sigh> neither would I. It’s probably gone.)

Henderson: Along with “Astra” Bradley she was one of the first female SF authors who didn’t munge her gender: “C.L. Moore” et al.

If I add a Greg Bear it’d either be Blood Music (with the “Is it Cyberpunk or ain’t it” controversy, it has a claim to fame) or Forge of God which I loved.

I did cut decide to cut Tunnel (and I went with Have Spacesuit over Citizen of the Galaxy. Have Spacesuit is the archtypal juvie). Space Merchants: dunno. More than Gladiator at Law? Or in addition to it?

Cyteen: <sigh> Yeah, you’re right. It’s in. Dhalgren…um… <bias alert> I don’t know that it influenced the genre, except to drive people in the other direction</bias alert> :smiley: .


Hmm…there should be a “Lost World” novel. Burrough’s Pellucidar stuff (which was the first in the series? At The Earth’s Core or Doyle’s The Lost World? or something else?


Fenris: Point taken on Henderson. And as a unusually gentle, but still fascinating take on the genre, I suppose a case could be made for it :wink: .

Forge of God is a great choice.

The Space Merchants? Wellll…Again it was one of the first novels to attempt humor and satire in quite that fashion. I think it has some historical importance, but I admit it’s on the cusp.

As for Dhalgren - Your anti-New Wave bias is peeking out :smiley: . Whatever else you can say about it, it did have a lot of impact. At the very least it influenced the people who discussed the genre :wink: .You might want include it just as the epitome of the 70’s New Wave and your hatred of it :stuck_out_tongue: .

Now what about steampunk? I know it is far more fantasy than sf, but I have an enormous affection for Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates. As an example of a “cross-over”, you really couldn’t do any better.

Oh and I’d have gone with Citizen of the Galaxy, but I can’t really fault you for going the other way :wink: .

  • Tamerlane

Damn! Once again it looks like Fenris has been looking at my bookshelf - I do indeed admire your taste.

Let us not be so quick to dump Mr. Chalker. He has a damn fine grasp of the Big Idea and a narrative that moves right along, giving fair value for the money. He does indeed remember what a writer should do, and that’s to entertain.

Other suggestions:

As long as we’re talking Big Ideas, I have to mention Julian May’s “Pleistocene Saga” which tweaked my sense of wonder, even on multiple rereads.

Poul Anderson could be in for a LOT of his work, be it a Nicholas Van Rijn or Ensign Flandry or “Time Patrol” yarn. Much laughter and pathos as well. (It ain’t just the Hokas, though he’s been writing a lot of them lately) Jeez, just a look at “High Crusade” or “Un-Man”. And don’t even get me started on his fantasy stuff.

At the early end of the spectrum, I might add Edward Bellamy and “Looking Backward.” perhaps because I have a first edition that belonged to a great aunt of mine. Pretty decent sense of wonder for something over a century old.

Sorry you weren’t as impressed with “Childhood’s End” I liked the central conceit though I wasn’t happy with the ending, I could feel its power. Again maybe influenced because I have an autographed copy, back from the days when I was in impoverished undergrad and Arthur Clarke actually came to our small university for a lecture and a book signing. One of those Great Moments, because there were only half a dozen of us fans at the book signin, and he just happened to have some pre-release stills from this little movie he was doing with Stanley Kubrick…

No doubt I’ll have some more quibbles later,

Thanks, Fenris. Great list. I found that I’m much better read on the older end of the list. (This marriage and kids stuff takes a major toll on available reading time.) Some may argue that it’s a little heavy on the Heinlein, perhaps — but can you really have too much Heinlein?

As for Heinlein’s Juvie representative, I’d choose Have Spacesuit, Will Travel over Citizen of the Galaxy specifically because I first read COTG when I was rather young and found it too disturbing to enjoy very much. Upon re-reading it later, I was better able to appreciate it. HS,WT is definitely a better representative of Heinlein’s way of hooking a kid into loving science fiction.

I’ll second the motion to change Brin’s The Uplift War to Startide Rising. And as for the motion to boot The Moon is a Harsh Mistress? Heresy!

Orson Scott Card probably deserves another listing in the 90’s and beyond, but I’m not sure which one to choose. I’d also give some thought to adding a David Gerrold.

Edgar Rice Burroughs definitely does belong on the list. And I’m not fond of Vonnegut, but will admit that he does belong on the list. And somehow or other, I’ve managed to make it this far without reading Flowers for Algernon, but after seeing it on this and so many other of the “books I loved” or “science fiction must-read” lists I’ve seen around here, I’m going to have to put it on my list of books to pick up next time I’m out.

Fenris: You know what? I’d also dump Starship Troopers. I can make a case ( though Im sure I’d get plenty of disagreement :wink: ) that it is one of Heinlein’s weaker juveniles ( which is who it originally was written for, though it was published as an “adult” work ). I don’t think it merits the attention of either Moon… which is a masterwork or Strangers… which was less effective, but had a huge cultural impact. It’s well-known, sure. But I think it is all too often viewed as quintessential Heinlein by the public at large. Besides, influential as he was, you’re still just a little heavy on the Heinlein :slight_smile: .

  • Tamerlane

Left off part of a sentence. “But I think it is all too often viewed as the quintessential Heinlein by the public at large, when it really shouldn’t be.”

  • Tamerlane

This is perhaps true (I’m totally not a Heinlein fan - I’ve only ever managed to finish ST and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (The latter inspired an Uber-X-Over anime Fanfic), though I DID give Stranger a try, and I keep hoping to find a copy of Have Spacesuit…), but we’re not talking quality, we’re talking influence…

Though, I guess ST didn’t have that much influence in the West… Well… I’m an anime fan… And some of my favourites are Mecha series. If you can’t see a ST influence there, you’re just not looking.

BTW, Fenris - I’m surprised you ‘throw the book across the room hated’ Childhood’s End. (Only 2 books that get that for me are Heinleins - Farnham’s Freehold and Puppet Masters, so I guess it’s unsurprising we have differing tastes.) I consider it one of the most incredible books ever written.

Then again I’m about the only person I know who thinks it has a happy ending.

Tengu: Re: Starship Troopers - I must say I never considered the anime angle. It’s an interesting observation. But contrary to YWalker’s observation I think you can have too much Heinlein on a list of this nature :smiley: . For the sake of brevity I still think one should be cut. And for me Starship Troopers is far and away the weakest link :wink: .

  • Tamerlane

Fenris, I’m not sure what you mean by more info on Kate Elliott’s works, but I’ll give it a shot. Jaran and all the other books are part of what Elliott fans will be a five or six book series. It deals with a future where Earth is overtaken and benevolently smothered by an alien race after humans have rebelled against them. It also deals with other worlds where a human interacts with a Russian-like matrifocal culture called the Jaran. It’s basically got politics, chess, adventure, romance, war, and cultural clash in it. Great stuff. Each book is about 500 pages, and I read all four books in one week. Averaged a book a day. THAT’S good stuff. :slight_smile:

Dark Matter is an anthology of speculative fiction written by writers of African descent. It spans a century of sci fi, fantasy, and just speculative fiction by authors like Charles Chesnutt, W.E.B. DuBois, George S. Schuyler, Nalo Hopkinson, Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler . . . Again, great stuff.

Octavia E. Butler’s stuff is just outstanding, but then I’m biased since she’s my absolute favorite writer. Like Elliott, I can’t put her books down until I’ve finished them. Kindred, the Xenogenesis Trilogy, which was recently reissued as Lilith’s Brood; Wild Seed; Parable of the Sower_; Bloodchild, two stories in this collection won the Hugo; Clay’s Ark; Parable of the Talents, which won the 2000 Nebula. Hope this helps.

Tamerlane: Dhalgren:Ummm…can we compromise on Babel-17 or Nova? I really, really hated Dahlgren. I believe that both won Nebula Awards and were Hugo nominees…(Is my bias still showing?):smiley:

Anubius Gate: I haven’t read it since it came, but there’s this terrifying, wonderful moment that stuck with me for however many years since: Whatshisname is lost in the past in London. Then at twilight, he hears, from somewhere across the city, someone whisting a Beatles tune, and someone else responding as he looks around frantically. It’s one of the most evocative moments I’ve ever read. I think of it more as fantasy though. But, good LORD it’s a creepy, wonderful book (that’s due a reread, now that you mention it).

Hometown Boy: I loved May’s stuff (and remember gnashing my teeth waiting for the fourth book in the Exiles series to come out), but I’m avoiding series, or it’d be on there.

With Anderson. I really, really wanna put Operation Chaos (one of my all-time favorite books) on the list, but I can’t quite justify it. Someone upthread suggested Tao Zero which I’m seriously considering. Any suggestions for a stand-alone Anderson? I haven’t read the Van Rijn stuff. Suggestions? Hey, what about Brainwave?

Bellamy: I’m concerned about having too many turn-of-the-Century Utopians, but it was important. Maybe.

Re your quibbles. Please! Seriously, I’m interested!

YWalker: But I didn’t like the Startide Rising nearly as much. Still, I know when I’m outnumbered: Tell ya what: I’ll put it on as an either/or choice like I did with “Doc” Smith.

Re: “Flowers For Algernon”. Read the short story first. It’s been reprinted everywhere and it’s better.

I don’t think we need another Card novel, but if I were doing short stories, the one about the girl who traces woodgrains would be there.

Gerrold is wonderful, but I don’t think he’s influential enough. Yet. His new series Jumping off the Planet et al, may change that! (Best damned juvies since Heinlein quit writing 'em.)

Tamerlane again: Starship Troopers, for all that it’s a fairly weak Heinlein was far too important for the genre. If nothing else, there’s too much controversy about it. I agree it’s the weakest of the Heinlein books, but consider this: I cut Time Enough for Love to put Starship Troopers on. Plus I think that The Forever War would be less effective without it. Since I refuse to cut Moon, that leaves Stranger. And I can’t justify cutting that either. I think we’re stuck. :slight_smile:

Tengu, to me, Childhood’s End was just too smarmy (The aliens who just happen to be mouthpieces for Clarke’s philosophy). Heinlein does exactly the same thing, but I tend to agree with Heinlein more than Clarke and even when I don’t, I don’t find his lectures nearly as annoying. (Puppet Masters made you throw the book across the room?! :eek: Wow! We do have different, but parallel, tastes! :slight_smile: )

There’s a moment in…um…Fountains of Paradise(?) where the narrator starts talking about how an alien message has convinced all humanity to give up their stupid religions. Um…except Buddhism, which Clarke happens to like. :rolleyes:. I love much of Clarke’s stuff, but I hate it when he preaches. Still, I think you’re right about Childhood’s End’s importance. I’ll add it to the list. I still want a good collection of Clarke’s stories, dammit!

By the way, have you ever read Keith Laumer’s The Monitors? It’s a hysterically funny “response” to Childhood’s End. Imagine Childhood’s End meets “Dr. Strangelove”. Bizarre and funny.


Two authors who may be a little too recent for this list, but I’m going to throw them out anyway, because I’m betting that they’re going to be influential someday:

Jonathan Lethem: As She Crawled Across the Table, which is that rarest of birds, hard sf with a focuse on characters, or possibly Gun, with Occasional Music which is 1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm, and ** The Maltese Falcon** all rolled into one. Maybe that should be Most Influenced SF, but still good.

Nicola Griffin: Slow River which is great enviromentalist cyber-punk. Also counts as Queer Lit, which is so far under-represented on this list. Maybe some Samuel Delaney as well?

Another influential book, though not normally considered sf: The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. Although considering the reaction to her name in some of the other recent book-related threads, bringing her up now might get me banned for trolling.

I agree that Caves of Steel should be in there, but I guess we’ll have to disagree on The Naked Sun. Since we’re allowed self-indulgent choices, I’ve always liked Asimov’s quirky The End of Eternity.

On a more serious note, how come Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 isn’t on the list?

Fenris: Okay, y’all have convinced me - I give on Starship Troopers :wink: .

Dhalgren? Well, it holds a stronger place historically than the other two, I think. But if it’s really giving you the willies, one of the others will do as an example :smiley: .

But just so I don’t appear too agreeable ( :wink: ), I’ll agree with Terminus Est that Fahrenheit 451 trumps any other Bradbury and is a must include. I’d go with two - that and either The Martian Chronicles ( probably more significant in terms of popular impact ) or The Illustrated Man ( a personal favorite and a better book IMHO ).

Also Miller has a point. As modern works go, The Handmaiden’s Tale has had a lot of impact. It probably deserves consideration.

As to Ellison collections - I submit that the massive The Essential Ellison is merited by his contributions, even if it covers some non-sf pieces.

  • Tamerlane

My £0.02 on Delany: being a linguistician, I’d go with Babel-17. I found Dhalgren really tough going.

David Pringle, Satan’s Own Critic? I though that was Greg Feely… so hard to keep up with the Lord of Darkness these days…

Somebody mentioned James Blish and Cities in Flight… perhaps that’s too uneven a series to count as a whole, but could a case be made for the more self-contained A Case of Conscience?

I agree. Letham isn’t influential enough yet…But I agree, he’ll probably be there someday.


Haven’t read. Didn’t it win a Nebula? Think it’s influential enough?

I’m debating with Tamerlane about which Delany to put on.

Regarding gay authors, I’m trying to decide if Gerrold’s Jumping off the Planet can be added (as the first juvie (Heinlein-quality too!) that deals (in a limited way) with gay issues).


I disagree on this one. I didn’t think the writing was particularly good, the book made a brief splash and is now mostly…not forgotten, but…, plus Atwood’s sneering comments to the effect of “I don’t write science fiction, I write for adults” (not an exact quote) make me leary of putting her in the list


Terminus: :slight_smile: We’re not communicating here! :wink: I love The Naked Sun and I agree that it’s a better read and a better look at Elijah’s character. I just don’t think it’s as groundbreaking as Caves.

Regarding Fahreneheit 451? Because I missed it. Oops! Thanks for catching it. It’s on, now. Either The Martian Chronicles OR R is for Rocket is getting the axe. Opinions?

Tamerlane: Steven Wright suggests Babel-17 and I think I agree. You’ve been the big Pro-Delany force so far, if you give it your “ok”, it’s on.

Essential Ellison: Hmmmmm…That sounds like a pretty good idea. I don’t have it, though. Does it cover his stuff from the '50s to present?

Steve: I agree that Cities in Flight is too uneven. A Case of Conscience is a good idea (even if Blish apparently screws up Catholic doctrine pretty seriously at a few points…there was a massive thread about this on rec.arts.sf.written a year or so back.)

Regarding David Pringle: You didn’t know? Pringle is the Critic of Darkness! :wink: He wrote a book with the modest title of The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction where he gave more stars to Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of the movie Starman than he gave to Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (granted, not Heinlein’s best, but still!) and where he described Walter John Williams as “unimaginative”. I also note that he consistantly adds a star to novels where he agrees with the politics and subtracts one (or more) when he doesn’t. And he doesn’t know the difference between “conservative” and “libertarian” and “fascist”. </end rant> :: wipes flecks of spittle off the keyboard :: I’m ok now. How are you? :smiley:

Oops, missed someone. celestina: I’m avoiding series (except Foundation), since Elliott’s books are a series (unless they can be read as stand-alone’s), I probably won’t add them. (I may go out and get 'em for myself though. They sound great!)

Dark Matter has been added, it sounds like a wide ranging collection, plus I need a good anthology from the '90s. (I assume since Nalo Hopkinson is in it, it’s recent)

Butler is really starting to make an impact. Maybe one book by her: I want more short stories in the 80’s-'90s…you said Bloodchild was a collection with two Hugo-winning shorts, right? I’ll probably put it on.

Everyone: We still need a good representative Sturgeon short-story collection, ditto for Clarke’s short stories, Sheckly short-stories (it turns out the upcoming NESFA book is a collection of his novels), and possibly something by Anderson. Suggestions?