November 16, 2010

SF Books To Stand the Test of Time ... or not. Alas, I've not read many of the newer of these, but there are also a number of tried and true titles mentioned.

What have other monkeys have read recently in the field? Do you agree or disagree with these choices?

  • The only two I've read off this list are Ted Chiang's short story collection Stories of Your Life And Others and Neal Stephenson's Anathem, both of which I loved. I will have to get Moon's Speed Of Dark, I think, because I've found that I like her science fiction much better than her fantasy. I found it a little strange that China Mieville isn't on this list anywhere, and I'd say that Ursula Le Guin's Changing Planes is at least as good a short story collection as Chiang's (if very different). (But then I have a huge bias towards Le Guin in general). What of your own reading and thoughts, Bees?
  • Plan to acquire several of these - with Chiang's collection topping the shopping list. Always have enjoyed short SF fiction as much as or more than novels. Still think the outstanding SF short story is Zelazny's A Rose for Ecclesiastes. Never cared for his Amber series, but much of his non-series work was excellent. Alas, current and past SF series often seem to be sadly unimaginative, often imitative, with authors flogging a dead horse to death. (Robert Jordan's stuff, for example, I find completely unreadable.) I enjoyed Torve the Trog immensely. Dune was fascinating. Sequels not so much so. Some old favorites: Frank Herbert's early works, such as Whipping Star - have been wedged in my mind for years. Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar. Gordon Dickson's Dorsai tales. I, Robot. The Illustrated Man. The Circus of Dr. Lao. The Left Hand of Darkness is superb, but find I want to like LeGuin's more recent work more than I actually like it, if ye see what I mean. Of SF genres - or should it be sub-genres? - I prefer tales of First Contact, or of aliens and alien cultures interfacing with human people. Overall, the biggest attraction for me in SF is the alien, whether individuals, cultures, or environments. Banks' tales of The Culture are ingenious and often make me laugh. Sorry to have taken so long to respond, Pallas Athena - I was unexpectedly called away yesterday.
  • The genre that dare not speak its name. . . has been around a long time. Genre - meaning bookseller's labels such as Juvenile Fiction or Science Fiction - often seem arbitrary and unfounded. And why, for instance, isn't Beowulf or A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court considered SF? If you are classifying any work according to its content, then consider the content of a work rather than mere venerabilty or its author's reputation. Otherwise what is the justification for genre distinction?
  • You may already have found it, bees, but Ted Chiang's Hugo-winning short story Exhalation can be read online here. (The publishers put it up, so it's not illicit.) I also found Le Guin's Seasons of the Ansarac, from Changing Planes (again, Le Guin links to it from her website, so I assume it's legit.) I say a big YAY to many of your citations: The Circus of Dr Lao blew my early-teenage mind! And I, too, find it difficult to "get into" Jordan. I just found and read "A Rose For Ecclesiastes", and found it very moving. It is a very, very good First Contact story, and makes me want to read more of Zelazny's, so I'll look for some next time I'm in ye olde genre-fiction shoppe... for which you've handed me quite a shopping list! The other writer I love, who's devilish hard to get hold of these days, is John M. Ford. His two books of short stories and poems are still in print, as well as my all-time favourite alternate history book, The Dragon Waiting. I do know what you mean about First Contact, and I think that Le Guin's background as an anthropologist is one of the reasons I like her work so much: it's social-science-fiction. Anyway, I think I'm waffling, and I should be either practicing or sewing, so I shall bid thee adieu for now. But I hope whatever called you away was all right in the end, and that all is well with you as winter settles in.
  • Oooh, and there's me failing to hit Preview. And still not practicing or sewing. Sigh. A hard-SF sort of person (which I'm not) would argue that Beowulf contains no science, and is therefore fantasy rather than SF. A case definitely exists for A Connecticut Yankee as SF, because of all the introductions of anachronistic technology. I agree, though, that if the SF label must exists, then it should be applied to more things that normally sit under Classics, from Rudyard Kipling to Lady Margaret Cavendish.
  • We seem to be in accord: genre be damned. Quibble, minor league: SF can be regarded as either Science Fiction and/or Science Fantasy. Ach! and must these damnfool poets always opt for ambiguity!?! Well, yes, it seems they have a bent that way. Kipling must eventually emerge from the misjudgements shadowing his work - for he's a superb poet and magnificent story-teller. I'm delighted you mentioned him.
  • MonkeyFilter: Genre be damned! More Ted Chaing While browsing Tor for SiFi, I found this in the Fantasy section. Still a nice read: The Cat Who Walked 1000 Miles--Kij Johnson
  • Oh, and there's this: The Centaurs Rudyard Kipling "The United Idolaters" Up came the young Centaur-colts from the plains they were fathered in-- Curious, awkward, afraid. Burrs on their hocks and their tails, they were branded and gath- ered in Mobs and run up to the yard to be made. Starting and shying at straws, with sidlings and plungings, Buckings and whirlings and bolts; Greener than grass, but full-ripe for their bridling and lungings, Up to the yards and to Chiron they bustled the colts... First the light web and the cavesson; then the linked keys To jingle and turn on the tongue. Then, with cocked ears, The hours of watching and envy, while comrades at ease Passaged and backed, making naught of these terrible gears. Next, over-pride and its price at the low-seeming fence Too oft and too easily taken -- the world-beheld fall! And none in the yard except Chiron to doubt the immense, Irretrievable shame of it all!... Last, the trained squadron, full-charge -- the sound of a going Through dust and spun clods, and strong kicks, pelted in as they went, And repaid at top-speed; till the order to halt without slowing Showed every colt on his haunches--and Chiron content! Now we've been Kippled.
  • Thanks for those links, BlueHorse. The Cat's seems a pleasant enough fantasy, but the Chiang is greatly appreciated. Pallas Athena, I've ordered Chiang's book and a couple of the others you spoke well of. It's not unusual for me to be called away on business matters these days, so don't worry. My health is excellent, barring a few aches where long-healed fractures remind me not to go cracking any other bones.
  • a pleasant enough fantasy Exactly! Sometimes I'm just looking for 20 minutes of escapism. Bees, if you must go away for a bit, please warn us and then let us know (approx) when you'll be back? *Cranky Ol' Mare pleads, batting her sparse eyelashes*
  • Well, I don't expect to travel abroad again for at least a year, BlueHorse. I will give advance notice if I plan to be away for more than, perhaps, the odd weekend or thereabouts. *easily conned by the blandishments of horses including wet soapy mares and grumpy geldings*