Nobody seems to have mentioned John Wyndham
The Day of the Triffids
The Midwich Cuckoos
etc...all on a par with H.G Wells 'War of the Worlds'.
loved all three of those and Chocky, but haven't read them since high school, almost 40 years ago now
might be time for a re-read
John Wyndham ... all on a par with H.G Wells 'War of the Worlds'.
Well, you could argue about that, I guess. Wyndham was very good writer, I'll accept that. I had to study The Chrysalids
, The War of the Worlds
and The History of Mr Polly
for exams at school. I guess it might come down to personal preference - I like Wells' late-Victorian/early-Edwardian viewpoint and his writing style. Wyndham does seem very fixed in 1950s England and Wells didn't just write science fiction. I think Wells is the wider writer. Anna Veronica; Mr Britling Sees it Through; Kipps; the short stories (especially The Cone, In the Avu Observatory, The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes) - I could go on and on.
Frank Apisa wrote:
Larry Niven with Ringworld knocked me out when I read it. I considered it THE masterpiece of sci fi. I wonder if we will ever see a version of that world as we set out to explore the stars.
At some point, I read Rendezvous with Rama...which I now consider the most important sci fi book of all time. It teaches a lesson we all should learn...and one I have been trying to get through to one of the regulars in the Philosophy area.
Ringworld knocked me out as well. Some recent philosophical science fiction movies:
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I was so disappointed in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, I quit reading his stuff.
That happened to me when I was fifteen, but I came back later and read it again. I was impressed the second time. I might hate it now... who knows?
I'll bypass the obvious "old-timers" and try to list a few who are less well known but shouldn't be missed...
Daniel Keys Moran - The Last Dancer (at times, haunting prose)
Charles Stross - Singularity Sky (great ideas)
Iain Banks - Culture Series (Incredible technology)
Vernor Vinge - Marooned in Realtime and Fire Upon the Deep (different ideas)
Neal Stephenson - Snow Crash and Diamond Age (unusual)
Sterling E. Lanier - Hiero's Journey
Cool. I'm wanting get some e-books. I'll look for these.
@Tes yeux noirs,
Certainly personal preference plays a part. My 'War of the Worlds' comparison was mainly with respect to plot, in which the 'normal world' is faced with the unexpected. This allows the reader to identify with those affected. In general futuristic or other-worldly scenarios seem to me to be hit or miss as far as identification is concerned. I think that is why I stopped reading SF many years ago with a couple of exceptions.
I thought I posted this yesterday, but I can't see it...
I very much a lot of stuff by James White, especially The Dream Millennium
I stopped reading SF many years ago with a couple of exceptions.
Likewise. It was one of my passions during childhood & adolescence, but a number of things happened - the future world actually arrived, and I grew up, and I began to see that many science fiction utopias and dystopias were actually based on the present world at the time of writing, and a lot of my American favourite writers started looking like right wing zealots.
Many commentators see the events of The War of the Worlds
as being a prophecy of the mechanised warfare and chemical weapons of the 20th century. Wells predicted atomic weapons in 1914 (The World Set Free
Some American writers such as Robert Heinlein and Orson Scott Card were/are right wing zealots. Increasingly, science fiction was ruined for me because it was actually science fantasy, not science fiction. As soon as the author cobbles together some faster than light propulsion system, or introduces near instantaneous communications over interstellar distances, you're in the realm of fantasy. Kim Stanley Robinson is good, i highly recommend his Mars trilogy. Joe Haldeman wasn't that great a writer, but his The Forever War was science fiction, not science fantasy.
The problem as i see it is that writers can't have galactic empires without breaking the speed limit of light, so they just write fantasies.
the realm of fantasy
Don't get me started! Possibly the canonical example of flouting scientific plausibility for the sake of plot (but still a good read) is Tau Zero
by Poul Anderson.
As for the genre often called 'fantasy', I absolutely abhor those books with maps at the beginning or end, and often glossaries of made-up languages (Tolkein has a lot to answer for) and proper names cribbed from Gaelic with embedded apostrophes.
I recently re-read CL Moore's Shambleau
and found a lot to admire in it.
I'll have to look our for Moore's book.
I like some books in the fantasy genre, but i agree that most are lame. To do him justice, Tolkien did create whole languages from which the place names and proper names are taken. But he was, after all, a linguist (perhaps a cunning linguist, but i'm can't say for sure). His earliest stories, unpublished in his lifetime, but later published by his son Christoper, use England as the setting. When he created hobbits and started writing for publication, he incorporated the languages he had created. Most fantasy novel languages suffer because they make it up as they go along.
My favorite fantasy series is Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series. She rather backed into the series. She wanted to abandon it, but her publisher kept asking for more, and it eventually became one of the most popular fantasy series ever written. It was like Doyle trying to kill off Sherlock Holmes--the public just wouldn't stand for it.
She made her first attempt at a Darkover novel in 1945, when she was 15 years old. She has said it was awful. I believe that. The re-write which she published in 1961 was certainly awful. She has had maps drawn, but the whole geography issue is hilarious--one novel opens with one of the characters arriving on horseback at the end of a three day journey, and who later retraces his steps, in a journey which lasts more than ten days. MZB never lets mere geography, or continuity in the story line, for that matter, get in the way of the narrative.
More than 30 years after she wrote her first story, she wrote a novel about the colonial transport which crash landed on the planet, leading to the human occupation. The planet is "re-discovered" four thousand years later, and the inhabitants are quasi-feudal, unimpressed by modern technology, and unwilling to admit that they are in any way related to the Terrans who show up and establish a spaceport. (Whoever wrote her obituary said the events took place in the 21st century, which shows you the obituary writer had never read her books.) The main body of would-be colonists are members of the New Hebridean Commune, with the next largest group being from Spain--Spaniards, Basques and Catalans. The common people speak various dialects of cahuenga, a mish-mash of English, Gaelic and Spanish. The aristocracy speak a language called casta, derived from Spanish and Catalan. She never burdens the reader with phony baloney attempts at some jawbreaker language, though. But she understands the subtleties of the long march of history. The Scots and Irish settlers make their first settlement near the crash site, and call it New Skye. A thousand years later, the city is called Neskaya--and has sunk into a senescence.
MZB shows what one could call an instinctive understanding of human culture. Having sunk into a primitive life after the accidental colonization, the inhabitants eventually create a feudal-like society. Among the peasants, women are either drudges, or they terrorize their husbands and sons. In the very small middle class of craftsmen and merchants, women have an opportunity to play an important role in their society, and are often essential to the success of their husbands' enterprises. Among the aristocracy, women are little better than brood mares. This closely mirrors European society for a thousand years, although they don't teach you that in school, not even in university. They are also a people who have forgotten huge swathes of their history, and MZB plays that well, too.
I wouldn't recommend the Darkover novels, necessarily--they're an acquired taste. MZB was, as a writer, the child of the pulp publishing age. Her first husband was often ill (i suspect the bottle flu, but she never says), and she supported the family writing pulp SF, pulp true romance, pulp true confessions--just about anything she could publish which didn't care too much for the quality of her writing. As i've said, she returned again and again to Darkover because the public demanded it. She abandoned it as often as circumstance allowed. In the last decade of her life, she wrote a series of Darkover novels which constitute a coherent narrative of events over a period of about forty years on internal chronology, culminating in the collapse of the Terran empire and the departure of the Terranan from Darkover.
Her biggest publishing success was The Mists of Avalon, an Arthurian fantasy. Isaac Asimov called it "the best retelling of the Arthurian Saga I have ever read." It spent four months on the New York Times best seller list, and, as a trade paperback, four years on the Locus fantasy best seller list, having won the 1984 Locus award. It is surely her best literary effort.
I agree about the Uplift series, as well as Brin's novel The Postman.
Re. MZB, I don't know how implicated she was in the paedophile thing, but I did enjoy some of her writing back in the day. It is an interesting question how much knowledge of a writer or other artist's life, views or deeds ought to influence our opinion of the created work. My wife and I used to like a German musician who recorded under the name Oliver Shanti, but when we read he got seven years in jail for offences against young boys all his CDs went in the trash. Likewise William Mayne, who was described in court as "the greatest living writer of children's books in English", who got sent to jail aged 76 in 2004.
I remember liking Stanislav Lem's FIASCO a couple decades ago. It seemed to be more techically-detailed than other stuff I had read, which I liked. Many sci-fi writers merely use the future as a place to embed an imaginative story they want to tell, but Lem was all about science.
What if you could only send something back a fraction of a second? Would this be of any use?
You started me thinking. A fraction of a second can be a long time to a computer. Imagine if a computer program could access the result of a calculation it hadn't yet carried out. Would it still need to perform it? Issues of causality would seem to arise and I imagine an adroit writer could create a page turner. From what I have gathered (I may be wrong), some scientist believe quantum computers may be able to do just this, see here
A brilliant and sometimes very funny writer, see his Trurl and Klapaucius stories.