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Best science fiction writers (now or ever)

 
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2015 04:24 am
@najmelliw,
I mostly agree with you, except for Ender's Game. To my mind, it was a short story stretched out to short novel length, and it's drift was quickly obvious. The sequels really sucked, although i read them because a friend was so enthusiastic. I was secretly glad that Card turned out to be a right wing nut bag, it made it easier to dismiss him, as with Heinlein.
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2015 08:07 am
From today's NYT book review...

The Latest in Science Fiction and Fantasy
http://nyti.ms/1SkDZrq

and also...

What Science Fiction Movie or Novel Is Most Prescient Today?
http://nyti.ms/1SkE66v
0 Replies
 
oralloy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2015 08:55 am
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:
Setanta wrote:
I agree about the Uplift series, as well as Brin's novel The Postman.

I agree as well. I especially liked Startide Rising.

If you guys have read all six Uplift novels up through Heaven's Reach, there is a short story that comes after the novels, which significantly advances the plot of the story by introducing a new threat:
http://web.archive.org/web/20130218012904/www.davidbrin.com/temptation1.html
http://web.archive.org/web/20130218022226/www.davidbrin.com/temptation2.html
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Dec, 2015 06:06 pm
Sci-Fi has come a long way since I became addicted to it in my youth. I think the first sci-fi book I ever read was "World at Bay" by Paul Capon (if you don't include Tom Swift as sci-fi.)

In any case, I've been reading the genre and it's numerous associated sub-genres for over 50 years and there are quite a lot of notable writers.

For what is generally accepted as Sci-fi (some "harder" than others) I very much enjoy these authors (one or two examples of their work)

Greg Egan - "Permutation City" - "Schild's Ladder" (One of the hardest of the "hard sci-fi" writers)

Greg Bear - "Forge of God" - "Eon" (An excellent writer, sci-fi or otherwise, and he's written at least a couple of "fantasy" novels)

Gregory Benford - "The Galactic Center Saga" series. Benford, and Bear for that matter, brought sci-fi back to the 50's when outer space was a scary place and alien life forms (including mechs) may not have been bug-eyed monsters, but they were still all about destroy earth and/or humans. It was a welcome respite from the 70's and benign bug-eyes monsters.

Sir Fred Hoyle - "The Black Cloud" "Element 79" (short stories) Hoyle was a renowned, and often controversial, astrophysicist who also wrote sci-fi (much of it co-authored with his son Geoffrey)

Henry Hasse - "He Who Shrank" A novelette and the only work of his I read - a long time ago, but I remember liking it very much.

Harry Harrison - I'm not a big fan of humorous sci-fi (Unlike most fans of sci-fi, I can't stand "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") but I read several of Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat novels. (I don't know why, as I didn't like them either) But I'm a big fan of his alternate history trilogy that he wrote with Thomas Shippey a scholar of medieval literature, and JRR Tolkien: "The Hammer and the Cross," "One King's Way," and "King and Emperor" He also wrote "The Turing Option" with MIT's Marvin Minsky.

Neal Stephenson - On of my favorite authors of any genre. "Diamond Age," "Snow Crash," and "Cryptonomicon." He's not afraid of writing big books.

A.E. Van Vogt - "The Book of Ptah" "The World of Null-A' and the great short story "The Black Destroyer". Most of the Van Vogt stuff I read was as a kid and his work was challenging and hardly the sort of pulp that a lot of sci-fi novels represented (and which I loved). It seems that sci-fi fans (including authors like Phillip K Dick and Damon Knight) either love or hate him. (Dick loved him)

John Varley - "The Gaea Trilogy: Titan, Wizard and Demon" and short story collection: "Persistence of Vision" Varley was a boy from Texas who moved to San Fran during the Summer of Love. His novels reflect the time and are replete with sexuality and drug use. He wrote of times and places where gender change was common. "Trippy" Sci-fi

Norman Spinrad - "The Void Captain's Tale" and "Child of Fortune". Another "Trippy" Sci-fi author. Very controversial when first published.

Neil Asher - "The Skinner" and "Cowl." Asher is fairly new author. Much of his more popular works were published from 2000 forward, but he did publish earlier works in the 90's. He's also one of the sci-fi writers who has created a universe in which most, if not all, of his stories are set. For Asher it's called "The Polity." His books also feature recurring characters. I suspect that the "science" in his fiction is highly speculative, but it rings true. A lot of action, imaginative concepts, and very intriguing characters.

Octavia E. Butler - "The Xenogenesis Trilogy" The late Butler was an African-American author who is often associated with the sub-genre "Afrofuturism" however I think that's a stretch. Some of her characters are African, but a number of her stories take place on other worlds and involve aliens as well as humans of multiple races. I found the cited trilogy strange, dark, and moving.

These are only a few and some of favorites are not yet included, but they're enough for now.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Dec, 2015 08:50 pm
@najmelliw,
najmelliw wrote:

I didn't see my favorite writer mentioned anywhere... which probably means I have shitty taste in sci-fi as well (For instance, I still have to work through my first Phillip K. Dick book, and I was never thrilled about Aasimov... I know, I suck).


Nonsense. Dan Simmons is an excellent writer. Were you aware he was a HS English teacher before he made the big time as a writer? "Hyperion" was my favorite of that series. I highly recommend his "Terror" and "Flashback" (However, if, like Setanta, an author's conservative politics in some way diminishes the enjoyment of reading his work, you might not want to read "Flashback." If the book is any indication, Simmons is not a fan of Pres. Obama). Phillip K Dick is excellent. Some of his work might be considered hallucinatory, which isn't surprising considering that he had frequent episode of hallucinations which may have been a result of drugs he took or mental health issues he had. "The Man in the High Castle" and "Ubik" are two I recommend. Film makers apparently find his work alluring because "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (Blade Runner), "A Scanner Darkly". "The Man in the High Castle", "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" (Total Recall), "Minorty Report," "Paycheck," "Adjustment Team" (The Adjustment Bureau) and a number of others have been made into movies or TV series. "VALIS" was even the basis for an opera.

I confess I'm not a big fan of Asimov either. Excellent concepts, but not the best of writers.

Quote:
But, I did read (and thoroughly enjoy) Zelazny's Amber series, as well as the Ringworld saga by Niven.
The Mars series from Robinson was very, very sciency, and of course fictiony too, but it was soooo sciency that I started to believe it almost wasn't fictiony. If you get my drift.


Zelazny's "Amber" series is far more fantasy than sci-fi but it was very enjoyable. Like a lot of multi-volume series, for me, it faded towards the end. Zelazny is usually listed as a sci-fi author but, again, I think he fits better in the fantasy genre. Not sword & sorcery so much but certainly he can be considered something of a fabulist. If you haven't already read them you might want to try his novels "Lord of Light" and "Creatures of Light and Darkness" They are similar in concept, but have two distinct mythologies at their cores. The latter was written as an experiment in style by Zelazny which will either entice you or put you off. Try "Lord of Light" first. If you like Niven and Robinson your taste in sci-fi is pretty good.

Quote:
A book I truly enjoyed (and is also already mentioned) was Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Engaging enough too: just finding out from the get go that this hacker (and one of the protagonists) has a coveted job as a pizza delivery man had me hooked from the very start...


I agree. Stephenson is a hell of a writer. "Diamond Age" is one of my favorite books.

Quote:
Ender's Game by Card was also great.


I agree here as well. Unless their books are polemics, an authors politics don't much concern me. There are probably more left-wing sci-fi writers than the opposite so I would be in a bind if I allowed an author's politics to inform my reading selections. I do agree with Set though that the sequels to "Ender's Game" were not particularly good. You might want to try his book "Songmaster." Card has been sharply criticized as a homophobe which is ironic since "Songmaster" has a homoerotic theme that is not written in a negative light. I wouldn't call it sci-fi, but his novel "Lost Boys" was, I thought, excellent. Extremely moving.

I have to admit I never heard of Spider Robinson, let alone read any of his books. I'll have to give him a try.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2015 01:08 pm
Finn never misses the opportunity to take a cheap shot, and then maunders about how hard it is getting along with me. Card is a rightwingnut, but anyone who had been paying attention to what i posted would know that i was disenchanted with his writing, before any political issues came up.

******************************************************

I don't believe that anyone here has mentioned A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller. I once observed here that i didn't think much of it, but Roger pointed out that it was the first post-apocalyptic novel, and pretty good on that basis. I had the opportunity to re-read it, and when i had done so, i decided that my earlier dismissal of the work is attributable to callow youth.+
McGentrix
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2015 01:41 pm
No mention of Piers Anthony? Bio of a Space Tyrant was and is a terrific read and takes the undercurrents of decades past and turns them into a future sci-fi theme that encompasses the solar system.

L. Ron Hubbard, despite his oddness, was also a good sci-fi author. Despite the movie, Battlefield Earth should not be dismissed. He also has a terrific 10 book series called Mission Earth that was a very good read.

Are they the best? Opinions vary. Should they be missed? Hardly.
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2015 01:59 pm
@najmelliw,
najmelliw wrote:
Spider Robinson: I should read more of his work, since I instantly fell in love with his Callahan chronicles (short stories that had at one time been published in the Analog magazine). I suck at figuring out the puns though.


I'm glad you mentioned Spider. Fabulous sci-fi author and great guy.
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ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2015 02:01 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:

Sci-Fi has come a long way since I became addicted to it in my youth.


that brings up an interesting question (IMNSHO) - does anyone come to science fiction as an adult? or is it something that you find in your youth and either stick with or drop
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2015 02:35 pm
@ehBeth,
When I was in ninth grade, I didn't show a proper appreciation for US Lit but it was clear to my teacher that I was a voracious reader, just not the stuff she recommended. She asked me what she should add to the reading list. I started with Dune and added several other titles when that one flew. (No one suggested Herbert as one of the all time greats??) Did she come to like it or just wanted to diversify her reading list, I will never know. My wife has developed a bit of a taste for fantasy after picking up some titles my brother and I exchanged.
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Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2015 02:38 pm
@Setanta,
You're wrong that I took a "cheap shot" but you right about the sequence. I missed that, apologies.
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2015 02:46 pm
@ehBeth,
That is an interesting question. Shortly after we married, I convinced my wife to read LOTR, and she loved it, but l'm pretty sure that was her one and only foray into fantasy, let alone sci-fi. She may have read CS Lewis's Space Trilogy, but it would have been 44 years ago so I can't be sure. I don't know anyone who fully entered the fold as an adult. It makes sene though. If you're not attracted to sci-fi as a kid, you're probably not the sort of adult who would be interested.
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Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2015 02:52 pm
@McGentrix,
A lot of people like Anthony, but not me. As I wrote previously I'm not a fan of mixing humor with sci-if or fantasy. The only exception would be "The Incomplete Enchanter" by Fletcher Pratt, and I was about 12 when I read it and laughed out loud at the scene where the protagonist is caught on a run-away magic broom. Can't say I'm a fan of Hubbard either, but I did finish one of his books.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 Jan, 2016 02:34 am
I don't think anyone has mentioned Philip José Farmer. I only know of him from his Riverworld stories and novels. It's classic pulp SF stuff, but it's entertaining.

I never thought much of Poul Anderson (either for or against), but The Boat of a Million Years was not bad (a few silly errors). The problem central to almost all science fiction is the light speed limit. All manner of silliness arises, such as "subspace" or "wormhole" travel which gets around that speed limit. The Boat of a Million Years has a different way of addressing the problem of voyages in space that last for decades. Although i enjoyed the novel, it wasn't enough to get me interested in reading any more of Anderson's work
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Sat 2 Jan, 2016 02:26 am
@Setanta,
I wouldn't rank Farmer among the best, but I don't perceive that you are suggesting that he should be. His Riverworld and World of Tiers series are entertaining and I agree that they are pulpy but Farmer was known for updating the classic sci-fi pulp sub-genre with more sophisticate sexual themes and and incorporating the mundane, unromantic, but clearly essential requirements of everyday life, like having his heroic characters take the time to find a place to squat and defecate. It's difficult to read Farmer today and appreciate that his work in the 50's and 60's was considered controversial and fairly cutting edge. To a large degree this was due his willingness to address religious themes in his work (as well as the sex stuff).

Personally, I very much enjoyed the work of the prolific Poul Anderson, especially his forays into fantasy which, generally, reflected his Scandinavian heritage and included retellings of Norse legends and sagas (e.g. "Hrolf Kraki's Saga") My favorite among his fantasy novels is "The Broken Sword."

I consider him an excellent, imaginative story teller, who is particularly successful in his treatment of alien cultures (e.g. "Fire Time").

As an aside, Anderson's daughter, Astrid is married to sci-fi writer Greg Bear. They have two children, one of whom, Erik, is also a sci-fi/fantasy writer who has co-authored, along with his father Greg, Neal Stephenson, Mark Teppo and others, The Mongoliad a historical fiction trilogy that has at it's center piece the Mongol Empire in the years following the death of the Khan of Khans, Genghis. The origins and means of collaboration on the three books is a very interesting tale all to itself (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mongoliad) I am about half way through the third book of the trilogy and can highly recommend it. Anything written by Stephenson and Bear is bound to be very good and these are.

Unless someone completely trashs an excellent writer or effusively praises a hack, I don't argue with taste in authors, and yours is a fairly ambivalent assessment of his writing. He did, however, win 7 Hugo and 3 Nebula awards and both are considered quite prestigious in the world of sci-fi. He also won the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer of America. This too is a prestigious award with past winners including Heinlein, Clifford Simak, Clark, Asimov, Alfred Bester, A.E. van Vogt (Whose work, ironically, was detested by Knight) Andre Norton, Ursula LeGuin, Harlan Ellison, Pohl, Bradbury, Sam Delaney, and Larry Niven (In all the award was presented 31 times in 40 years). However, I can hardly credit it as an infallible identifier of excellence in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, as I am not particularly a fan of all of it's winners and there are numerous deserving authors who have been overlooked.

I try to read as many winners of the Hugo & Nebula awards as I can manage (or care to), but while they are widely considered the genre's highest honors, they too can't be considered clear cut marks of excellence. They were patterned after the Academy Awards and votes are cast for nominated works, by members of The World Science Fiction Society (In recent years winning works received around 5.5 thousand votes) Over the years it seems that certain authors enjoyed periods of intense popularity such that they repeatedly were nominated for or won the awards. Some critics of the Hugo maintain it is essentially a popularity contest rather than an assessment of literary merit and value. To some extent, I suspect this is true, but, for the most part, the nominated and winning works are worthy of serious consideration. The best, IMO, though don't always win.

In 1975 Ursula Le Guin's "The Dispossessed" beat out Anderson's "Fire Time," Phillip K Dick's "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said," and Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle's "The Mote in God's Eye," for Best Novel

In 1991, Lois McAllister Bujold's "The Vor Game," beat out David Brin's prophetic "Earth," Dan Simmons' "The Fall of Hyperion" and Greg Bear's "Queen of Angels," for the same prize. Bujold is a good writer and "The Vor Game" was a very enjoyable read, but "The Fall of Hyperion" was better and "Earth" and "Queen of Angels" were both, very clearly, superior. Bujold went on to win the award again in 1992, 1995 and 2004 and was nominated in 1997, 2000, 2002, 2011, and 2013. Six of the eight works were the latest installments in the seemingly never-ending series, "The Vorkosigan Saga," which are the tales of a space-faring, deformed dwarf who also happens to be an aristocrat serving as an officer in a galactic empire's military. The other two are Bujold's first entries into the fantasy genre, a retelling of the lives of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, that appears poised to be the beginnings of another multi-volume series that will enrich Bujold.

The Nebula is awarded by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and as one might expect many of the authors and works nominated for Hugos were also nominated for Nebulas. As with the Hugos there have been, IMO, notable "misses" with the Nebulas:

In 1987 Orson Scott Card's "Speaker for the Dead," beat out William Gibson's "Count Zero" and Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale."

In 1988, Pat Murphy's "The Falling Woman" won over Greg Bear's "The Forge of God" and David Brin's "The Uplift War."

In 1989 Bujold's "Falling Free" (another installment of "The Vorkosigan Saga" series) won the award rather than "Great Sky River" by Gregory Benford, "Mona Lisa Overdrive" by William Gibson, "Red Prophet" by Orson Scott Card and "The Urth of the New Sun" by Gene Wolfe.

0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 2 Jan, 2016 03:34 am
Anderson's writing never lead me to care about his characters and what happens to them--that was true even in The Boat of a Million Years. One man's meat . . .
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Sat 2 Jan, 2016 11:55 am
@Setanta,
Yep. I feel that way about certain authors who are widely acclaimed. Sometimes it's just a matter of taste.
0 Replies
 
 

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