This is from an old list I put together for a friend:
Something Wicked This Way Comes
S is for Space
The Illustrated Man
Ursula K. Le Guin:
The Earthsea Trilogy
The Left Hand of Darkness
Arthur C. Clarke:
2001: A Space Odyssey
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and Other Stories
Robert A. Heinlein:
Stranger in a Strange Land
Lord of the Rings
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever
Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle:
The Mote in God's Eye
More Than Human
Edgar Rice Burroughs:
A Princess of Mars
The Invisible Man
The War of the Worlds
The Time Machine
I Am Legend
The Andromeda Strain
The Traveler in Black
Philip K. Dick:
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Divine Invasion
The Man in the High Castle
A Scanner Darkly
Wow, Mr. Dark! Those are some REALLY good books in that list!! I say some because I haven't read all of them.....yet.... Right now, I'm in a forensic pathology thriller frame of mind and so that's what I've been reading a lot of.
Pabills....like I said, I may try to read 1984 again, someday. Hopefully, it gets better because it does take a lot for me to set aside a book I've started reading (usually I find if I can get past the first whatever number of pages, the storyline picks up; at least, I've found that's true for my personal favorite author).
Excellent and comprehensive list there.
One book I always recommend is "A Voyage to Arcturus" by David Lindsay. It's not one of my favourites, but it's a sine qua non of early imaginitive sci-fi.
Also, I still read C.S. Lewis' trilogy ("Out of the Silent Planet", "Perelandra" and "That Hideous Strength") every few years.
Outside of Purnelle, Ellison and Niven I can vouch for the books as well. However, read more of each of the authors, especially Herbert and LeGuin. As usual, Lem is missing, so I'll not lose the oppurtunity to push him again. Read Lem.
The list is just a skeletal deal. These were books that turned my life in new directions, and so the list is personal, as opposed to academic. There is some really good stuff in this genre. Someone else probably knows where this is, but didn't Bradbury call SciFi the only really current fiction? I may be totally fabricating this, but I know he's commented on SciFi before.
Funny you should mention the Bradbury�s statement on sci-fi. I believe he addresses that in an essay in Yestermorrow. But with the release of the movie, I, Robot, I�m considering diving back into Asimov. With this consideration, my thoughts have turned to the genre of sci-fi in general though I haven�t dipped into the genre in years, outside of Bradbury. I�ve been terribly disappointed with current literary trends � most of it seems, in this post 9/11 world, like self-indulgent whining � so I�m thinking that sci-fi may, indeed, be the only genre that�s genuinely tackling new ideas. Sci-fi and thrillers.
Bear with me on this. Bradbury suggests that sci-fi allows for the solution to problems. I think the genre of thrillers accomplishes much the same thing. A good, recent example of this is the limited series on cable called The Grid. It�s a fictionalized treatment of how we�re dealing with terrorism today. So through this genre, we get a chance to work out a lot of what-if scenarios, like sci-fi, and come up with some solutions. Oh, and be wildly entertained too boot. Not a bad thing to expect from your art, if you ask me.
Nice list Mr. Dark. It seemed to drift a little into fantasy as well in which case here's an "addendum" if I may.
LORD OF LIGHT(one of my all time favorites)
EYE OF CAT
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
FRANKENSTEIN(perhaps the first science fiction book)
MONA LISA OVERDRIVE
Robert E. Howard
(all of his CONAN stories)
Marion Zimmer Bradley
THE MISTS OF AVALON
I like these kind of lists so if I think of more I'll get back at you.
Sorry - the first sci-fi-fantasy book is Micromegas by Voltaire.
No apologies necessary. Thanx for the heads up. I've never heard of it. Is it any good? I have to admit I hated CANDIDE.
I would recommend Eric Frank Russell's books. So far I have only read Dark Tides, Somewhere a Voice and Thinking Machines, but I certainly intend to delve deeper. There's that elusive poetic quality I like so well, and some of the stories are borderline horror - Bradbury, Wyndham, Matheson and Brown come to mind.
Pete: inspired by your above post, I went through �Yestermorrow: Obvious Answers to Impossible Futures� this afternoon, looking for Bradbury�s thoughts on SciFi. He has several ideas and ways of looking at SciFi. I thought I�d just post some of the ideas here � it seemed relevant to the thread.
�For that, almost completely, is what science fiction means to me. It is the history of towns and cities yet unbuilt, ghosting our imaginations and lifting us to rise up and find hammers and nails to build our dreams before they blow away . . . It was thus with all the H.G. Wells stories and the Verne tales published between 1850 and 1912. The future was actually there. You could touch it on the bright paper. You could smell it in the oils and perfumes that permeated the ink.� (Yestermorrow, �Art and Science Fiction�. P 21, 22)
In this section he is talking about art as being a way of creating worlds that are not real, but that are made real through our creative efforts. So this section talks about actually � based on our imaginations � building, in a very real sense, these dreams and imaginings. Science Fiction, for Bradbury is one aspect of that.
In this same essay, he talks about the function of art being about the creation of images, stories and metaphors. He cites the young people going to modern art exhibits and rejecting it � not because they don�t understand it, but because they had an innate recognition that art was about story-telling and metaphor. Pure abstraction, for Bradbury, has no real story to tell. It has no image that can carry meaning.
�They [the young people visiting these galleries] knew that life without image or metaphor is empty and meaningless. Hell, they said, you can learn from the Bible . . . Well, then, in this age of machines that embody all the metaphors of man�s dreaming in the last one hundred years, how come the galleries are empty or concept, vacuumed free of one lint-thread of idea, long lost from dream? � (p 27)
In an essay called �Day After Tomorrow,� Bradbury calls science fiction of ideas. In this essay, he goes around the idea that because science fiction can postulate anything, it can also anticipate anything. The openness of science fiction is part of its strength as a literary medium. Traditional story-telling has strictures of believability, but science fiction (sometimes broadly defined in Bradbury�s usage) can �go� anywhere. You can create any scenario and examine it, forecast with it, tear it apart, try out ideas, etc.
�It [science fiction] is, after all, the fiction of ideas, the fiction where philosophy can be tinkered with, torn apart, and put back together again; it is the fiction of sociology and psychology and history compounded and squared by time. It is the fiction where you may set up and knock down your own political and religious and moral states.� (Yestermorrow. �Day After Tomorrow�. P 97)
Bradbury, through this understanding of the power of science fiction (I can only imagine he includes fantasy, since that is what he considers most of his writing to be), sees it�s power as being one of combining conjecture with a concrete context. In other words, as a story-telling medium and an image-creating art, science fiction allows us to �create� a reality that does not previously exist and examine it. Story-telling as world-creator:
�Without moving anything but his typewriter, that immensely dependable Time Machine, the writer can take those paths and examine those billion images.� (p 99)
He doesn�t seem to want to overstate his claims for the power of science fiction, and in this small quote, Bradbury hints at some of what he sees science fiction as being about.:
�I would not dare to say that it is probably the literature of warning or that it might be the dream that can help ward off the nightmare. Too many have claimed too much for science fiction already.� (p 103)
While he seems to limit the scope of science fiction here, this efforts seems more in the direction of keeping science fiction out of the realm of prophesy, and keeping it in the realm of helping us be aware of possibilities � both good and bad.
In another essay, �Science Fiction Before Christ and After 2001�, Bradbury makes this claim:
�Science Fiction is the most important fiction ever invented by writers.� (Yestermorrow. Science Fiction Before Christ and After 2001�. P 222)
Bradbury, in this essay, discusses the idea that Plato did science fiction when, in �The Republic� he postulates an ideal system of government. He sees science fiction as that arena of fiction where we can completely conjure situations where morals can be re-evaluated from an entirely new framework. What do missionaries teach Martians? Do they have souls? What is the moral impact of the aftermath of an atomic war? What if a society loses its moral compass . . . how do we create morals in a void? What is the impact of unknown technological changes on man? (A great story on this is Heinlein�s �The Roads must Roll� and Silverberg�s �The World Inside� � but there are many.)
Bradbury calls science fiction the fiction of revolutions, as it encompasses the vast totality of change. Science fiction can define change without actually impacting society. We can postulate ideas, put them in realistic (or psychologically real) settings and play them out. In this context, there is no real limit (other than the storytelling power of the author and the imagination of the reader) to the changes that can be postulated.
�Science fiction then is the fiction of revolutions. Revolutions in time, space, medicine, travel, and thought. It is the fiction of the moralist who shakes his hand at us . . .� (p 224)
One of the things that Bradbury is one of the all-time masters of is what he touches on in his essay immediately following his discussion on science fiction as the fiction of revolution. How many times, when you read a Bradbury story, do you feel human compassion and feeling in the middle of the absurd? For me, there are many places where Bradbury does this, but the story that stands out in my mind in this is his weird �Tomorrow�s Child�. The baby is born to two normal parents, but the baby born here is a blue triangle. It is a being from another dimension. The �real� baby has been born into another dimension. The �real� parents have to learn to love and care for something that is absolutely foreign to them. But that is their child. Ray�s quote from this essay is:
�Above all, science fiction is the fiction of warm-blooded human men and women sometimes elevated and sometimes crushed by their machines [and I would add, circumstances].
Finally, another area where Bradbury excels (although there are other great writers in this vein) is in the forecasting � not just of technological futurity, but in the emotional/psychological/religious future. His quote on this:
�Science fiction is apprehensive of future modes of behavior as well as future constructions of metal.� (p 226)
I know Bradbury often dismisses himself as a science fiction writer, as he has a fairly narrow definition (it must be capable of occurring, unlike fantasy, which can be almost pure fabrication); but I see Bradbury�s writing as falling under the broader definition of science fiction that he presents in this book. At this game, I really do see Ray as one of the masters of the genre.
(Also, I did see "I, Robot" and as an action film with some cool special effects and not a bad story, I enjoyed it. I thought it was better than the reviews I had read of it.)
[This message has been edited by Mr. Dark (edited 07-26-2004).]
I'm not sure it matters. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, "speculative" fiction Harlan Ellison once called it, is it importanrt? Often we get too bogged down in labels, in putting things in a box of some kind. More than even most great writers Bradbury exists outside of these boxes. I certainly was first introduced to him as a science fiction writer but he himself has shown me that a) he's so much more than that and b) it's not important anyway. One of the things we want to avoid is over intellectualizing our great artists. One of his anthologies began with a quote that said "Space travel has again made children of us all." That single quote explains why the cosmos, the future, science--has provided the landscape for so much of Bradbury's imagination. But it's a mistake for us as audience, as critics, as fellow artists to put labels around things and to look to those labels, those boxes to define the world for us. I'm thinking out loud as I'm writing this. But I see this tendency not just happening in literature but in all of art and a lot of times in the rest of society as well. It gets to the point where it's not just unnecessary but counter-productive and perhaps even dangerous. Sometimes the labels are cool because they make it easier to find something in the bookstore but outside of that, who cares?
[This message has been edited by Beirut Wedding (edited 07-26-2004).]
(1) It matters to Bradbury, or he wouldn't discuss it this much.
(2) I think you may have missed my point. It wasn't that these labels were narrowing, but that Bradbury views them (and scifi/fantasy) as broadening.
Did I miss your point?
You made my day when you said my post inspired you. But you're wonderful post really gets to what I was saying. Or what Bradbury was saying. I'm not sure if I'm ready to agree that science fiction is the most important fiction ever invented by writers but when I read what passes for modern literature today, I have to wonder. I'll always be a big fan of Hemingway's but fiction today has nothing to say. I used to think that all fiction required was good characters, a compelling story, an idea or two, a memorable description here or there. The realists and the minimalists have abandoned this and, thus, abandonded their readers. (I will except Anne Tyler from this blanket condemnation. And Mark Helprin. I'm sure everyone else has their exceptions.)
Bradbury's broader definition of science fiction works for me. But I've recently scanned the science fiction section of the nearby Barnes and Noble and it seems over-run by fantasy novels. Well, not having any familiarity with fantasy, perhaps I'm missing the glorious fact that there's much to be discovered there.
Beirut Wedding, I know there'll come a time when you and I find agreement on something but, unfortunately, now is not that time. I think labels are actually liberating. They help define the art we consume and assist us formulating a reaction. It's like writing a poem or story or screenplay: limits help us focus. Without boundaries, we'd be all over the place. (Much like my posts!)
No, Mr. Dark, I think I missed your point and pterran, let's enjoy our disagreements while we can. When we finally do agree on something we'll know we've earned it.
[This message has been edited by Beirut Wedding (edited 07-28-2004).]
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