[conspire] OT: Science Fiction, places to start

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Aug 4 10:29:42 PDT 2011

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Thu, 4 Aug 2011 10:26:15 -0700
From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
To: Mehma Sarja <mehmasarja at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Science Fiction, places to start
Organization: If you lived here, you'd be $HOME already.

Quoting Mehma Sarja (mehmasarja at gmail.com):

> Thanks!

You're welcome.  A few notes about that:

1.  I addressed only novels.  Novels are the most commercial and visible
form of science fiction ('SF') in print, but not the only one.  Many would say
that _the_ classic form of the written SF genre is the short story.  For
Hugo and Nebula Awards[1], these categories exist:

Novel: 40,000 words or more
Novella:  17,500 to 39,999 words
Novelette:  7,500 to 17,499 words
Short Story:  7,499 words or fewer


A short story is short enough that it has to pretty sparely written and
come quickly to a point.  In consequence, the most famous and memorable
SF short stories are famous and memorable _indeed_, because a well
written short story can pack a huge punch and leave you saying 'Wow, I
wish I'd written that' for hours.

However, you can't really walk into walk into Kepler's bookstore and say
'I want whatever volume of science fiction short stories includes 'True
Names' by Vernor Vinge.  (Well, that actually _would_ work at Kepler's, 
because they have excellent staff and would probably know immediately to 
look for a book called _True Names and Other Dangers_.  But it wouldn't
work at Barnes and Noble.)

Anyway, we _could_ hold a separate discussion about extremely good SF
short stories.  Or we could have one about indispensible SF television
series and indespensible individual episodes, and I would have you watch
all five years 'Babylon 5', all four years of 'Blake's 7', all 13 episodes 
of 'The Prisoner', all 4 1/3 years of the Canadian 1997-2001 series
'La Femme Nikita' (not to be confused with the current USA Network remake
'Nikita'), and a bunch of individual episodes of other things.

2.  Almost all the novels I mentioned are on the shelves of my house.
So, in theory you could lie in the hammock in my back yard and read them
for the next half-year -- but you'd be better served by visiting your
local library.

3.  I'm not 100% sure that all the novels I mentioned are still in
print, though they probably are.  A couple of them are available in
omnibus editions that combine the first and second novels of a series.
In particular, _The Shadow of the Torturer_ by Gene Wolfe is now
primarily available as _Shadow and Claw_, which is a combination of the
first two volumes of the series, _The Shadow of the Torturer_ and _The
Claw of the Conciliator_.

Those are deemed to be part of a four-novel series by Wolfe called 'The
Book of the New Sun'.

Similarly, you might not find _The Warrior's Apprentice_ by Lois
McMaster Bujold on the shelves, but you will find _Young Miles_, which
is an omnibus volume combining _The Warror's Apprentice_, _The Vor
Game_, and the short story 'The Mountains of Mourning'.

Those are all part of a long continuing series of Bujold novels and
short stories called 'The Vorkosigan Saga'.

[1] These are the main annual awards for best science fiction.  The
Hugos are voted by the fans who attend World Science Fiction
Conventions.  The Nebulas are voted by SF writers themselves, the
members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

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