[conspire] OT: Science Fiction, places to start

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Aug 4 13:30:09 PDT 2011

Quoting Steve M Bibayoff (bibayoff at gmail.com):

> Hello,
> On Thu, Aug 4, 2011 at 2:50 AM, Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:
> > Here, in no particular order, are a few dozen top recommendations.
> [...]
> No Foundation ????
> or any Asimov? Or even Verne?

(This Is Just My Opinion.  I Could Be Wrong.<tm>)

I did consider the Foundation Series.  And Arthur Clarke.  And Jules
Verne.  And H.G. Wells.  And Kornbluth's _The Space Merchants_.  
And Pohl's _Gateway_ (but not the sequels).  And LeGuin's _The
Dispossessed_.  And Atwood's _The Handmaid's Tale_.  And Eric Frank
Russell's _Wasp_ and _The Great Explosion_.

Let's consider those a few at a time.

Yudhvir and I chatted about Arthur C. Clarke, some of whose writings he'd
read, partly to do a quick triangulation on what Yudhvir might like.
Triangulation failed for whatever reason, but Yudhvir agreed with me
that Clarke often had mind-bogglingly brilliant concepts but couldn't
write human beings or dialogue to save his life.

I definitely considered including _Foundation_ as the starter of
Asimov's original trilogy arc, but pondered:  It was classic and had
brilliant moments, e.g., Salvor Hardin's sayings:

o  Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
o  It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety.
o  Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.

But, IMVAO, it wasn't a novel that left you at the end thinking 'Wow, 
that was great.  I want to read a lot more of this genre.'  And I was
trying to stick to novels that were tour-de-force entertainment, whether
classic or not.

H.G. Wells, Jules Verne: both now-creaky, once-revolutionary examples of
the genre's earliest standouts.  Reading all about Phileas Fogg,
Passpartout, and the International Date Line is worthwhile, but not
tour-de-force entertainment.  And many Wells pieces are intelligent and
thoughtful, but like experiments in ideation than fiction.  Which point
brings me to:

_The Space Merchants_, _The Handmaid's Tale_, and _The Dispossessed_ are
less ancient but similar cases:  all variously highly worthwhile and
thoughtful but just not 'Wow, that was really great storytelling that I
highly enjoyed.'

_Wasp_ was barely science fiction, though I love it madly.  The real
story there is that Eric Frank Russell spent WWII in the British armed
forces' psy-ops division creating fearfully effective, utterly brilliant
ways to sabotage Imperial Japan from the inside, but never had a chance
to apply his ideas before the Allied victory.  So, in _Wasp_, the
Imperial Japanese became a militarily aggressive alien humanoid race,

_The Great Explosion_ was a stitched-together series of loosely
connected short stories including 'And Then There Were None'.  If we'd
been talking short stories, 'And Then There Were None' would have topped
my list, but that's a separate discussion.  Lots of other short stories
would shine, there, including more Kornbluth, some Asimov, and -- hey --
even some Clarke.

_Gateway_ I haven't read in many years, and I don't remember it as being
tour-de-force entertainment, so I might have done it an injustice by

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