SciFi Sunday: Reading List

by Susan Getgood on March 23, 2008 · 1 comment

in Books, Fantasy, Science Fiction

My review of the Stargate SG1 movie Ark of Truth is deferred a week or two. Instead, I want to note the passing of one of the masters of the sci fi/fantasy genre, Arthur C. Clarke, and share with you some of my favorite science fiction and fantasy authors and their works.

Let’s start with Clarke, who passed away this past week. He was a prolific author, most well known in the general public for 2001: A Space Odyssey. A classic for sure, but his works that influenced me the most at an early age — junior high — were Childhood’s End and Rendezvous with Rama.

I also devoured the works of Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 is one of the most eloquent anti-censorship novels of any genre, even if the author says that it was really more about the influence of TV on our culture:

“Do you ever read any of the books you burn?”
He laughed. “That’s against the law!”
“Oh. Of course.”

I also highly recommend The Martian Chronicles.

The science fiction authors that had the most influence on my literary taste, though, were Isaac Asimov and Kurt Vonnegut. My original, from childhood, copies of the Foundation series are so worn — literally falling apart — that a few years ago I had to buy a new set just to reread them. Among the other Asimov works that merit attention is the Robot series, which he eventually ties into the Foundation universe.

Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics which continue to influence many other works of science fiction:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

A key underpinning to the whole Foundation ‘verse is the concept of psychohistory. In my early adult life, in my final year of university, I spent much of my course and research time studying the history of psychology and the junction between history and psychology. I’ve always wondered how the early influence of Asimov’s work impacted this educational choice. Who knows…

And, so it goes. Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors of all time, and probably contributed, in some small way, to my twisted view of the world. Books you must read: Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle. And please, start but don’t stop there. He is one of the great American authors and the literary heir, in my book, to Mark Twain.

Moving from science fiction to fantasy, the two authors that got me started on the sci fi fantasy path were CS Lewis, and The Chronicles of Narnia, which my aunt gave me as a gift in 4th grade, and JRR Tolkien, and The Lord of the Rings, which I have read more times than I can count. Another set of books that needed to be replaced recently as the glue in the bindings gave way.

After you’ve read these classics, where should you go?

Start with Anne McCaffrey and the Dragonriders of Pern series, Neil Gaiman, particularly Neverwhere and American Gods, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, and Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea stories.

What are your favorites? What should I read next?

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