Thursday, February 02, 2006

Science Fiction

This is the science fiction post I wrote but never posted.

The politically correct term these days is "speculative fiction" but I still call it sci-fi. Yes, I lump the classics with the pulp. Isn't all fiction speculative anyway?

For a self-professed "science fiction fan", I'm a bit of a fraud. There's a lot of classic stuff I haven't read. I haven't read "Dune" or "The Time Machine", for example. I've read mostly short stories.

My favourite science fiction author is John Varley, because at least once per story, I think wow. "The Persistence of Vision" and "Air Raid" are both included in The John Varley Reader. "Air Raid" is the first story I ever read by Varley, probably 14 years ago. It was expanded into a novel called "Millenium" which was alright, but unnecessary, and turned into a movie that I haven't seen and don't intend to.

I've only read one of his Varley's novels, The Ophiuchi Hotline. His pacing is quick, his worlds are astounding yet believable, and his stories leave me thinking that perhaps I should leave writing to other people. I don't know why I haven't read his other novels. Maybe I'm afraid they won't be as good as his stories, or maybe I'm frightened by the cover "art". I'll devote a whole other post to sci-fi cover art.

Other faves are Asimov short stories and Robert Heinlein novels. (Though I've only read two Heinleins.)

I've also read a variety of Philip K. Dick stories and two of his novels. I read a ton of Spider Robinson in highschool, but it hasn't stuck with me. Some of my favourite Spider Robinson has just been re-issued by Baen. It's a short story collection initially published as "Melancholy Elephants" that has been reissued as By Any Other Name. A worse title and horrible cover art, but the stories hold up. Some really poignant, lovely near-future work.

And I can't talk about sci-fi short stories without adding Harlan Ellison. I've recently found out that I am "two degrees" away from Harlan Ellison!!! I don't know what to do about it, though. I suppose I could hide outside the friend-of-a-friend's house and wait for him to visit. The collections Angry Candy and Slippage are good to have in rough times - when you're in a misery-loves-company mood.

I adore the young adult trilogy by Phillip Pullman, called His Dark Materials and I would recommend it to kids and adults alike. It's more fantasy than science fiction, but very worthwhile. I suppose it's closer to Narnia than Harry Potter, but more of an anti-religious allegory than pro. Maybe not so much anti-religion, as a criticism of the human corruption or exploitation of religion. Beautifully written - especially the first book, "The Golden Compass".

Maybe one day I'll have the courage to post some of my sci-fi on here... but don't hold your breath!

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