Some SCIFI that I can recommend. I have many hundreds of paperbacks, mostly in german. I’m gonna name my favorites here and be biased about them.
I’m not that much of a trekkie. But I can emit force fields to protect my structural integrity like any decent spaceship, too. And I go warped all day.
~Authors That I recommend.
Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)
This man is one genius of its own right. There aren’t enough words to praise his virtues. Read “A Scanner Darkly”, “The Man in the High Castle”, “Martian Time Slip” and “UBIK” at least. Omit the VALIS trilogy if you can’t stand the religious crap. It does not hurt to have him completely in your book shelf. He isn’t a liberal. He isn’t a communist. He is something really different. Only self-righteous fascists call him so. Because of their fear and his continuous efforts to reveal their hypocrisy. I think he had a good voice in the days of Richard Nixon’s lies and todays globalization and corporate shareholder value bloodsuckers would be shifting uneasily in their seats if he was still alive. Hollywood still has to put his better stories on the silver screen; imagine that “Blade Runner”, “Total Recall”, “Terminator” and “Minority Report” are based on his short stories.
Ursula K. LeGuin
If it wasn’t for her marvelous “The Dispossessed”, I wouldn’t even mention her here. If you think you are progressive or even a clairvoyant anarchist, read this book and watch your jaw dropping to the ground. This book has changed my life and if you are flexible enough, let it change yours too. You wouldn’t find me comparing her to Noam Chomsky. But I guess she read him too. OK, her other stuff is believable. But that post nuclear world war we-can-rebuild-it fantasies creep me out.
Well, it’s actually fantasy, but his “Discworld” series do you a lot of good. Even in terms of science. What a cynical sonofabitch. His non-Discworld books are also good. Whenever the world sucks so hard that it hurts, I pick a random discworld book from my shelf and can escape this madness for a few hours. Although English is not my mother tongue, I prefer to read him in his original heathen lingo and I advise you to brush up your english enough to understand him too. You’ll love the characters, the plot, the scenery, everything. Critics say he can’t even write in chapters – so what? Bugger’em. The whole of’em. Millennium hand and shrimp.
A contemporary british author of an excellent scribe, Banks manages somewhat picking up the utopian society novels with his “Culture” series. A definitive must have: “A Gift from the Culture”, “The Game of Azad”, “The Use of Weapons”, “Excession”. The culture is a bit like what we dreamed of the US of A being to the world when we were kids in the 70es. Not todays corporate mafia bunch but a benevolent interstellar force that upholds scientific and ethical progress and wealth and health for everyone as a virtue. After reading them I was surely wishing for this realistically described “culture” to wager a rescue mission on our own planet. Surely we have ruined the globe and must be protected for our own good. The first alien invasion I’d cheer for. And so be it: Operation Greyzone, come and rescue us from those reborn manchester capitalists. You can’t beat alien invaders with that funny vessel names.
Cordwainer Smith (1913-1966)
This guy wrote the most epic stuff ever while still being SCIFI and not some Wagnerian Tolkienian white power myth goo. It’s positive in a sense that is far beyond of our everyday definition of it. I’m still dwarfed at the narrative perspective and the impressive use of language. He takes the underdog as seriously as my number one writer, PKD. He could re-tell the hut of Babayaga and still be impressive. I wish there was more of him. And he’s totally utterly out of print, film and memory. What a shame on you, you corporate media gangsters.
If you see the following contemporary authors in a book shop just cash them in. You can’t go wrong with them, they are at the peak of their power and will still look good at your shelf in another ten years. Trust me. In no particular order.
- Jeffrey A. Carver – New in my library. Excellent, hard-tech, manly stuff.
- Stephen Baxter – Hard, sad and eerie. Gets this planet destroyed many times.
- David Brin – His Uplift universe is thoughtfully good entertainment.
- Greg Bear – Still has to deliver his best while being top notch already.
- Neal Asher – If I wrote SCIFI, I’d be stealing it from him.
- Alastair Reynolds – Hard but not as sad as Baxter. Reminds me of Radiohead.
- Peter F. Hamilton – First have the “Fallen Dragon”, if you’re satisfied, then go for the series.
- Richard Morgan – His Takeshi Kovacs series is worthwhile. Market Forces is mean.
- Ken McLeod – The united workers spacefaring programme turns out funnier than it implied at first read.
These guys are out of print but still available in antiques in good condition. Get them if you can.
- Arkady & Boris Strugatzki
– Simply awesome. Collectors item: get to own, read in regular intervals.
- David Zindell – I just cried at “Neverness”. Get it if you can.
- Stainslaw Lem – Will still look good in centuries to come. Will probably revived to witness them.
- Rudy Rucker – I have only 3 of him. I wish I could get more. Great humour, that hippie.
Authors which I adored in my teenage years but which have lost on me in my thirties. You’ll probably grow beyond them too. It’s not that they wrote kids stuff. Or were goddamn cold war fascist technocrats. Or rode a theme until it died and beyond. Or got too old to be relevant to contemporary problems and SCIFI. Well, not as such.
- Isaac Asimov – Built an entire universe on three lines of code. Poor pantomime horse.
- Arthur C. Clarke – 2001 a Space Oddysey. But it can’t stay 1971 all those years.
- Robert A. Heinlein – There was a time that I pretended not knowing his books.
- Robert Silverberg – Almost made it into the classics below. Still a good read.
- Theodore Sturgeon – A cornerstone. But when I started reading him, he was 20 years stale.
- Clifford D. Simak – A lonesome cowboy of very original writing. Fluffy Teddy Bear. Sad.
- William Gibson – Cyberspace looked kinda cool in 1985. But it has been dying since.
- Bruce Sterling – Probably went sundogging when cyberpunk wore out.
- Charles Sheffield – Reminds me of a Nancy Sinatra song: “In Our Time”.
- A. E. van Vogt – Bloodsucking aliens with agricultural motivations are so 50es.
- Jules Verne – The 19th century at its best: Destroy, pollute, enslave.
There are classics that never go out of style. You’d probably count the first three of the above list, but here are mine.
- Anthony Burgess – “A Clockwork Orange” and more british bravado.
- George Orwell – History keeps repeating, so the past futures may predict the present.
- Thomas Morus – For completeness. Inventor of the “Utopia” per se. Killed by Henry VIII.
- Ray Bradbury – “Fahrenheit 451” and “Martian Chronicles” only hint at his full range.
- Bob Shaw – Loads of friendly and funny nightmares. A very wise man.
- Roger Zelazny – A poet if I ever read one. The beauty of his lines are unparalleled.
- James Tiptree, Jr. – A woman in disguise. She rocks and rolls. Makes me laugh and cry.
- Kurt Vonnegut – Skip his later stuff Go for “Sirens of Titan” and “Slaughterhouse 5”.
~Series that I recommend.
If you missed a few authors, here they come.
The Company Wars by C. J. Cherryh.
Somewhat dated, this is a good one in terms of interpersonal stress. And it’s even getting better over the decades. Look for “Pells call” “40000 in Gehenna” etc. The “Cyteen” trilogy is embedded in this universe but of quite another kind. Her “Kesrith / Dying Suns” trilogy is worthy as well. You can be led by her observations of the human kind but you can also read between the lines and alter the script. She’s a cynic with tons of brains. You read on, don’t expect anything evil to happen, and she kicks you where the sun doesn’t shine. So be alert, you clone.
The Gateway / Heechee Series by Frederik Pohl.
This is a must have, especially if you are young. Gets weaker to the end – the first three or four are really good. A story of love and hate, black holes and abandoned technology, even more black holes and living in them. Having Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud at your help may be or may be not helpful. Not having read this would be extremely nekulturny. I mean it.
The Homanx Universe By Alan Dean Foster.
It still grows. It’s fun. No overly deep insights. Just some talking insects. Gets the time by. Solid, reliable craftsmanship. You find yourself coming back for more. Definitely not like Mr. Dibbler’s sausages-in-a-bun. He has other SCIFI/Fantasy series and singulars that are solid entertainment too. Yes, he’s the guy who wrote “Alien” and some snippets of “Star Wars”. His main concern seems to be benevolence, tolerance and cooperation. Good riddance.
The Ringworld Universe by Larry Niven.
There is a lot to be said about Loius Woo (a 200 years old human that is still capable of learning), “Speaker-To-Animals” (a 300 pound intelligent upright walking tiger that has yet to earn a name) and their adventures due to the extreme cowardice of a species called the “Pierson Puppeteers” (A feathery vegetarian that can look into its own eyes). Sometimes I think he wrote large amounts of the earlier stuff while being on LSD, but what the heck, it’s a cornerstone, milestone or whateverstone in any decent SCIFI library anyway. This guy is the most productive in my library, even outnumbering Alan Dean Foster. He likes co-working with other guys and watering his own universe.
The Dune Cycle by Frank Herbert.
The series they could not film properly. Neither 1979 nor 2002. Epic and broadly drawn like a russian 19th century novel, the technical and acting staff is just to fool. Liked someone? A typical hero? bang he’s dead. Figured the good guy from the bad one? Whoops they have shifted attitudes. Accepted some secret to be the ultimate explanation? There comes another riddle. He does this on purpose. And he does it good. I don’t expect to understand him completely before I turn 45.
The Darkover Series by Marion Zimmer-Bradley.
Well, the right of this artist to be identified with her work has somewhat weakened by opening it to other writers of also female persuasion. The pro-feministic attitude has remained. A good read even for chauvinists. And lots of inter-person fault line crackling and sizzling. Like the “Next Generation” of Star Trek: quite not the real thing but a good job nevertheless.
- More to come.