Partly inspired by this post on Acephalous about elitist disdain for the sci-fi genre, I’ve decided to resurrect an old standard with a particular focus.
Jack McDevitt, Seeker (New York: Ace Books, 2006).
A 2006 Nebula Award winner that caught my eye wandering a local bookstore, I decided to give this fairly new author a try. The cover boldly promotes McDevitt as “The logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.” I may not go that far, but the novel has a definite Golden Age-y feel and read well. Good old-fashioned space opera plot line with a foundation in hard sci-fi. Not earth-shattering, but a planet-smashing romp nonetheless. Some fascinating observations about history, the passage of time and the quintessential qualities of human nature, too. Apparently this is part of a series. Scandalous, I know.
Tom Boardman, Jr., ed., An ABC of Science Fiction (London: Four Square, 1966).
An old-school collection of short stories, 26 of them (one for each letter of the alphabet), providing a veritable A to Z of science fictional material for the veteran reader and uninitiated. A wide range here, from a 1806 Washington Irving tale about lunar exploration to more familiar names like Frederik Pohl and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Funky used store find that has been thumbed through for fun and profit…
Michael Moorcock, The Time Dweller (New York: Daw, 1979).
Better known for his Elric fantasy series, there is something acid-trippy and classically New Wave about Moorcock. He just knows how to destabilize the reader, pushing you out of your comfort zone. This odd, eccentric and hard to pin-down novel does this only too well. Half-way through, I was enjoying the wonderful play on ideas of time and space. Wondered how it all hung together until I finally realized it’s a series of short stories. Really?!
Michael Ashley, ed., The History of the Science Fiction Magazine: Part 1. 1926-1935 (London: New English Library, 1977).
I’m saving this one. A history of the first pulp sci-fi magazines by way of brief exposes and exemplary stories. Funky, obscurantist and downright genuine sci-fi material. Includes some illustrations of old magazine covers. Cool.
Bernard le Bovier de Fontanelle, Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds, trans. H.A. Hargreaves (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).
More science fact than sci-fi, this translated text is a classic expostulation on the plurality of worlds. Published in 1686, less than a century after Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake (in 1600) for suggesting similar phenomena, de Fontanelle took some risk in popularizing his controversial view. In typically French ancien regime fashion, it’s written as an example of wit and imagination in a vain attempt to charm and seduce a beautiful woman. What other reason is there to talk of the stars?