Saturday, December 24, 2011

Category 2: Fantasy

I was raised on Science Fiction; Star Trek on TV, Jack Williamson/John Carter of Mars/Robert Heinlein's juveniles, and the very first Star Wars movie released the year (almost to the day actually) I graduated from high school. And I've never ceased and never will, to love, respect, read, and admire the genre...

but something happened while I was at university
  • I discovered and read The Lord of the Rings.
  • As a somewhat introverted freshman at a university where I didn't really know anybody, I wandered into an alternative bookstore in Columbia Missouri (Rock Bottom Books & Comics... still there happily) and discovered the boxed 3-booklet set of the Original Dungeons & Dragons. Wow, how I wish I still had that set!
  • I answered an ad in the university newspaper 'The Maneater' looking for game players to meet in the basement of Brady Commons... showed up, met a peer group of science fiction and fantasy nerds much like me... and learned how to play D&D, along with Traveller, and many other games whose names I can't remember.
And my love of fantasy fiction was established.

I was one of those forty-something year old men who took their families to a jammed theater to see the Fellowship of the Ring on the opening weekend... and had tears streaming down my face as Gandalf thundered YOU SHALL NOT PASS! And then sobbed (literally) as the balrog dragged him into the abyss.. I wasn't alone... there was a lot of it going on in the movie theater...

and I was that forty-something year old man who waited with his kids at the midnight bookstore premiere for each succeeding Harry Potter novel.

So...that means I've read a lot of fantasy, and will likely continue to read fantasy so long as I am able to read.

The genre has evolved over the years. It's sometimes really hard to tell what is actually 'fantasy'. We have all the vampire novels (Twilight, Sookie Stackhouse), urban fantasy (Jim Butcher/Harry Dresden), apocalyptic fantasy (S.M. Stirling), fantasy historical romance (Diana Gabaldan/Outlander)... and of course the traditional good old swords and sorcery fantasy... Brandon Sanderson, Brett Weeks, Peter Brett, Glen Cook are all current popular authors that I have on my 2012 list. 36 books may not be enough to sample everything... but I'm going to try!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Science Fiction List for 2012

This is a list of potential stories to read to fulfill my science fiction category challenge. I may add or subtract or change as the year progresses...
  1. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  2. Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov
  3. Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  4. Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov
  5. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  6. 2010: Odyssey 2 by Arthur C. Clarke
  7. 2061: Odyssey 3 by Arthur C. Clarke
  8. 3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  9. Revelation Space by Alistair Reynolds
  10. Chasm City by Alistair Reynolds
  11. Judas Unchained by Peter Hamilton
  12. River of Gods by Ian McDonald
  13. The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
  14. Desolation Road by Ian McDonald
  15. Cyberabad Days (short stories) by Ian McDonald
  16. Sundiver by David Brin
  17. Startide Rising
  18. The Uplift War
  19. Brightness Reef
  20. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
  21. The Ghost Brigade by John Scalzi
  22. The Last Colony by John Scalzi
  23. Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi
  24. QuickSilver; Neal Stephenson
  25. The Confusion; Neal Stephenson
  26. Snow Crash; Neal Stephenson
  27. Reamde; Neal Stephenson
  28. Cryptonomicon; Neal Stephenson
  29. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
  30. Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
  31. Halting State by Charles Stross
  32. Rule 34 by Charles Stross
  33. The January Dancer by Michael Flynn
  34. Up Jim River by Michael Flynn

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Ah yes... the CATEGORIES!

    Category 1: SCIENCE FICTION

    I started reading science fiction at a very young age, maybe 8 or 9 and I'm pretty sure that the first true science fiction book I read was Red Planet by Robert Heinlein, followed closely by The Legion of Space by Jack Williamson, and the whole John Carter of Mars series, and then... well, needless to say I was hooked at a young age on the genre. The cover at right is the first edition cover published, I believe, in 1949. Heinlein had all kinds of squabbles with his publishers... he wanted more sex and politics, his publishers were after 'the story' and money.

    After this excellent introduction, I went on to read all of Heinlein's 'juveniles', discovered the pulps with Edmond Hamilton's excellent Captain Future series, Frank Herbert's Dune... and have never looked back.

    So here I stand some 40 years later, wondering (like we all do) where the time went, and looking around the science fiction landscape... and there's still lots of really good old stuff that I haven't read that I've always meant to... Philip Dick, C.J. Cherryh, David Drake; and of course loads of brilliant authors writing stuff today that I absolutely must read! Like Alistair Reynolds, Peter Hamilton, Neil Gaiman, Neal Stephenson, China Mieville, and on and on.

    So .. on to the 2012 reading plan. 36 SF books won't go far (but I expect to have some room in my other categories, so...). I'm starting with a reread of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series up to Foundation's Edge (which I'm pretty sure I've never read); along with Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey series (which, since I know how it ends, I MUST have read at some point... but for the life of me, as I read through the first two books, I DON'T remember any of the details...). I have Ian McDonald's Dervish House, Desolation Road, and River of Gods; Alistair Reynold's first two Revelation Space books, and Peter Hamilton's sequel to the excellent (and read in 2011) Pandora's Star, Judas Unchained. After that I will see what and where the SF trail leads me... Neal Stephenson looks excellent, Dan Simmons, C.J. Cherryh... lots of directions to go.