Saturday, October 17, 2020

Sci Fi And Fantasy Authors I Enjoy

My friend Glen has lurched back into reading Sci Fi.  This makes me immeasurably happy.

Of the genres, Sci Fi and Fantasy (or Speculative Fiction, as I believe it called nowadays) are the ones that most resonated with me growing up.  I was a reader, and outside of history what I read was Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I drifted away from it largely in the late 1980's due to a combination of factors:  a sense that there was less time to read and the fact that (in my opinion) the stories were not as well written.

Fiction is always to some extent a reflection of the age in which it is written because the writers exist in that age.  Thus, for example, Andre Norton's starships of the future always looked like rockets from the 1950's (a delightful anachronism read through today's eyes).  But well written fiction does not substitute the culture and beliefs of the age for a well written story;  a story which is perhaps "socially aware" but poorly written is a poorly written story.  Additionally (from the prudish side of me), the substitution of sex scenes for well written prose and hinting at instead of blatantly stating it is, well, in poor taste in my world.

I have written here about books that I re-read on an annual basis (some of which are sci fi and fantasy).  To be a little more helpful, I thought I would list some of my favorite authors to give Glen a boost:

H. Beam Piper (Henry Beam Piper):  Works largely published in the 1950's and 1960's.  Space Viking is one of my all around favorite books on the application of history to the future.  Other notable works of his I have read and recommend are Four Day Planet and A Planet for Texans and Fuzzy Sapiens. I have not read his Paratime series but assume it is up to the same standard.

Andre Norton:  I have been reading Andre Norton for over 40 years.  She was a very prolific writer with numerous books under her belt (I easily have 30+ and I have not scratched the surface).  Dark Piper is one I re-read every year.   Recommended:  The First five books of the Witch World Series (they get a bit silly after that), The Stars Are Ours and Star Born (connected series), Daybreak: 2250 AD (a very good introductory "End of the World" novel), Night With No Stars, Star Rangers, Operation Time Search, Knave of Dreams - these are my favorites, but almost anything of hers will be enjoyable.

Robert Heinlein:  I have a conflicted relationship with Heinlein.  Some of his I really liked, some have not stuck with me.  Favorites:  Starship Troopers, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

Robert E. Howard:  The genesis from which most Sword and Sorcery sprang.  His Conan stories are the best known (they were organized in the 1970's into an 11 volume series), but some of his lesser known heroes - Kull of Atlantis, Solomon Kane, Cormac Mac Art - are also worth a read.

Edgar Rice Burroughs:  As Howard set the bar for Sword and Sorcery, Burroughs set the bar for "Earthman transported to a strange new society and has to make his way in it".  John Carter is his arguably most famous character (outside of Tarzan, of course, who I never got into), but Carson of Venus and David Innes of Pellucidar (Hollow Earth) are also enjoyable.  For all of these series, the latter books are exceeded by the earlier parts of the series.

Elizabeth Boyer:  Elizabeth Boyer was a 1980's and 1990's author that wrote books based in a Nordic World; while the Nordic Gods never appear, there are other characters of Nordic mythology:  Alfar (Elves), Dverger (Dwarves), Nisses, Barrow Wights, Trolls.  Her first four or five books were all stand alone - The Wizard and the Warlord, The Sword and the Satchel, The Thrall and the Dragon's Heart, The Elves and the Otterskin.  Her last set of books in this genre (before she apparently fell out of favor and disappeared) was a four part series.  The first two, The Troll's Grindstone and The Curse of Slagfid, are the better of the two.

J.R.R. Tolkien:  Tolkien is hit or miss for people; you either like saga sorts of tales or you do not.  The Triology The Lord of The Rings is his most famous (the books are so much richer than the movies), but The Hobbit and The Silmarillion (which is even more of a saga based story that LOTR) are also worth a read.

Jerry Pournelle:  I accidentally found Pournelle in the early 1980's with Birth of Fire, a book about colonization and creating a free society on Mars.  I loved the books but never followed up with him until years later (sadly, he died within the last two years; I could have followed an actual living author).  His short stories captured in the titles High Justice  and Exiles to Glory capture the transition of Earth into an solar system empire.  His cycle of books Falkenberg's Legion, Go Tell The Spartans, and Prince of Sparta are a lovely historical review cleverly hidden as a science fiction novel of how civilizations fall and are rebuilt.  He also cowrote with Larry Niven; Footfall and Lucifier's Hammer both (in their own way) discuss the end of civilization.

David Drake:  Drake, like Heinlein, is someone I have a conflicted relationship with.  His The Forlorn Hope is a masterful retelling of Xenophon's Anabasis, or the retreat of the 10,000 Greeks through Persia (and one of those books I wish there was a sequel to because the characters were so compelling).  His Hammer's Slammers were gritty, but less appealing as the frequency of swear words is a bit high for me.

I have others, but those are the big ones on my list.  What Sci Fi or Fantasy books could others recommend?


  1. I recommend Cedar Sanderson's "Pixie For Hire" trilogy.

    I will have to do some more thinking and return.

    1. John, thank you for the recommendation! I am always looking for recommendations.

  2. I had a better experience with Heinlein because I was introduced to his writing as a teen through his “young adult” novels. If I recall, he was a big libertarian and to discuss that turns into politics. Suffice it to say it sometimes turned up in his writings in ways that I personally found objectionable.

    Asimov wrote some classic space opera and hard SF.
    Arthur C Clark’s earlier material was okay
    David Brin’s “Uplift” series were a hoot
    Steven King’s Gun Slinger novels were spectacular, many of the screenplays were horrible
    The Forever War by Joe Haldeman is considered a classic by many
    The Sandman Series of graphic novels that I ran across were breathtaking
    The Tenth Planet by Edmund Cooper was visionary

    There were so many...

    1. Agreed with Heinlein and yes, he became more libertarian (and conservative) as he went. But yes, not everything.

      I have read Asimov's Robot series but not much more than. No Clark at all for some reason. David Brin I know from the The Postman, which I did not really care for. I read the first Gunslinger book, but never got into the series.

      Thanks for the other recommendations!

  3. I read the covers off Armor by John Steakly. The story is magic to me. Highly recommended. I related to it readily.

    I've experienced the "machine". I had the mind to play basketball, just not the physique. I talked to a college player once, and he was surprised at my description of playing ball. It was his experience as well.

    1. Yes. I agree about Steakly's Armor.

    2. Two thumbs up from two. I will look for it.

  4. I thought about John Ringo.
    Some of his writing I highly recommend. Dark Tide. Troy Rising. Aldenata. Ghost made me uncomfortable.

    1. I am not familiar with the author John. Thanks.

      I get liking writing but being uncomfortable. Glen Cook's The Black Company is excellent writing but there are no real good guys, just a series of morally ambivalent people. It can be a bit troubling.

  5. I still have the first two books I bought in 1966--Andre Norton: Star Rangers and Daybreak 2250AD. It's been said somewhere that if you would really know a man, ask what books he's read more than once.
    Too, too many names to list, but like Glen and TB, the top of the list has to be Heinlein, Asimov, Clark, Haldeman. I'll add Clifford Simak, Phillip Jose Farmer, Zenna Henderson, Alan Dean Foster. There are dozens more I'll regret not mentioning here.
    I've always said that 90% of what I read was crap. But that other 10% made it all worth the effort.

    1. Greg - That is a good quote that I have never heard before - but really true.

      The first book I remember purchasing for myself was also an Andre Norton - Star Guard. I still have it.

      I have read a single Farmer (Dark is The Sun). Alan Dean Foster - there is a name I have not thought of in years. I did read a number of his over the years.

      I am familiar with Simak's name but have never read anything by him. Henderson is completely new to me.

      Thanks for the recommendations and for stopping by!

    2. Speaking of Farmer. If you've read any Doc Savage, then read Farmer's book. Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life.
      The Kindle version is six dollars.

    3. John - I have seen Doc Savage books but never read one. I looked him up quickly - might be someone to investigate. Thanks!

    4. That would open a door into a discussion about pulp literature.
      I recall that I picked up the first Doc Savage story when the originals were issued in paperback form. This was probably during the sixties and I think the book cost 45 cents.
      I read them for a while and then moved on.

    5. John, you still occasionally see these in the used book stores still. They are considerably more than 45 cents...

  6. As I said on Glen's blog, if you use a Kindle, or similar, there's a fair amount of material on - of course, you won't get recent stuff (I think the cut-off is 1953 or so). I'd also recommend looking at - their free library has a fair number of titles, including some Norton. One thing I would recommend is getting their free short fiction collections, as these showcase many of their authors, so you can quickly decide if someone unfamiliar is good for you.


    1. D - Thanks for the suggestions! Gutenberg I am familiar with but I did not know Baen had a free library - as you said, some of the authors I liked were published by them.

      Thank you for stopping by!

  7. I loved SciFi books back when I read fiction. They always appealed to the engineer in me. However, I would read them and then quickly forget them which is why I eventually moved to non-fiction. With non-fiction, I generally remember those books well after many years have gone by. I have promised myself that as long as I have a supply of non-fiction books to entertain me, I probably won't go back to reading fiction.

    Although I don't have books that I re-read annually, I do have several that I have read more times than I can count and of which I own several copies. Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire and Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac come springing to mind.

    1. Ed, I have something of the reverse: The fiction tends to stay with me longer than the non-fiction (except for the history - that stays with me).

      I did a review of Leopold's Sand County Almanac earlier this year (I think you can search for it). I enjoyed it, but find someone like Gene Logsdon more to my liking.

  8. like history..ever read ' to your scattered bodies go'? The rest of the series is not worth it. Loved Pournelle and Niven as a most of their work. Sometimes concepts were beyond me at the Oath of Fealty. Pohl's 'Gateway' is also great..but grittier than most SF.

    I have said this before but there are some greaF authors out there. The Three Body Problem being one of my more recent favs. Like anything else it can be hard to be original but there are novels out in the last 10 years which will be classics in 50. ALso if you like history and a good story read 'cryponomicron'..entertaining and fun. sorry for the unwarranted suggstions~

    1. EGB - I have not read "To Your Scattered Bodies Go" - good heavens, how long since I even thought of that book? A good reminder.

      Suggestions are never unwarranted, and actually quite helpful as they assist in weeding out the wheat from the chaff. Used books are somewhat less costly, but there is nothing worse that finding you have wasted time (or money) on a book that was a dud.


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