Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Book Selection of the Month (Special): Dan Greenberg Picks 25 Great Sci-Fi Stories (and Dawn)


Normally, each month I write an entry describing at least one interesting book (or short story) I read. Back at the start of 2009, I said this year would be all sci-fi and fantasy (and I said not to make any recommendations, since I didn’t want to be swamped or guilt-tripped into reading 600 things, but one man could not be deterred). I’ve ended up expanding the sci-fi mandate somewhat to cover things like utopian thinking (coming up in October) and Muppets (back in April), but to compensate, this month I’m turning the reins over to someone who’s stayed more focused on the stated task: Arkansas state representative — and now state senate candidate — Dan Greenberg.

Having known Dan for two decades, I can honestly say we’d be vastly better off if he were president, never mind Arkansas state senator, but let’s set aside speculation about his political future for a moment and see what you think of twenty-five of his choices for great (mostly short) works of speculative fiction (in no particular order):

1. Charles Stross’s “A Colder War”

2. Cordwainer Smith’s “The Game of Rat and Dragon”

3. Dan Simmons’ “The River Styx Runs Upstream”

4. Damon Knight’s “What Rough Beast”

5. Lewis Padgett’s (Kuttner and Moore) “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”

6-7. Cyril Kornbluth’s “The Little Black Bag” and “The Rocket of 1955″

8. William Powers’ “Allegory”

9-12. William Tenn “Child’s Play,” “The Brooklyn Project,” “Winthrop Was Stubborn,” and “The Liberation of Earth”

13. Philip Jose Farmer’s “Sketches Among the Ruins of My Mind”

14. Brian Aldiss’s “The Failed Men”

15-21. Robert Sheckley’s “Ticket to Tranai,” “Pilgrimage to Earth,” “The Academy,” “Sneak Previews,” “The Laxian Key,” “The Language of Love,” and “Zirn Left Unguarded, the Jenghik Palace in Flames, Jon Westerly Dead”

22. Thomas Disch’s “Casablanca”

23. Ray Bradbury’s “Sound of Thunder”

24. James Tiptree Jr.’s “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”

25. Ted Chiang’s “Understand”

And as a bonus, let me note that Dawn Eden points out the existence of sci-fi-writing Catholic John C. Wright and even points me to a video interview with him about his conversion from atheism.

Someone should write a sci-fi story about the cosmic balance governing the lives of my ex-girlfriends and girlfriend, since I see that whereas girlfriend Helen, as noted yesterday, has resumed blogging, Dawn has recently gone on a possibly-permanent blogging hiatus (as she notes at the link above), but you can inquire via the e-address noted in the left margin of her site if you want to know what her new personal and professional projects are.

Am I going to read all the above, you ask? Well, I’m sure it’s all wonderful, but time being limited, I will instead make only this promise: I will include a novel by the prolific Mr. Sheckley (see items 15-21 — not to be confused with the pro-life-ic John C. Wright) called The Status Civilization among my October utopia-themed Book Selections. Up next month, though, it’s The Gate of Time by Philip Jose Farmer.

And what do those two books have in common? The generous Michel Evanchik gave me copies of both as gifts. And to see how he handles a debate about extraterrestrials, remember to join us tomorrow at Lolita Bar.


Dan Greenberg said...

Sheckley’s novel “Immortality, Inc.” is not only far superior to “The Status Civilization” but has the virtue of being adopted into the unwatchable Emilio Estevez movie FREEJACK. You should read that instead.

Also, I’m not sure how I left Kornbluth’s “The Marching Morons” off this list (clearly an inspiration for both ROBOCOP and IDIOCRACY) or Damon Knight’s “Special Delivery” (which has one of the greatest last lines of any short story in history).

Todd Seavey said...

You probably recalled that I’d already included “The Marching Morons” — and Muppets and more — in my April (Fool’s) entry…


…and given that I already have that _Status Civilization_ copy, I don’t think the lure of seeing where _Freejack_ came from is enough to change my plan. Onward to Utopia.

Sammler said...

I guess I’m not as widely read as I hoped, but this seems an odd — and very chronologically concentrated — list.

And who could resist?

“All the Myriad Ways”, Larry Niven

“Blood Music”, Greg Bear

“Burning Chrome”, William Gibson

“The Defenseless Dead”, Larry Niven

“Flowers for Algernon”, Daniel Keyes

“He Who Shapes”, Roger Zelazny

“A History Lesson”, Arthur C. Clarke

“The Library of Babel”, Jorge L. Borges

“The Lottery in Babylon”, Jorge L. Borges

“The Man Who Lost the Sea”, Theodore Sturgeon

“The Merchant Princes”, Isaac Asimov

“New Rose Hotel”, William Gibson

“Nightfall”, Isaac Asimov

“Slow Sculpture”, Theodore Sturgeon

“A Song for Lya”, George R. R. Martin

“The Stone City”, George R. R. Martin

“Swarmer/Skimmer”, Gregory Benford

“Universe”, Robert Heinlein

“Who Goes There?”, John W. Campbell Jr.

“With Folded Hands”, Jack Williamson