Yesterday I posted, and got some great commentary, on the five essential novels for Horror writers to read and study. But what about SF? What five SF books would make a study plan for a new SF writer? Below are mine, although I had a harder time coming up with the ones for this list than for the horror list, which might be informative in itself.
1. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 1, The Short Stories, various writers. I personally believe that the best work in SF has been produced in the short story, and this volume collects the best of the best. If you were going to write short SF then this volume might be all you’d ever need.
2. The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells. Conflict with alien races is a big part of SF and this is the granddaddy of that “subgenre.”
3. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne. To me, SF involves technology, and often projects the invention or further development of current technologies into the future. Verne’s book is a good example of the early use of this trope.
4. Dune, by Frank Herbert. SF projects the human race into the future as well. How will we change and adapt? How will we stay the same? Dune is still one of the best books ever at showing a complex human society’s development on another world.
5. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein. Space opera is still SF to me, even though the science might not necessarily be very accurate. I personally love space opera and think there are some great stories there. This one by Heinlein is an early example but a good one of the space opera field.
I think there is a lot of room for debate with these choices, so tell me where I’m full of it. E. E. Doc Smith could easily be on here for Space Opera, but I was never a big fan of his work. Arguments could certainly be made for Bradbury, and I’d probably agree. And what of Asimov and Clarke? Well, they are represented in the Hall of Fame, at least. Also, I didn’t put any Sword and Planet stuff here, like ERB’s work with John Carter. I don’t think of that stuff as SF, but as fantasy, and I’ll do an equivalent list for fantasy at some point.