Thursday, November 4, 2010

Golden Age Reading List Draft

So I only wrapped up my pre-WWII genre reading list a couple months ago, but I'm starting to have thoughts about the Golden Age. As it turns out, reading classics occupies a different part of my brain than my contemporary reviews (as for Salon Futura and Strange Horizons) or my Egan research. It's a bit more relaxing, and I've found that I'm missing it. So, here are some initial thoughts towards a Golden Age list. What I'm looking for are things that are important and influential to the development of the field--things where reading the classics gives me extra insight into the field today. I'm leaving out Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Cordwainer Smith, Alfred Bester, John Wyndham, and Ray Bradbury because I'm comfortable that I've read all their most important pieces. I'm hoping for suggestions about things I need to add--or even better, things I can chuck off the list. I've added the ones I think are most important/non-negotiable in bold.

Here are books that I already own:
  • The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volumes I, IIa, IIb edited by Robert Silverberg and Ben Bova
  • Slan, A. E. van Vogt
  • Darker Than You Think, Jack Williamson
  • Earth Abides, George Stewart
  • Tales of the Dying Earth, Jack Vance
  • City, Clifford Simak
  • The Space Merchants, Fred Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth
  • The Big Time, Fritz Leiber
  • A Case of Conscience, James Blish
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller
  • The Complete Compleat Enchanter, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt
  • Agent of the Terran Empire, Poul Anderson
  • The Wanderer, Fritz Leiber [Optional]
  • Little Fuzzy, H. Beam Piper [Optional]
  • They'd Rather Be Right, Mark Clifton
  • The Planet Savers, Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • The Sword of Rhiannon, Leigh Brackett
  • Conjure Wife, Fritz Leiber
  • The Once and Future King, T. H. White

Here's the list of potential acquisitions:

  • Lest Darkness Fall, L. Sprague de Camp
  • Portable Novels of Science, ed. Donald A. Wollheim
  • Mathematics of Magic, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt
  • Best of Science Fiction, ed. Groff Conklin
  • Titus Groan, Mervyn Peake
  • Pilgrims Through Space and Time, J. O. Bailey [Non-fiction, the Pilgrim award is named after this book]
  • Fury, Henry Kuttner
  • World of Null-A, A. E. van Vogt
  • The Humanoids, Jack Williamson
  • What Mad Universe, F. Brown
  • Star Man's Son, or Star Soldiers, or Uncharted Stars, by Andre Norton [Whichever I can find first.]
  • More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
  • Long Loud Silence, Wilson Tucker
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers, J. Finney
  • Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Untouched by Human Hands, Robert Sheckley
  • Three to Dorsai, Gordon R. Dickson
  • Tau Zero, Poul Anderson
  • Best of C. M. Kornbluth
  • Ill Met in Lankhmar, Fritz Leiber
  • A Star Above and Other Stories, Chad Oliver
  • Way Station, Clifford Simak

Part of me really wants to narrow this down because I feel like I'm procrastinating in getting to the New Wave, where I'm definitely weakest. And this list could easily take me 5 years to get through at the current pace. Your thoughts?

10 comments:

Matthew Sanborn Smith said...

I'm going to suggest "The Cosmic Rape" by Theodore Sturgeon even though I've only read the condensed version titled "To Marry Medusa."

Although Philip K. Dick's best novels fall after this time period, many of his short stories don't. You may want to pick up a collection.

Little Fuzzy was a serious disappointment. If you cut, start with that one.

JDsg said...

I have rather enjoyed works from the New Age era, both novels and short fiction. To which I might suggest Harlan Ellison's anthology Dangerous Visions. Some Samuel Delany from the late 60s wouldn't hurt either.

Dave H said...

For the Norton entry you might consider Star Soldiers, which is a compilation of two stories: Star Guard and Star Rangers. Both are set in Norton's Central Control universe, and they bracket humanity's expansion into and withdrawal from the galaxy.

I've always been partial to the Solar Queen books too. The originals were written in 1955-59, but more were written as collaborations in the 1990s.

My favorite Nortons were The Zero Stone and Uncharted Stars, although they were written in the late 1960s. (I'm not sure if that fits into the defninition of Golden Age.) I thought they showed the best-developed galactic world, with the hero trying to survive on the bad side of both organized crime and the authorities.

If you want just one book for your list, I'd recommend Uncharted Stars.

Cathy said...

Rather than Sturgeon's More than Human, I'd recommend the original short story "And Baby is Three" instead. Expanding it didn't do the story any favors

D. D. Tannenbaum said...

You might want to consider Silverberg's "Up The Line" (An excellent time travel novel), Alan E. Nourse' "The Univrese Between" (One of the better multiverse-based stories told from the standpoint of humans in another universe.) and especially "Way Station" by Clifford D. Simak, a first contact novel with a twist. Thanks for your list. There are some really good ones on it!

D. D. Tannenbaum said...

You might want to consider Silverberg's "Up The Line" (An excellent time travel novel), Alan E. Nourse' "The Univrese Between" (One of the better multiverse-based stories told from the standpoint of humans in another universe.) and especially "Way Station" by Clifford D. Simak, a first contact novel with a twist. Thanks for your list. There are some really good ones on it!

Karen Burnham said...

Matthew - That's a good suggestion. I just read Sturgeon's "Microcosmic God" last night and found it excellent, although also morally disturbing. (Now I appreciate Egan's "Crystal Nights" all the more.)

I've heard similar things to what Cathy said, that More Than Human was better as the original short, so I might try to track that down individually.

JD - When I get to the New Wave after finishing up the Golden Age, those will be at the top of my list.

Dave - Thanks for that! I'd never been able to find a copy of Star Man's Son anyway, so Uncharted Starts or Star Soldiers may be easier to find.

D. D. -Noooo! You're supposed to help me take things off the list! But you're right, I shouldn't forget Way Station, and I'll definitely look into the other two as well. Thanks!

Carl V. said...

If I was going to read some Jack Finney (or in my case it would be re-read) I would choose Time and Again, a true literary time travel book.

Not sure what to say about Leiber's book, The Big Time. I read it with a group of friends a few years ago and although it was weird and something I would not rate as highly as other classics, I was the one person of the group who ultimately did really enjoy it and it is a book that has stuck in my mind over the past few years.

Dave H said...

You can get Norton's Star Soldiers as a free ebook from the Free Library at Webscriptions.org. (Last time I read it was on a Palm computer.) If you want hardcopy, your guess is as good as mine. (grin)

Michael said...

World of Null A and More Than Human are a must.