Since my ‘retirement’ in 2012 I’ve begun revisiting classic and favorite authors of science fiction, many of which I first discovered as a teenager, to see how well they hold up against newer writers, to see if and how their premises have become obsolete in light of changing technology and scientific understanding (see General Nonfiction), and to what extent they inform my ‘Provisional Conclusions’ (see link in menu). Here’s a photo of the paperbacks I bought by those core BACH authors — Bradbury, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein — with a couple book club editions, books I’m gradually reworking my way through. Below is another photo of some of my favorite SF books of all time that I have in first editions.
- Part 1: pulpy prose
The unfortunate pulpy prose of Asimov’s earliest stories — those vicious adverbs. He got over it.
- Part 2: summary of themes and patterns
How Asimov’s stories are mostly puzzle stories; how not all of his robot stories reached consistent conclusions.
- Part 3: Reason
About Asimov’s robot story “Reason,” about a creationist robot, and how this relates to contemporary creationist thinking, and how in a sense it doesn’t matter.
- Part 4: Nightfall, The Dead Past, The Last Question, The Ugly Little Boy
Asimov’s best stories: “Nightfall,” “The Dead Past,” “The Last Question,” “The Bicentennial Man,” and the heartbreaking “The Ugly Little Boy.”
Lengthy summary of this first Foundation book, with its themes of technology, religion, free trade, and nationalism, and how some of its ideas of history and psychology have to some extent have been invalidated and revised by now.
- Asimov, Isaac. 1997, revised from 1983. The Roving Mind. New York: Prometheus Books. ★ ★ ★
Collection of essays from 1983, reissued with tributes in 1997 following Asimov’s death in 1992. Asimov displays “methodical, cheerful, bluntness” (my words) in several essays about religious radicals (as much an issue in 1983 as now), dismissing the common arguments of creationists against evolution; replies to the common notion that science fiction authors (and readers) must surely “believe” in flying saucers, telepathy, and so on (they don’t); and has an efficient, logical argument about how, if telepathy existed, the world as we know it would make no sense. [full discussion]
- Ray Bradbury Reread, Introduction
- The October Country
- Core Bibliography and Themes
- Dandelion Wine
- Farewell Summer
Arthur C. Clarke:
- Two Religious Explorations (“The Star” and “The Nine Billion Names of God”)
- Childhood’s End; part 2; part 3
Robert A. Heinlein:
- Rereading Robert Silverberg
- “The Wind and the Rain”
- (Note: I read 20+ Silverberg collections, all those first published up to the mid-1970s, in 2016 and 2017, but have yet to write them up here. I will.)
- The Lottery and Jim and Mary G (by Shirley Jackson and James Sallis)
- Lady with Fox (by Gregory Benford)
- The Way of Cross and Dragon (by George R.R. Martin; scroll down)
- William Golding: Lord of the Flies
Some of my first editions: