some interesting science fiction

Frankenstein, 1818, Mary Shelley
The Time Machine, 1895, HG Wells
The War of the Worlds, 1898, HG Wells
The Purple Cloud , 1901, MP Shiel
The House on the Borderland, 1908, W Hope Hodgson
Metropolis, 1927, Fritz Lang
Last & First Men, 1930, Olaf Stapledon
At the Mountains of Madness, 1936, HP Lovecraft
Out of the Silent Planet, 1938, CS Lewis
The Golden Amazon, 1944, John Russel Fearn
1984, 1949, George Orwell
The Paradox Men, 1953, Charles L Harness
Shambleau & Others, 1953, CL Moore
Dan Dare: Operation Saturn, 1953/4, Frank Hampson
Them!, 1954, dir Douglas
The Man with Absolute Motion, 1955, Silas Water
Tiger Tiger, 1955, Alfred Bester
The Incredible Shrinking Man, 1957, dir Arnold
Quatermass 2, 1957, Nigel Kneale
Journey Into Space, 1953/8, Charles Chilton
The Sirens of Titan, 1959, Kurt Vonnegut
Rogue Moon, 1960, Algis Budrys
The Voices of Time, 1962, JG Ballard
The Alley God, 1962, Philip Jose Farmer
A for Andromeda, 1962, Fred Hoyle & John Elliot
V, 1963, Thomas Pynchon
The Secret of Sinharat, 1964, Leigh Brackett
The Terminal Beach, 1964, JG Ballard
The Anything Box, 1965, Zenna Henderson
Alphaville, 1965, dir Goddard
Babel 17, 1966, Samuel R Delany
Mr Da V & Other Stories, 1967, Kit Reed
Report on Probability A, 1968, Brian W Aldiss
The Final Programme, 1968, Michael Moorcock
The Atrocity Exhibition, 1969, JG Ballard
Roadside Picnic, 1971, A&B Strugatsky
Vermillion Sands, 1971, JG Ballard
334, 1972, Thomas M Disch
Ten Thousand Light Years from Home, 1973, James Tiptree Jr
The Clangers, 1969/74, Oliver Postgate
The Grain Kings, 1976, Keith Roberts
Altered States, 1978, Paddy Chayevsky
Timescape, 1980, Gregory Benford
Repo Man, 1984, dir Cox
Neuromancer, 1984, William Gibson
Schismatrix, 1985, Bruce Sterling
The Unconquered Country, 1986, Geoff Ryman
Escape Plans, 1986, Gwyneth Jones
A Spaceship Built of Stone, 1987, Lisa Tuttle
Tank Girl, 1988, Martin & Hewlett
Flatliners, 1990, dir Schumacher
War Fever, 1990, JG Ballard
Sarah Canary, 1991, Karen Joy Fowler
Feersum Endjinn, 1994, Iain M Banks
Fairyland, 1996, Paul J McCauley
Event Horizon, 1997, dir Anderson
What’s He Building in There ?, 1999, Tom Waits
Under the Skin, 2000, Michel Faber
Synners, 2001, by Pat Cadigan
Natural History, 2003, Justina Robson
Samorost, 2003, Jakub Dvorsky
Dare, 2005, Gorillaz
The Weight of Numbers, 2006, Simon Ings

As with the fantasy list, there’s no attempt to provide “balance” between old & new, to weight each decade evenly, or to make the list exhaustive. It’s just stuff that turned me on when I read it or watched it; or which still turns me on now. I haven’t tried to correct for the fact that most of it originated in the US or UK. I haven’t played the game, “I know an earlier & more contentious example of sf than you” because (a) if I ever did, I’ve forgotten it & (b) apart from Wells & Shelley I don’t care about anything much before the turn of the 20th Century. If you want to claim The Epic of Gilgamesh or something, be my guest. If I’ve missed off your favourite book, or left out a category of authors, the same.

Some of these picks come with a caveat: I don’t much like either the metaphysics or the outcome of Flatliners, for instance, but I think the basic idea–killing yourself for fun–is so sound it makes up for a lot. To avoid revisionary items like “the first 20 minutes of Stargate but the rest is such shite”, I curbed this tendency.

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48 responses to “some interesting science fiction

  1. Pingback: some interesting science fiction « the m john harrison blog | Sci Fi Picks

  2. Mr Evans

    Tiger, Tiger – Quatermass 2 – Repo Man – What’s He Building In There?

    Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes.

    Tiger, Tiger was a one-sitter.
    Quatermass 2 is the best out of the three – of the films anyway (and it’s got Sid James in it!)
    Repo Man is from another galaxy.
    What’s He Building In There? is by Tom Waits… nuff said, big chap.

    Only things I’d personally add would be Blade Runner by Scott; Videdrome by Cronenberg; and The Adventure Game by the BBC.

    All best.

  3. A pleasure to find a list with so little to argue with (although I’ve never got on with Gwyneth Jones work and have always thought 1984 to be a bit tedious).

    I would want to add:
    Les Guérillères, 1969, Monique Wittig
    The Female Man, 1975, Joanna Russ
    Tik Tok, 1983, John Sladek

  4. I woke up this morning thinking about What’s He Building in There. I don’t know what that has to do with anything except it kind of describes my creative process for the past 7 years.

    Thank you for publishing these lists. I’d stopped reading science-fiction and fantasy many years ago, but these lists have given me renewed interest and been providing me much creative inspiration.

  5. What interests me right now about your lists, MJH, is the points at which they meet – that is, at which they are identical. For instance, it interests me – pleases me, frankly – that those points of same/different will give people of the either-or/black-or-white/f-or-sf/”definition is everything” persuasion absolute conniptions. I’m also interested in the difference between ‘interesting’ and ‘good’, at least in relation to the two lists.

    That’s why I keep coming back here, out of the all possible places to go. There’s always something interesting going on.

    And, well, The Clangers. Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

    Cheers

    Robert

    PS: Shouldn’t that be Dan Dare ? Not being picky, just (hopefully) helpful.

    Dare Dare sounds kind of, you know, interesting though…

  6. uzwi

    Mr Evans, how did I forget Blade Runner ? Graeme, the Wittig is an intriguing choice, & very much in the spirit.

    Hi Robert: that’s our quality promise to you at Ambiente Hotel plc. We will always insult the categories. (2 Dares Dare ? I will fix it. But the third one stays Dare.)

    Hi Elizabeth you wrote–

    I woke up this morning thinking about What’s He Building in There. I don’t know what that has to do with anything except it kind of describes my creative process for the past 7 years.

    Mine too. The moment I heard that song I knew I’d been found out. & I’m glad you got something from the lists.

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  8. TechSlave

    Tiger Tiger, though I managed only to read it under its US title, was excellent.
    The wonderful part of this list is how many I’ve not read, and now must plan to acquire and find enjoyment in. Sadly, so many of them must come second-hand from the used bookstore, or the library, to be available at all. One can only hope the public domain is eventually kind to the works of these authors.

    Graeme mentioned Tik Tok, which was one of my favorite ‘random choices’ from a bookstore shelf.

    Feersum Endjinn is wonderful but the switching of narrators and mainly the language used by one character interfered with my reading, in both speed and completeness. Though I appreciate the wish of the author to ‘ensure’ that the reader faces the fact of one narrator’s speech, I dealt with but mildly disliked the purely technical hurdle to my otherwise voracious completion of the book.

  9. Very nice list, even if I’ve only read something like 9 on it. One book that might appeal to you (especially since there are a few thematic connections with the Glavinic book) would be Ferenc Karinthy’s recently-translated Metropole. Its vision of Hell is something else. Haven’t decided if it’d be more uncomfortable in the SF or Fantasy taxonomies.

  10. Martin

    334: that ending, which I finally re-read: the poor evicted woman with her furniture in the night-time street – far closer to “the future” than any Golden Age writing. My Disch choice could well be “The Asian Shore”: if that’s sf at all.

    Aldiss: always admired his paranoid Freudian novella, “Send Her Victorious.”

    Wot, no Dick? The Electric Ant, I am thinking.

    The Fall/Mark E. Smith come in with “Wings,” too.

    I loved “Weight of Numbers” – but (Jim Lovell’s Ballardian guest spot apart) I never thought of it as sf, particularly – more a fiction as hypercube, or even a Mandelbrot.

  11. uzwi

    Hi Larry, I’ll look for Metropole. Sounds as if it’s uncomfortable in both taxonomies. Just what I like.

    Hi Martin. 334: absolutely. “The Asian Shore” is another one I forgot to put on the fantasy list, & a similarly heart-wrenching piece of work. On The Weight of Numbers–I agree, & I know Simon didn’t intend it to be sf in any generic sense, but I wanted my definitions (or intuitions) to include the possibility of an unstated idea, a text drenched in science but not overtly “about” it. Or fundamentally “about” it without being obvious.

  12. Paul Kincaid

    The trouble with a list like this is an almost unbearable urge to add to it. I’d put Kairos and all of the Aleutian Trilogy next to Escape Plans; I’d find room for Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and Priest’s The Affirmation, and there’d be rather more of a certain M. John Harrison. (But I would remove the C.S. Lewis, because it almost made me stop reading science fiction when I stumbled across it many many years ago.)

    I join the general consensus in applauding the inclusion of Tom Waits, and also second the vote for Sarah Canary.

  13. uzwi

    Hi Paul. Well, as Martin said in a comment recently, every list is an invitation. This one was certainly intended to be. I agree wholeheartedly with The Affirmation, a brilliant book. But LeGuin has never done anything except bore me speechless (I react to her much the way you reacted to the Lewis), & I decided beforehand I wouldn’t list books just because they were consensus greats. I like my sf to be lively, even if it errs on the side of trash. In fact if it can’t be 334 or “You: Coma: Marilyn Munro”, I prefer it to err on the side of trash. (That reminds me, in a massive oversight I left off George O Smith, Hellflower.)

  14. Paul Kincaid

    What is exciting for one is clearly stultifying for another. The Left Hand of Darkness did it for me when I was, what, probably in my teens or early 20s, even if little or nothing she has done since then had anything like that effect. Maybe lists like this should be arranged not by date of publication but by age at which they were read.

  15. uzwi

    >>Maybe lists like this should be arranged not by date of publication but by age at which they were read.

    Absolutely!

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  17. Hi there

    I’ve read or watched/listened to approximately half of your list and have found much of your writing wonderful as well (Virconium & Light for example)

    from your list I agree with these five

    The Sirens of Titan, 1959, Kurt Vonnegut
    Neuromancer, 1984, William Gibson
    Schismatrix, 1985, Bruce Sterling
    The Unconquered Country, 1986, Geoff Ryman
    Event Horizon, 1997, dir Anderson

    Here’s a few which amazed and still amazed me when I read/saw them again

    Emphyrio, 1969, Jack Vance
    The Lathe of Heaven, 1971, Ursula K. Le Guin
    (The Left Hand of Darkness comes very close)
    Aliens, 1986, dir James Cameron
    Use of Weapons, 1990, Iain M Banks
    Altered Carbon, 2002, Richard K Morgan

    I’d never heard of What’s He Building in There ? by Tom Waits but I have now and it’s an eerie piece!

  18. Mike A

    Hmmm, another list that tells me I haven’t read nearly enough…

    My additions would be:
    Philip K Dick: “Ubik”, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, “Flow My Tears, the Policeman said”
    Stanislav Lem: “Solaris”
    Ray Bradbury: “The Martian Chronicles”, “Fahrenheit 451″, plus numerous short stories
    H.G. Wells: “The Island of Doctor Moreau”.
    E.M. Forster: “The Machine Stops”
    Aldous Huxley: “Brave New World”.
    K.W. Jeter: “Dr Adder”
    John Brunner: “The Shockwave Rider”
    John Wyndham – “The Chrysalids”, “The Midwich Cuckoos”, “The Day of the Triffids”

  19. orfanum

    Good list – Ryman certainly but for The Child Garden (Air, though prolly not in this category, bored the sequined pants off me); for a similar sort of language and left feelings of loss, desolation and redeeming hope, Life During Wartime by Lucius Shepard (some of the finest confluence of hard sf elements, slipstream-like consciousness, and bare humanity). The Greg Mandel series by Peter F. Hamilton is also a fav, but it’s the only good stuff he’s done (too much of a Tolkien complex to put right, there).

  20. Krishna

    * The R2D2 toy an aunt bought me in 1977.
    * My first pocket calculator.
    * The Berlin TV tower in Alexanderplatz.

  21. Martin

    A few years earlier, “Thunderbirds”: Gerry & Sylvia Anderson nudged a lot of ’60s kids into reading more about rockets, monsters, and disasters. Ballard was waiting for us all.

    I’d also make a case that the Andersons warped an entire generation of designers, who spent the next 25 years trying to invent the flip-up cell phones used by International Rescue.

  22. xtfire80

    What? No Foundation, no Dune? What SF is this? And also no Cordwainer Smith or best of Clarke’s works? No Heinlein? Stranger in a strage land anyone? Not to mention Lord of Light by Zelazny!
    And also V by Thomas Pynchon appeared in 1965 not in 1956, but I suppose Pynchon wouldn’t mind!
    Sorry, but your list needs fine-tuning!

  23. uzwi

    We’re both wrong there, xtfire80: 1963. Mea culpa. I’ll correct that, in both lists, soon.

    I don’t think I’ll be “fine tuning”, but thanks anyway for your advice.

  24. I’ll second Martin on the Andersons. I started watching their stuff with Four Feather Falls, but was hooked with Fireball XL5, Stingray, and Thunderbirds. I was beginning to ‘grow out of it’ by Captain Scarlet, but they (and TV21 comic) certainly dug over the ground into which other seeds fell and thrived.

  25. Apocalyptic SF

    Spaceman Blues by Brian Francis Slattery

    Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America by Brian Francis Slattery (wow! what a voice!)

    Vellum by Hal Duncan
    Ink by Hal Duncan

    Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler

    The Stand by Stephen King
    The Dark Tower I-VII by Stephen King

    Jerry Cornelius Quartet by Michael Moorcock and the stories by the various authors who contributed to the mythos

    Viriconium by M John Harrison

    The Committed Men by M John Harrison (question. I don’t realistically expect an answer… is this a Jerry Cornelius cameo novel? Why the name Nick Brutton when his characteristics obviously are that of our favorite multidimensional tripper? Copyright diagreements, personal choice, etc?)

    World Building

    Rediscovery of Man by Cordwainer Smith
    Future History by Robert A Heinlein
    Birthright Universe by Mike Resnick
    New Crobuzon by China Mieville
    Light by M John Harrison
    Nova Swing by M John Harrison
    The Centauri Device by M John Harrison (I include these three stories because–it might be just a rabid fan reading too much into things–there seems to be too much similarity within these novels for it to be left to chance by yourself….)

    Generally Mind Bending

    The Illuminatius! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea

    Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson

    Philip DiFilipo’s Steampunk Trilogy

    Vurt by Jeff Noon

    Anything by Burroughs that’s not Junky and Queer
    (My favorites are: The Cities of the Red Night, The Place of Dead Roads, and The Western Lands)

    Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (Hey, what? I once argued that one oughta classify all genres as pre-dominantly SF….)

    Comics
    Casanova by Matt Fraction -first issue free online here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casanova_(comic_series) – (It’s unfortunate; the link to the first copy of the issue is unavailable now)
    Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, all volumes
    Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitian

    Film/TV
    The American Astronaut (I can’t recommend this enough. This is a vastly under recognized SF film by the Bill Nayer Band. Punctuated by haunting silence and queer moments of laughter, it redefines how SF is portrayed on film)

    Alphaville

    The Forbidden Zone by Richard Elfman (probably conceived to showcase the early music of Danny Elfman. This movie probably is better off classified as fantasy, but it does have SF elements… such as ray guns and zombies. Drawing its influence from silent movies, old cartoons, and sheer creative insanity, The Forbidden Zone is a surreal ride into incoherence, but Danny Elfman is magnificent as the devil in one of his rare forays into film).

    Red Dwarf I-VIII (Despite going drastic set and storyline changes along the seasons, this series is fucking magnificent. I would love to see the cast reunite for a movie, tie up the series properly).

    Battlestar Galactica (the recent version)

    The Children of Men

    The Animatrix
    The Matrix (I really thought the third movie would conclude with everyone discovering that their existence was an infinite iteration of a matrix within a matrix within a matrix… but noo, they had to go the cornball route and have a geneva treaty writ up. I liked the first two movies though).

    Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
    Howl’s Moving Castle

    Videogames

    Starcraft
    Final Fantasy VII Ps1
    Beyond Good and Evil Gamecube
    Contra NES
    Megaman NES
    Gunstar Heroes Sega Genesis
    Sin and Punishment N64
    Gears of War Xbox360
    Ikaruga Gamecube

  26. uzwi

    An exhaustive–even exhausting–list, zxvasdf.
    I’ll pass on those MJH queries if you don’t mind. I’d prefer the answers–like the worldbuilding–to be between you & the books, an important part of reader-input.

  27. vade nadrol

    Do Waiting for Godot and Endgame count as (apocalyptic) science fiction?

  28. How lovely to see music considered fantasy writing! I’ve been intrigued for a while by fantastical imagery in music, from traditional folksongs that are essentially folktales set to music, to fantasy homages like Led Zeppelin’s Tolkienesque pieces (“No Quarter” etc.) and S.J. Tucker’s albums that accompany Catherynne Valente’s books, to prog rock/heavy metal full of dark imagery like Dream Theater’s “Forsaken” (which, as far as I can tell, is about a man who’s shunned by God and carried off by a vampire). I’ve been thinking for a while that if I ever did a paper for ICFA, this would be the topic.

  29. Sho

    There is a serious lack of Culture in this list.

  30. mmmm, Riddley Walker, 1980, Russell Hoban

    And most probably Moorcock’s Cornelius Quartet

  31. richs

    Great list, and wholeheartedly agree.

    Two glaring omissions from my viewpoint:
    More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon.
    The Prisoner w/the late Patrick McGoohan

    What I find most interesting with lists like these is they way in which they really form a peek inside the mind of the list’s author. I mean, not 1 but 2 JG Ballard pieces. But no Aldus Huxley.

  32. uzwi

    Hi Richs, glad you liked it. There are 5 Ballard titles in fact. I cut The Drought because I figured 6 would have been embarrassing. More Than Human is on my fantasy list a few posts earlier. I’d have duplicated it happily, but there was already a lot of crossover. Agree wholeheartedly about lists like these, thus the disclaimer at the end of the post. The other thing about lists, as someone said early on in the comments, is that they’re an invitation: I’ve already been reminded of a dozen books I forgot, & had some suggestions I’d never have thought of–can’t be bad!

    Hi Rose Fox. My favourite example is All Along the Watchtower, a fantasy in 140-something words. Then there’s the whole of Bowie’s Diamond Dogs… The possibilities are endless.

  33. Allan

    First Light Chronicles, and the rest of the Spinward Fringe series by Randolph LaLonde.

    One of the best science fiction series to come out recently, and in the most interesting of ways. Has been the top selling science fiction books on Mobipocket.com for half a year now.

    Very much under the radar, and way overlooked.
    (www.spinwardfringe.com)

  34. boombud

    Here, hear to the music inclusions. A favorite from my youth was ’39, by Queen [from A Night at the Opera]. It’s a fun ballad concerning space/time travel, in the tradition of 50′s space opera.

    And speaking of space opera, I’m glad you left out the more popular titles of that sub-genre!

    I also thought Schismatrix was masterful. Sterling’s latest short work “White Fungus” is just as powerful.

    Disch and Sturgeon…fabulous. Thanks for the list.

  35. Mayson Lancaster

    Many thanks for the list: the half of it which I am currently unfamiliar with will undoubtedly consume much of my time for years to come.

    Herewith a couple of suggestions.

    Vernor Vinge: any of TrueNames(1981), A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002) would be appropriate additions to the list.

    And please, Michael Swanwick! The Dragons of Babel is the best novel I’ve read lately. Not sure which list to put it on. Is it a report from the *real* Middle Earth, or the narrative of a Pixar immersive entertainment from the not too distant future?

  36. mclaren

    Odd list. Peculiar omissions: Bester’s Demolished Man, Delaney’s Nova, but even more so, the first Delaney short story collection Time Considered As A Helix Of Semi-Precious Stones and Other Stories. C. L. Moore’s short story collection deserves a place — but what about Henry Kuttner’s short story collection(s)? I just re-read a few of those, and they’re fabulous. And what about the best stories of Cordwainer Smith? Just re-read “Scanners Live In Vain” and “The Burning of the Brain” and “The Game of Cat and Dragon” a couple months ago, and they’re amazing. And the best Kuttner-Moore collaborative short stories? Speaking of short fiction, both of John Varley’s major short fiction collections Blue Champagne and Other Stories</I. and Picnic On Nearside and Other Stories should be on there — re-read those recently, they’re still dynamite. In fact, you can see where Iain Banks got most of The Culture from when you read Varley.

    Personally, I’d throw out all the Ballard — striking when you first read ‘em, but they don’t hold up for me. Sort of a Johnny-one-note thing going on there. V by Pynchon I found unreadable — Gravity’s Rainbow came off much better, but it’s not really science fiction. How about Solaris by Lem, and We by Zamyatin? I re-read both recently and they really hold up well. Instead of Last and First Men I’d substitute Sirius by Stapledon. You could argue that Sirius was the first example of singularity fiction, and a deeply moving one, though it was the Singularity for a dog. Anyway, Sirius still grabs me the way the other Stapledon titles don’t.

    Kornbluth’s best short fiction should be on that list. Some kind of “best of Harlan Ellison” collection should be there too, but Ellison keeps publishing so many retrospectives and reprints and who-knows-what-all chrestomathies that it’s hard to say exactly which stories should be in there. None of his published story collections gather together all of his best work in one place.

    I’d add The Island of Doctor Moreau by Wells. You’ll yip, but E.E. Smith’s Skylark series still does it for me. In fact, for sheer mind-blwing outrageousness it beats Last and First Men and The Star Maker in my book.

    Some recent books I’ve re-read and that struck me as even better than I thought they were the first time around: Ventus by Karl Schroeder, The Player of Games by Iain Banks, Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling, China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh.

    Can’t figure why The Dispossessed by LeGuin isn’t on that list — it holds up much better than The Left Hand of Darkness for me and still packs quite a punch. Davy by Edgar Pangborn seems to have been forgotten but I just re-read that one last year: holds up better than any other post-apocalyptic science fiction novel I’ve read, unless you consider Wells’ War of the Worlds to fall into that subgenre.

    Robert Silverberg’s best short fiction from the 1970s should be on that list, and Damon Knight’s best short fiction should definitely be on there, but I don’t know that there are any specific collections covering exactly that limited demesne.
    Silverberg had a bezillion collections and Knight’s best stories are scattered all through his short fiction collections. Don’t think there’s a single collection that collates their best short fiction in one place.

    Zelazny’s best short fiction should be on there for sure, along with Lord Of Light and Four For Tomrorow and This Immortal. Just re-read ‘em and it’s still some of the best science fiction ever written, bar none.

    Neal Stephenson’s novels don’t hold up for me on re-reading. The lack of a proper end for any of his books hurts them badly.

    Oddly enough, I agree with your implicit suggestion that Heinlein doesn’t hold up well. RAH’s juveniles failed to capture my interest when I was 12 to 16 years old, probably because Heinlein described a world full of adolescents who were bright and disciplined and eager and dedicated and industrious, and I’d never met any adolescents like that. All the adolescents I ever met were wild animals who did crazy stupid things and would’ve killed themselves and each other if not for constant adult supervision. For example, about five minutes into Tunnel In the Sky all the kids would’ve busied themselves committing gang rape and mass murder, and after the first week they would have descended to cannibalism. Of Heinlein’s adult novels, noen hold up, especially weird tracts like Starship Troopers and The Puppet Masters.

    I’d include Asmivo’s best short fiction and the Foundation trilogy on that list. Frederick Pohl’s best short fiction should be on there too. I wanted to say Gateway, but after re-reading that one, it doesn’t pack quite the wallop it did on first reading, maybe because you know what’s going to happen at the end.

    A. E. Van Vogt’s The Voyage of the Space Beagle keeps doin’ it for me, should definitely on there. Don’t know how many times I’ve read that one, still rocks hard. The brutal social commentary about the debased internal politics of the scientists comes off as a great counterpoint to the increasingly sinister alien menaces.

    I second the vote for Herbert’s Dune Gotta be on there. Don’t know how many times I’ve re-read that, and it still kicks ass and takes names. Patricia White’s short story collection should be on there, along with Joan Vinge’s The Snow Queen and the tripods trilogy by John Christopher.

    Report on Probability Aby Aldiss and Timescape by Benford fell flat for me the first time I read both, and attempts to re-read either book have failed. Neither Aldiss nor Benford have ever penned a readable novel. Both excel at short fiction, but their novels fail uniformly.

    Karel Capek’s War With the Newts should be on that list. I re-read that not long ago, and couldn’t put it down. I’m tempted to put Newton’s Wake by Ken MacLeod on there since I’ve already re-read it twice since it was first published, but it’s probably still too soon to tell if that one holds up. Fine book, though.

    Your selection of movies comes off as very weird.

    Them! remains unwatchable. I tried to view it a few weeks ago with a friend, we wound up laughing at the bogus papier-mache ants and the ludicrous violations of the square-cube law. But the ridiculous speech by the prof at the end deep-sixed the whole film. Impossible to take seriously.

    So we put on Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still and those both hold up superbly.

    Quatermass 2, Repo Man, Flatliners and especially the vile Event Horizon left me dumbstruck with bafflement. Pure sludge. If you want a Quatermass film, pick the third one, Quatermass and the Pit — that’s the good one. A much better treatment of the Flatliners theme was the TV movie Mr. Stitch starring Rutger Hauer and Wil Wheaton. Repo Man couldn’t be taken seriously and didn’t even have an ending. And as for that bogus slasher film in outer space…please. Event Horizon remains an unwatchable embarrassment. They should’ve called it “The Haunted Spaceship.” Even worse than Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires, and that’s saying something.

    For science fiction movies that still hold their interest after many years of repeat viewings, try: The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1957), La Jetee (1962), Phase IV (1974), and the original Tarkovsky version of Solaris (1972). Blade Runner (1982, the director’s cut) andDark City (1998) are pure dynamite and I’ve seen those two I don’t know how many times…they still reveal new depths. The Shadow from 1995 holds up well too (you might not consider it science fiction, though), along with The Matrix (not the sequels, of course). Obviously 2001: A Space Odyssey should be on that list, don’t know why it wasn’t. And even though it’s cheesy as hell in some ways, It! The Terror From Beyond Space still grabs you and won’t let go. The Magnetic Monster (1953) also works very very well. That last remains one of the few compelling films about pure science without ooga booga giant monsters or evil aliens, and it continues to impress me today, 55 years after it was made.

    Just re-watched Primer and that holds up extremely well, in fact better with repeat viewings because of the complexity of the plot. But it’s still to soon to tell for a film that recent.

    Planet of the Apes holds up very well as social satire. Except for the stupid religious stuff at the end that got inserted into the script to pander to the Red States, the film Contact still works very well too. I periodically re-watch that one and it packs as much of a punch as it did the first time around, partly due to the great gosh-wow-sense-of-wonder, and partly due to the awe and humane depth of the contact scene on the beach.

    Oddly enough, the 1968 film Countdown starring James Caan and Robert Duvall really holds up beautifully. It’s not how the moon landing went off, but the film works nonetheless.

    Wish I’d seen the original Nebo Zovyat (the Stars Call because from what I’ve seen in the butchered hacked Corman version “Battle Beyond the Sun,” it belongs on the list too. Won’t someone re-release the Russian original version on DVD?

    Speaking of Corman, here’s a vote for The Day the World Ended (1955), a great little science fiction/horror number combining thermonuclear war with old atomic mutant shtick. The Paul Blaisdell latex-rubber zero-budget monster at the end looks bogus, but if you can get past that, the film works very well 54 years on.

    For my money, the best British science fiction film remains Quest For Love (1971). Best treatment of the parallel universe theme I’ve seen in film. If you consider it science fiction, add Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) for a tie. The alarming thing is that Britain has pretty much wound up in the world of Brazil right now, today.

  37. uzwi

    Disagree wholly on Ballard, & feel exactly the opposite about V & Gravity’s Rainbow, ie the latter’s unreadable (an argument I’ve sometimes had with John Clute). But Primer! I knew I’d forgotten something: a stunner. It’s a given with lists that you’re going to make some really glaring errors, even from your own pov. Certainly regret forgetting Cordwainer Smith, for instance. As for the movies, esp Event Horizon etc, see disclaimer, end of post. But again: that’s what comments are for, & lists exist only to stimulate other lists, so many thanks mclaren for the recommendations.

  38. Clicked through Bruce Sterling’s blog… I definitely need to find some of these. Some things I’ve recently read that struck a cord:

    We – Yevgeny Zamyatin, trans. Natasha Randall
    The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
    “First Things to Hand” in Gulf Music – Robert Pinsky

    That last isn’t overtly sf or fantasy, but the spirit of it goes beyond what the visceral world leaves us with.

    Anyways, glad I found the blog. I’ll definitely be following.

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  40. que bonito encontrar a Samorost, el juego en flash, es de las creaciones más hermosas que existen.

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