Sunday, 26 July 2015

You Haven't Read THAT?!

I knew a science fiction writer who had read no Stapledon and was a big Poul Anderson fan but had not read any of the latter's Time Patrol series. I am occasionally irritated by other people's surprise that I have not read a particular work of literature. What we have or have not read is partly a matter of chance and also of reading habits formed early in life.

I latched onto sf very early. Looking at comic strips before even reading them, I liked cowboys but preferred men in spacesuits to men on horses - and did not like football. Why? What determines interests? They seem arbitrary. However, my deeper interests turned out to be philosophy and spirituality, the latter now expressed through Zen mediation. Perhaps sf and mythology are imaginative expressions of such interests?

I saw that there were adult paperback novels with pictures of spacemen and robots on their covers. Not sure whether I would like them, I checked out Alfred Bester and Isaac Asimov. Soon I had a list of must read authors. Heinlein and Simak were on the list but went off it. Blish was my favorite but I read his entire canon. Anderson was not on the list. It took me a long time to appreciate his works fully. Now, of course, the Anderson blog is much longer than either the Blish or the SF blog.

By publishing this blog, I have engaged in correspondence that has alerted me to the works of SM Stirling although as a rule I have not kept up with more recent sf authors.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Like you, I've read some Cowboys and Indians stories as a boy, but did not really care for them. Also, again like you, I've read comic books, partly because my parents saw them as a means of me learning how to read. More unusually, perhaps, my favorite comics were the ones by Walt Disney featuring Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck, and Mickey Mouse (in that order).

I must have been about 14 when I first came across fantasy and SF, and was hooked. Tolkien's THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS, of course, plus some of his better successors (such as THE GAMMAGE CUP). Then came Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, etc. Other SF I read early were the Mushroom Planet books (good for younger readers!).

And, as we both know, it was Poul Anderson who very soon became my single most favorite hard SF writer. So much so that by 1971 I began buying his books in hard cover as my preference, rather than in paperbacks. And it was in 1978 that I first started corresponding with him by snail mail. He was always very kind and patient about my sometimes far too long and argumentative lettesr. And responded to every single one of the 24 letters I wrote to him!

Isaac Asimov also made a big impression on me in my early years as an SF reader. Esp. the three original FOUNDATION books. And many of his better short stories collected in I, ROBOT and EARTH IS ROOM ENOUGH. But, after THE GODS THEMSELVES I got tired of Asimov. I found him too flat, colorless, plain, monochromatic, and weak on character development.

And Robert Heinlein's pre STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND books will always be worth reading, IMO. They are among his best works, esp. FIFTH COLUMN and DOUBLE STAR. Beginning with STRANGER, alas, Heinlein tragically declined as a writer. He became a bore about sex and incest!

Alfred Bester? I greatly like his THE STARS MY DESTINATION and THE DEMOLISHED MAN. They will continue to be well worth reading and thinking about.

There are so many other good SF writers I have not read, alas. You mentioned Simak, whose works I have not read. At least I have read some of James Blish's books. And I'm certainly glad you took a chance with my recommendation that you try S.M. Stirling's works. And I'm very glad you like his books.


Paul Shackley said...

Thank you for your comparable reading history. I have returned to comics, alongside prose fiction, because the sequential art story telling medium has grown up over the decades - and apparently always did address adults in France and other Continental European countries. As an example, Dick Grayson, the former "Boy Wonder," is now an adult with a different costumed identity, an independent career and the problems associated with male-female relationships and his successor was brutally murdered by the Joker who also put Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair (thanks to Alan Moore).
Of course, returning to comics (more properly called "graphics") in no way means turning away from prose fiction by Anderson, Stirling etc.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I certainly have no objection to readers like you also liking "grown up" comic books (or graphic books). But, aside from my lingering fondness for Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck, they are not really cup of tea. But, I had not known the Boy Wonder struck out as an independent hero. (Smiles)

My primary interest continues to lie with good fantasy and hard SF. Varied sometimes with poetry like the verses of Rudyard Kipling (or even Poul Anderson and JRR Tolkien's poems).