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Thread: The Basics

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    Exclamation The Basics of F/SF

    Over at the Science Fiction Writers of America, they call it "re-inventing the wheel." Here's what they say:

    Re-Inventing the Wheel:

    A novice author goes to enormous lengths to create a science-fictional situation already tiresomely familiar to the experienced reader. Reinventing the Wheel was traditionally typical of mainstream writers venturing into SF. It is now often seen in writers who lack experience in genre history because they were attracted to written SF via SF movies, SF television series, SF role-playing games, SF comics or SF computer gaming.
    What's that mean? Well...

    If you’re writing about colony ships, you should know about Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky and Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama. If you’re writing about telepaths working with non-psychics, you should know about Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man.

    Why? So you don't waste your time. So you don't make basic mistakes, or offer up a vision that is new to you, but old to everyone else. When you write speculative fiction, you explore the consequences of ideas. But if those consequences have already been mapped and developed by others, you are not an explorer; you are just a tourist.

    We already have a “Best of” thread and a “Must Read” thread, but those are more along the lines of recommendations. Here’s a thread of classic work in fantasy, science fiction and hard science that’s arranged by topic. If you're considering a dystopian novel, for instance, you can scroll down to that topic and find works like Stand on Zanzibar (or even Rollerball). Italics indicates a novel; quotation marks indicate a short story or novella.

    This isn’t meant to be a list of all works on a subject, nor of the best works on a subject. (In fact, some of these works have not worn well.) It's only a list of *seminal* works on a subject: those works that laid the foundations; those works that, if ignored, will make you look like a fool when you try to shop your own unintentional retread of a story. If you haven’t read the work and don't want to, you can usually check it out on Wikipedia. Just remember, if you write a totalitarian dystopia without knowing about 1984, you have only yourself to blame.


    Alien Invasion
    One of the oldest tropes in science fiction.

    War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
    “Who Goes There?” John W. Campbell (This novella is the source material of no less than three movie adaptations, all called The Thing.)
    Similarly:
    The Puppet Masters, Robert Heinlein, 1951
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Jack Finney 1956
    “Come Into My Cellar,” Ray Bradbury, 1962


    Alternate History
    Also known these days as counterfactual history, an alternate history is a timeline in which events occurred...differently. Battles lost were won; fallen empires remained intact; great figures died before their time, or lived on past it; and we are given a tour of the consequences.

    Paratime & Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, H. Beam Piper (Some Paratime stories are freely available on Project Gutenberg)
    The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
    “A Sound of Thunder,” Ray Bradbury
    “Mirror, Mirror,” Star Trek episode (AKA "Spock With a Beard")
    It’s a Wonderful Life, film, 1946
    "Roads of Destiny," O. Henry


    Androids
    See "Artificial Intelligence/Robots"


    Angels and Devils
    Once abstract concepts or even metaphors, angels and demons have since been mythologized as entities who could be commanded and feared, and then turned into characters of fiction. Modern fantasy especially has treated these beings as individuals with great powers, following the lead of John Milton and taking it even farther.
    Paradise Lost, John Milton
    Hellblazer, comic, Alan Moore, Jamie Delano, John Ridgway
    The Prophecy, film, Gregory Widen
    Black Easter, James Blish


    The Apocalypse/The Singularity/And After
    "Apocalypse" is Greek for "revelation," but has come to mean the end of the world thanks to the Apocalypse of St. John, otherwise known as The Book of Revelations. "The Singularity" is the idea that our technology (specifically, our information/intelligence/computer technology) will soon improve at such a rate that it will be incomprehensible to us, and ultimately lead to an unpredictable event that will so alter us or the world that we will be unrecognizable. Popularized by Ray Kurzweil, its roots were laid out in a 1993 paper by Vernor Vinge, who noted that the key element of the Singularity would be "technological runaway." Anticipation of the Singularity has since become the central tenet of Trans-Humanism.

    "What Is the Singularity?" Vernor Vinge
    Planet of the Apes, film, Rod Serling (NB The film varies significantly from the original novel by Pierre Boullé)
    “By the Waters of Babylon,” Stephen Vincent Benét
    Marooned in Realtime, Vernor Vinge
    Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
    On the Beach, Nevil Shute
    A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
    The Stand, Stephen King
    The Apocalypse of St. John (aka The Book of Revelations), traditional


    Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Robots/Androids
    Mankind invents machines as smart, or smarter, than we are. Disaster ensues...or not.
    (For SF purposes, "artificial intelligences" or "AIs" are artificially created beings, usually computers, that are self-aware; "robots" are AIs that can move themselves and other objects; and "androids" are robots built to look and sound like human beings.)

    The Golem, traditional
    Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley
    R.U.R., Karl Capek (originated the term "robot" and the concept of the robot uprising)
    With Folded Hands, Jack Williamson
    I, Robot, Isaac Asimov
    The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
    Berserker, Fred Saberhagen
    "2001," (film) Arthur C. Clarke & Stanley Kubrick
    "Bladerunner," (film) Philip K. Dick, Hampton Francher, David Peoples, Ridley Scott (based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
    "Farewell to the Master," Harry Bates (adapted for the screen as The Day the Earth Stood Still)


    Body Modification
    We improve the breed by sticking ourselves full o’ junk – personality modifications, physical improvements, etc. etc. Or maybe we use drugs or genes instead. See also “Human Evolution.”

    "Scanners Live in Vain," Cordwainer Smith
    The Bionic Man (TV)
    Blood Music, Greg Bear
    “Flowers for Algernon,” Daniel Keyes
    When Gravity Fails, George Alec Effinger


    Cloning
    It should be noted that, despite its technological mystique, cloning is something that occurs regularly in nature - as identical twins.

    The Boys From Brazil, Ira Levin
    Bug Jack Barron, Norman Spinrad



    Dragons
    The Hobbit & Farmer Giles of Ham, JRR Tolkien
    The Dragonriders of Pern, Anne McCaffrey
    Beowulf, traditional
    The Volsunga Saga, traditional
    St. George and the Dragon, traditional


    Dystopia
    A dystopia is a future in which things are going very, very badly for humanity – generally through our own fault. Dystopian stories have been around forever, but they became especially prominent in the 1960s. They tend to function as satires of ideas or social trends occurring at the time they were written.

    Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, 1932
    1984, George Orwell, 1949
    Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953
    A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962
    Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner, 1968
    Soylent Green, film, 1973 (based on Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room!)
    "The Machine Stops," E.M. Forster


    The Decadent Earth
    A post-Imperial planet or civilization whose citizens live among the remnants of a glorious past. In some novels, it can be seen as a metaphor for European decline after WWII, but its roots can be traced at least as far back as Percy Shelley's Ozymandias. The characters are often exquisite aesthetes; occasionally they also have enormous personal power.

    Nightwings, Robert Silverberg
    The Dying Earth, Jack Vance
    The Dancers at the End of Time, Michael Moorcock
    The Time Machine, H.G. Wells


    Enigma Tales
    We are confronted with artifacts we do not understand, from a race or culture that's not around to tell us what it all means. Sometimes it's a human culture; sometimes it's alien. Enigma tales often involve the promise of great wealth to lure the main characters into action, and the puzzles are often the author's way to illuminate the characters confronting them. Some have argued that, since SF is the literature of "What If?" Enigma Tales represent one of the purest expressions of the genre.

    Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
    Gateway, Fredrick Pohl
    "Ticket to Anywhere," Damon Knight
    "By The Waters of Babylon," Stephen Vincent Benét
    “Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore (writing as Lewis Padgett)
    Forbidden Planet, film, Irving Block, Allen Adler, Cyril Hume, Fred M. Wilcox
    Solaris, Stanislaw Lem


    Epistemology/Hallucination/Enlightenment/The Nature of Reality
    Ubik & A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick
    The Futurological Congress, Stanislaw Lem
    "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," Ambrose Bierce
    "The Butterfly Dream" of Zhuangzi, Zhuangzi


    Exoskeleton Suits
    The Forever War, Robert Haldeman
    Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein
    Iron Man, comic, Stan Lee & Larry Leiber


    Extreme Environmental Tales
    Stories in which physical conditions are so difficult or bizarre that they become characters in and of themselves. Once a staple of hard science fiction, they have decreased as our knowledge of other planets has increased.

    Dune, Frank Herbert
    Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
    Dragon's Egg, Robert Forward
    "Surface Tension," James Blish
    "A Pail of Air," Fritz Leiber


    First Contact
    Between humans and aliens.

    The Mote in God’s Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
    "A Martian Odyssey," Stanley G. Weinbaum
    “First Contact,” Murray Leinster
    "The Helping Hand," Poul Anderson
    The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
    2001, A Space Odyssey, film, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind, film, Steven Spielberg
    The Day the Earth Stood Still, film, 1951, Robert Wise, Harry Bates, Edmund North
    ET, film, Steven Spielberg
    The Man Who Fell to Earth, film, Walter Tevis, Nicolas Roeg
    Solaris, Stanislaw Lem
    Contact, Carl Sagan
    Similarly:
    A Signal From Space, Will Eisner (graphic novel)
    His Master's Voice, Stanislaw Lem
    The Hercules Text, Jack McDevitt


    Franchise Government/Anarchy
    A social system in which governmental functions like security, defense, and conflict resolution are maintained by private organizations, not public bodies; or a society in which the government no longer has a "monopoly of legitimate violence" - especially if some or all of those functions have been assumed by corporations. Derived from anarchist political theory, it is also a defining concept of cyberpunk.

    "The Ungoverned," Vernor Vinge
    Snowcrash, Neal Stephenson


    Future Warfare
    The Forever War, Robert Haldeman
    Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein
    Revolt in 2100, Robert Heinlein
    Bolo, Keith Laumer


    Genetic Engineering
    The Seedling Stars, James Blish
    Lilith's Brood, Octavia E. Butler


    Heaven, Hell, Nirvana and New Jersey
    The Afterlife probably has the oldest pedigree of any concept in literature. The first seven entries detail Classical notions of the Afterlife; the question then becomes how those concepts have been reworked by modern authors...
    The Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia), Dante Alighieri
    Paradise Lost, John Milton
    The Gospels, traditional
    The Pali Canon, traditional (Buddhism)
    The Bhagavad Gita, traditional (Hinduism)
    The Odyssey, Homer (Greco-Roman)
    The Aeneid, Virgil (Greco-Roman)
    The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis
    Lilith, George Macdonald
    Ghost, film, Bruce Joel Rubin, Jerry Zucker
    Made in Heaven/What Dreams May Come, films - Heaven as a non-geographical space shaped by the desires of the inhabitants



    Human Evolution/Superhumans
    Mankind takes the next step to...something else. (See also "Singularity.")

    Star Maker & The Last and First Men, Olaf Stapledon
    Dorsai, Gordon R. Dickson
    The Seedling Stars, James Blish
    Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
    Dune, Frank Herbert
    Protector, Larry Niven
    Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
    The Midwich Cuckoos, John Wyndham
    Slan, A.E. Van Vogt
    Darwin's Radio, Greg Bear
    Lilith's Brood, Octavia E. Butler
    “Gulf,” Robert Heinlein


    Human Colonization/Invasion of Alien Worlds
    The Seedling Stars, James Blish
    The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
    A Gift From Earth, Larry Niven


    Immortality/Longevity
    The Immortals, James Gunn
    “The Martyr,” Alan E. Nourse
    Methusaleh’s Children, Robert Heinlein
    The Instrumentality of Mankind, Cordwainer Smith
    "Dio," Damon Knight


    Magic
    A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin (Magic as laws that reflect the fundamental nature of reality.)
    The Dying Earth, Jack Vance (One-shot spells that must be relearned; Vance's system of magic was later appropriated by the Dungeons & Dragons game system.)
    The Lord Darcy series, Randall Garrett (Magic as a psionic ability constrained by precise scientific laws.)
    The Magic Goes Away, Larry Niven (Magic as a non-renewable resource, like petroleum.)
    Black Easter, James Blish (Magic in the traditional Goetic style)


    Megascale Engineering
    Building habitats that are larger than planets.

    Ringworld, Larry Niven
    “Bigger Than Worlds,” essay, Larry Niven
    The works of Freeman Dyson


    Mind Control/Brainwashing
    Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
    "Country of the Kind," Damon Knight
    A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge
    Walden II, B.F. Skinner
    The Manchurian Candidate, Richard Condon
    The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin


    Multigenerational Colony Ships
    Orphans of the Sky, Robert Heinlein (aka "Universe" & "Common Sense")
    Rendezvous With Rama, Arthur C. Clarke


    Nanotechnology
    The Engines of Creation, K. Eric Drexler
    Blood Music, Greg Bear
    "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom," Richard Feynman


    Portals
    Portals are more of a plot device than an idea to be explored; that said, the number and variety of portals in fantasy especially is remarkable.

    Oisin in Tir na n'Og, traditional
    The Magician’s Nephew & The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
    "Ticket to Anywhere," Damon Knight
    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
    Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny
    Tunnel in the Sky, Robert Heinlein
    "The Word of Unbinding," Ursula K. LeGuin


    Psychohistory/Mathematical Psychology/Mathematical Sociology
    The idea that at some point in the future, psychology and sociology may become as scientifically rigorous as engineering and chemistry. In science fiction, the trope seems to have gained popularity with John W. Campbell’s interest in Alfred Korzybski's (now debunked) philosophy of General Semantics. It has since been the source of claims made for Scientology and Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

    The World of Null-A, A.E. Van Vogt
    The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
    Revolt in 2100, "Coventry," & "Gulf," Robert Heinlein
    Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, Martin Gardner


    Robots – see Artificial Intelligence


    Secret History
    Not to be confused with alternate history (see above) a secret history (or shadow history) is a revisionist interpretation of either fictional or known history which is claimed to be unknown, suppressed, or forgotten. When combined with the occult, it becomes a subject of fantasy; when combined with high technology, a subject of science fiction.

    The Stress of Her Regard, Tim Powers
    Tarzan Alive/The Wold Newton Family, Philip José Farmer


    Slower-Than-Light (STL) Interstellar Travel
    See also the special case of Multigenerational Colony Ships.

    Protector, Larry Niven
    A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge
    Tau Zero, Poul Anderson


    Steampunk: also Gaslight Romance/Clockpunk/Westpunk/Neo-Victorian/etc.
    Steam power, clockwork, and occasionally magic are what make the world go 'round - and usually it's a 19th Century, Victorian kind of world, too.

    The Difference Engine, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
    Metropolitan, Walter Jon Williams
    The Wild, Wild West (TV series)
    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne (Not technically steampunk, but Verne and Wells are surely the godfathers of the genre.)


    Suspended Animation/Time Dilation
    The protagonist (often an astronaut or a criminal) is placed in a state that slows the aging process while the years race past. When he comes out of that state, things are very, very different. Sometimes the state is the result of a chemical freezing or hibernation, and the protagonist is unaware of the years passing; sometimes the slowing is the result of time dilation. It is paralleled in fairy tales by stories of mortals taken into the ageless fairy realm, who then return home hundreds of years later.

    "Rip Van Winkle," Washington Irving
    The Sleeper Awakes, H.G. Wells
    "Far Centaurus," A.E. Van Vogt
    "Armageddon 2419 A.D."/"Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," Philip Francis Nowlan
    Branwen, Daughter of Llyr, traditional


    Telepathy
    The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
    The X-Men, comic book series, various


    Teleportation
    The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
    “All the Bridges Rusting,” "Flash Crowd," “The Theory and Practice of Teleportation,” Larry Niven
    "Ticket to Anywhere," Damon Knight (Compare with Stargate)


    Terraforming
    Collision Orbit, Jack Williamson (introduced the term)
    Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson


    Theology
    Sometimes authors use F/SF to speculate on theological questions or to expound their own religious beliefs, whether as allegory, polemic, satire, or thought experiment.

    Perelandra, C.S. Lewis
    The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
    A Case of Conscience, James Blish
    The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard de Chardin
    "The Quest for St. Aquin," Anthony Boucher
    "The Last Question," Isaac Asimov
    "Flies," Isaac Asimov
    "Microcosmic God," Theodore Sturgeon
    Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein


    Time Travel
    A staple of the genre, because it appeals to humanity's two most deep-seated drives: tourism and revisionism.

    “A Sound of Thunder,” Ray Bradbury
    "All You Zombies," Robert Heinlein
    Changewar, The Big Time, and "Try and Change the Past," Fritz Leiber
    The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
    A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Mark Twain
    “Vintage Season,” Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore (writing as Lewis Padgett)
    The Terminator (film)


    Uplifted Animals
    Animals who are granted the intelligence – but not necessarily the rights – of human beings.

    The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells
    The Dead Lady of Clown Town, Cordwainer Smith (part of The Instrumentality of Mankind)
    Startide Rising, David Brin
    Planet of the Apes film series


    Urban Fantasy/Contemporary Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
    The definition of "Urban Fantasy" has changed over the last two decades. It once referred to those stories in which magic and/or magical beings persist into the modern world. However, publishers have redefined the category. Old-style UF is now frequently referred to as "Contemporary Fantasy," and UF is a CF subgenre in which the tone is cynical, the tropes are Chandleresque, and the protagonist is frequently a "kickass heroine." Current UF is more rooted in the horror than the fantasy genre. "Paranormal Romance" is a sub-sub-genre of UF, in which the heroine sleeps with (or is) the monster, instead of killing it.

    The War for the Oaks, Emma Bull (CF)
    Magic, Inc. Robert Heinlein (CF)
    Mage, v.1 (graphic novel) Matt Wagner (CF)
    The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher (UF)
    Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Laurell K. Hamilton (UF)
    Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, (TV series) Joss Whedon (UF/PR)


    Utopian Satire
    Not to be confused with dystopian literature – utopian satire questions the notion that humanity can ever achieve an ideal life.

    "Riders of the Purple Wage," Philip José Farmer
    To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip José Farmer
    Wyst: Alastor 1716, Jack Vance (to this day, one of the most trenchant literary critiques of classical Communism)
    The Instrumentality of Mankind/Alpha Ralpha Boulevard, Cordwainer Smith
    The Dancers at the End of Time, Michael Moorcock


    Vampires
    Dracula, Bram Stoker
    Interview With A Vampire, Anne Rice
    I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
    The Stress of Her Regard, Tim Powers
    Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, (TV series) Joss Whedon


    Virtual Reality/Cyberspace/Cyberpunk
    Neuromancer, William Gibson
    Snowcrash, Neal Stephenson
    “True Names,” Vernor Vinge


    Good Examples
    Stories that might not have been first, but are nevertheless good examples - because they're good fiction, or because they typify a notion, or both.

    "The Keys to December," Roger Zelazny (Terraforming, Suspended Animation, Genetic Engineering)
    The Door Into Summer, Robert Heinlein (Suspended Animation, Time Travel)
    The Sandman, graphic novel, Neil Gaiman (The Afterlife, Angels & Demons)
    "Futurama," (cartoon) Matt Groening (Suspended Animation)
    Time for the Stars, Robert Heinlein (Time Dilation)
    Hyperion, Dan Simmons (Enigma Tales, Future Warfare)
    "Parasite Planet," Stanley G. Weinbaum (Extreme Environmental Tales)
    "The Long Rain," Ray Bradbury (Extreme Environmental Tales)
    The Integral Trees, Larry Niven (Extreme Environmental Tales)
    The Legacy of Heorot, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Steven Barnes (Colonization)
    Eon, Greg Bear (Colony Ships, Enigma Tales)
    The Brother From Another Planet, film, John Sayles
    Newton's Cannon, John Gregory Keyes (Alternate History, Magic)
    Destiny's Road, Larry Niven (Colonization)
    Farmer in the Sky, Robert Heinlein (Colonization, Terraforming)
    The Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (Apocalypse)
    “The Misfit,” Roger Zelazny (Epistemology/Hallucination/Nature of Reality) (anticipates The Matrix by 40 years)
    A Wizard of Earthsea & "The Rule of Names," Ursula K. LeGuin (Dragons)
    SS-GB, Len Deighton (Alternate History)
    Mirrorshades, anthology (Cyberpunk)
    Rollerball, film, William Harrison, 1975 (Dystopia)
    The Sheep Look Up, John Brunner, 1972 (Dystopia)
    Girl Genius, webcomic, Kaja & Phil Foglio (Steampunk)
    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ian Fleming (Steampunk)
    This Perfect Day, Ira Levin (Dystopia, Mind Control)
    The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin (Utopian Satire, Mind Control)
    Lucifer's Hammer, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
    The Arrival, film, David Twohy (Alien Invasion, Terraforming)
    The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne-Jones (Magic, Dragons)
    Little Fuzzy, H. Beam Piper (First Contact, Colonization)
    The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher, (Urban Fantasy)
    Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Laurell K. Hamilton (Vampires, Urban Fantasy)
    The Sparrow, Maria Doria Russell (Theology)
    The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (Secret History)
    "The Sixth Palace," Robert Silverberg (Enigma Tales)
    Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore (writing as Lewis Padgett) (Human Evolution)
    "Star, Bright," Mark Clifton (Human Evolution)
    Jumper, Steven Gould (Teleportation)
    Titan, John Varley (Colony Ships)


    Classic Anthologies
    Sometimes it's a collection that has influence.

    Dangerous Visions, Harlan Ellison (ed.) (New Wave, Dystopia, Others)
    The Science Fiction Hall of Fame
    Mirrorshades, anthology (Cyberpunk)


    Meta-Stuff: Cliff Notes and Trope Collections
    Handcrafted and lovingly assembled by true fans.

    A Bibliography of Planetary Engineering - A list of articles and books to help you get it right with terraforming and megascale engineering.
    The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne-Jones
    Atomic Rockets - a useful guide to the actual science
    The Tough Guide to the Known Galaxy - "It was just clitch, clitch, clitch!"
    TVTropes.com - The inimitable. Literally.
    Last edited by Smiling Ted; 10-06-2014 at 10:45 PM. Reason: Excellent suggestions
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  2. #2
    Not responsible for bitten fingers Shadow_Ferret's Avatar
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    You know, if I stopped to read all those before I wrote anything, I'd never get any writing done anyway.

    I think you should just write. We can't all be knowledgeable about every book written in the sci-fi/fantasy field.

    To me this is the same as someone telling me I have no business writing fantasy because I haven't read Tolkien or CS Lewis.

    Or before you write a mystery you have to read everything Agatha Christy or Dorothy Sayers wrote.

    Or for detective genre everything Dashiel Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Micky Spillane.

    A writer should be well-read, yes, but they don't have to be familiar with everything related to the topic they're about to undertake.
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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW Fenika's Avatar
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    He didn't say to read everything. But your argument against being well read is not exactly strong.

    Thanks for the list. Can you peel the spoilers off? I saw the one tacked onto War of the Worlds and cringed (Though I saw the movie, so no surprises there)

  4. #4
    Company Man MattW's Avatar
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    Should you read all of those that apply? Not necessarily. It might help if you already have, but like the Ferret says, why stop writing? I'll never be able to read all of the books that might have some common elements with what I write.

    The list above can inspire and direct your thoughts in new ways, but I treat all reading like that. It goes in my brain, percolates for weeks, months or years, and comes out as some new idea.
    "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." -- Albert Einstein

  5. #5
    Not responsible for bitten fingers Shadow_Ferret's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bahamutchild View Post
    He didn't say to read everything. But your argument against being well read is not exactly strong.
    My argument wasn't against being well-read. Quiet the opposite. I think being well-read means you've read classics from every genre, not just yours.

    If I write urban fantasy does that mean I need to read everything by Jim Butcher, Tonya Huff, Laurel K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, et al in order to write my own stuff. I don't think so.
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  6. #6
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    cool idea, at least if we can just see what's gone before it'll help. And it's hard to know every book!

    A couple of suggestions? I don't know about seminal but worth a look esp if you are going to write in that field...

    Mind swapping
    I will fear no evil, Heinlen

    Teleportation
    'Flash Crowd' Larry Niven
    'The Jaunt' Stephen King

    Magic in this reality ( or something, I dunno )
    Wizard of the Pigeons, Megan Lindholm

    And Moorcock should be in there for something...
    Last edited by Pthom; 01-08-2009 at 01:40 AM. Reason: edited format to match the original list.




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    Moderator AW Moderator Sophia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smiling Ted View Post
    Why should you know? So you don't waste your time. So you don't make basic mistakes, or offer up a vision that is new to you, but old to everyone else.

    ...

    This isn’t meant to be a list of all works on a subject, nor of the best works on a subject. It's only a list of seminal works on a subject - those works that laid the foundations.

    This is all that Smiling Ted was saying, not, "You must read every book that touches on similar content to yours before you write a word". The post read as an intention to help other writers. How is it the same as saying that you have no business writing fantasy because you haven't read Tolkien?

    Smiling Ted, thank you for taking the time to post this. I ditto Bahamutchild's request to remove spoilers though, please.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ElaraSophia View Post
    This is all that Smiling Ted was saying, not, "You must read every book that touches on similar content to yours before you write a word". The post read as an intention to help other writers. How is it the same as saying that you have no business writing fantasy because you haven't read Tolkien?

    Smiling Ted, thank you for taking the time to post this. I ditto Bahamutchild's request to remove spoilers though, please.
    My pleasure.
    I've removed all the spoilers I noticed; if there are any I missed, please let me know.
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdiotsRUs View Post
    cool idea, at least if we can just see what's gone before it'll help. And it's hard to know every book!

    A couple of suggestions? I don't know about seminal but worth a look esp if you are going to write in that field...

    Mind swapping

    I will fear no evil, Heinlen

    Teleportation

    'Flash Crowd' Larry Niven
    'The Jaunt' Stephen King

    Magic in this reality ( or something, I dunno )

    Wizard of the Pigeons
    , Megan Lindholm

    And Moorcock should be in there for something...
    I've included "Flash Crowd" with the other Niven teleportation works. I'm not familiar with the other suggestions - let me check them out.
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    Thanks for this, Ted.

    The list is useful. Especially for those of us who aren't particularly interested in re-inventing the wheel.

    There is no expectation for writers to read all these titles, or even all the titles on a particular topic, but it's a darned good idea to at least be aware what writers who came before you have written on the topic.

    ____________________________________________

    I have a title or two to add, that I found useful. Under colonization: one by Barnes, Pournelle and Niven: The Legacy of Heorot and Beowulf's Children. And one by Niven: Destiny's Road.

    And under colony ships, one by Greg Bear: Eon
    Last edited by Pthom; 01-08-2009 at 01:56 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdiotsRUs View Post
    And Moorcock should be in there for something...
    Indeed. Updated under "Utopian Satire."
    Last edited by Smiling Ted; 01-10-2009 at 06:57 AM.
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    The list is a good idea, but it's heavy on science fiction topics. Some fantasy topics might be portals between worlds*, fantasy worlds with technology, dragons, animal-human bonds, and animal POV characters. Those discussions seem to crop on the forum in various forms.

    -

    * I mean Chronicles of Narnia rather than Stargate. There are people unaware how often this is done in fantasy.
    * Polenth *

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    I would like to add Contact by Carl Sagan in First Contact.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polenth View Post
    The list is a good idea, but it's heavy on science fiction topics. Some fantasy topics might be portals between worlds*, fantasy worlds with technology, dragons, animal-human bonds, and animal POV characters. Those discussions seem to crop on the forum in various forms.

    -

    * I mean Chronicles of Narnia rather than Stargate. There are people unaware how often this is done in fantasy.
    Sure. How about, for starters:

    Urban Fantasy
    (for the technology/magic issue)
    Steampunk
    (for the technology/magic issue)
    Dragons

    But what would you suggest for portals? Gates, mirrors, fairy rings, and wardrobes often seem to be more of a plot device (a way to get the action started) than something that determines the action.

    Quote Originally Posted by TMA-1 View Post
    I would like to add Contact by Carl Sagan in First Contact.
    Done, with similar treatments.
    Last edited by Smiling Ted; 01-10-2009 at 09:30 PM.
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    practical experience, FTW Fenika's Avatar
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    From the world hopping thread, should portals get a mention (though I don't think all of these deserve mention as a basic read)

    Quote Originally Posted by Liosse de Velishaf View Post
    Guy Gavriel Kay has the "Fionavar Tapestry"; as mentioned, C.S. Lewis and "Narnia"; I believe "The King of Elfland's Daughter" is one; "Neverending Story"; "Mordant's Need" and "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever" by Stephen R. Dinaldson; a bunch of YA series I can't remember the name of; sort of "His Dark Materials". I'm sure there's more, I just don't remember them right now.

    ETA: Cannot believe I forgot "The Wizard of Oz".
    Also, though portals do get the action started, they often tie in on a deeper level. In Fionavar they had to save the first world to save all the worlds. In Narnia they went back and forth and interacted and so on.

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    Dragons:
    Dragon Riders of Pern series, Anne McCaffrey
    The Hobbit by Tolkien
    Please don't put Eragon.

    Unicorns:
    The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
    Stolen Magic by M.J. Putney
    Stardust? (haven't read the book yet, and I think the unicorn was totally underplayed in the movie... someone help me out here)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smiling Ted View Post
    Indeed. Updated under "Utopian Satire."
    Hm, I think Moorcock might fit well under the heading "Parallel Worlds" ("Multiverse") (with the Eternal Champion sagas [Elric, Corum et al.] and especially the Jerry Cornelius Chronicles; possibly the Batable novels [Warlord of the Air... etc.; although I'm not sure they're that seminal]). This heading might also contain Zelazny's Amber books.


    The telepathy section could use Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside. I do think that was a milestone.

    H.G. Wells could go under Human Evolution with The Time Machine (as well as time travel, where it currently resides), and under genetic Engineering with Dr. Moreau's Island.

    I'd consider Mary Shelly's Frankenstein under genetic engineering, too. Although that's a bit of a stretch - technologywise - it does play to the same themes.

    AI: "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream," Harlan Ellison. Also, there's this film where a house keeps a woman captive and tries to impregnate her. It could be Colossus, but I can't really remember. (I can't check right now.)

    Under the Cyberpunk heading you really their seminal anthology: Mirrorshades; I forget who edited it. Sterling? Rucker? (As I said, I can't check right now.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bahamutchild View Post
    Dragons:
    Dragon Riders of Pern series, Anne McCaffrey
    The Hobbit by Tolkien
    Please don't put Eragon.

    Unicorns:
    The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
    Stolen Magic by M.J. Putney
    Stardust? (haven't read the book yet, and I think the unicorn was totally underplayed in the movie... someone help me out here)
    Tolkien & McCaffrey: already there.
    Eragon: Fear not; this list includes no byproducts or fillers.

    Unicorns: In the interests of brevity, I didn't include them as a category because they didn't seem as central to fantasy lit as dragons, The Last Unicorn notwithstanding. However, if folks speak up for 'em, they'll go in.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    Hm, I think Moorcock might fit well under the heading "Parallel Worlds" ("Multiverse") (with the Eternal Champion sagas [Elric, Corum et al.] and especially the Jerry Cornelius Chronicles; possibly the Batable novels [Warlord of the Air... etc.; although I'm not sure they're that seminal]). This heading might also contain Zelazny's Amber books.
    While Moorcock fits in the category, I'm not sure his work is a "must read" for the concept of alternate history (which is different from, and more rigid than, the concept of a "multiverse.") The same is true of Zelazny's Amber series. (As a rabid Zelazniac, it's hard for me to say it.) However, if we put in a "New Wave" section...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    Under the Cyberpunk heading you really their seminal anthology: Mirrorshades; I forget who edited it. Sterling? Rucker? (As I said, I can't check right now.)
    Mirrorshades is now included in the Great Examples section.

    The telepathy section could use Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside. I do think that was a milestone.
    Although I'm a fan of Silverberg, both as author and editor, this is the first I've heard of Dying Inside. That would seem to suggest that its impact was too limited for it to be a "basic" in the field. if I'm wrong, folks, let me know.

    H.G. Wells could go under Human Evolution with The Time Machine (as well as time travel, where it currently resides), and under genetic Engineering with Dr. Moreau's Island.
    The Island of Dr. Moreau has been included under Uplifted Animals. Thanks!

    AI: "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream," Harlan Ellison.
    One of the great short stories, but more for tone and atmosphere than for the concept of AI. (Cf. The earlier stories "Answer," by Fredric Brown and "The Last Question," by Isaac Asimov.) And it's so...um...Ellisonian that it's unlikely a new writer would cover that ground.
    Last edited by Smiling Ted; 01-15-2009 at 01:17 AM.
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    Mad Scientists

    Should that be a new category?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smiling Ted View Post
    While Moorcock fits in the category, I'm not sure his work is a "must read" for the concept of alternate history (which is different from, and more rigid than, the concept of a "multiverse.") The same is true of Zelazny's Amber series. (As a rabid Zelazniac, it's hard for me to say it.)
    Hm, true. The Bastable books would be alternate history (with characters like Gandhi or Stalin), but I wouldn't exactly call them basic reading.

    Although I'm a fan of Silverberg, both as author and editor, this is the first I've heard of Dying Inside. That would seem to suggest that its impact was too limited for it to be a "basic" in the field. if I'm wrong, folks, let me know.
    You find me surprised (and probably wrong, too).

    However, if we put in a "New Wave" section...
    I'm not sure how helpful that would be, since people won't re-invent the "New Wave" anyway. It's more of a movement than a subject matter (and the movement never really died: New Wave - New Weird - Now What?) If anything, New Wave could be cast as "stylists" (with Ballard's "inner space" - Drowned, Crystal, etc. World), or the best of them simply put under "great examples" (which is rather vague anyway).

    I do think the concept of the "Multiverse" is quite important, though, and Moorcock is a basic read with that. It's staging a comeback right now - viewed through the lense of quantum mechanics, if I'm not mistaken - cf. Ian MacDonald's Brasyl (and related stories).
    Last edited by Dawnstorm; 01-15-2009 at 01:45 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    I do think the concept of the "Multiverse" is quite important, though, and Moorcock is a basic read with that. It's staging a comeback right now - viewed through the lense of quantum mechanics, if I'm not mistaken - cf. Ian MacDonald's Brasyl (and related stories).
    As with any topic, if enough folks speak up for it, in it goes.

    The current list of suggested new topics is:

    Unicorns
    The Multiverse
    Mad Scientists
    Portals/Wardrobes/Mirrors/Gates

    If all you AWers think they should be included, let me know.
    Last edited by Smiling Ted; 01-20-2009 at 06:19 AM.
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    Lightbulb Portals/Wardrobes/Mirrors/Gates

    Quote Originally Posted by Bahamutchild View Post
    From the world hopping thread, should portals get a mention (though I don't think all of these deserve mention as a basic read)

    This might not deserve mention in the basic read.. but as far as portals go, I'd nominate the Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale. It's much more recent, though (the last book in the series is coming out later this year).
    "I am your enemy, the first one you've ever had who was smarter than you. There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong. And the rules of the game are what you can do to him and what you can stop him from doing to you. I am your enemy from now on. From now on I am your teacher."
    -Mazer Rackham (Ender's Game, pg. 262)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xenocide View Post
    This might not deserve mention in the basic read.. but as far as portals go, I'd nominate the Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale. It's much more recent, though (the last book in the series is coming out later this year).
    Thanks!
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    Ah-HA! Smiling Ted's Avatar
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    Okay, so Portals/Mirrors/Wardrobes seems to be grabbing the Group Mind.
    The section's up and open for business.
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    Well I'm writing a colony/multigenerational starship story sort of. Thanks for the list. I will definitely be reading a couple of those stories under that heading.

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