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Old 01-08-2009, 12:02 AM   #1
Smiling Ted
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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:

Quote:
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.
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Last edited by Smiling Ted; 10-06-2014 at 10:45 PM. Reason: Excellent suggestions
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Old 01-08-2009, 12:14 AM   #2
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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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Old 01-08-2009, 12:18 AM   #3
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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)
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Old 01-08-2009, 12:23 AM   #4
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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.
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Old 01-08-2009, 12:29 AM   #5
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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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Old 01-08-2009, 12:33 AM   #6
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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...
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Old 01-08-2009, 12:34 AM   #7
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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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Old 01-08-2009, 12:38 AM   #8
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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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Old 01-08-2009, 12:43 AM   #9
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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...
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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Old 01-08-2009, 12:45 AM   #10
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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
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Old 01-10-2009, 05:46 AM   #11
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And Moorcock should be in there for something...
Indeed. Updated under "Utopian Satire."
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Old 01-10-2009, 10:35 AM   #12
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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.
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Old 01-10-2009, 10:53 AM   #13
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I would like to add Contact by Carl Sagan in First Contact.
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Old 01-10-2009, 07:55 PM   #14
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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.
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.

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I would like to add Contact by Carl Sagan in First Contact.
Done, with similar treatments.
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Old 01-14-2009, 03:26 AM   #15
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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)

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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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Old 01-14-2009, 03:37 AM   #16
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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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Old 01-14-2009, 04:54 AM   #17
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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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Old 01-14-2009, 10:23 PM   #18
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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:
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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...

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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.

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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!

Quote:
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.
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Old 01-14-2009, 10:30 PM   #19
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Mad Scientists

Should that be a new category?
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Old 01-15-2009, 12:32 PM   #20
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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.

Quote:
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).

Quote:
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).

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Old 01-16-2009, 05:38 AM   #21
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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.
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Old 02-01-2009, 08:01 AM   #22
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Lightbulb Portals/Wardrobes/Mirrors/Gates

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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)

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).
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Old 02-03-2009, 06:22 AM   #23
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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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Old 02-03-2009, 08:27 AM   #24
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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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Old 02-03-2009, 09:10 AM   #25
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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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