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scheherazade
12-12-2009, 10:17 PM
I'm not very well read in sci-fi, fantasy, graphic novels, and other favourite genres of "geeks". But I'm writing a character who is a computer programmer and who is really into that whole world, and so I need to read up on all these genres I've missed! Which books would you say are the quintessential "must read" books for people who want to be a part of that subculture? Which ones are most accessible to people who aren't hardcore into fantasy/sci-fi, and which ones are the real litmus test of one's nerditude?

Libbie
12-12-2009, 10:42 PM
Philip K. Dick is both accessible and carries serious nerd cred. Very beautiful and literary stuff, too.

Ray Bradbury is also a gorgeous writer who penned some real classics in sci-fi (Fahrenheit 451 is probably the best-known, but you'll also want to check out Something Wicked This Way Comes and Dandelion Wine...plus the rest of his works are fun.)

Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness is considered a major classic of the genre.

Somebody who's a bit more "beardy" and is really into gaming, etc. might not be as impressed with the quality, high-brow literature to be found in sci-fi. He might be more into formulaic genre stuff (predictable and comforting, always delivering the expected experience with varying twists depending on author and series, kind of analogous to romance) like the Dragonlance books, or the Pern or Shanara novels (McCaffery, Brooks). These are all fantasy, I should note.

Or somebody who's deep in the gamer culture might be more attracted to the humorous sci-fi and fantasy writers, such as Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett.

It all depends on whether you're going for an intellectual character, or one who's more fun-loving and goofy.

GeorgieB
12-12-2009, 10:42 PM
Good grief!! You've got a lot of reading to do.

I'm a nerd and proud of it. I've been reading nerd books since I was, well, just a wee programmer and computer geek.

My advice? Hie thee to the computer section of your local bookstore. Carry lots of plastic cuz you'll need it. Buy every programming book you can find, even those that start with "Computer Stuff for Dummies." Then, after reading those, walk over to the Sci-Fi section and start reading Asimov, Card, Hamilton, Weber, Tolkein, Van Vogt ... all of them.

Then, to top it off, buy yourself two items: A slide rule, preferrably a 13" log-log yellow job and hang it from your belt. The second item should be a calculator, carried in your hand. Big framed black glasses help, as would long hair.

Some of us have studied hard and long to become nerds, and the going was not easy.

Good luck in your quest.
I remain, nerdy as usual ('cept I just got a haircut)

Libbie
12-12-2009, 10:43 PM
start reading Asimov, Card, Hamilton, Weber, Tolkein, Van Vogt ...

Yes.

scheherazade
12-12-2009, 11:59 PM
Good, good! Keep the recommendations coming! I don't expect to become a credible nerd myself (at least not right away... though I'm open to it if these first recommendations whet my appetite for more!) but I definitely need to know enough about the basics to be able to fake enough to write my character.

Libbie, thanks for differentiating the two streams. I think my character is a little more on the goofy side of things. As a kid he would have read a lot of the formulaic sort of fantasy stuff, so he'd be versed in that area of the genre, but these days he'd be more interested in the more literary or philosophical end of things. I've read one book each from Philip K Dick and Vonnegut, and I definitely think those would fit my character's tastes, but I also need to read more widely and deeper into the genre to figure the dude out.

My immediate reading list: Ender's Game, The Hobbit, Hitchhiker's Guide. Any other suggestions?

entropic island
12-13-2009, 01:00 AM
Reverse your list.

Hitchhiker's Guide, The Hobbit, Ender's Game.

That's your list in order of quality (in my opinion) and superior nerd -ity from first to last. Also, Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently anthology is must-read. The Hobbit was intended to be a kid's book, so I'd switch it out with the Fellowship of the Ring. EG is a little violent, but it's perfect for what you're going for.

kuwisdelu
12-13-2009, 02:04 AM
Everything mentioned is great.

Computer programmer? I'd recommend Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon.

benbradley
12-13-2009, 03:39 AM
The Adolescence of P1

The C Programming Language (2nd "ANSI C" edition)

GeorgieB
12-13-2009, 03:53 AM
Fortran 7? Cobol, any version?

Shadow_Ferret
12-13-2009, 04:15 AM
Hitchhiker's Guide, The Hobbit, Ender's Game.



Oh, cool, I guess I'm not a nerd then. :D

Ken
12-13-2009, 04:31 AM
I'm writing a character who is a computer programmer and who is really into that whole world, and so I need to read up on all these genres I've missed! Which books would you say are the quintessential "must read" books for people who want to be a part of that subculture? Which ones are most accessible to people who aren't hardcore into fantasy/sci-fi, and which ones are the real litmus test of one's nerditude?

... probably none of the ones mentioned so far. Though most are great, from what I've read of the authors, you'd probably want to focus on more technologically obtuse works that just about require a degree in science to understand and that would put the ordinary sci-fi reader to sleep. Couldn't name any myself. What you might want to do is contact a bookstore that specializes in the genre and ask them. Won't be easy reading, but after reading a few you'll be good to go. My 2 cents. Not necessarily correct.

Priene
12-13-2009, 09:09 AM
Though most are great, from what I've read of the authors, you'd probably want to focus on more technologically obtuse works that just about require a degree in science to understand and that would put the ordinary sci-fi reader to sleep.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter is a little like that.

Kalyke
12-13-2009, 10:11 AM
I was hooked on John Brunner-- who has grown out of favor but is a great read. 'Stand on Zanzibar" and "The Sheep Look Up" and others. Brunner anticipated things like Microsoft and Apple. He was a real revolutionary writer. I don't see why he is not up there with the top guys (with this I am off to see why).

He wrote over 100 novels and had like 5 or more psudonyms! Christ! This guy was as prolific as they get! Why is no one studying his stuff!!!!

Matera the Mad
12-13-2009, 11:09 AM
Read around some here (http://www.catb.org/~esr/).

entropic island
12-13-2009, 07:30 PM
Oh, cool, I guess I'm not a nerd then. :D
You mean you...gasp...haven't been enlightened yet?

Actually, when it's DA, I think they call it 'Adamsened'.

Phaeal
12-13-2009, 09:40 PM
Nobody's mentioned William Gibson and Neuromancer yet? And Neil Gaiman, the nerd's nerd! A classicist nerd will not have neglected H. G. Wells and H. P. Lovecraft, oh, and that Poe guy.

benbradley
12-13-2009, 10:58 PM
I was hooked on John Brunner-- who has grown out of favor but is a great read. 'Stand on Zanzibar" and "The Sheep Look Up" and others. Brunner anticipated things like Microsoft and Apple. He was a real revolutionary writer. I don't see why he is not up there with the top guys (with this I am off to see why).

He wrote over 100 novels and had like 5 or more psudonyms! Christ! This guy was as prolific as they get! Why is no one studying his stuff!!!!
"The Shockwave Rider" is quite prescient. I suppose it could be called proto-cyberpunk. Just that novel by itself should get him a lot of respect.

K. Andrew Smith
12-14-2009, 04:02 AM
To take this in a different way, you might want to also check out Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and the like. Nerds and geeks are firm believers in intellect conquering brute force. Plus, we love obscure quotes for all occasions.

eyeblink
12-14-2009, 11:49 AM
"The Shockwave Rider" is quite prescient. I suppose it could be called proto-cyberpunk. Just that novel by itself should get him a lot of respect.

I didn't know John Brunner personally, though I was in the same room as him a few times at conventions in the early 1990s. He began as a fan and had deep roots in fandom all his life, and was well-loved by other fans. I remember the impact when he died at the 1995 Glasgow Worldcon - as far as I know he is the only person to have died at a Worldcon, and the impact was devastating. People were in tears. His death was announced on the second day of the five-day Con and it cast a shadow over the rest of it. Samuel R. Delany and Robert Silverberg gave tributes to him.

He published his first novel in his late teens, and wrote prolifically ever since. Much of this was commercial work intended to pay the bills, but in the 60s and 70s he wrote some hugely ambitious dystopian work - Stand on Zanzibar, The Sheep Look Up, The Shockwave Rider amongst others. They made his critical reputation but didn't do as well commercially as he'd hoped so he had to go back to producing commercially to survive. And in the 90s he suffered the fate of many midlist writers by going out of print and losing his publication deals. Like quite a few writers in the same position, he kept going by writing some high-quality short fiction. He had had health problems since the 1980s, but you have to wonder if the stress contributed to the stroke that ended his life.

I'm not sure how much of his work is now in print. Gollancz in the UK reprinted Stand on Zanzibar in their SF Masterworks line a few years back. (Along with Dune, which was really two magazine serials joined together, it was probably the longest genre SF novel published to that time.)

Incidentally, Stand on Zanzibar is set in 2010, so you wonder how many SF geeks will be holidaying in Zanzibar next year. In the novel, the USA has a black president called Obomi. :)

NeuroFizz
12-14-2009, 05:50 PM
Why does a computer programmer have to fit into a "nerd" stereotype, and are you really interested in propagating that stereotype rather than developing a totally unique computer programmer character? I ask because the risk of going with a stereotype is the character can easily become very uninteresting (reader: yeah, yeah. Another nerdy programmer. *yawn*). It's kind of like writing a university professor. We all know what comes next. Yup, an affair with a student. A professor couldn't possibly face any other kind of life-challenge, you know, being trapped and all by that ivy growing over his tower-office windows. Why not have your programmer play rugby, or have some outside interests that don't flow down the stereotype pipeline? In character development, the silence of laminar flow can be sleep-inducing. Get some noisy turbulence in there.

I know several programmers who don't even come close to the "nerd" stereotype and I know some people who do fit the "nerd" behavioral stereotype who aren't very good with computers.

AuburnAssassin
12-14-2009, 06:16 PM
Why does a computer programmer have to fit into a "nerd" stereotype, and are you really interested in propagating that stereotype rather than developing a totally unique computer programmer character? I ask because the risk of going with a stereotype is the character can easily become very uninteresting (reader: yeah, yeah. Another nerdy programmer. *yawn*). It's kind of like writing a university professor. We all know what comes next. Yup, an affair with a student. A professor couldn't possibly face any other kind of life-challenge, you know, being trapped and all by that ivy growing over his tower-office windows. Why not have your programmer play rugby, or have some outside interests that don't flow down the stereotype pipeline? In character development, the silence of laminar flow can be sleep-inducing. Get some noisy turbulence in there.

I know several programmers who don't even come close to the "nerd" stereotype and I know some people who do fit the "nerd" behavioral stereotype who aren't very good with computers.

I'm a programmer (part-time) and I read romance (and mostly not paranormal) with a few Grisham's, Baldacci's, and Oprah's picks mixed in. Rarely science fiction or fantasy. Sometimes I just need to escape from "logic", ya know (though the crime drama don't really do that do they)? I don't want to be distracted by otherworldly stuff, just want the human interaction stuff. But that's me and not the OP's point but a long-winded "ditto" to Neurofizz's post.

analias
12-20-2009, 09:48 PM
I'm going to have to agree with NeuroFizz as well. I'm a software developer and while my co-workers and I do enjoy many of the books mentioned, so do a lot of non-developers.

And in addition to reading Tolkien, Card, Stephenson, etc we also read other stuff. In addition to sitting in front of a screen day in and day out, we like to play hockey, rock climb, and fence. Many are musicians as well (music, math, programming and language are all inter-related).

Sure some of us game, some of us read "geeky" books; but I'd hate to think that was really all people thought of me. It's a fairly one-dimensional view of us, really.

Bubastes
12-20-2009, 11:14 PM
I have to agree with NeuroFizz too. I have an electrical engineering degree and work in a technical field, but I don't read much sci-fi or fantasy, and I tend to be a Luddite when it comes to electronic gadgetry. Contemporary romance, women's fiction, literary, mainstream, and the occasional thriller are more my thing. Like AuburnAssassin, I'm all about the human interaction stuff when I'm reading.

ETA: Ditto on the Ender's Game recommendation. Great story.

AryaT92
12-20-2009, 11:28 PM
Ender's Game, nerd or not it's amazing.

redbarn
12-26-2009, 09:51 PM
If you'd like a nonfiction book, try American Nerd: the Story of My People. I found it entertaining.

dancingandflying
12-26-2009, 09:54 PM
Couch by Benjamin Parzybok. Best nerd book I've ever read.

d&f.

(By the way, the MC is a computer programmer.)