Friday, August 18, 2006

Jim Benton Recommends SF

Jim Benton (keeper of two interesting blogs) sent me some science fiction reading suggestions. I promptly and unilaterally deputised him as the second guest blogger on Salto sobrius.
"Have you read much Theodore Sturgeon? Of all the writers found by Campbell, he might be the best short-story writer, and stories such as "Bulkhead", "The Comedian's Children", and especially "Mr. Costello, Hero" are among the best in the field. "Mr.Costello, Hero", in fact, would get my choice, even over Asimov's "Nightfall", for the best sf short ever done.

If you've never read Algis Budrys, Rogue Moon is one of the great ones, as is Who? -- very little of his work is not worth reading, including his short stories, but these, particularly Rogue Moon, are exceptional.

Since you like Fritz Leiber, have you read his You're All Alone? Not great but fun. I actually had it in the original pulp magazine version -- many, many years and at least three lost libraries ago -- and the cover was so striking that it was later used on an obscure rock album by a group called Giant. There's another interconnected group of novelettes he did that were woven into a novel, which included the story "The Creature from Cleveland Depths" that predicted the PDA -- but he missed on transistors so it wound up being a machine that followed a person everywhere. It has a beautiful section where a group of revolutionaries complain that the government has put a manic-depressive in charge of the economy. Someone explains to them that this is the one thing the government should be praised for -- this guy could definitely deal with the ups and downs of the business cycle.

I assume you've read Gordon Dickson's Dorsai cycle. Much of Gordy's work gets very repetitive, but the first few books are really major work. (And Gordy makes me think of Poul Anderson and some of his work, particularly Brain Wave -- which I've been tempted to point to 'in reverse' because if you reverse the premise, it at least makes some sense out of the idiocies of American politics -- which fortunately you don't have to deal with directly.)

And finally one short story that will take some digging in early anthologies, especially since I'm not sure of the writer -- I think it was J.J. Coupling (pen name for John R. Pierce). It's called "Invariant", and while I don't scare easily, this is a true sf nightmare.

I don't know if this is sf or not, but have you seen the British TV show Life on Mars? The title has nothing to do with the planet but refers to a Bowie song. A present-day detective has an auto accident and "wakes up" in 1973 (as the standard introduction goes "I am either mad, in a coma, or in the past"). One of the stranger and more interesting TV shows I've come across, and one much worth checking out.
Thanks Jim! Lots of stuff to check out. I did read Leiber's You're All Alone and "The Creature from Cleveland Depths" recently, and found them to be strong paranoid precursors of P.K. Dick. I haven't read the other ones you mention or seen that TV show, though. Sounds promising!

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Blogger Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Thanks for putting this up, though I wrote it as a personal e-mail. Just two notes. First, my blogs ain't so interesting. When I found I couldn'r read some of my posts without falling asleep, I pretty much put them in hibernation. (Actually reverse hibernation, since if they do 'wake up' it will be in late fall or early winter -- that's me, everything backwards.)

Second, for American readers who are interested in LIFE ON MARS and have BBC America, they are running a marathon of the four episodes they've already shown on Sunday (August 20th). It's worth seeing them in order.

19 August, 2006 01:45  

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