I seem to find myself in a bit of a conundrum of late. I got a wonderful Christmas present this year; a fairly substantial gift card for Books-A-Million. Unfortunately, after spending nearly an hour perusing their Science Fiction section, I threw up my hands in frustration. Is there anything worth reading being published today?
While this is admittedly something of a rant, I am asking this in true sincerity.
You see, I’m an old school science fiction fan. I cut my teeth on Asimov, Niven, Heinlein. You’ll find plenty of people like Simon Greene, Poul Anderson, Philip K. Dick, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Silverberg, Harry Harrison and their contemporaries also in my library. I even have one of the better collection of English translations of Perry Rhodan on my shelves.
However there is a remarkable shortage of more recent work in my collection. Certainly there is David Weber and his Honor Harrington series, though it’s gotten a bit draggy. David Drake is still around, who is also in the Weber-esque Military SciFi sub-genre.
I’ve noticed a similar problem with fantasy, as well. Who has stepped up to take the places of writers like Fritz Leiber, L. Sprague deCamp, Roger Zelazny, David Eddings or Stephen Donaldson? Yes, there’s Robert Jordan’s just finished Wheel saga, but he is dead after all and I can’t help but wonder if that’s the only reason that story managed to get finished.
After looking along the shop’s bookshelf, I can’t help wondering how many F&SF fans under age 30 have even heard of any of these writers? Actually, I can’t help wondering how many under 30 understand the concept of an original story?
Yes, I’m getting a bit cynical here, but what I find loading the shelves is justifiable cause. Generally, it comes down to two categories.
First, I find lots of stories targeted for teens these days, leaning heavily towards fantasy. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Twilight and the numerous copy-cat efforts. On the one hand, I will admit it is good seeing kids reading again. On the other hand, in my high school years, my friends and I were reading The Foundation Trilogy, Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser or Moorcock’s Elric saga when not arguing the finer points of Tolkien. A bit of a shift in depth, frankly. Yes, we were a bit nerdy, but we weren’t anything that exceptional.
The second major class of stories in the bookstore? Well, let’s see… Star Trek stories. Star Wars expanded universe ad nauseam. Dragonlance. Marvell or DC universe novels, which are neither science fiction or fantasy. What is the common thread, here? These are all stories in someone else’s sandbox; nothing truly original. At one time such stories were commissioned works like Alan Dean Foster’s Star Trek adaptations or invitation-only collaborations by established writers as is found in Robert Lynn Aspirin’s Thieves’ World.
Teen fic and fan fic. Are those really our only choices?
This is where I can use your help.
I could really use some suggestions on what might be worth reading. I have a real itch for some great science fiction, but I won’t thumb my nose at a top notch fantasy story.
I’ll even offer something in return. If there is an interest, I could discuss some of the old classics. Have you read Lord Valentine’s Castle, The Stainless Steel Rat, Ringworld or Flow My Tears the Policeman Said? I would love to introduce a new batch of fans to some of the older works.victims conscriptees co-hosts in mind. If there’s an interest, of course.
So please! Give me some suggestions in the comments. Also feel free to write me at email@example.com. I need ideas for my gift card.