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Syllabus and book list for new sci-fi readers
http://www.heinleinsociety.org/thsnexus/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=784
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Author:  DanHenderson [ Thu Sep 02, 2010 4:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Syllabus and book list for new sci-fi readers

Someone has (grandiosely? foolishly?) composed a syllabus and book list for people new to science fiction. Stranger In A Strange Land is the only Heinlein to make the list; someone suggested Starship Troopers in the comments.

Author:  JamesGifford [ Thu Sep 02, 2010 5:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Syllabus and book list for new sci-fi readers

Such lists please few, disappoint most, irritate almost everyone and provide no useful guide to the genre. They're often posted as a brainless blog-filler or by someone who was absolutely out of ideas for a column.

Any non-reader who plunges into a list is likely to hit as many books they dislike and consider reinforcing of what they dislike or misunderstand about sf as anything that will light them up. They either need to be very patient and accepting until they find the thread within the genre that appeals to them, or read books based on the considered advice of someone who knows both them and the sweep of sf.

Author:  DanHenderson [ Thu Sep 02, 2010 6:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Syllabus and book list for new sci-fi readers

Wouldn't it be nice if we had a version of Pandora for sci-fi?

Author:  BillPatterson [ Mon Sep 20, 2010 5:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Syllabus and book list for new sci-fi readers

DanHenderson wrote:
Wouldn't it be nice if we had a version of Pandora for sci-fi?

Wou;d need a MUCH better system of classification.

Author:  RobertWFranson [ Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Syllabus and book list for new sci-fi readers

An idiosyncratic list, to say the least. I think friends and reasonable-length reviews are far better.

Author:  sakeneko [ Fri Nov 05, 2010 7:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Syllabus and book list for new sci-fi readers

I read this list. Half the stuff on it is nothing I would suggest to a new SF reader. The other half is good, but missing too much. How could a basic syllabus for SF be missing.... The Moon is a Harsh Mistress? Dune/any mention of Frank Herbert? Any mention of Arthur C. Clarke? (No "Rendevous with Rama"?) :( Le Guin's "Left Hand of Darkness"? Any mention of Zenna Henderson/the "People"? Any mention of Manley Wade Wellman, Roger Zelazny, Harlan Ellison, Orson Scott Card (no "Ender's Game"?), Kim Stanley Robinson....

It's probably hubris to be utterly convinced that I could do a *much* better job than this. I'm also convinced that at least half the people here could as well.

Author:  PeterScott [ Sat Nov 06, 2010 6:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Syllabus and book list for new sci-fi readers

sakeneko wrote:
It's probably hubris to be utterly convinced that I could do a *much* better job than this. I'm also convinced that at least half the people here could as well.


Amen. The list struck me as one of those pretentious "look how much smarter and more refined I am than the common man" screeds. Strutting by a "lit'r'ry type" as Jim would say. Here's the recipe for making such a list:
  • You must leave out several, if not most, of the most popular and generally agreed-upon great works. You know better than everyone else.
  • Must include a work that no one has ever heard of, preferably one that has been out of print for at least forty years.
  • Must include a work that was written in a language other than English and preferably never translated. If it has been translated then you must append, "Can only truly be appreciated in the original Urdu."
  • Do include one or more of the classics, but for the wrong reasons, demonstrating that you alone understand why it appealed to the hoi polloi. E.g., "Dune seized popular attention for its powerful homoerotic subtext and allusive indictment of factory farming."
  • Include a modern piece of trash that was a complete flop; praise its avant-garde bravery and daring overuse of apostrophes.
  • Demonstrate that you are simultaneously an expert on the topic and yet not simple enough to actually be an aficionado. If possible, suggest that you have gained your expertise as the result of being bored last Saturday afternoon.

Author:  jeepojiii [ Sat Nov 06, 2010 7:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Syllabus and book list for new sci-fi readers

But ... but ... but ... it's the Science Fiction Universite. Didn't y'all take that into account? [/sarcasm]

Author:  JamesGifford [ Sat Nov 06, 2010 9:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Syllabus and book list for new sci-fi readers

PeterScott wrote:
Here's the recipe for making such a list:

Now you've done it. Even the ones not bright enough to figure out the method can now grind out such lists. Apres toi, les deluge. I hope you're happy.

Author:  sakeneko [ Sat Nov 06, 2010 9:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Syllabus and book list for new sci-fi readers

ROFL, Peter! Did you go to UC Berkeley, too? And take a literature class? From that professor? <VBEG>

I'm perfectly capable of putting together a syllabus and class for SF, would love to have the opportunity to teach such a class sometime. Mine would include fantasy as well as science fiction, of course. It would include a book originally written in a language other than English -- "The Neverending Story" by Michael Ende, IMHO the only fantasy writer who equals Tolkien in the 20th century. It would include "Starship Troopers", "Stranger in a Strange Land", "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", and "Time Enough for Love" at very minimum. It would include "Ender's Game", the Mars Trilogy, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", "Android's Dream" (Scalzi), and probably the first couple of Thieves World and Wild Card collections. It would not include Delaney's Dhalgren or any number of other books that I've never been able to finish, or finished only by forcing myself to slog through the literary muck.

It would doubtless expose me as a puerile reader who actually insists upon a decent plot, interesting and sympathetic characters, and entertainment value. <wry grin> No proper university literature department would *ever* let me in the door with it.

I expect a number of you could do the same, coming up with different lists of books except (of course) the large quantities of good Heinlein books, which would doubtless be the common factor. ;)

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