SciFi and Fantasy Book Club discussion

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Old, Closed Posts > July Sci-Fi Book *Please See Posts#1-#14-#26*

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message 1: by Brad (last edited Jun 09, 2009 06:31PM) (new)

Brad (judekyle) | 1640 comments Our polls have closed and we have a winner for July's book theme: Literary Science Fiction. So now it is time to come up with the nominees for our next poll.

We have some early suggestions for authors (J.G. Ballard, Alfred Bester, Thomas M. Disch, Mary Doria RussellKurt Vonnegut and William S. Burroughs), and while some of these authors are considered primarily Sci-Fi writers, they do all have a literary reputation that I could qualify them for consideration. Some more than others, so I think this can be a topic for debate (and I will base the final decision on the inclusion of these authors on a book by book basis). But, regardless, we need specific books to go along with them for nomination.

IMPORTANT: Before you give us your reasons for a nomination, please begin your post with the nomination title and author (please use the following format too). Here's my nomination to kick us off:

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Nominations need a second to make the list for our next poll (and I will continually update the list as we go so y'all know where we stand), so if you see something you like be sure to second it.

***This discussion will run until Friday June 12 at 11:59pm EST. The next poll will open the following day***


Sandi (Sandikal) I'll second Oryx and Crake.


Becky (Beckyofthe19and9) The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

I read this book a couple years ago, and liked it, but I think that I would actually like it better in a group discussion setting. There are some very interesting and controversial themes in the book, religion not the least of which, but I would definitely be willing to give this book another shot if it's a group read. :)


Becky (Beckyofthe19and9) (Oryx and Crake was VERY good too though!)


Ben (bcaldwell) | 251 comments Here's an article I read a while back that hits on the heart of this theme - authors who write science fiction but are not "science fiction" authors. It also has a few good suggestions.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/books...

Lots of good ones to choose from, but here's mine:

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

This book is one of the ones mentioned in the above article. While not immediately identifiable as science fiction, several science fiction tropes play big roles.


Susanne (SusLikesTurtles) | 13 comments I'll second Oryx and Crake because I've yet to read Ms Atwood and I'd really like to know what makes her so determined that she's not writing SF.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut was one of my favourites in uni, so I'll have to recommend that, too. :)



message 7: by Brooke (last edited Jun 10, 2009 05:44AM) (new)

Brooke This group did Slaughterhouse Five already- granted, it was a while ago (it was before I joined, even), but we may not want to repeat it.

I'll second Cloud Atlas.

Edit - that's a great article, Ben, and all of the books the author named would be great for this group.


Brad (judekyle) | 1640 comments Susanne wrote: "I'll second Oryx and Crake because I've yet to read Ms Atwood and I'd really like to know what makes her so determined that she's not writing SF./Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut was one of my..."

Is there another Vonnegut you can nominate, Susanne? I am sure we'll eventual start redoing books, but it is a little to early yet.

Great article, Ben. Glad you seconded Cloud Atlas, Brooke. That would be an amazing read for our group.



Mawgojzeta | 172 comments Engine Summer by John Crowley

A small book that still manages to leave you feeling full. It is only 209 pages, so maybe not a great choice, but I have been wanting to re-read it lately so I thought I would throw it out there.




Lara Amber (LaraAmber) | 560 comments I'll second The Sparrow.

The only Kurt Vonnegut I've ever read is Slaughterhouse Five, but how about The Sirens of Titan?

Lara Amber


Brad (judekyle) | 1640 comments Mawgojzeta wrote: "Engine Summer by John Crowley/A small book that still manages to leave you feeling full. It is only 209 pages, so maybe not a great choice, but I have been wantin..." Considering Crowley's work with Ægypt, I think he certainly qualifies.

The Sparrow is now officially in the next poll.


message 12: by Mawgojzeta (last edited Jun 10, 2009 08:22AM) (new)

Mawgojzeta | 172 comments I will happily second Aegypt. Haven't read it yet, so that would be fun.


Kernos | 348 comments Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark

I Have not decided if this book is 'literary' whatever that means, but it is structured like a great English novel from the 19th century. I really enjoyed it and it took me back to the days of my English Lit course.


message 14: by Brad (last edited Jun 11, 2009 09:39AM) (new)

Brad (judekyle) | 1640 comments Mawgojzeta wrote: "I will happily second Aegypt. Haven't read it yet, so that would be fun." Just to clarify, I wasn't actually nominating Ægypt for our poll. I don't think it actually qualifies as a Sci-Fi book, although Engine Summer certainly does. What I meant to say is that John Crowley's Ægypt was a strong example of his work beyond the Sc-Fi genre, and that surely some of his Sci-Fi books would qualify for our Literary Sci-Fi theme.

Also, Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell is disqualified for this category due to its more fantastic bent. It is more an alternate history/fantasy history than a Sci-Fi, although I am sure that it would make an excellent entry here in our group for a Literary Fantasy theme month. What do you think, Brooke?

The current members of next week's poll:

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Engine Summer by John Crowley
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Concrete Island by J.G. Ballard
The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin


Julia | 518 comments The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael ChabonThe Yiddish Policemen's Union

Though I would be happy to read or re-read any of the books nominated so far.


Brooke I think SJ&MN is definitely fantasy and not SF. I also don't know that we can really fit Susanna Clarke in this category - I've been reading it as authors who have a literary reputation outside the SF/F genre, and Clarke has only written two books, both fantasy. But maybe I'm wrong on that count.


Mawgojzeta | 172 comments Brad: makes sense - I never read the description of Aegypt and just assumed from you comment (which I read wrong) that it was sci fi. Thanks for the correction.


Brad (judekyle) | 1640 comments Julia: Sweet. I was hoping someone would nominate that.

Brooke: Good point about having "a literary reputation outside the SF/F genre." I think that is an important point, but there are some writers whose quality seems to belie this, like Vonnegut or to a lesser extent Russell. The bulk of their works are SF, but they seem to have risen above (man do I hate saying that) their genre nonetheless. I have to admit I don't know Susanna Clarke, but if she's only got two fantasy books, well...

Mawgojzeta: No problem. Sorry if I seemed terse; I didn't mean to. I genuinely thought I was not being clear enough.


Richard (ThinkingBlueCountingTwo) | 235 comments I'll second Engine Summer by John Crowley.
One of my all time favourites.



Ryan | 27 comments The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. I've read excerpts, and it seems intriguing from both a literary and sci-fi perspective.

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut would be my pick if the group wants to read him, though I'm more partial to Breakfast of Champions (which is only nominally sci-fi, I suppose).

And not to dangle too many threads, but what would readers consider something like The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami? It's hard to pin down in any one genre, but it certainly has sci-fi themes.


Kernos | 348 comments Brad wrote: Also, Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell is disqualified for this category due to its more fantastic bent. It is more an alternate history/fantasy history than a Sci-Fi, although I am sure that it would make an excellent entry here in our group for a Literary Fantasy theme month. What do you think, Brooke?

Opps, sorry. Yes it is a fantasy. I looked at the wrong topic title.

I am not sure short stories are valid suggestions, but here goes:

Nightfall by Isaac Asimov Arguably the best short story ever written.


Richard (ThinkingBlueCountingTwo) | 235 comments I'll certainly second Cat's Cradle, IMO it runs close to being as good as Slaughterhouse-Five.

I'd also like to suggest Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Arguably the progenitor of all Sci-Fi, Oh and its on my to-be-read list.


Lara Amber (LaraAmber) | 560 comments I'll second Frankenstein!

Lara Amber


Carolyn (seeford) | 185 comments Some good ones already nominated! I'll add Concrete Island A Novel by J.G. Ballard.



Jason "plasborgma" Cooperrider (plasborgma) | 22 comments Another for Oryx and Crake.


message 26: by Brad (last edited Jun 10, 2009 03:25PM) (new)

Brad (judekyle) | 1640 comments Carolyn wrote: "Some good ones already nominated! I'll add Concrete Island A Novel by J.G. Ballard." Seconded, I say.

I have updated the official nominees in message #14.

I want to preface the next thing I have to say with "I LOVE DICK" (yes...the joke is intentional. I know, I know) and The Man in the High Castle, but I am going to disqualify Philip K. Dick from this month's category for two reasons. One: while always telling wildly original tales, I am not convinced that Dick's body of work is "literary" enough to fit this particular category; and two: I was planning on adding Philip K. Dick as his very own category for the September theme (which I am betting has a very good chance of winning).

That should save anyone the trouble of seconding Dick.

Also, just to keep the list manageable, please refrain from nominating additional books from any authors who already have books on our official list. This hasn't happened yet, but I thought I would avoid the possibility. Whichever books is nominated and seconded first is the book that will make the list.


Julia | 518 comments Brad,

Mary Doria Russell's first two books were science fiction, but since then she has written historical fiction.

I nominate The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. The Demolished Man


message 28: by Brad (last edited Jun 10, 2009 03:26PM) (new)

Brad (judekyle) | 1640 comments Julia wrote: "Mary Doria Russell's first two books were science fiction, but since then she has written historical fiction...." It was the later that let her sneak onto the list. She's very borderline, but The Sparrow is one heck of a book, so if there is a significant call for her removal I am amenable.


message 30: by Ben (last edited Jun 10, 2009 04:45PM) (new)

Ben (bcaldwell) | 251 comments Another suggestion: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.


Sandi (Sandikal) A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I don't think he ever did anything else that could be considered science fiction.


David (dfmjr) | 10 comments I second The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. Sure...I already read it, but I am happy to re-read :)


Brad (judekyle) | 1640 comments There is some fine work being nominated this month. I am starting to get really excited.


Jon (jonmoss) | 892 comments Kernos wrote: "Some other suggestions:

Perelandra by CS Lewis
Ilium or Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Brave New World by [author:Aldous H..."


I second Prelandra.


message 35: by Brad (last edited Jun 10, 2009 05:27PM) (new)

Brad (judekyle) | 1640 comments I am going to overrule Perelandra, Jon and Kernos, but only because it is the second book of the trilogy, and we haven't done any of them in our group yet. I am going to add Out of the Silent Planet. Does that work for you two?


Jon (jonmoss) | 892 comments Works for me. I've read all three of that trilogy but it's been three decades ... so it will be like reading it for the first time. :)


Sandi (Sandikal) I haven't read that series since junior high.


Libby | 271 comments I'm excited about Oryx and Crake - I've been wanting to read that for awhile


message 39: by Becky (last edited Jun 10, 2009 10:41PM) (new)

Becky (Beckyofthe19and9) I would argue that Mary Doria Russell has a literary reputation, even though half of her published books are science-fiction.

I nominated The Sparrow because I feel that it has both literary and SF qualities in that single book. I hope it does not get excluded.

Just my two cents! :)


Jeffrey | 193 comments I will agree on the chabon book because I think its very good.

I will nominate The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, which won both the nebula and hugo award and is about a time traveler who goes back to the time of the plague and is stuck there.

I want to also nominate some other novels -- by SF novelists -- I would rather read books by sf novelist that are literary than books by Atwood that seem to cover a science fiction like topic.

I will also nominate:

Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
Slow River by Nicola Griffith
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Gun with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem detective noir/ time travel
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller
Grass by Sherri Tepper


Brad (judekyle) | 1640 comments Becky wrote: "I would argue that Mary Doria Russell has a literary reputation, even though half of her published books are science-fiction. / I nominated The Sparrow because I feel that it has both literary and..."

So far Russell is looking pretty safe.



Rich | 2 comments I'll second Ilium, by Dan Simmons.


Becky (Beckyofthe19and9) Brad wrote: "So far Russell is looking pretty safe."

Great! :)


Shannon (Giraffe Days) (Giraffe_Days) I'll second Cloud Atlas, Oryx and Crake (not that it needs more!), Never Let Me Go, and The Yiddish Policeman's Union.

I haven't read Cloud Atlas yet but I did get a copy after Ben recommended it a while back :)

I don't think Connie Willis works here Jeffrey - she's an established sci-fi author and having won sci-fi awards excludes her, I'd say. Some of your other nominations, the ones that I know and/or have read, face the same problem.

This theme is more about "literary" authors who have written a book that could easily be science fiction, but is still shelved in the regular fiction section.


message 45: by Brad (last edited Jun 11, 2009 09:40AM) (new)

Brad (judekyle) | 1640 comments Shannon wrote: "I don't think Connie Willis works here Jeffrey - she's an established sci-fi author and having won sci-fi awards excludes her, I'd say. Some of your other nominations, the ones that I know and/or have read, face the same problem...."

I think Shannon's right about Willis and most of the others.

Of your list of nominees, Jeffrey, I think only Fahrenheit 451 and Left Hand of Darkness (Slaughterhouse-Five too but there is already a Vonnegut on the official list]) have sufficiently eclipsed their genre to be considered for inclusion in this months category (although I must say that there are some damn fine books on that list).

Despite the nomination and seconding for Ilium, the same holds true for Dan Simmons. I am a huge fan of his work, and I consider it literature of the highest calibre (and his intertextuality blows my mind), but nothing Simmons has yet written has risen to prominence beyond SF/F/Horror (I have my fingers crossed that Drood will be the first, though).

Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, on the other hand, has transcended genre and introduced a much wider audience to Sci-Fi, while still maintaining literary quality. Still, she's no Ursula LeGuin, and it grieves me that her work is more widely regarded than LeGuin's incredible stuff.

Oh yeah...I second The Left Hand of Darkness.


message 46: by Shannon (Giraffe Days) (last edited Jun 11, 2009 09:50AM) (new)

Shannon (Giraffe Days) (Giraffe_Days) I thought The Left Hand of Darkness was a well-established sci-fi book. That's certainly where you can always find it. And didn't it win some sci-fi award too? He goes to another planet to study an alien race - that's pretty science fiction!

I'd love to read Drood by Dan Simmons, so I'll second it, but it's still in hardcover and is way too expensive for me.



Jeffrey | 193 comments Well if that is the criteria (not crazy about it) then Gun with Occassional Music by Jonathan Lethem should be included. He is a general novelist having written Motherless Brooklyn among others. This is his only book that is "sfish", and is usually shelved with the rest of his books in regular fiction.

I will also nominate Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel, which is a very good book about prehistoric man.

1984 by George Orwell
On the Beach by Nevil Shute
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton




Kernos | 348 comments Shannon wrote: "I'd love to read Drood by Dan Simmons, so I'll second it, but it's still in hardcover and is way too expensive for me.
"


Simmons has gotten away from SF recently with Drood and The Terror. I read the latter and really enjoyed it, though it is pure historical with a horror element, but no SciFi elements.






Brad (judekyle) | 1640 comments Shannon wrote: "I thought The Left Hand of Darkness was a well-established sci-fi book. That's certainly where you can always find it. And didn't it win some sci-fi award too? He goes to another planet to study an..." I should clarify. While I agree with What Shannon was saying about Connie Willis not qualifying due to the fact that she is an established SciFi writer that doesn't mean that established SciFi writers are ineligible.

As Richard mentioned in the poll discussion and we've been skirting around in this discussion, there are really two categories of Literary Sci-Fi we are looking for in this round of nominations: one, Sci-Fi works by "Non-Sci-Fi" writers (which can often simply mean folks who aren't generally percieved as Sci-Fi writers), such as Atwood, Ishiguru, Mitchell etc.; two, "canonical" (I hate that term, but it seems to be the best descriptor for what we're trying to do here) works of Sci-Fi, which can works by authors like Le Guin, Bradbury, Wells, Vonnegut etc. So these books can be recipients of Sci-Fi awards, but they must have a greater impact on the literary world as a whole than simply being a Hugo award winner.

I hope that clears things up.

Also, I was simply mentioning Drood as one of Simmons non-Sci-Fi books. Sorry, Shannon. It really can't be included here.

Good point with Jonathon Lethem, Jeffrey. I missed that somehow. So that is definitely a nominee. Any seconds?


Shannon (Giraffe Days) (Giraffe_Days) Ah, I see. Then The Left Hand of Darkness would be perfect.

I was simply mentioning Drood as one of Simmons non-Sci-Fi books
Whoops. From one breath to the next I forgot the genre!


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