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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Every story has to start somewhere. With skill, it might even start someplace interesting. The beginning of a novel may be as far as I ever get.

Here are some of my favorite opening lines of science fiction and fantasy books: (I put the source in <spoiler> tags so you can take a moment to recognize it for yourself.)

I invite you to append some of your own favorite SF&F beginnings.


"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
(view spoiler)

'I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one.'"
(view spoiler)

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."
(view spoiler)

"His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god."
(view spoiler)

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water."
(view spoiler)

"All of this happened, more or less."
(view spoiler)

"It was a dark and stormy night."
(view spoiler)

"It was a pleasure to burn."
(view spoiler)

"The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed subcategory."
(view spoiler)

"Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley."
(view spoiler)


message 2: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 2479 comments I got four of them. 3 I had read and the dragon one...well G33z3r knows why I now know that one :) There was one other I have actually read before but it was so long ago I don't recall much of the plot let alone the opening line. Looks like it's due for a re-read.

Don't have access to my books here but this one came to my head:

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort"
- (view spoiler)


message 3: by Alan (last edited Oct 19, 2017 01:47AM) (new)

Alan Denham (alandenham) | 146 comments I knew five, and made two more correct guesses that I wasn't confident of - I guess I am allowed to feel slightly smug, but not too much.
My own favourite comes from an author who writes great SF, but this example comes from one of his other books.
"It was the day my grandmother exploded."
(spoiler) testing (/spoiler)
Hades! Could someone please tell me how to write spoiler tags? There must be simpler way than the background stuff I see in the source code!
Edit: (view spoiler)
Thanks!


message 4: by RJ - Slayer of Trolls (last edited Oct 18, 2017 02:48PM) (new)

RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) Alan wrote: "Hades! Could someone please tell me how to write spoiler tags? There must be simpler way than the background stuff I see in the source code!

(spoiler) testing (/spoiler)"


replace ( and ) with < and > and you got it


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) I think a good first sentence is a great way to suck a reader in immediately. It's always hard for me when the first sentence is a lengthy description or info dump. It's like going on a blind date with someone who only wants to talk about themselves.

The Neuromancer one, above, is one of my all-time favorites. I'd read a few others but was embarrassed to say I didn't remember them.

Here's a recent one I enjoyed: "Carolyn, blood-drenched and barefoot, walked alone down the two-lane stretch of blacktop that the Americans called Highway 78." - (view spoiler)


message 6: by Brendan (last edited Oct 18, 2017 03:00PM) (new)

Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments I maintain that Neuromancer doesn't even have the best opening sentence of that series. My favourite sci-fi opening is from Count Zero:

"They set a slamhound on Turner's trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the color of his hair."

First time I read the book i had to put it down and just think about that sentence for a while. It's so perfectly cyberpunk. You have no idea what a slamhound is but it sounds awesome, and "pheromones" contrasts perfectly with "color of his hair" to juxtapose the scientific with the poetic. Gibson really knows how to write a sentence.

Randy wrote: "Carolyn, blood-drenched and barefoot, walked alone down the two-lane stretch of blacktop that the Americans called Highway 78."

Definitely a good one.

EDIT: Regarding Alan's, I haven't read the book that one was from but was able to guess the author from the clues, it absolutely sounds like a sentence he would write.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Randy wrote: "The Neuromancer one, above, is one of my all-time favorites. ..."

That particular quote is quickly becoming obsolete, too. Since we've gone to digital TV, the old "dead channel" grey is becoming a relic of the past. Soon no one will know what he's talking about.


message 8: by Donald (new)

Donald | 157 comments G33z3r wrote: "Randy wrote: "The Neuromancer one, above, is one of my all-time favorites. ..."

That particular quote is quickly becoming obsolete, too. Since we've gone to digital TV, the old "dead channel" grey..."


This whole time I'd been imagining static and just realised that was wrong... :O

The War of the Worlds entry always gives me goosebumps, the Hobbit feels like a warm comforter pulled around me, and I read Uprooted purely off the strength of that opening line, but in general opening lines have to be top 10 to really get my attention because I move on to the rest of the book so quickly. I enjoy reading them on their own though.


message 9: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 2479 comments If you like opening lines but don't care to read the rest of the story there's always Dark and Stormy Rides Again: The Best (?) from the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest by Scott Rice. An friend had lent it to me and while there were some stinkers there were also some gems.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) Brendan wrote: ""They set a slamhound on Turner's trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the color of his hair.""

I like that one too, but Neuromancer's just grabbed me when I read it so I'm sticking with that one.

G33z3r wrote: "old "dead channel" grey..."

Interesting. I thought that too when I first read it, but the next TV I bought - big, heavy 25" square box - had a bright blue screen with a white digital channel number in the upper right corner any time it was tuned to a dead channel. Since Gibson was so cutting edge (before he started writing about pants and hotel rooms), I've started thinking that's what he meant, and not a static grey with lines of fuzz. Thoughts?

But if you want to go with old Gibson openers, it's hard to beat this one: "I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs of tennis socks, not my style at all, but that's what I was aiming for: If they think you're crude, go technical; if they think you're technical, go crude." - (view spoiler)


message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2161 comments Life is a thing--if you'll excuse a quick dab of philosophy before you know what kind of picture I'm painting--that reminds me quite a bit of the beaches around Tokyo Bay.
(view spoiler)


message 12: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) I only guessed three out of the seven books I read in the first post.

I don't really pay attention to first sentence, more a first (few) chapters kind of reader. I can't even remember the first lines of Harry Potter and ASOIAF even though both are my favorite series of all time.

Having said that, I think 1984 has the best line.


message 13: by Alan (new)

Alan Denham (alandenham) | 146 comments Randy wrote: "replace ( ..."
Goddammit! I thought I tried that! I speak html fairly well, and that surely was the first thing to try? I must have had a typo I didn't spot!


message 14: by Alan (new)

Alan Denham (alandenham) | 146 comments G33z3r wrote: "Randy wrote: "The Neuromancer one, above, is one of my all-time favorites. ..."

That particular quote is quickly becoming obsolete, too. Since we've gone to digital TV, the old "dead channel" grey..."

Neuromancer . . . 1984, that's 33 years ago, He must have spent at least a couple of years planning/writing it, so call it 35 years. Technology moves on!
Even the best prophets never get all the details right.


message 15: by Alan (new)

Alan Denham (alandenham) | 146 comments Jim wrote: "Life is a thing--if you'll excuse a quick dab of philosophy before you know what kind of picture I'm painting--that reminds me quite a bit of the beaches around Tokyo Bay.
[spoilers removed]"

Huh! I knew I'd read it, but I had to show the spoiler to remember who it was.


message 16: by Davy (new)

Davy | 47 comments Only guessed the last one, but that's because it's the only book of those listed that I own (but haven't read yet). Also, I believe the back cover starts with that sentence as well ...


message 17: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2161 comments Very first lines can be memorable, but often it's the first few that grab me. Zelazny, already mentioned twice in the topic, always has memorable openings, but rarely manages a great impact just on the first. When an author can do that, it is something special.


message 18: by Roger (last edited Oct 19, 2017 04:29AM) (new)

Roger This one is my favorite (spoiler tagged for foul language)

(view spoiler)
(view spoiler)

While not a super original line it definitely got my attention.


message 19: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2161 comments Agreed, Roger. Mine, too.


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun."
(view spoiler)


message 21: by Mike (new)

Mike (mikekeating) | 242 comments "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
(view spoiler)

"The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault."
(view spoiler)


message 22: by RJ - Slayer of Trolls (last edited Oct 21, 2017 01:11PM) (new)

RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) "There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart's Desire." - (view spoiler)

"Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair." - (view spoiler)

"This was a Golden Age, a time of high adventure, rich living, and hard dying...but nobody thought so." - (view spoiler)

"As I dressed that morning I ran over in my mind the long list of statistics, evasions, and exaggerations that they would expect in my report." - (view spoiler)

"In the nighttime heart of Beirut, in one of a row of general-address transfer booths, Louis Wu flicked into reality." - (view spoiler)


message 23: by Kivrin (new)

Kivrin | 451 comments Roger wrote: "This one is my favorite (spoiler tagged for foul language)

[spoilers removed][spoilers removed]

While not a super original line it definitely got my attention."


Definitely one of my favorites!


message 24: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 23, 2017 07:13AM) (new)

These two have often seemed kindred in spirit to me...

“When is a legend legend? Why is a myth a myth? How old and disused must a fact be for it to be relegated to the category 'Fairy-tale’?”
(view spoiler)

"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again."
(view spoiler)

Galadriel offers similar thoughts in The Fellowship of the Ring, though not at the opening...
"Much that once was is lost. For none now live who remember it."
“And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge.”

In the Peter Jackson 2001 movie version, that was moved up to the prolog.


message 25: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 2479 comments Proof I need to re-read Dragonflight next year.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Andrea wrote: "Proof I need to re-read Dragonflight next year."

Where would you stop reading? (Based on your comment on Ringworld, you seem to have this completist thing. :)


message 27: by Andrea (last edited Oct 24, 2017 07:07AM) (new)

Andrea | 2479 comments My plan is the whole thing, something like 26 books, plus the short stories, within one year. But we'll see, I may end up "overdosing" on the world and have to to continue another time. I figure about 2 books a month, which allows me to mix in other stuff along the way.

And yeah, I do have a completist thing :) Also a reading them in published order thing (if possible). Though in the end I'd go with either of the two December nominations, but since I have to choose one, I went with the one that was actually standalone since I didn't really have any other criteria to pick between the two.


message 28: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 26, 2017 09:48AM) (new)

Some I liked from some recent group discussion novels:

"I killed my first man today."
(view spoiler)

"There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall. Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on."
(view spoiler)

"Questions, always questions. They didn’t wait for the answers, either. They rushed on, piling questions on questions, covering every moment with questions, blocking off every sensation but the thorn stab of questions."
(view spoiler)

“A merry little surge of electricity piped by automatic alarm from the mood organ beside his bed awakened Rick Deckard.”
(view spoiler)

"I remember throwing away a child."
(view spoiler)

"I am a very old man; how old I do not know. Possibly I am a hundred, possibly more; but I cannot tell because I have never aged as other men, nor do I remember any childhood."
(view spoiler)

"Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed."
(view spoiler)

"At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately hoping to sell him the Lamora boy."
(view spoiler)

"The first thought Anderton had when he saw the young man was: I'm getting bald. Bald and fat and old. But he didn't say it aloud"
(view spoiler)

"All political careers end in failure. Some careers are long, some are short. Some politicians fail gracefully, and peacefully—others, less so."
(view spoiler)

"We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games that were formerly played there; the hoops for the basketball nets were still in place, though the nets were gone. "
(view spoiler)


message 29: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 2479 comments I love the Quentin one.

Once again, of the ones I've read, I got them all except the "I am a very old man" one. Even read that just recently, guess it didn't stick.


message 30: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 51 comments I recognised most of those! "The Magicians" one was one of the best opening lines ever but I don't think the book quite lived up to it. The "Lies" opening was amazing, I remember thinking "OK lots of confusing fantasy names/words but more importantly WHY IS THE PRIEST EYELESS AND WHY DOES HE WANT TO BUY LOCKE?" Fantastic way to keep me reading...and I did, all the way through 3 5-star books!


message 31: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2161 comments "There is a similarity, if I may be permitted an excursion into tenuous metaphor, between the feel of a chilly breeze and the feel of a knife's blade, as either is laid across the back of the neck. "
(view spoiler)


message 32: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 2479 comments I like how the Quentin one immediately sets up his character. If there was one sentence to sum him up it would be that.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) Jim wrote: ""There is a similarity, if I may be permitted an excursion into tenuous metaphor, between the feel of a chilly breeze and the feel of a knife's blade, as either is laid across the back of the neck...."

That's a terrific book. I lost track of that series and really need to go pick it back up again.


message 34: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2161 comments I think the first few are the best. I lost interest around 6 or 7.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) Jim wrote: "I think the first few are the best. I lost interest around 6 or 7."

LOL that's around where I lost track...


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

See if you can guess today's theme.... :)

“I always get the shakes before a drop. I've had the injections, of course, and the hypnotic preparation, and it stands to reason that I can't really be afraid.”
(view spoiler)

"I see in Lunaya Pravada that Luna City Council has passed on first reading a bill to examine, license, inspect — and tax — public food vendors operating inside municipal pressure.”
(view spoiler)

“All my life I've wanted to go to Earth. Not to live, of course — just to see it. As everybody knows, Terra is a wonderful place to visit but not to live.” —
(view spoiler)

"One upon a time there was a Martian named Valantine Michael Smith."
(view spoiler)

"'There's a Mutie! Look Out'"
(view spoiler)

"You see, I had this space suit. How it happened was this way:"
(view spoiler)

"'To Matthew Brooks Dodson,' the paper in his hand read, "greetings: Having successfully completed the field elimination tests for appointment to the position of cadet in the Interplanetary Patrol, you are authorized to report to the Commandant,"
(view spoiler)

"Were they truly intelligent? By themselves, that is? I don't know."
(view spoiler)

"'It's not a hearing aid,' Hubert Farnham explained. "It's a radio, tuned to the emergency frequency."
(view spoiler)


message 37: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2161 comments Immediately. You got a lot, but missed

"Lot ninety-seven," the auctioneer announced. "A boy."
(view spoiler)

They shut off winter soon after that.
(view spoiler)

There are other decent ones (Lummox was bored & hungry.) but I think that's most of my favorites.


message 38: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 31, 2017 07:13AM) (new)

Jim wrote: "Immediately. You got a lot, but missed ..."

I pulled a bunch of his books off my shelf to type them. I looked at those two on the shelf, even tilted one out with my thumb, then said, Nah, and slid it back without checking. Didn't remember them well enough.

One of the things I love about Heinlein's openings isn't that they are especially lyrical, but they are excellent at establishing setting right off the bat. Mars, or the Moon, or space, or wherever, without being boring. probably an economy of exposition learned from all the Future Histories short stories.


message 39: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2161 comments Agreed. I've always liked his short stories. He quit writing them about the same time he started writing wordy novels. I'm sure some of that was the market, the pulps were a thing of the past & novels was where the money was, but I think it was also a change of style. Not for the better, IMO.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) Jim wrote: "Agreed. I've always liked his short stories."

Any of his collections you would particularly recommend?


message 41: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2161 comments Most of them are collected into The Past Through Tomorrow. As a paperback, it's a brick. I have a fondness for my slim Signet(?) paperbacks like The Menace from Earth, The Green Hills of Earth, & such. I don't think Waldo and Magic, Inc are in the big collection, though.


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

Jim wrote: "Most of them are collected into The Past Through Tomorrow. As a paperback, it's a brick. I have a fondness for my slim Signet(?) paperbacks like The Menace from Earth,..."

I have all those Signets, too. I did a count once and I think Heinlein won the "most books on my shelves" contest, though others won the "most shelf space" contest. :)

Don't have that Past Through Tomorrow. You'd need more than one volume to really collect them... funny iSFDb doesn't seem to show there are any really comprehensive collections of RAH's works.


message 43: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2161 comments They broke it up into 2 volumes in later editions. I remember being disappointed when I got it since I'd read all the stories. He has a lot of shelf space at my house since I have all his books, at least the main ones so that I have most everything he published. There are some variations & editions I didn't bother with. His short stories were repackaged several times.

I'm not sure he would win any contests, but he's in the top 10 or so. Zelazny, Modesitt, Saberhagen, REH, ERB, & Donald Hamilton have more shelf space & books, I think. With Zelazny, it might just be editions that pushes the count up, though. That man's works are a mess. For instance, the 'Prelude to the Trumps of Doom' was only in the SF book club first edition & the short story collection Manna from Heaven which is even harder to find. The other Amber short stories were similarly hard to find. Thankfully NESFA published his Collected Works which has everything in order except maybe that weird little one he wrote with a fan.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) I really would like to get Manna from Heaven. And I need to re-read the Amber series, and of course I never read the 2nd Amber series except for the first book. (Speaking of awful Zelazny puns, I remember a scene in the book Trumps of Doom when the MC tells a girl in bed "you're really on the ball" and she says sorry and rolls over. *groan*


message 45: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2161 comments Randy wrote: "I really would like to get Manna from Heaven...."

Manna from Heaven is crazy expensive, $60 used on Abebooks. I'm not surprised. I think I watched for a couple of years before I got it for $20 used not too long after it was published. I'd recommend buying the Collected Works even though there are 6 of them & they run $25-$30 each. The commentary & getting all his stories make it worth it. Try to get the covers on them since they make a huge picture when lined up.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) Jim wrote: "I'd recommend buying the Collected Works even though there are 6 of them & they run $25-$30 each. The commentary & getting all his stories make it worth it. Try to get the covers on them since they make a huge picture when lined up."

They are all on the Wish List but who knows when I'll get around to them. Hard to believe no one can get these re-printed.


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