The Sword and Laser discussion

Gateway Books

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message 1: by Lorna (new)

Lorna (lornalocks) | 3 comments Does anyone have any books they read as kids which were good stepping stones into sci-fi/fantasy? Kids now have some awesome choices, but I remember when I was pretty young reading ‘Pongwiffy: A Witch of Dirty Habits’ which was a hilarious children’s book about the misadventures of a really stinky witch! It led me into reading Terry Pratchett’s witches books, then the whole Discworld and on into innumerable fantasy realms. Do you remember the books that led you into the genre?

message 2: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne | 49 comments As a young child, my first fantasy exposure was the Oz books, and then Little Witch - a little girl who wants to make friends and has all these magical potions. I checked that out from the library SO many times!

message 3: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (pezski) | 493 comments Good question! I remember Neil Gaiman (I think) answering an interviewer's question about why he started reading fantasy with "why did you stop?" and going on to talk about how we start reading fairy stories and the fantastical as kids and then are encouraged to leave it behind.

Pratchett's children's books are excellent - The Truckers books for youngsters, The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy a little older, and his younger reader Discworld books ( I actually think The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is one of the best three of the Discworld novels).

( I'm too old to have read these as a kid but read them to my own son )

My own early influences were John Christopher and John Wyndham's youth books - such as Chocky, and a bunch of old paperbacks my dad had - A.E. van Vogt, E.E. "Doc" Smith and that kind of thing.

Then as a teen I found contemporary fantasy authors (at the time) like Tanith Lee, Geraldine Harris, Jane Gaskell which bridged me to more grown up fare.

message 4: by Trike (new)

Trike | 9270 comments In 1st or 2nd grade I read a short sci-fi story in the back of one of my English books that Blew. My. Mind. After that I sought out more stories like it.

message 5: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4414 comments I remember my first full-length novel, Alexei Panshin's "Rite of Passage." It's about people who live on spaceships who have to pass one month on a planet to enter adulthood. Has commentary about bullying, who is the Other, and space traveling goodness. The characters are 13/14 which I thought was horribly advanced at the time.

I would also want to recommend Dragonflight / Dragonquest at least for somewhat more advanced readers. Some of the subplots have not aged well though. I will simply reference Lessa and F'lar's reaction to the dragons' mating flight and leave it at that. I am not offended but others might be. But...ass kicking, charge taking women, and time traveling dragons to save the day, what else ya want? ;)

FWIW the Richard Riordan stuff is pretty good. Both the Percy Jackson and Jason Grace books work well. Other books by Riordan are fair to middling.

message 6: by Phil (new)

Phil | 1201 comments The fantasies that grabbed my when I was young were The Gammage Cup and The Secret World of Og. For SF it was Rocketship Galileo and other Heinlein's that really got me hooked.
More recently the Harry Potter books and Percy Jackson series are what got my son into it.

message 7: by John (Taloni) (last edited Jun 29, 2018 12:28PM) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4414 comments Oh, a specific book on Greek myths: I really enjoyed the graphic novel version of The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds. Boiled down the stories to their essentials, with the graphics summarizing a lot of the text.

EDIT: Cover can be found on Goodreads.
Edit 2: I give up, it won't display.
The Odyssey

message 8: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 1321 comments Diana Wynne Jones !! Especially Howl's Moving Castle which remains one of my all-time faves.

And, mentioning Greek mythology, I was a big fan as a child of the straight retellings by Roger Lancelyn Green and the less-straight retellings by Tony Robinson

message 9: by Amber (new)

Amber | 5 comments Mine was the Star Wars series: Jedi Prince. They're horrible, don't read them.

My first GOOD gateway into sci-fi (that wasn't Star Wars) was probably Animorphs. I still want to go back and re-read those someday.

message 10: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 848 comments Although I read some of the standards as a kid (Mushroom Planet series, A Wrinkle in Time), I was very much into mysteries. Didn't get into FSF until at age 23 I asked some people what I should read if I wanted to try it out. Started with The Left Hand of Darkness, which didn't do much for me, though I *adored* The Dispossessed.

message 11: by Tasha (new)

Tasha I made my parents read fairy tales to me over and over and over.

My dad and I watched the old Star Trek reruns a lot. I started reading those books before I was old enough to understand them.

And James and the Giant Peach was my absolute favorite book for years.

message 12: by Phillip (new)

Phillip Murrell | 359 comments The earliest fantasy books I read were The Hobbit and the Narnia books when I was about eight. My first laser books were the Timothy Zahn Star Wars books when I was thirteen.

message 13: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 207 comments My first fantasy novels were The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and also this Sanctuary and The Snow Queen. They were on my moms bookshelf.

message 14: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 207 comments I saw the title of this thread and thought you guys were talking about this : Gateway.

message 15: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Jennifer wrote: "I saw the title of this thread and thought you guys were talking about this : Gateway."

I thought that too.

message 16: by terpkristin (last edited Jun 30, 2018 07:48AM) (new)

terpkristin | 4239 comments I guess my gateway books were the ones typical for a kid in the 80's. I certainly can't remember which one was first, but there was...
-A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I also ended up reading Many Waters later. I never read the fifth book in the quintet.
-The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the other Narnia books
-Greek myths in various editions
-The Little Prince
-some other book that I thought was Asian but google tells me may have been Russian. I thought the book was called "The Firebird", but it was distinctive for me for the pictures in the book. I think it might have been this book.

That lead to middle school reading Z for Zachariah, Breed to Come, The Odyssey...I was hooked.

Of course, I also read every Babysitter's Club book, every Judy Blume, every Ramona Quimby...but SFF stuck. :)

message 17: by Lorna (new)

Lorna (lornalocks) | 3 comments I haven’t read the Heechee saga, that didn’t occur to me at all! Whoops!
Ruth, I’m was also (and still am) a huge Diana Wynne Jones fan, but more of a Chrestomanci girl myself.
Lord of the Rings I didn’t manage till I was older, but the Hobbit was definitely a firm favourite!

message 18: by Ben George (new)

Ben  George | 66 comments Star Wars and Star Trek tie-ins from the local library were my gateway. After I devoured all the ones they had I poked around the rest of the section :)

message 19: by Iain (new)

Iain Bertram (iain_bertram) | 1572 comments Grade 4 in primary school our teacher was reading us The Hobbit and I got fed up waiting for the next bit so read it myself.

I then read everything on my parent's small bookshelf (Michener James A, Frederick Forsyth, etc).

20000 Leagues Under the Sea ad other abridged classics helped fuel the fire.

I was set loose in the local library. Asterix the Gaul Tintin in America led indirectly to the SF shelves and eventually Foundation and Arthur C. Clarke and I was off to the races.

message 20: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4239 comments Oh! I forgot about Pern. Those books, too...

message 21: by Joseph (new)

Joseph | 2355 comments Yeah, my gateway books were entirely unsurprising for someone growing up when I did -- John Christopher's Tripods trilogy, Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books, Dad's (new paperback editions of) Robert A. Heinlein juveniles, etc., etc. Followed in fairly short order by J.R.R. Tolkien and Star Wars, and all of the classic authors/stories I was finding in the public library's SF section. And Edgar Rice Burroughs -- Tarzan and John Carter in particular.

The first new series I really remember waiting for was the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant -- I got a boxed paperback set of the First Chronicles (and most of the problematic stuff kind of flew right past me), but at that point only the first two Second Chronicles novels had been published, so I waited to read them until the third, White Gold Wielder, was available.

message 22: by Miranda (new)

Miranda As a kid I fell in love with Redwall series. It made me want to be a writer. After I read all that were in my local small town library I could not find anything as awesome. (A lot of the books mentioned above I only discovered later or are still on my to-read list.) I'm still not sure if re-reading them would destroy the happy memories I have...

Later I found Legends, it got me interested in a few fantasy series, but stupidly enough pushed me away from Earthsea and Discworld. I have a lot of catching up to do!

message 23: by Robobobo (last edited Jul 02, 2018 05:24AM) (new)

Robobobo Fairytales as well as greek and norse myths. But my gateway books, the first books I read all by myself, were Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer, and Momo, Krabat by Ottfried Preussler Krabat and of course Astrid Lindgren's Ronja Räubertochter and Die Brüder Löwenherz. I read all of them several times, loved them as a kid and still love them – they're absolutely worth reading as an adult too. After that came Narnia and Wrinkle in Time and The Hobbit.

message 24: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1704 comments Lorna wrote: "Does anyone have any books they read as kids which were good stepping stones into sci-fi/fantasy? Kids now have some awesome choices, but I remember when I was pretty young reading ‘Pongwiffy: A Wi..."

Tales of 1001 Nights, some local folk stories, then Narnia and ANIMORPHS.

message 25: by Ben George (new)

Ben  George | 66 comments @Silvana Thank you for the Animorphs love. That was some "quality" middle grade fiction XD
I devoured those books back in the day.

Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 2046 comments I was very into 'animal' books as a kid, starting with The Owl Who Was Afraid Of the Dark (the first book I ever read alone), advancing to Colin Dann's Farthing Wood series, then to the Duncton Wood books, which I remember being really intense for books about moles. I also read a number of Choose Your Own Adventure books, many of which had SFF leanings (a favourite involved space vampires!). Then I took a bit of a turn and started on horror, most memorably the Point Horror books. In spite of the fantastical sides to many of these stories, I was still initially resistant to classic fantasy. It took my mum reading chapters from David Eddings' The Diamond Throne for me to really get into fantasy. Sci fi books only really came with this book group. I loved watching sci fi but never made the leap for some reason.

message 27: by Joseph (new)

Joseph | 2355 comments Oh, and the two D'Aulaire myth collections -- D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths and D'Aulaires' Norse Gods and Giants -- I checked out from the library about 100,000 times each.

message 28: by William (last edited Jul 05, 2018 01:42AM) (new)

William | 436 comments I actually posted this on the podcast feed, but I've just seen this thread where it seems more relevant. I hope I'm not commiting a faux pas by reposting:

I really got into reading, at about the age of 7, with the now long vanished Tim and Tobias reading series. Having reread it as an adult I can confirm it involved broomsticks and magic prePotter and was a lot darker than the first few Potter books, in fact the old "World of Darkness" is probably the closest I can think of (how the heck did they get this into schools? I'm just so glad they did!).

Tim and Tobias (Tim and the Hidden People Book A1) by Sheila K. McCullagh

I moved on to SF and got hooked on HM Hoover (Helen Mary Hoover) novels. These are seriously hard to track down and reread as an adult, but I managed to get my hands on This Time of Darkness which was probably the one that had the biggest effect on me as an impressionable 10/11 year old.

I was a bit scared to reread it because it was so important to me as a child. But after I reread it I discovered to my astonishment that it was exactly the way I remembered.

This Time of Darkness by Helen Mary Hoover

message 29: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2973 comments Greek myths (Lattimore translations) because my grade school library didn't have fantasy. Sometimes people think this is SO highbrow but really, they are quite approachable and the stories are the basis for a lot of subsequent literature and it's fun to see the roots in these.

Then at 15 my cousin gave me a boxed set of The Hobbit/LotR and a friend of mine in high school was a big SF fan and got me into Heinlein, etc. I kind of skipped most 1970s SFF, then picked it back up with Neuromancer etc.

message 30: by TraceyL (last edited Jul 06, 2018 03:00PM) (new)

TraceyL | 76 comments The first genre book I read as a kid which was not part of the Goosebumps series was Among the Hidden.

It has young adult as a genre but I would list it as middle-grade, mainly because the characters are all around 12 years old. It's set in a dystopian America where overpopulation is a problem, so couples are limited to having 2 children. The MC is a third child who has been hidden away so the government kill him. He accidentally sees another third child hiding in a neighbor's house, and they start chatting online. They find other 3rd and 4th children, and try to get new identities so they can run away and be free.

I hadn't occurred to me before I read this book that sci-fi didn't have to have robots, space ships, etc. I was about 11 or 12 when I read it, and it had some interesting concepts for kids.

message 31: by Rik (new)

Rik | 777 comments First Sci fi book I can remember reading around 3rd grade or so was The White Mountains by John Christopher. About aliens, who pilot robotic tripods, and implant things into kids to mind control them. First in a trilogy. Haven't read it in at least 35 years so I don't recall if it holds up, I just remember loving at the ages of 8-10.

From there I moved to the Narnia series and Lord of the Rings. Dragonlance not long after that.

message 32: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) | 1704 comments Ben wrote: "@Silvana Thank you for the Animorphs love. That was some "quality" middle grade fiction XD
I devoured those books back in the day."

My pleasure. It is my first SF book series. Happy memories.

message 33: by Gary (new)

Gary Gillen | 86 comments The first book I read for pleasure was The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Because of reading that, I joined the Science Fiction Book Club. My first shipment included The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov and The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny. So I was on my way.

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