Tuesday January 30, 2007

SF Book Meme

After the jump you'll find my contribution to the "way too much information about my taste in SF" meme.  (via via via)

  1. Science fiction, fantasy, or horror?

    Science fiction, then fantasy, with horror a distant third.  I generally don't go for horror because of the horror—when I read it, it's because there's also some science fiction or fantasy in it (e.g. China Miéville).

  2. Hardback, trade paperback, or mass market paperback?

    Hardback for a few authors whose books I eagerly await (Brust and Varley come to mind), otherwise mass market unless I expect to read the hell out it.

  3. Heinlein or Asimov?

    Heinlein.  Asimov was good, but Heinlein was great.

  4. Amazon or brick-and-mortar?

    About 2/3 Amazon, 1/3 brick-and-mortar.  I still enjoy browsing, but Amazon is convenient and has everything, new and used.

  5. Barnes & Noble or Borders?

    Barnes & Noble I guess, but only because there are more of them around here.  They're pretty much indistinguishable.

  6. Hitchhiker or Discworld?

    Hitchhiker, but I might change my mind if I ever get around to reading more Discworld.

  7. Bookmark or dogear?

    Neither.  I remember where I am in the story and flip until I find that spot.  Plus, dogearing a book is a sin.  After I've read a book, you generally can't tell I've touched it.  Leave no trace!

  8. Magazine: Asimov's Science Fiction or Fantasy & Science Fiction?

    I subscribed to each for one year in the eighties, so I can honestly say I have no opinion.  (Why no love for Analog?)

  9. Alphabetize by author, by title, or random?

    First by genre (fiction, various non-fiction subjects), then by author, then by title within author but with tightly-connected series following the first book in publication order.  (Yes, just exactly that anal, why do you ask?)

  10. Keep, throw away, or sell?

    Keep until it hurts, then sell with regret.  Never throw away—throwing away books is one step away from burning them.  Where would all the words go?

  11. Year's Best Science Fiction series (edited by Gardner Dozois) or Year's Best SF Series (edited by David G. Hartwell)?

    Dozois, but I've fallen away from both in the last few years.

  12. Keep dustjacket or toss it?

    Keep—I like cover art.  Who throws away dustjackets?

  13. Read with dustjacket or remove it?

    Remove—the book won't get dusty while I'm reading, and the cover gets in the way.

  14. Short story or novel?

    Tough one.  I think I'm impressed by a great short story more than by a great novel because it's a more demanding form, but you can't do much world-building in a short story, and I love world-building.

  15. Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?

    I abstain.  I read the first Harry Potter and wasn't impressed, and I've never read Lemony Snicket.

  16. Stop reading when tired or chapter breaks?

    That's an interesting one.  I think I go until chapter breaks, but I'm honestly not sure.  You'll have to watch over my shoulder when I'm not paying attention and collect data.

  17. "It was a dark and stormy night" or "Once upon a time"?

    Neither.  "The sky over the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel," in part because it no longer means what Gibson originally meant it to mean.

  18. Buy or borrow?


  19. Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation, or browse?

    Mostly book reviews, although I don't see a distinction between reviews and recommendations.  Aren't recommendations just oral reviews from your friends?

  20. Lewis or Tolkien?

    Tolkien by a mile.

  21. Hard SF or space opera?

    Can't I have both?  Hard SF, I guess—nothing says "skiffy" like half a chapter of orbital mechanics.

  22. Collection (single author) or anthology (multiple authors)?

    Collection.  Short stories have to be tight, so a collection by a great author in top form has a sustained and coherent brilliance that anthologies usually lack.  (I'm thinking of Greg Egan and John Varley, for example.)

  23. Hugo or Nebula?

    Hugo.  The attendees of the World SF Convention are a better analog for my tastes than professional writers, I guess.

  24. Golden Age SF or New Wave SF?

    I refuse to choose, since there's almost no overlap in their appeal.  I go to the Golden Age for The Way The Future Was; I go to the New Wave if I want characters with more than one dimension.

  25. Tidy ending or cliffhanger?

    Depends.  If I want there to be more of the story, cliffhanger; if I think the author has said everything that needed saying, tidy ending.

  26. Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?

    Late, late night reading.  I never have time to read for pleasure except as I'm falling asleep.

  27. Standalone or series?

    I can't decide.  As with short stories vs. novels, a brilliant standalone is probably a more impressive achievement than a brilliant entry in a series, but there are rewards to long-running series that just aren't available in standalones.  For example, just when you think you have a handle on a series, a well-timed "everything you know is wrong" moment can really blow your mind (e.g. the comic book Invincible).

  28. Urban fantasy or high fantasy?

    I guess I read more urban fantasy (Brust, Cook's Black Company, Miéville), but Tolkien still sets the standard.  So both, I guess.

  29. New or used?

    Used if it's in good shape.  A lot of what I read doesn't seem to be in print any more.

  30. Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?

    The Survivors (a.k.a. Space Prison) by Tom Godwin, which I'm delighted to discover is back in print.  Oh, and one more: Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys, which should be mandatory reading for anyone who's ever played a save-die-and-try-again video game.

  31. Top 5 favorite genre books read last year?

    1.  Dzur by Steven Brust
    2.  The Collapsium by Wil McCarthy
    3.  The Wellstone by Wil McCarthy
    4.  Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
    5.  The Scar by China Miéville

    Boy, this was harder than I thought.  These are pretty much the only new genre books I've read this year—everything else has been re-reading or reading for school.

  32. Top 5 favorite genre books of all time?

    1.  The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
    2.  Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
    3.  The Black Company by Glen Cook
    4.  To Reign in Hell by Steven Brust
    5.  Axiomatic by Greg Egan

  33. 5 favorite genre series?

    1.  Robert Heinlein's juvenile novels
    2.  John Varley's Eight Worlds novels and short stories
    3.  Steven Brust's Dragaera novels
    4.  Larry Niven's Known Space novels and short stories
    5.  (tie) Lois McMaster Bujold's Barrayar novels
    5.  (tie) Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern novels

  34. Top 5 favorite genre short stories?

    1.  "Picnic on Nearside" by John Varley
    2.  "Learning to be Me" by Greg Egan
    3.  "The Star" by Arthur C. Clarke
    4.  "The Long Watch" by Robert Heinlein
    5.  "The Green Hills of Earth" by Robert Heinlein

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Interesting that the top three of your Top 5 of all time are among my all time favorites. Seeing that kind of overlap I think I'll have to give Brust's To Reign in Hell, and Egan's Axiomatic a read.

Posted by: Eric Anondson at Jan 30, 2007 6:33:50 PM

Your comment regarding the Gibson quote from Neuromancer got me thinking about how right you are. For a particular age and older, "the color of television turned to a dead channel," will mean a gritty static like image of pollution. For those with digital cable today, it just means a blue sky. Nice observation.

Posted by: Christian Johnson at Jan 30, 2007 6:51:26 PM

Err... The Black Company books aren't even remotely fitting the urban fantasy sub-genre.

I think one of us have the definition of urban fantasy all wrong. Either that, or you accidentally wrote the wrong title.

Posted by: Yaron at Jan 31, 2007 3:44:11 AM

While I've not read any Miéville, I'd not call any of Brust's stuff urban fantasy. For that, see the SERRAted Edge books by Lackey, et al. or Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. The defining characteristic is the intersection of everyday (modern) life with fantasy.

The Brust books, like Glen Cook's Garrett books, or (for those who remember them) the Thieves' World books, are high fantasy noir, not urban fantasy, even though all are set entirely in urban environments. I'd rate the Black Company books as gritty dark fantasy, but certainly not urban fantasy.

(All of which is to say that I agree with Yaron.)

Posted by: Doug Sundseth at Jan 31, 2007 8:06:22 AM

Crap, you're right—I thought it was asking about high fantasy vs. low fantasy. Miéville doesn't really qualify either.

Posted by: The Tensor at Jan 31, 2007 11:22:51 AM

I don't think I'm going to post my own answers to this meme, because I just haven't read much sci-fi/fantasy/horror in a while, but I just wanted to chime in to say "Amen" to the comment about Harry Potter. I read the first book, found it lacking, and have declined to be suckered into more by all the people who say it was brilliant only to then back off to, "well, it gets better from there". Maybe it does, but I didn't see anything in there that wasn't done as well or better by dozens of less-acclaimed authors filling space in fantasy bookshelves already.

Posted by: Semantic Compositions at Jan 31, 2007 3:23:31 PM

The first Harry Potter isn't that impressive. After I read it I was thinking, "Well, if you *really* didn't want anyone to find the Philosopher's Stone, then why did you put it in a place with lots of interesting games guarding it? Why not just put it in a room with a strong curse on it that will cause whoever enters to drop dead, without giving them a chance to solve a puzzle and get past?" But give the second one a chance and I think you'll like it enough to read the third, by which time you'll be impressed with Rowling's imagination and plotting ability, an impression that will grow as you read 4, 5, and 6. Things come up in the later volumes that were introduced right there in volume 1 or 2, and #3 I'd rank as one of the most satisfying, well-plotted reads I've ever had.

Posted by: Neal Whitman at Feb 5, 2007 9:32:08 AM

3: Heinlein a better writer; Asimov a better thinker.

6: I love Adams, but Pratchett is sharper.

14: Short story is the basic form for SF as well as mystery, but since I passed adolescence the long form is all that appeals to me.

20: I hate his Christianist message, but Lewis is incomparably the better writer.

30: Budrys, yes; but The Falling Torch (his first) and Who? (his best). And add Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch and The Muller-Fokker Effect by John Sladek.

31: The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks, Light by M. John Harrison, and The Separation by Christopher Priest.

32: More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon; Brain Wave by Poul Anderson; Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke; The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester; and The Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov.

Posted by: theophylact at Feb 7, 2007 4:24:08 PM

What about "Odd John" and "Sirius" by Stapleton?

Posted by: paperpusher at Feb 13, 2007 2:25:42 PM