After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Candidates for Summer Reading

Posted on May 16, 2010
Filed Under Technology | Leave a Comment

We’re not great fans of lists (though we sometimes get curious about what made a given list and what didn’t). But here’s one that anticipates a prime seasonal activity: Summer reading.

Two gents who write for the blog, Iain Thompson and Shaun Nichols, have compiled a list of the “Top 10 science fiction writers.”  “We’re going to get hammered on this one,” they note right off. And  they’re  getting lots of comments, some critical of their choices and others supportive.

In the interest of providing summer reading possibilities, some of which you may have forgotten about, here’s their 10 science fiction icons. They include explanations of their choices, which gives the list more heft then on than one simply plucked from the blue:

1. Arthur C. Clarke – “The most popular question asked by SF authors is ‘What makes us human?’, a query that Clarke regularly made with his most popular works,” including, of course, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

2. Jules Verne – “Verne’s writings predicted a host of inventions, including everything from air conditioning to helicopters….Some of his writing was also prescient. One story involved three astronauts launched from southern Florida in a capsule that splashes back to Earth.”

3. Douglas Adams – “Adams thrived because he mixed a great sense of humour into his work. Starting as a television writer and making a brief appearance on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Adams was later employed to write a radio series for the BBC. What followed was one of the most beloved works of SF in the past half centure…The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

4. Isaac Asimov – “Asimov wrote some great SF to be sure. The Robot stories were light years ahead of their time in terms of understanding the thinking behind artificial intelligence (AI) programming and the consequences of getting it wrong.”

5. Harlan Ellison – “His dark, edgy works helped pave the way for contemporary SF styles such as cyberpunk, and helped the genre mature and adapt to changing attitudes.”

6. Robert Heinlein – “In addition to excellent stories, Heinlein contributed the idea that you can make a poignant social and political commentary while still telling a great story.”

7. Neal Stephenson – “While Stephenson’s earlier work, particularly Zodiac, is more scientific than technical he hit his SF form with Snow Crash and followed through in 1995 with Diamond Age, a brilliant examination of nanotechnology and the way society, commerce and computing systems will be changed by new technology.”

8. William Gibson – “Barely a year after IBM introduced its first PC, Gibson described the future of online communications and the story potential of artificial intelligence in such an environment. It was a mental leap that left the rest of the SF world scrambling to catch up. Gibson’s style and subject unleashed a whole new form of SF onto the market in the form of ‘cyberpunk’.”

9. H. G. Wells – “Works such as The Time MachineThe Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds, which dealt with the fields of physics, chemistry and biology respectively, are still watched and reworked today, with varying degrees of success.”

10.  Iain M. Banks – “Most of his SF output takes place in the Culture universe, a polyglot society of roughly humanoid ancestry tens of thousands of years ahead of today. It’s a society where computer and human minds meld, where technology comes close to magic and yet the same old human (and alien) concerns come to the fore.”

And two Honorable Mentions: Gene Roddenberry (author of the original Star Trek series) and Charles Stross (Glasshouse).

Be sure not to forget the sun tan lotion. – Doug Bedell


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