Posted by That Other Mike on 08/01/2008
OK, before I go into my favourite scifi of all time (naturally in my opinion only, list subject to change), I’d like to be a bit geeky about it and post a few thoughts, not necessarily right order in the. Bear with me.
A lot of people get a bit confused about science fiction: they include stuff like the inestimable The Handmaid’s Tale or Aliens, both narratives which seem on the face of it to be prime candidates. A lot of stuff that gets lumped into scifi is really speculative fiction where the science is just handy background or a useful deus ex machine – like Star Trek.
I would argue that the real meaning of science fiction is stories where science drives the story, where it acts as an extra character – it not only enables the story, it is the story.
In light of that, stuff like I Am Legend is science fiction; Star Trek is not.
A little more of Star Trek: it’s utopian or adventure fiction by turns, with the occasional scifi element thrown in for funsies. Gene Roddenbury originally pitched it as “Wagon Train to the stars”, and he was right; nobody ever calls Wagon Train horse fiction.
Ok, I’m done with the geekery. On with the show.
My top five in books:
- I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson – original novel.
- Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood, notwithstanding that she doesn’t like to call it scifi. Everyone has a few novelists whom they don’t simply like but adore; Atwood is one of mine. I can even forgive her becoming a little plot-samey in the past few years.
- Ringworld, by Larry Niven. Thin characters, not much plot… But a ringworld!
- Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny.
- The Gods Themselves, by Isaac Asimov