Books that changed SF forever

Jackie Allen-Peters, a friend of mine, linked to this list of 21 books that changed science fiction from io9, and she asked how many I had read, and what I would add. Here are my answers.

I’ve read at least 16 of the 21, and maybe 17 … I can’t remember if I actually read The Martian Chronicles or just feel like I have. [Note to self, time to go find out!]. It’s certainly an interesting and deserving list, but I find Jackie’s next question to be more interesting. What would I add?

I’m sure that given a half day to fritter, I could come up with a grander list, but here are a few that jump immediately to my mind:

  • Roger Zelazny’s Amber series: I think Zelazny’s stylistic approach changed the field in ways that are almost impossible to fully define.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: This was arguably the first modern science fiction story. Beyond that, I think it’s coolness factor created a lot of geeky kids, and I figure most SF writers begin life as at least somewhat geeky. Go figure.
  • Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon: Technically, this was a short story before it was a novel, but in the 50s and 60s it raised a SFnal conversation out of the SF ghetto and into the mainstream.
  • Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: I believe this served to change SF more than The Martian Chronicles (which made the io9 list). Just my opinion, though…an that and $5 can get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
  • Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle: Perhaps something like this could only come out of the early 60s, but it seems to me to have changed the game—it seemed to reset the areas that SF could explore, and was perhaps the “true” beginning of the Alternate History. That said, I suppose many would argued that guys like Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison made their biggest impact on SF through the full body of their work rather than through any one specific piece.
  • Ann McCaffrey’s Dragonflight (and the subsequent series): I think this series spawned a bunch of writers, and you can argue it was among the first to essentially mix the fantasy and SF fields into a crossover genre of its own, something everyone is doing today (yes, I know this may be cheating by expanding the context across a series, but it’s a liberty I’m willing to take).

I admit I was tempted to put Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game in that list, but I’m not sure it influenced the field so much as it made a huge splash, and I think there’s a difference there. In addition, I thought about adding things like Poe and Lovecraft and

I know there are other folks who scan through this blog who will be able to add more thoughts. So feel free. I’m all (virtual) ears.

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