Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Order [book in series=yearoffirstbook.book# (eg 2014.01), stand-alone or one-author collection=3333.pubyear, multi-author anthology=5555.pubyear, SFM/MM=5000, interview=1111]: 1986


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The Hercules Text: Asks interesting questions in an uninteresting way

The Hercules Text by Jack McDevitt

In the near future, NASA scientists pick up a signal from space that turns out to be a coded message (“The Hercules Text”) from an alien species. It originated a million years ago, so it’s unlikely that the aliens still exist, and even if they do they’re very far away, but the message tells us that (1) We are not (or were not) alone in the universe and (2) A million years ago these aliens were sophisticated enough to send this technologically advanced message.

These facts have profound effects on the scientists and other people involved with the NASA project.


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Replay: Imagine reliving your prime years over and over

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Replay is a story that every reader can empathize with. Who wouldn’t want to relive their best years over again, with all their memories intact? Fixing all the mistakes, seizing all the missed opportunities. It’s an irresistible thought, a fantasy of “what ifs.” Ken Grimwood’s Replay (1986) predates Groundhog Day (1993) by 7 years, and explores the concept in far more depth, taking it to the extreme to examine what gives our lives meaning. It’s a very appealing story,


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The Songs of Distant Earth: A slightly fantastic SF tale

The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke

The Songs of Distant Earth is one of Clarke’s later novels, based on a shorter piece of the same name that he wrote in the 1950s. In the foreword Clarke states it is something of a response to the rise of what he calls “space opera” on television and the silver screen (he specifically mentions Star Trek, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas), which according to him are fantasy. I suppose one could see them as such if you stick to the narrow interpretation of science fiction.


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It: Stephen King’s best

It by Stephen King

Stephen King‘s It is a wonderfully sweeping tale of what it means to be a child and what it means to leave your childhood behind, inevitably and mostly forgotten, when transforming into an adult. This very evocative tale of childhood orbits and surrounds a tale of exquisite horror, and is my favorite of the 25 or so King books I’ve read.

It story takes place in King’s old fictional haunt of Derry, Maine,


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The Bridge: Lucid dreams with a Scottish flair

The Bridge by Iain M. Banks

Iain M. Banks is a versatile Scottish writer, equally skilled in far-future space opera (the CULTURE series), dark contemporary novels (The Crow Road, The Wasp Factory, Walking on Glass), and a host of novels in between. The Bridge is one of his earlier books, and the late author’s personal favorite according to an interview. It was also selected by David Pringle in his Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels.


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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller (writer/artist) and Klaus Janson & Lynn Varley (Artists)

Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Alan Moore’s Watchmen (1986-87) are generally considered the watershed graphic novels that revived and reinvented the comic book industry, forced mainstream critics and readers to take the genre more seriously, and laid the groundwork for a massive superhero movie industry eager to bring classic comic superheroes to the big screen with new interpretations aimed to capture a need for more dark,


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Star of Gypsies: A beautiful story about exile, wandering, and coming home

Star of Gypsies by Robert Silverberg

In 3159 AD humans have spread across the universe, colonizing other planets. The spaceships that took them to the stars were piloted by the special “magic” of the Romany people. The Romany “Gypsies” have always been mistreated by the people of Earth who never realized their true history and nature. The Gypsies are not actually human. They are the remnant of an ancient race who escaped from their home planet thousands of years ago when it became inhospitable to life after its sun flared. According to prophecy,


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Robot Dreams: 21 stories by Asimov

Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov

Every time I see a short story collection by Isaac Asimov in audio format, I pick it up because I love his short stories more than I love his novels. Last year Recorded Books released Robot Dreams, which was originally published in print form in 1986. The audiobook is 14.5 hours long and narrated by the wonderful George Guidall.

Robot Dreams contains these 21 excellent stories. All but the titular story were originally published in periodicals (noted here):

  • “Little Lost Robot” — (originally published in Astounding Science Fiction,

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The Tricksters: A supernatural puzzle-box inside a New Zealand family drama

The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy

Margaret Mahy was one of New Zealand’s most seminal writers, and one of only a few authors to twice-win the Carnegie Medal — first for The Haunting and then for The Changeover. As good as these books are, my personal favourite is The Tricksters, written for a slightly older audience and filled with her trademark New Zealand scenery, supernatural occurrences, family dramas and the awakening of a young person to adulthood.


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All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By: Some truly shocking thrills

All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By by John Farris

Having never read anything by John Farris, I stumbled upon his 1977 novel All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By after seeing David J. Schow‘s very laudatory remarks concerning the book in Jones & Newman‘s overview volume Horror: 100 Best Books (1988). In his essay, Schow calls it a “unique horror novel; the strongest single work yet produced by the field’s most powerful individual voice,”


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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