Robert Silverberg was the Master of Ceremonies at the Nebula awards, which Marion and I attended a few weeks ago.
Silverberg told stories about the writers of the Golden Age, like Clifford Simak, Damon Knight, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and even lesser known writers like Silverberg’s own mentor Randall Garrett.
There were clearly three “eras” in the room; the Golden Age (1938-1946 if you trust Wikipedia); the New Wave (1960s-1970s, again, Wikipedia) and the current era which I want to call The New Golden Age, based on the quality of fantasy and science fiction that is being written now.
The 2013 Grand Master, Gene Wolfe, is squarely New Wave, as are the other Grand Masters who were present, like Silverberg and Joe Haldeman; yet all of them still hark back to the “greats” from the 1930s and 1940s.
Do you have a favorite Golden Age writer? A favorite New Wave writer? Tell us who, and why. Don’t read older science fiction, fantasy and horror? Tell us why.
My favorite Golden Age writer is Isaac Asimov, especially his Foundation series.
I have to admit, I haven’t read a lot of the Golden Age writers, but I do remember reading some of Heinlein’s “juvenile” books such as the one where the family moves out to Ganymede to be farmers, so I guess I’d have to vote for Heinlein. Although I did read a few of his adult novels (as a teenager) and came away thinking WTF? (Perhaps I chose the wrong ones.)
Recently, I heard a reading of “The World that Couldn’t Be,” by Clifford Simak, over on Starship Sofa, and I wonder if I would like the rest of his work as much as I enjoyed that story.
Just remembered — I’ve also read a few of Lester del Rey’s works, well, the ones I found in the children’s section of the library, anyway. Tunnel Through Time is one that I remember.
When I was younger than fifteen, I suppose my favourite New Wave sci fi author was Hugh Walters(his legal name was Walter Hughes, so my local library filed him under H.) I read as many of his books as I could get my hands on, and was always thrilled by the adventures of Chris, Morrey, Serge, and Tony, going off to the moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and even one of the moons of Uranus. I don’t know if Hugh Walters would count as one of the “greats” though, because he wrote for children, but he certainly fired up my imagination.
Another of my favourite New Wave authors was John Christopher. The Lotus Caves was the one I really found fascinating, though of course I also read the Tripod series.
Personally I think SF doesn’t get really interesting until it hits the New Wave stage. I’ve read some works that are older but most never make it past the really cool scientific idea is enough to build a story philosophy. I recently read some of Asimov’s early work for instance and thought them very poorly written (if interesting conceptually).
In that respect SF branches out tremendously in after 1960 or so. One of my favorites from that era has to be Frank Herbert. His fascination with ecology, psychology, language and religion as well as the nature of power, resulted in a number of books, and I am not just thinking of Dune here, that were thematically very interesting. His approach didn’t always succeed, in fact he wrote a couple of downright pulpish novels, but when he got it right, it resulted in books of a scope and depth that is hard to surpass. Personally I still think The Dosadi Experiment is an underrated masterwork.
I don’t know if they qualify as new age or not but some of the earliest Sci Fi I read was by H Beam Piper and Andre Norton.
Asimov, certainly, although I don’t know how many of the Golden Age authors I’ve read thoroughly enough to make strong comparisons.
Golden Age — Two of the earliest I read were Van Vogt (teleportation called “jaunting”) and Bester, then Walter M. Miller’s wonderful Canticle for Leibowitz, Ray Bradbury for his stunning imagination, Philip K. Dick despite occasional nastiness, Jack Vance, Leigh Brackett. (Randall Garrett’s alternate universe Murder & Magic stories with Lord Darcy, a noble detective in the age of Richard the Umpteenth are a firm favourite.)
New Wave — Joanna Russ, Spinrad, Ellison despite, you know, definitely Le Guin, Philip José Farmer, Ballard, Zelazny and above all Gene Wolfe — the first writer whose books I bought in hard cover at the time. I was actively, and successfully, searching for women writers in this period; C. J. Cherryh was and still is much appreciated and collected; Angela Carter, Sheri S. Tepper, Tanith Lee — some shading into fantasy there, of course; many more.
New Golden Age — well, I don’t want to hog the page. Suffice to say I only draw the line at excessive, gut-churning nastiness (sometimes characterised as “grittiness). It’s a fashion whose time can’t pass quickly enough for my liking!
When I was younger I would have said Robert A. Heinlein hands down, followed by Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Now I’m much more a fan of Jack Vance, though I’m not sure he qualifies. 1950’s authors I’ve come to appreciate in the last few years are Robert Sheckley, Philip K. Dick and Alfred Bester. The Library of American recently published a 2 volume American Science Fiction: 9 Classic Novels 1953-1958. http://www.loa.org/sciencefiction/
Tizz, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks.
Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!