Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Books: The...Three...Best...Ever.

I'd like to get in my nominations for the International Blogosphere "Three Best SF Shorts Ever" awards:

The Stars, My Destination, by Alfred Bester,
The Cold Equations, by Tom Godwin, and
The Enemy Stars, by Poul Anderson.

Golden Age SF at its most golden (bonus props to The Enemy Stars for making a Kipling fan out of me.) Put in your nominations. I know for a fact that Marko at the munchkin wrangler, Dr. StrangeGun, Jeff at Alphecca, and Food Court Six Actual are all SF geeks, and it'd be interesting to know what they think. (...and hopefully a good way to get new reading material selections from the LazyWeb.)

My vote for the Number One slot? Well, Bester's and Anderson's offerings were great, managing to transcend the boundaries of genre fiction into true Literature, but The Cold Equations is more than just a story to me; reading it was a life-changing event.

I was raised in a Baptist Concentration Camp, and the big bogieman I was taught to fear was the Demon of Secular Humanism, with its harbinger, Situational Ethics. "How could ethics be situational," I wondered, "when some things are Always Wrong and other things are Always Right?"

Then I stumbled across a yellowed volume of 1950s Science Fiction stories in the church library, containing an unprepossessing little tale by Godwin that asked the question "When is it Right to kill an innocent teenage girl?" The resultant hand grenade lobbed into my heretofore smugly self-assured thought processes triggered seismic tremors that still ripple in me today. How could I have ever seen the world so simply? What made me think I had all the answers? It's a rare piece of fiction that can trigger this reaction in only twenty-five pages. If you've read it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, then go ahead and read it. I dare you.


Mulliga said...

"The Cold Equations"...

The first time I ever heard of it was with that awful Sci-Fi channel adaptation. I tracked down the story in my local library and couldn't stop reading.

Sure, there's plot holes (it's a big ship for an emergency craft, and why didn't the pilot check the entire place before launch?), but who cares - it works beautifully as the prototypical "hard" SF short.

I kinda like Isaac Asimov better though *ducks*

Zendo Deb said...

Golden Age SciFi....

Slaughter House Five is not quite science fiction (Vonnegut)

The Left Hand of Darkness (LeGuin) is good stuff, though I don't know how "golden age" you consider it.

Most of the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley is good - also not to golden age-ish. Try Saga of the Renunciates which is a collection of 3 books following the same group of characters.

True golden age vote would be for Methuselah's Children by Heinlein. Frist saw the light of day in 1941 (before my time) and then the current version in 58 (also before my time). The sequel Time Enough for Love is also worth a look.

Marko said...

"Situational ethics" is a tautology. Ethics by their nature are *always* situational.

Note that the Religious Right always comes up with exceptions to their "Thou Shalt Nots", anyway. For them, the overrride button has "...because God said so" written on it. Stealing donkeys, slaughtering unbelievers, enslaving neighbors...the Bible is the wrong place to look if morality or ethical consistency is what you seek.

Kinda ticks me off how they can smugly assert that no religion equals no morals.

Tam said...

"Kinda ticks me off how they can smugly assert that no religion equals no morals."


But what about your nominations? Are you gonna run with this meme or what? ;-)

BobG said...

I read The Stars, My Destination in the early sixties, it is still just as good now.
For good odler stuff, the Retief series is always good for laughs, Leigh Bracket is great (she also used to work on screenplays for some of John Wayne's movies), and most any of Heinlein's writings before 1970.

BryanP said...

Have you also read the "Worlds of Honor" anthologies? Also, an extension of some of the anthology stories coauthored with Eric Flint, "Crown of Slaves." Good stuff.

JohnW said...

Glad Bester's "stars my destination" is one of your faves. When I first read it I was unimpressed. Several reads (and years) later, I kept finding more & more value in it. Can I assume that you've also read "The Demolished man?"

Kevin said...

I think the single finest SciFi book I've ever read is The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. I - a collection of "golden age" short stories that includes "The Cold Equations" and many, many others. "Microcosmic God," "First Contact," "Arena," "Flowers for Algernon," "The Weapons Shop," "For Love of Mother Not," - lots more. I don't think I could pick just three. I first read it in Junior High, and it's been out of print until February of this year.

If you haven't read it, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy. The stories are all pretty old, but have lost none of their impact.