In prepping the last post, my Heinlein comments prompted my to think about books in the genre that I've really liked over the years, but I couldn't tell the story of science fiction craziness that is my life without giving props to comic books and the impact they had on my love of reading. The following is a brief depiction of how it happened:
Walking into Johnson's Grocery, I immediately went to the comic rack. I'd never purchased a comic before, but my friends read them and I wanted to know what it was all about. I can still remember the smells in the store---mostly clean waxy floor (dirt along the edge seams of the wall), newsprint from the comics, and yeasty bread from the bakery. Mom had gone on to her shopping and I stared at comic-after-comic with their bent spines where others had pulled the tops down to see what lay behind. I was immediately impressed with the many colorful choices of .60 comics published by Marvel and DC. I knew Batman and Superman from Saturday morning cartoons and television, but most of the titles were unknowns. I didn't even know enough to pick anything good, necessarily, but I figured a 1st issue was a good place to start. So, I reached for Red Sonja #1---a bit of scantily-clad red-headed barbarian warrior woman goodness.
Yeppers! This is the one that started it off. I had seen Conan the Barbarian in 1982. This comic debuted in 1983. So, of course I wanted something like Conan. Why not someone like Red Sonja? I didn't find out until later, that Red Sonja actually made her comic debut in Conan the Barbarian #23 in 1974 and was created by Roy Thomas. (I have issue #24. The 2nd appearance. I'm a geek!) Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan, actually created a character named Red Sonya (with a Y), but she's not connected to his Conan stories.
Anyway---that was the beginning. A little later, I began reading the Uncanny X-men and the rest is history---well...that and about a dozen long boxes to drive my wife nutty!
From comics, I moved into chapter books (as many of my students call novels). Dune was probably the first real scifi I attempted to read. I'd seen the film in 1984--didn't really get it, but was willing to try it 'cause a friend of mine had read it and said it was good. I was unsuccessful. It was hard for me to read even though I liked the genre of scifi---I stood in line in '77 for Star Wars and thought his name was Dark Vader after all! Dad and I were always watching science fiction---Star Trek was a staple in my home growing up. I've even read a great many Star Trek novels--my favorites being those written by Peter David, a comic book writer! (Q-Squared is one off the top of my head) Dune was just the first of many that required me to step up my reading game. To date, I've probably read it at least once a year since 1990. My cello teacher was a Frank Herbert fan as well and I thought that was pretty cool as a young musician trying to figure it all out one day while practicing Bach in his studio and noticing a well-worn copy of Dune sitting on his shelf. That's when he told me that he'd made a habit of rereading it once yearly as well. It must be good stuff if John's rereading it every year. So, I gave it another try---more than the old college try--and have never looked back.
Since this will probably be an ongoing conversation in my blog, I'll end it for now with a few of my favorites in no particular order.
SciFi recommendations from me:
Stranger in a Strange Land--Robert Heinlein
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress--Robert Heinlein
The Cat Who Walks Through Walls--ummm...Heinlein
Snowcrash---Neal Stephenson (Brilliant!)
Cryptonomicon--Neal Stephenson (Historical Fiction?)
Metaplanetary--Tony Daniel (Oooh! A recent favorite!)
Dune--Frank Herbert (How many times have I read this?)
Feed--M.T. Anderson (YA Title---interesting take on where we are headed.)
Legacy of Heorot--Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Stephen Barnes
Beowolf's Children--Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Stephen Barnes