I recently discovered a great site that I’d like to pass along to you: Young People Read Old SFF (science fiction/fantasy). The idea is simple: the person running the site sends copies of old-school sci-fi to young people, they read it and send it their reviews, and they get posted.
I like this site so much because in interacting with my daughters (currently age 22 and 17) and their friends, I’ve found that almost none of them, even if they love sci-fi and fantasy, have heard of, let alone read, most of the great authors I read when I was getting into the genre.
Now, SF author John Scalzi is seemingly cool with that, but I’m not. While it’s all well and good–and understandable–to read and prefer the current stuff, I believe you should have at least some familiarity with what came before, because it enriches your knowledge and enjoyment of the genre. Sure, Heinlein and Asimov and Bradbury were before my time, too, but at least I knew who they were and what they had done, and I had read several of their works.
Currently, there are seven works up at YPROSFF, and they are so, soooo good. My favorite is Stanley G. Weinbaum’s “A Martian Odyssey,” which I’ve gushed about before. The site is updated each month, and I’m looking forward to many more reviews in the future.
In the meantime, if you’re a young person who likes sci-fi and wants to read more, author David Brin has a great list of recommendations for you. My favorites from that list are:
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. To be totally honest (and at the risk of inciting Adams fans everywhere), the joke wears increasingly thin with each succeeding book in this series, but the first one is wall-to-wall hilarious.
- Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. Continuing the honesty, the Foundation books are not the easiest (they can be pretty dry in spots), but they’re worth powering through, at the very least for The Mule.
- Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles are good, but they’re nowhere close to what I consider to be Bradbury’s best.
- Robert Heinlein, Have Space Suit, Will Travel. Hardly anyone under the age of 50 gets the reference, but that’s okay: it’s a great story.
- Richard Matheson, The Incredible Shrinking Man. Matheson doesn’t get enough love for all the awesome stories he wrote.
- Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz. I first read this in college, and even saw a stage production. The story spans hundreds of years (which takes some mental adjustments), and it helps to have familiarity with Catholicism, but it’s a great book.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit; Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (I preferred Journey to the Center of the Earth); H.G. Wells, The Time Machine and The Invisible Man. Not knowing these is like calling yourself a classical music fan and not knowing Mozart, Brahms, and Beethoven. or being a football fan and not knowing Butkus, Bradshaw, and Unitas. Or…well, you get the picture.
Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy. His latest work-in-progress is This Wasted Land, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in early 2017.
Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief. He also wrote Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.
Follow Kenton on Facebook for daily posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.