Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

A place to start read-alongs.
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By Magnus
To the Stars & Beyond!

I want do an SF-themed Book Club! The idea would be to either find books that are good for SF 'newbies', or we could try to go through some of the classic works of SF. I am more inclined towards the first, the hopes of attracting some new readers to a wonderful genre! In my experience the classics—while often interesting to read and discuss—are a bit of a coin flip when it comes to lasting literary quality.

So it depends on what people are interested in!

Post here if you are interested and if you have ideas or book suggestions. :robot: :robot: :robot:
Although I listened to it recently, I wouldn't mind starting out with A Psalm For the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, an excellent example of how SF can involve themes and elements completely different from what often springs to mind to inexperienced SF readers. In my opinion, it is also an example of how to write an engaging story that doesn't rely on a large-scale central conflict. I am not great with genres, but I am guessing it would classify as solarpunk, meaning the opposite of dystopian noir. It is not epic nor grand. And it's a novella, so not too huge of a commitment.
And I just found out about a writer called Chris Priest, though unfortunately it was because he passed away. But reading about his books made me quite intrigued. It sounds like there may be some interesting choices there for an SF read-along!
It would be good to explore the newer SF, there are many excitingly different themes coming out all the time.
I have been disappointed on re reading classic SF, but do not want to denigrate them. In their time they were exciting and so different to other fiction. Foundation blew my mind then, now seems dated and clunky compared with the vast space opera styles in modern media, new perspectives and less formal prose.

I am a devotee of Becky Chambers and A Psalm For the Wild-Built is high on my favourites list. It is gentle, funny, thoughtful and can stretch imagination in the best way. Glad to re read with others any time. Also it is not too long so I can keep up . ;)
Magnus, xiagan liked this
Indeed, the main point against the classics is that so many of them are problematic for various reasons. Foundation is one of many classics that has fascinating ideas but bad storytelling and painfully anachronistic views when it comes to subjects like gender, race, and class. So exploring newer works and newer ideas is probably the better choice, at least when starting out. But down the road it might be interesting to sneak in a classic or two and discuss how they have aged, and why they had such an impact when they were new.
DragonFlame liked this
So, a suggestion for a SF read is an ‘80s classic with great storytelling, realistic science, excellent values (human and otherwise). Hugo award-winning Downbelow Station by C J Cherryh. Have others read it? It’s such a favorite of mine.
cupiscent wrote:I read The Prestige after enjoying the film, but I think that's the only Christopher Priest I've ever read. I must admit to being a very picky sci-fi reader, but I do have that Becky Chambers on my to-read list!
Well, I think aiming to start with A Psalm for the Wild-Built is a good idea, though I think we can wait a little until we have opened the place up fully to the rest of the FF crowd and then to the public (should be in a week or so), so we can see if there are other people interested and other suggestions!

JMack wrote:So, a suggestion for a SF read is an ‘80s classic with great storytelling, realistic science, excellent values (human and otherwise). Hugo award-winning Downbelow Station by C J Cherryh. Have others read it? It’s such a favorite of mine.
I have not, but I am intrigued, and I think we should put it the list along with something by Christopher Priest! I would suggest The Inverted World.
Ah, finally. More converts to the world of science fiction. :wacky:

Among my more controversial opinions is that there are no 'beginner' sci fi books, I say just dive in and tackle whatever takes your fancy. Though this is admittedly less good advice when setting up a book club.

In terms of classics, anything on the Gollancz SF Masterworks list should be easy to get hold of and be guaranteed for discussion points. A lot of older SF tends to be ideas-based, which I find makes for more interesting conversations. (Incidentally, I'm running a discord server buddy read at the moment, and we're doing Walter Miller's A Canticle for Liebowitz, so that's where my tastes are right now).

I would put forward three approaches.

Approach One: Science fiction books that feel like fantasy books. Eyal Kless' The Lost Puzzler, for a fairly recent example. Dune is probably the obvious one, but I'd recommend somethings shorter (and, to be honest, better). Adrian Tchaikovsky's Cage of Souls would be another suggestion.

Approach Two: Something with minimal sci-fi elements. A high-tech thriller like Chris Hadfield;s The Apollo Murders or Andrew Hunter Murray's The Last Day are very accessible even if you haven't the first clue what science fiction is.

Approach Three: In at the deep end. Pick something that could only ever be science fiction. I'd heartily recommend Stephen Baxter and Ben Bova, because they both deal with amazing sci fi concepts, but have incredibly accessible prose.

The advantage of sci fi over fantasy in book club terms is that there are a lot more standalone stories out there, so there's no need to commit to a series.
ScarletBea, JMack liked this