What’s on your shelf? Guest blog post by Daniel Haight

So What’s On YOUR bookshelf? A Sci-Fi Author’s Top Ten Sci-Fi Books

I write. So as you can imagine, I take reading seriously. There’s nothing more engaging than finding a new story, having it suck you in and holding your attention until the bitter end. I love coming out the other side feeling like a different person, having the real world feel ‘not quite right’ because I was so connected with the story I was reading.

A few years ago, I built my own bookcase. I designed and built it myself: big, red shelves on white ladders that are bolted to the wall and reinforced with steel cables. I didn’t want to build it myself but the only store-bought alternatives were pressed-steel industrial shelves or ridiculously expensive. Hanging them on the wall was a sense of accomplishment and it’s one of the first things you see when you walk in my house. Now that I’ve built a wall-sized temple to books – it’s made me think about what I want to have sitting there. After 30 years, I cleaned out some titles I knew I wasn’t going to get around to but there are a few I never get tired of reading. I kept them and wanted to share that list with you. Here, below, are a science fiction author’s top ten list of science fiction books:

What’s On My Sci-Fi Shelf

* The Sprawl Trilogy – William Gibson – When people talk about Gibson, they usually credit him with being the inventor of ‘cyberspace’ and what would eventually become The Matrix. They aren’t kidding – Gibson’s presicent, gritty near-future didn’t exactly happen as predicted but is still completely fun to read anyway. Many modern day ideas – including Google Glass – were first discussed in these novels back in the Eighties.

* Orbital Decay – Allen Steele – When I was 13, I read this in a day. I’d never had a book suck me in so completely before. Steele’s depiction of blue collar guys in space was a quantum leap forward in how I looked at the future. Interestingly enough, he predicted something that affects us now – the Patriot Act and FISA – although he did not predict how ambivalent people seem to be toward it. Steele’s rich universe stayed with me ever since I first discovered it – I re-read this about once a year.

* The Diamond Age – by Neal Stephenson – Great ideas, thrilling action and hysterical scenes … that encompasses ‘Diamond Age’ in a nutshell. Diamond Age predicted things like 3D printers – I’m looking forward to owning my own skull gun.

* Globalhead – Bruce Sterling – A delightful collection of short stories that, among other things, introduced me to steampunk. Beyond that, Sterling has this ability to take common ideas and turn them completely on their ear – look for some oddly-frightening realities described in ‘The Moral Bullet’ and ‘We See Things Differently.’

* Jurassic Park – Michael Chricton – Don’t get me wrong, I love Michael Chricton but if you’ve read one of his books, you’ve more or less read them all. Whenever he discusses social issues like racism or sexism, Chricton falls completely flat. He was always in his best element when talking future ideas and there was no better example of this than Jurassic Park. He made velociraptors a household name and when it came to the big screen, Jurassic Park kickstarted the world of CG animation. Brilliant on all levels.

* Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card – I’m sure on some unconscious level, I thought a lot about Ender Wiggen when I wrote about Jim Westfield. Now that Ender’s Game is coming to theatres this year I’m sure we’ll hear more about it’s legacy so I won’t bore you by rehashing it now. Card’s depiction of the loneliness and isolation of all gifted children spoke to me when I first read it in junior high and I always strive to achieve the same level of emotional authenticity when I write for other kids.

* Expanded Universe – Robert Heinlein – You may think prepping is a new concept but not after reading “The Last Days of the United States” and “How to Be a Survivor” – short stories in this collection. As far back as the 40s, Heinlein was aware of the world we had stumbled into with the atomic age and was going to make darned sure we knew about it, too. I’m firmly convinced the movie ‘Red Dawn’ was based on the short “Free Men.” I dare you to read it and disagree.

* Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy – Timothy Zahn – All hail to Timothy Zahn, the true rebooter of the Star Wars universe. Not only did he manage to stay true to the original material, he expanded the universe in so many wonderful ways that it’s a crime his books weren’t used for the script of Star Wars VII. For the record: I’m not seeing SWVII in protest because of this. I’m that much of a fan – both of Star Wars and of Timothy Zahn.

* Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman – Gaiman’s a recent discovery for me and I say that to my shame. This story is a cross between the “Hitchhikers” series and an episode of the Twilight Zone – a world that exists just beyond the bounds of reality. Sound familiar? J

* The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury – A collection of short stories that is so compelling, so engaging that it made my Top Ten list go to eleven, just like Spinal Tap. Bradbury has this ability with his writing to get almost completely under your skin and he shows this off with two short stories (“Last Night of the World” and “Zero Hour”) that always give me the willies.

I will close this by saying ‘my list isn’t your list.’ You might be screaming to yourself right now: “What about Philip K. Dick? What about Isaac Asmiov? What about Doug Adams?” All I can tell you is: I’m sorry – they don’t resonate with me. It might be a surprise to some sci-fi fans that I don’t love every science fiction novel. Even some by famous authors. Science fiction used to get a pass for bad storytelling or boring characters because it was ‘Science Fiction.’ Not so, anymore. Science fiction is mainstream, baby and if you aren’t capturing my attention then I have to let you go. Life’s too short to read chunky, clunky dialogue or paragraphs of stuffy prose. Some sci-fi series are written to be whimsical or satirical and I can’t connect with that. I need my sci-fi to be authentic and take me to another place – maybe that’s not fair but that’s what I need.

What about you? What’s on your shelf?

Picture Daniel’s novel, Flotilla, is a crossover apocalyptic science-fiction novel that throws a young man, literally and figuratively, into the ocean and makes him both a survivor and a hero who rescues his family from disaster.                              Jim Westfield is a troubled teen who is forced into rehab by his mother and step-father and then sent to live with his father, Rick, on a floating community that raises fish commercially using a process called ‘mariculture.’ Although Jim learns to act like a responsible adult, he occasionally self-destructs and puts himself at the mercy of some chaotic, unbalanced people.  When disaster strikes onshore, Jim is forced to make deadly choices and become the hero he needs to be in order to save himself and his sister.  Readers are finding Flotilla to be a stirring coming-of-age tale that brings together fathers and sons, conquering loss through courage and inner strength.  You can learn more about Flotilla, and read the first five chapters for free, by visiting www.flotillaonline.com.  Flotilla is also available now on Amazon.

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