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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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The things we learn in school

Whenever someone asks a teacher, “Can we work with a partner?” The hate filled response is, “NO! You have to learn for yourself. When you grow up no one will be there to help you when you work!” Since anyone 18 or younger is a second class citizen we just do our work as we are told like the good people we are. My question is, “Do we really work individually in the REAL world that we get lectured on so often?” Please show me some examples teachers that we work individually! Here are a few examples of teamwork

1) Writing – Of course I am going to bring up this one. Do you think James Patterson, James London, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were a one man show? Heck no! They had a team of editors, formatters, and plot doctors who made their books amazing. A good author always has an excellent editor.

2) Marketing – Have you ever heard of a one man marketing team? I haven’t. Companies, corporations, and authors all need a good marketing team not one person. Without a team most companies wouldn’t make awesome Super Bowl commercials.

3) Graphic Design – Beautiful websites, nice book covers, and mind blowing artwork all come in play in the age of computers. I know a few graphic designers like freelancers who go solo but a graphic design team of professionals can collaborate to make something cool awesome.

Shall I go on? Teachers are meant to teach us to do good in the school. Or are they?

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Behind the Books

Animals? Yes Sir/Ma’am I write about animals. Let me tell you why.

This is on my FAQ for sure, “Why would you put animals in your book. Isn’t that harder to write and for the readers like more difficult to understand?” I guess you have never read some New York Times bestselling series like Warriors, Seekers, or Leviathan? Haven’t you lived a boring enough life to not wonder what your dog, cat, or parrot might really be thinking? Are you sure they want to be petted or do they want to live their lives in the wild? Look at their undomesticated free counterparts. They seem pretty content with their lives until humans enter the equation. How do you think they feel when we lock them up in zoos? Do you really think they want you to gawk at them and take pictures of them? Well even in the minority people have begun to slowly unravel our lower intelligence mammal furry friends into what they really would want. Authors like: me, Erin Hunter, and Scott Westerfield have done our best to give you awesome books with page turning plots, eye popping facts, and a different view on the pet on your lap. I mean don’t you get enough drama at your job or school? Don’t you see enough of humans in your life? Unless you are a shepherd, animal hoarder, vet, or a zookeeper the answer is, yes. Science Fiction books based on animals are so much more engaging then normal fare because you have never seen anything like it. That is exactly why you are reading this post right now. So come to a science fiction world with talking animals near you. 😉

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