2009: The Summer of Sci-Fi

John Hodgman, look what you started.

Hodgman gave a very nice speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner ...

... and it made me want to increase my nerd cred. Which I am sorely lacking.

The thing is, I identify with nerds, but I have trouble with the major shibboleths. I don't know much about computers. I like science but didn't go into a scientific field, and while I did OK in math, it was still my worst subject. I never read comic books as a kid, and now I fear I will never catch up on the mythology. While I claim to be a Star Trek fan, I've seen precisely one TOS episode. (In my family, we watched the movies and TNG - was TOS even in syndication in the '90s? OK, it almost certainly was.)

And I've never read many of the classics of science fiction. When some nerd references Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke, I have no choice but to respond with a blank stare.

God, I'm such a poser. (Am I actually a geek instead of a nerd? I hear varying accounts of what the terms mean ...)

But no more! Because Hodgman's speech reminded me I need to read Dune, and because I'm in the middle of Neuromancer, I decided to declare 2009 the Summer of Sci-Fi! Over the next 10 weeks, I will catch up on the books I should have read in ninth grade when all the other kids were befriending seniors so they'd use their fake IDs to buy them Zima (note to my parents: this is not what all the other kids were doing).

(What was I reading back then? I want to say ... Stephen King? Cynthia Heimel? Jane Austen, maybe, but I think that was more of a college thing for me.)

Anyway, I started with this list I found of top sci-fi novels, thinking I could round out the top 10, and then I asked Mr. W (a consummate nerd) for suggestions and substitutions based on what we could find in his prodigous bookshelves. (Dude needs a card catalog and a little ladder on wheels like now.)

Here's the list:

  • Neuromancer by William Gibson (in progress)
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlen
  • Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling
  • The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
  • Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Codgerspace by Alan Dean Foster (this is not a book or author I've ever heard of, so I don't know whether it's a classic, but Mr. W said it's good, and it has a robot/dinosaur/toaster on the cover, so I'm game)

Dear me, when am I going to find the time to read all those books by September? Perhaps someone would like to pay me? Like, enough so that blogging about reading novels can be my full-time job? Thanks - I appreciate it!


Mr. W said...

1. "A consummate nerd..." Thank you!

2. Alan Dean Foster ghost-wrote the novelization to Star Wars, which was credited (on the cover) to George Lucas. Forgot to mention that. I suppose facts like these are how I earned the compliment (truly) mentioned in item 1.

Mr. W said...

3. Yes, I own the paperback novelization of Star Wars.

Mr. W said...

4. I agree with all right-thinking people that Lucas's recent (~10 years) work is terrible.

Kelly said...

I doubt that last comment was necessary, dear - everyone knows you're right-thinking.

And of course you consider it a compliment! And I meant it as such! Because we're NERRRRRDS!

Sharon E. Dreyer said...

Kudos to you for catching up on your reading! Nerds are readers and authors too, so don't let anyone to tell you otherwise. If you need a romantic action adventure in space to fill an empty spot on your list, check out my first and recently released novel, Long Journey to Rneadal. This exciting tale is more about the characters than the technology.

AE said...

I would have categorized you as a geek rather than a nerd, but you are lovely to be so open-minded! Summer has always been sci-fi season for me. A couple of my favorites not already on your list: "The Forge of God" by Greg Bear and "Hyperion" by Dan Simmons. You could also go all steampunk with "War of the Worlds," if that counts. Happy reading and let us know how you like everything!

gerard said...

Neuromancer?! Excellent choice on your first book. Perhaps you've seen my coding blog, StraylightRun.net? (Don't know how far into the book you are, but you'll get it eventually.)

Did you know it's the first in a loose trilogy? You'll want to read the rest. Did you know it is widely regarded as the first cyberpunk novel?

One set notoriously missing from that book list is the Lord of the Rings books. Wonder why.

Gosh, I miss reading novels.


Kelly said...

Do you mean the list I linked to or my personal reading list? It's not on my list because I've read it already. (If it's not on that other list, maybe it's because while sci-fi and fantasy get lumped together a lot, if there's any speculative fiction work out there that is definitively *not* science fiction, I think LOTR wins it.)

I did know (thanks to Mr. W) that Neuromancer is the genesis of cyberpunk! I did not know it's part of a trilogy. I just got to the part where Case scores the blue drug he can't pronounce. So Straylight has been mentioned, but they haven't attacked yet.

gerard said...

I meant the list you linked to. Aha, now that you mention it, I guess there are no "fantasy" novels on the list. And now that you mention it, I always lump fantasy and science fiction together.

I just watched the video, and I must say, Wow. Dare I say, I teared up a bit.

AE said...

I remember where I was the first time I read Neuromancer! I envy you. Enjoy it. Gerard is right; the other two books are great too.

Kelly said...

Gerard: It is a lovely video, isn't it? All about the hope for the future that forms the backbone of certain strains of sci-fi.

AE: I think most of my "where I was" will be "sitting in my apartment." Dull. So, I have an Idea for you. How about you pick up like 12-15 tickets to the Hollywood premiere of Deathly Hallows (since you live in LA, this should be super-easy for you). Then, my friends and I will have a "where was I" memory for that!

Kelly said...

Wow, considering what happened this week, I guess the last paragraph of this post was prophetic. I'll take those buckets of cash for book-reading now, thanks!