This imaginative literature reading list is composed of some of the books that various members of the committee think are especially interesting and deserving of greater attention. It was created for Readercon_12, and distributed at the convention. There will be a new edition for Readercon_13.
Ellen Brody, editor
Hindsight is easy. Looking back over any legendary career, we can all say that we knew that the author was meant for greatness (it was so obvious!). This conveniently ignores the Scott Bradfields of the world.
During the last Boston Worldcon, I stated on a panel that if Scott Bradfield were not on top of the field in five years, I would buy any audience member lunch if they asked. What made me so confident was reading his stories in the early issues of Interzone, and the fact that I could conceive of no other fate for him than world domination (at least as far as this field was concerned). Those stories had everything; wild energy and fabulous concepts wrapped in wonderfully fresh language. It was a lock!
So what the hell happened? Just about everything is out of print now. If ever a body of work was due for rediscovery, this is it. [Bob Colby]
Most people ascribe the 1945 disappearance of George Herriman's exquisite Krazy Kat strip from newspapers to the death of its creator. Here we learn the truth: Ignatz Mouse took Krazy to see the A-bomb test at nearby Alomogordo, and she was so traumatized by this ultimate loving brick to the head that she quit work. Now the desperate cast will do anything to get her back on the job--even invent psychotherapy. This is one of those novels that is so jaw-droppingly audacious and successful that you want to pinch yourself every few pages. If ``slipstream'' didn't exist as a literary category, this tour de force would be sufficient to establish it. Out of print, but not impossible to find. [Eric M. Van]
This is the kind of writer who would have fit wonderfully into Readercon's purview; she died far too young. Her prose style and imagination are famously lush, fervid, erotic, morbid, playful, and macabre, and the short story is where she sparkled most. I dare you to try a few at random and prevent yourself from going back over particular phrases and whole sentences, saying them aloud and marveling at the word magic Carter wrought. The images and ideas are the kind that make you think you must have fallen off into dreamland, no matter how wide open your eyes. [Richard Duffy]
A study of people in extreme conditions, living imprisoned as experimental subjects. Disch's bright, egotistical protagonist grows far beyond his beginnings, in one of SF's most convincing portraits of transhuman intelligence. [Michael Matthew]
Legend becomes reality for an independent-minded author and single mother, when she must attach herself to a family of Sasquatch to survive in the wilderness. Set vividly in the Pacific Northwest in 1905 and boasting a wonderfully admirable and unusual female protagonist, Wildlife is a clever and very thoughtful work of imaginative literature. [Lois Powers]
A strong story of personal growth and social evolution which takes place on a single-gender world. Here ``women'' equal ``people'' of all kinds; sadly, this is still unusual in art as well as life. Griffith was presented with the 1993 Tiptree Award for this novel at Readercon7. [Ellen Brody]
Detractors might argue this is just another YA novel purporting to ``explain'' the Flying Dutchman, the Wandering Jew, and nuclear war . . . I say it was probably my favorite read of the 1990s. The main characters are heartbreakingly real and the plot sneaks up on you, plus it gets an extra star for flawless structure. ``Before three of my own kind I may speak the truth.'' See whether this wholly imaginative tale describes your Reality as perfectly as it did mine. [Julianne Chatelain]
A funny retelling of The Odyssey. Let it stand here for the many worthy books that so easily disappear from current awareness. [M.M.]
I met Paul Levinson at a recent Boskone panel discussing the overlap of SF and Mystery. One of the panelists summarized the difference between the genres as: Mystery is character-centered and SF is plot-centered. The Silk Code is an excellent example of the overlap. It features a memorable modern detective, Phil D'Amato, and a plot that goes back (literally) to the dawn of man. Settings are not neglected either. Our modern hero moves freely between New York, London, and Amish Pennsylvania while an ancient travelogue runs from the Tarim Basin to Basque Spain via an island off Africa. Meanwhile, just to spice things up, the author has thrown in a conspiracy so convoluted that it would make Oliver Stone jealous. How do all these bits and pieces fit together to form a darn good read? Don't ask; buy the book. [Susan Murosako]
The first in MacLeod's sort-of-future-history. Full of speculative (and satirical) political and social extrapolation, and in many ways quite funny; a knowledge of radical politics helps. [George Flynn]
This is an outstanding example of the recent flowering of literate space opera. [G.F.]
A stereo repairman discovers he has the ability to bring into existence, by a sort of psychic time-travel, the great unfinished rock albums of the 1960s (most notably, The Beach Boys' ``Smile''). Maybe you're waiting to read this World Fantasy Award-winning novel because you're not a huge music fan. You should know that the heart of the book (literally and figuratively) has nothing directly to do with music at all; our hero takes a sabbatical and quite by accident finds himself in a devastatingly intense (and stunningly portrayed) love affair. The music story is clearly central, and yet it still revolves around the love story. And isn't that the way the world is, anyway? [E.M.V.]
A novel of the struggle to retain civilization in a world where magic has returned to overcome science. Strong, colorful characters, and more plot than usual for Stewart's books. [G.F.]
``Reality is a primitive crowd-control method that got out of hand.'' If Wagner hasn't read a good bit of Philip K. Dick, then she reinvented his worldview. Space aliens (cleverly disguised as hallucinations) play a key role. This hilarious and wise one-woman play written for Lily Tomlin really deserves a variorum edition; the version I saw a decade or so ago had numerous changes from the text here, and what was cut was just as good as what was added. Read it and see it (it's reportedly about to be revived). [E.M.V.]
This is the novel many of us would write if only we were gifted writers. I suspect the vast majority of copies of this novel have never been read past page 200, but copies owned by committee members have received a much harder workout. The theme of Infinite Jest is compulsion and addiction, but the joy of reading Infinite Jest is to be found in exploring an intricate and fascinating near-future Boston and its denizens. And of course the film that could destroy all humanity. [John O'Neil]
Part literary stunt, part dream diary, part reflections on society, and part necromantic incantation, this book is a collection of short segments (or ``metamorphoses''), each of which creates in the space of a few lines a world which other authors spin out into a novel. And then the story enfolds and climaxes with such a rush that it seems more like recollection than reading. [J.O.]
Both novels are ``voyages of discovery'' with female heroines and well-handled supernatural elements. Otherwise they're completely different from each other: the former is starkly dramatic and the latter is laugh-out-loud funny. Wilhelm writes well, wasting not a word. I nominate them both to stand for the many excellent ``original paperback'' novels published by our guests and friends, that disappeared too soon, that deserve to be sought out and savored. [J.C.]
Like to mess with people's preconceptions? I sure do. And one of the preconceptions that's always bugged me is one that's held by literate, style-conscious non-SF readers, and that's that this field (whatever its other merits or demerits) has no prose stylists that can hold a candle to their favorite mainstream authors.
So once you have this book, here's what you do. Rather than trying to engage them in all the old arguments concerning SF-in-general, ask them if they have the patience to try one paragraph (they won't want to seem unreasonable). Open the book to the title story, and ask them to read the first paragraph of the first page. Observe the dropping of the jaw. Fun! [B.C.]
Jack Womack's other books (Ambient, Terraplane, Elvissey, Heathern, and Random Acts of Senseless Violence) are highly recommended as well, but this book is unique among Womack's for not being set in the same universe as the others. The other books take place in a near-future New York where society has broken down and is dominated by criminals and multinationals; whereas Let's Put the Future . . . takes place in modern-day Moscow, where we see that society has broken down and is dominated by criminals and multinationals. Hmm, maybe the universes aren't so different after all. [J.O.]
The full set of annual Recommended Reading Lists:
RC_12 RC_13 RC_14 RC_15