I grew up a voracious reader.  In elementary school, I shared my classmates’ love for comic books – but, unlike my fellow classmates, I also had a passion for science fiction.  It was a habit my mother fed, often surprising me with the books I would read through the summer months.  From early July to late August, while all of my friends were out and about, my outdoor activities consisted of sitting poolside, flipping through sci-fi classics.  There were a lot of terrific SF authors I discovered later in life (Octavia Butler, John Scalzi, Gene Wolfe) but, looking back, I really owe a lot to the following writers who helped shaped my imagination during those formative years where my creative output consisted of twisty short stories and The Robot Revolution, a 200+ page novel I handwrote on loose leaf during fourth grade…

10) Pierre Boulle

Makes the list purely on the strength of a single novel that gave birth to one of my favorite SF movie franchises of all time: The Planet of the Apes.

December 24, 2017: Classic Sf Authors Who Shaped My Imagination!

Favorite book: Monkey Planet

9) Michael Moorcock

I discovered his science fiction work through my appreciation for his Elric of Melnibone fantasy series.

December 24, 2017: Classic Sf Authors Who Shaped My Imagination!

Favorite Book: The Final Programme

8) H.P. Lovecraft

Technically horror, yes, but with sci-fi underpinnings.

December 24, 2017: Classic Sf Authors Who Shaped My Imagination!

Favorite short story: “The Colour Out of Space”

7) Stephen King

Though considered a horror author, it’s easy to overlook the fact he’s written some fabulous science fiction as well.

December 24, 2017: Classic Sf Authors Who Shaped My Imagination!

Favorite short story: “The Lawnmower Man”

6) Douglas Adams

His work greatly inspired my affinity for sci-fi with a sense of humor.

December 24, 2017: Classic Sf Authors Who Shaped My Imagination!

Favorite book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

5) Isaac Asimov

One of two SF titans who made multiple appearances on my mother’s Literary Gifts list.

December 24, 2017: Classic Sf Authors Who Shaped My Imagination!

Favorite book: The End of Eternity

4) James Blish

His Star Trek tie-in novels lined my bookshelves, but his original novels were equally great.

December 24, 2017: Classic Sf Authors Who Shaped My Imagination!

Favorite book: A Case of Conscience

3) Arthur C. Clarke

The second of the two SF titans who made multiple appearances on my mother’s Literary Gifts list.  I loved the humanity in his stories.

December 24, 2017: Classic Sf Authors Who Shaped My Imagination!

Favorite book: Childhood’s End

2) Ray Bradbury

It started with an in-class reading assignment of “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” and continued with books like Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles.

December 24, 2017: Classic Sf Authors Who Shaped My Imagination!

Favorite book: The Illustrated Man

1) Harlan Ellison

Like Bradbury, a master of the short story.  I’ve read everything he’s ever written twice over.

December 24, 2017: Classic Sf Authors Who Shaped My Imagination!

Favorite book: I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream

I’m sure there are more than a few sci-fi fans out there.  Which classic authors inspired your love for the genre?  Do tell.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

35 thoughts on “December 24, 2017: Classic SF Authors Who Shaped My Imagination!

  1. Clifford D Simak and Phillip K Dick. My favorite Simak is The Way Station, and my favorite PDK is Ubik. I first read them in my late teens and went on to discover many more great science fiction authors because of them.

  2. Hi Joe
    It seemed like the ’60’s & ’70’s were the golden age of Sci-Fi. Or is it just because that’s when I discovered them? Hmmm. No Jules Verne on your list, I loved his work and H.G. Wells too.


    1. Jules Verne, indeed. I started with SF children’s stories and Verne’s books. Later, I found Stanisław Lem’s novels on my father’s bookshelf and loved them.

  3. An impressive list! Boulle was also the author of Bridge on the River Kwai. Both that and Planet of the Apes are clearly satires as books. After reading the novels, I now see elements of the satire that slipped through into the films.

  4. I agree with your list but have to add Cordwainer Smith to the mix. His Instrumentality stories were a great influence on me, the underpeople stories.

  5. Ray Bradbury would be #1 for me. The Illustrated Man is fantastic. His books read more like poetry than prose. This collection of sci-fi short stories are very accessible—they are more about people and situations than technobabble. My two favorite stories are No Particular Night or Morning and Kaleidoscope. I also like his books Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles.

    Isaac Asimov – His Foundation series is amazing. Also, his book I, Robot (which is nothing like the movie).

    Robert A. Heinlein – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Orphans of the Sky, Stranger in a Strange Land, and Tunnel in the Sky are all worth a read.

    I’m not a big fan of L. Ron Hubbard, but Battlefield Earth is an action packed page turner.

  6. Here are a couple of suggestions: Iain M. Banks, Excession, Poul Anderson, A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows, Heinlein, the Moon is a Harsh Mistress,

  7. Oh, yes, all those. Harlan Ellison especially. My brother had tons of science fiction paperbacks, and I was reading them too, beginning around age ten when I figured out how to borrow them without him noticing. I was also heavily into fantasy, Tolkien, of course, but also Fritz Leiber. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were my favorites. Kurt Vonnegut, Huxley, and Poe.

  8. As far as old school sci-fi goes, I don’t think you can beat H.G. Wells. That man was frighteningly prescient. So much of his work is actually even more relevant now than when it was written.

    I’ve enjoyed nearly all his books, but my favourite is The Time Machine. I found it had the greatest emotional weight, and while I’m not normally keen on ambiguous endings, it’s used to good effect here.

    I also second Douglas Adams, though I’d nominate The Restaurant at the End of the Universe or perhaps The Long, Dark Tea Time of the Soul as his best book. His non-fiction essays are gold, too.

  9. The first science fiction novel I read was Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade, and I was hooked. After that it was Asimov (The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun were my favorites), Larry Niven (Ringworld), Jerry Pournelle (The Mote in God’s Eye), Frederik Pohl (Gateway), Larry Hogan (Thrice Upon a Time), Anne McCaffrey (The Dragon Riders of Pern), Arthur C. Clark (Rendezvous with Rama), Ray Bradbury (Something Wicked This Way Comes), Alan Dean Foster (The Tar-Aiym Krang), among others.

    I tended towards the hard science and space travel novels, but I would still venture into the sci-fi fantasy novels on occassion (e.g. Anne McCaffrey). My favorite were mostly the sc-fi action/adventure books. And just for fun, I always thought that Asimov’s Lucky Starr novels would make for a fun tongue in cheek TV series.

  10. I always did like me some Arthur C. Clarke. I think I even have a copy of Childhood’s End kicking around somewhere, though for the life of me I can remember what it’s about. I should try to find it and re-read.

    Wishing a happy Christmas and great holiday season to you Joe, and Akemi and all the family. As well, as all you readers on the blog! It’s been a crazy year in many ways, not the least of which of course was the whole Dark Matter thing. Here’s to 2018 being nothing but good.

    Though, I started out my Christmas by slipping and falling on my garage floor last night (long story) and landing right on my tail bone. Ouch. Still hurts a lot today, just not as bad. We’re supposed to be having a big storm here tomorrow on Christmas day, so I won’t be going anywhere anyway!

  11. It’s pretty awesome to see a creator/writer I respect (you, Joe) have Stephen King as an inspiration. I have read all of his books and find him to be an extremely intelligent writer. I was also a big Bradbury fan when I was young and really need get back to it. Thanks again for all the work you do!

  12. Definitely my favorite Frederik Pohl Gateway. Actually first 3 books in the Heechee Saga – great sf, great characters. Also his Space Merchants. Frenk Herbert’s Dune. Love the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, one of my fav books, and one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. And when we’re at Moorcock – The Jewel in the Skull, love that count Brass – Granbretan univers, though its more of a fantasy world then sf…

  13. Anne Mccaffrey’s Pern series and comic books got me started on fantasy/sci-fi. I lived in a small town. They have a library now but there are still no book stores. My younger self would have adored kindles.

    I read mysteries too and the school library had a few of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Three Investigators”.

    Thanks for all the book ideas Everyone!

    🎄☃️🎁🎊 Feliz Navidad!

  14. We share many of the same favorites especially Bradbury, Ellison and Azimov. I’d add William Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz; Daniel Keyes Flowers for Algernon; Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness; Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer and many more.

    Merry Christmas!

  15. My earliest SciFi inspirations were from TV and movies not books. Star Trek, Space 1999, Lost in Space, Land of the Lost, Doctor Who, The Time Travelers, Twilight Zone, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, The Day The Earth Stood Still, The War of the Worlds, The Forbidden Planet, Logan’s Run, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and countless others. From this I began to read the books…

    Have a very Merry Christmas & safe travels! Cherish the time spent with family & friends this holiday season!!

  16. Growing up in my teens…I read many of the works of the authors listed above, including Bradbury, Asimov, Clarke, Vonnegut…but one of my favorites was Zelazny’s “Doorways in the Sand”. I didn’t read many of his books, but that was a good one.

  17. Several of yours but also: Julian May – The Many Colored Land, A.E.Van Vogt -The Pawns of Null-A and Larry Niven-Ringworld maybe even Jules Verne-Off on a comet – kind of a silly story, but skipping a stone across an ocean and having it turn to ice always stuck in my mind. Most on your list are on my own as well.

  18. Just remembered another: C.J. Cherryh – Downbelow Station There are others too. (what about Frank Herbert – not just Dune, but the Dosadi Experiment ).

  19. Merry Christmas Joe and everyone in the blog community. We celebrated yesterday and then I spent the day at Dad’s. It was lovely.

    Cheers, Chev

  20. Your list is good. I especially like Clarke and Asimov (all the Foundation book at the top of my list).

    A few more I like a lot:

    – John Brunner : “Stand at Zanzibar”, “Jagged Orbit”.

    – A. E. Van Vogt : “The wizard of Lynn” and so many others

    – Alexandre Zinoviev : “The Yawning Heights”, I read this one in french “Les Hauteurs Béantes”

    – Robert Silverberg : “Passengers”, “Atime of changes”.

    But my personal favorite author was Frank Herbert. Especially all 6 of the “Dunes” book. As well as “Whipping Star” and “The Dosadi Experiment”. But another one I enjoyed a lot : “Hellstrom’s Hive”

  21. You definitely had a unique and loving upbringing.

    For me, sci-fi growing up was limited. I saw more sci-fi in movies or TV, from Star Wars, Star Trek, Total Recall, Terminator, Aliens. The amazing book for me was The Hobbit. It had maps of the places in the book. Its adventure took the heroes to many, many unique and distant places. Later I’d read the novel of 2001: A Space Odyssey PKD’s original Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep. (filled with humor and pathos not in the film adaptation). and other short stories. the novel Roadside Picnic.

    Read Asimov’s I, Robot and also other Robot stories. Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey has some passages and details not in the film. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama is amazing in its imagination. Some Heinlein short stories. More recently short stories and novellas from anthologies and in Asimov’s and Analog.

    The above list looks amazing and I hope to read some if not all of the above works.
    Hopefully I will have enough courage to write my own stories soon.

  22. Love Ray Bradbury. His The October Country and Robert Sheckley’s Dimension of Miracles were among the first SF that I read. I like Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor Chronicles, too. Anything by Heinlein. Ahh, the good old days. 🙂

  23. Let’s see…the very first science fiction book I ever read was “The Star” by H. G. Wells. I think I was 10 or 11 at the time.

    My favorite sci-fi authors in order are:
    Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Vernor Vinge, and Frank Herbert.

    My list of absolutely favorite sci-fi books, in order, are:
    Songs of Distant Earth – Clarke
    Rendezvous with Rama – Clarke
    Across Realtime – Vinge
    Dune – Herbert
    Foundation – Asimov
    Nemesis – Asimov
    Nightfall – Asimov
    Childhood’s End – Clarke
    3001: The Final Odyssey – Clarke
    When Worlds Collide/After Worlds Collide – Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer

    Science fiction books I read come and go but the above listed books will always be with me to the end.
    I take them out about every 5 or 6 years and re-read them.

  24. Sorry… John W. Campbell, Edmond Hamilton, E.E.”Doc” Smith, Larry Niven, Alan Dean Foster, Keith Laumer to name only a few of the “real” scifi writers I grew up reading… pick up any book by any of these authors and thank me later

    Hamilton’s classic “Outside The Universe” introduced me to SciFi

  25. Will definitely check some of those out. While I was a reader when I was young, I was more into mystery than sci-fi literature. My love of sci-fi came from television.

  26. My husband and I agree: Ursula K. le Guin (Earthsea was my favourite, but Left Hand of Darkness etc rate highly), Marion Zimmer Bradley (Darkover was a major inspiration to me!), Anne MacCaffrey (The Ship who Sang, Pern etc), A. E. Van Voght (Weapon Shops of Isher), Larry Niven (Ringworld and Known Space stories) (Asimov, Clarke and Ellison of course!), E. E. Doc Smith (Lensmen and Skylark)! 🙂

  27. Of course, this doesn’t even touch on Short Stories! I have to say that the most hauntingly beautiful short story I know came from Arthur C. Clarke! ‘The Star’. Very short story, but… what an impact! Especially at this time of year!

  28. Such a great question – your tastes change so much over the years, but the authors that made you fall in love with the genre never do.
    H.G. Wells – War of the Worlds (I vividly remember having to re-borrow it from the school library because I couldn’t quite read it all in a fortnight. The longest book I had read up to that point. I may have been 7 yo)
    Swift – Gulliver’s Travels
    Asimov – the Foundation series thrilled me with the idea of advanced maths predicting the future.
    Arthur C Clarke – 2001 and 2010, esp.
    Vonnegut – pretty much everything, read a few times over
    Douglas Adams – still quoting bits of HitchHikers’ 35 years later
    Terrance Dicks – for his disposable novelisations of classic Doctor Who episodes. I hated the show as a little kid, but loved his books so much that I got into classic Who on TV. The start of a life-long obsession (when Dark Matter isn’t around).

  29. I was 11 years old when I found this lying in the street…it was my first SciFi book…
    “The Chrysalids (United States title: Re-Birth) is a science fiction novel by British writer John Wyndham, first published in 1955…”

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