Tuesday, November 27, 2007

But is there a girl on the cover?

It's not a secret that I like science fiction, or speculative fiction, as some prefer to call it. I posted a picture of me at a college SF party, I blogged about Connie Willis for Tell An Author You Care Day, and I titled a post using a Star Trek/Shakespeare reference. (Shakespeare was the greatest SF writer of his time, by the way.)

So I'm thrilled that Sam Riddleburger has declared John Christopher Week at his blog. And John Christopher (aka Sam Youd) himself has made an appearance in the comments! If you devoured The Tripods trilogy as a kid, like I did, you know that the imagery of his books haunts you, years later. Honestly, I want to re-read these books so badly now that Sam has reminded me of them, but I'm a tiny bit scared of the nightmares. Maybe I'll start with The Sword of the Spirits trilogy instead, since I haven't read them. At least they'll be new nightmares.

Here are some other SF books that I loved as a kid:

The Enchantress From the Stars, The Far Side of Evil, and This Star Shall Abide, all by Sylvia Louise Engdahl. I've been meaning to blog about these books forever, but I need a kick in the pants. First of all, I need to re-read them to see if my memories are correct. Second, I need to find someone else who read them as a kid, someone who will get all excited with me and remember what it was like to read a story of a GIRL who was a space explorer.

The Day of the Drones by Mary Alice Lightner. The hype on the 1969 cover reads "an incredible adventure in the radioactive ruins of the world where whites live like insects and blacks are the elite." I'm sure I had no idea at the time that I was reading something that radical. I just remember it as a great adventure story. And again, there's a GIRL on the front.

I wish I could remember more, beyond the obvious like A Wrinkle in Time or anything by Ray Bradbury, but most of the rest that I loved were fantasy, like The Borrowers or Half Magic or the Earthsea books, rather than science fiction.

I did run across this fabulous site where an expert will help you with a faulty memory: It's called All Experts, and in the category of Science Fiction books, there are some great questions (and answers.) I love this one:
"I was wondering if you could tell me the various methods used in Science Fiction to raise the dead..."

and this one:
"Many years ago I read a (juvenile) science fiction book about two educated parents who taught their infant son to travel through an alternate universe."

And then there's the really weird:
"Do you know anything on how bananas brown so fast?"

I'm sure if someone had written a SF book about that last one, AND it had a girl on the cover, I would have read it too.


  1. My husband loved the Tripod trilogy as a kid but I hadn't heard of them and came to them as an adult.

    I'll be interested to hear if they stand up to your rereading. I wasn't enthralled.

  2. Thanks for sharing...this is a great post. I'm always looking for recommendations in this category :)

  3. The other one I found compelling as a kid was Children of Morrow by Hoover. I think there was a sequel, too. Does anyone remember that one?

  4. Thanks for checking out my John Christopher week.

    I guess the top Girl on the Cover science fiction I've read lately is Whales on Stilts.

  5. Sara, maybe I should ask this off-blog but I was wondering when you started reading sci-fi as a kid? I think I've got a potential sci-fi reader in the house but she hasn't really caught the spark from anything I've put forth and I'm wondering if it's a question of age or material.

    So far, from other's suggestions, neither Whales On Stilts nor the Tripods series nor Bradbury have worked for her. She doesn't like intentional humor with her speculative fiction either. Ideas? Anyone?

  6. I think I was 10 or 11 for The Tripods. I remember reading Enchantress From the Stars in middle school, though, so that would've been later.

    I read more and more SF through high school and college and later--Ursula Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, Sheri Tepper (the early books,) Orson Scott Card, Brian Aldiss, Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain series, and all the classics like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 and Dune and Brave New World. The key for me was if there was something besides shoot-em-up in the books, and I really loved dystopias and alternate social structures, and most SF based on the "softer sciences" like linguistics (Native Tongue for instance,) or politics or gender norms. All of which is hard to appreciate when you're ten, but totally great when you're a seething young adult.

    Nancy Farmer has some good younger SF, like House of the Scorpion, and I've heard good things about William Sleator. And Ender's Game is the greatest teen SF read ever. Boys love it, but I did too.

    Maybe it would be fun to try reading something out loud with her? Or are you already doing that? I think she could handle Enchantress from the Stars that way. Maybe Ender's Game, too, but it's intense.

  7. I had no idea John Christopher was not his real name! Fancy that.

    I loved The Tripods too. I came to it aged 9 or so through the BBC television adaptation, which was actually rather good as these things go. But cruelly, they ran out of money and never made The Pool of Fire, so it ended on a terrible cliffhanger. Very spooky in a cheap special effects kind of way.

  8. Thank you for reminding me that I need to read the second and third books in the Tripod series. I read the first one just a few years ago and the memory of the "capping" still makes my head hurt.

    I discovered Heinlein's juvenile's as an adult. That took me to the Foundation books and robot short stories by Asimov. I think that period of reading was a second "unconscious delight" for me.

    Great post!


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