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Voice Of The Fans: The Books That Brought You To Science Fiction

Over at Suvudu, Shawn Speakman wrote an interesting post about his top 5 nostalgic books. At then end, we see that the question being answered is really “what books brought you to fantasy?”

Well, sounds like we need some equal time for science fiction! As a kid, I was interested in space and astronomy from a very early age. I’d read all kinds of books about the space program, astronomy, basically anything to do with everything above the Earth, but I didn’t read a lot of science fiction. It wasn’t until a little film called Star Wars came out that I became a rabid fan of the film (it’s okay to be rabid when you’re 9). Probably one of the very first books I ever bought myself was the novelization of Star Wars. It was the one with the gold cover and I read that sucker till the pages fell out. I also had the original, awesome The Art of Star Wars book which I again read to death. I really wish I had that book still….

From there I picked up Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, which really shows that Lucas hadn’t though through Luke and Leia’s relationship much as there is a budding romance between them in the book. I think we can all agree on the ‘ewww’ factor today. I also loved the Han Solo novels by Brian Daley: Han Solo At Star’s End, Han Solo’s Revenge, and Han Solo And The Lost Legacy. All were great stuff for a kid and lead me onto the science fictional path to today.

Even though my Star Wars rabidness has greatly diminished, my interest in SF has not and it’s through the movie and the following books that lead me to read Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and then to the newer authors popping up in the mid-1980’s.

What books brought you to science fiction? I’d expect a wide range of answers to that question as there are a lot of books out there!

About JP Frantz (2323 Articles)
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21 Comments on Voice Of The Fans: The Books That Brought You To Science Fiction

  1. Others I remember, from rather young:

    Doctor Who books, of course.

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    John Wyndham in general

    The Penguin Science Fiction anthologies by Brian Aldiss.

    Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. G. Wells.

    And that Han Solo trilogy is certainly pretty cool.

  2. Hand me my teeth and I’ll tell you. In the early sixties it was. They called it elementary school then, which was the style at the time. Our classes would get hearded to the tiny school library once a week where we could check out any two books we liked for a week. I read all the usual childhood books that were popular, but the Mushroom Planet books by Eleanor Cameron made a big impression on me. After reading them, I began to look for anything that stank of science, space, aliens, etc. In the 6th grade section of the library I found the mother lode: all 12 of the Heinlein juveniles. It was like science fiction puberty. I forgot about everything else and never looked back.


  3. OK, I’m dating myself but early Heinlein, Adre Norton juveniles, and early Silverberg

  4. The Star Wars films are really what got me into the Star Wars novels hardcore during my middle/high school years, which in turn led me to Dune, Foundation and I, Robot. But, before that, there were some other things that sort of tipped the scale towards my interests in speculative and science fiction. 

    My younger brother had a book called The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, by Nancy Farmer, which sees a futuristic Africa, with political conflict and dystopic elements, which I greatly enjoyed, although I never really thought of it as ‘science fiction’. 

    At the same time, another book (who’s name escapes me at the moment) about virtual reality, sees a couple of teenagers escaping into a virtual world where they’re pursued, and must finish the game before they can leave. 

    Even before that, one of my favorite stories as a child was that of Merlin, or more specifically, a tale called Merlin and the Dragon, and I remember listening to the audio book hundreds of times on the way to school. It captured my imagination, and certainly set me up to become a fan of the genre. 

  5. Like the post’s author — Star Wars and the Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. The Hitchhiker’s series, and probably the most influence: the three little black books of the Classic Traveller roleplaying game.

  6. I was 12 and a classmate handed me “A Princess of Mars” and I was hooked. I’d read a few SF books before – a couple of juvenile Heinleins and Andre Nortons but didn’t care for them. After reading Princess and the rest of the series it was as if a switch had been turned on in my brain and I became hooked on SF (and it turned out I did like Heinlein and Norton when I reread those books after my enlightenment).

  7. I wrote about the latter part of this notion in my first Forces of Geek Column: .  These are the books that turned me into an SF fan for life.

    But what drew me to the genre in the first place?  I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family (and was a childhood evangelist, but that’s another story), and we were expelled from the church for my father’s assorted transgressions (also another story).  I entered high school completely unprepared for the real world (I had been partly homeschooled, partly religious schooled, and had attended 13 different schools in-between before 9th grade), and I retreated almost immediately into books. 

    After exhausting the biographies of veterinarians and pet detectives, I was unsure where to go next.  My cousin gave me a copy of Lester Del Rey’s Rocket Jockey, which I found to be unlike anything I had read before.  The book imagined things that had not happened, maybe could not happen, but that were treated as fact.  I had heard to things like this, of movies such as Star Wars (which I had been banned from seeing, along with most movies in theaters).  The book looked ahead and made a world out of things that might occur.  I was hooked by the idea of looking at the future that way.

    Uncertain how to find more books like that, I wandered the aisles of the library until something popped out.  That led me to Space Cadet, which I checked out of my high school library and carried around so often that it became a derisive nickname for me.  Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara, which was accessible and appealing to a youngling unexposed to such imaginings, was another gift from my cousin.  From here I dove into Heinlein’s juveniles, Asimov, and many of the classics, and these sustained me in my freshman year until I discovered my history teacher’s shelf of wonders. 

  8. I had read plenty of other SF before it, but Ender’s Game really solidified my love of SF books and led me to other great books such as Dune.

  9. I remember the gold cover Star Wars novelization from my Scholastic catalog…I got that one, and “The Star Wars Storybook”, which was clearly meant for younger children, but had the coolest set of photographs in a large trade paperback format.

    But the earliest SF novels I can remember reading are the Tom Swift novels.  I couldn’t even say for certain which ones, but I know it was the Hardy Boys-esque hardcover editions, and we had at least a dozen of them around the house for some reason.  Those, along with the Andersons’ “Fireball XL-5” really locked in a lifelong love of the genre for me.

    Gosh, I miss “Fireball XL-5”.

  10. That STAR WARS book cover was by John Berkey, so I assume that his art got burned into your brain cells really good — I’ve been a fan of Berkey’s art since 1976, and over the past couple years I have posted the most extensive JOHN BERKEY art webpage on the Internet — check it out! 

  11. Why, the terrific Winston science fiction series, of course! The local library had them all, or a lot of them at any case, and I read every one. The author’s names were new to me but I owuld come across them again and again over the following years: Arthur C. Clarke, Lester Del Rey, Chad Oliver, Raymond F. Jones, Poul Anderson, Richard Marsten, Jack Vance, the list is long and impressive. Even the endpapers – same for the entire series -were cool:

  12. I can’t exactly pin down which books first got me in to reading Sci Fi (maybe the 2nd Star Trek: DS9 novel “The Seige”) but my definite one that got me in to Fantasy was The Wonderful Wizard of OZ

  13. Lee B-D // June 18, 2010 at 8:20 pm //

    When I was in 6th grade (1977-78), I bought a collection of short stories through a Scholastic book sale at school. I must have thought the cover was cool. I can’t believe I just found it on Amazon after Googling to figure out the title: Science Fiction Tales – Invaders, Creatures and Alien Worlds, edited by Roger Elwood. I fell in love, found Heinlein and Norton and others in the library at school, and was hooked.

  14. MikeP said: the Mushroom Planet books by Eleanor Cameron made a big impression on me.  

    Yes!!   That’s so cool to hear some one else remembers those.  And those Heinlein books like Have Space Suit will Travel.  After that it was Poul Anderson’s Nicholas van Rijn books, McCaffery’s Pern series, Piers Anthony’s Xanth series, and assorted Alan Dean Foster.   This thread makes me want to pull ’em down for a re-read.  🙂


  15. Sci-Fi: Edgar Rice Burroughs; and yes, that same novelization of Star Wars (which I swear in my ever-failing memory that I read BEFORE the movie came out–is that possible?).


  16. slothflyer // June 18, 2010 at 11:22 pm //

    As a teen – Michael Crichton and LotR

    As an adult – the summer I graduated from college and I could read for peasure, I stumbled into Ender’s Game, the Hitchhiker series, the Chronicles of Narnia.

    What really sent me over the edge however was Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (on audiobook – reason enough for anyone to get an audible subscription), Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.



  17. The Saddling Saint // June 18, 2010 at 11:32 pm //

    The first sf book I read was Dune. I was a avid fantasy reader and there was something that translated, the epicness of it all. After that I didn’t really read much until I took a popular fiction course at uni and had to read The Left Hand of Darkness and Neuromancer. I’ve loved sf ever since. 

  18. Dawfydd // June 19, 2010 at 1:20 am //

    Whilst I’d read the likes of John Christophers ‘Tripods’ series, and the classic ‘Fightin Fantasy’ range, it was Timothy Zahn’s ‘Thrawn Trilogy’ that ignited my passion for science fiction & fantasy. I’ll always be grateful to my mum for buying all three from her book club for me as a gift. 

  19. David Scholes // June 19, 2010 at 8:50 pm //

    I really started with American comics – Thor, the Fantastic Four etc.  HG Wells and John Wyndham were the first sci-fi authors I read, soon followed by many others.

    I’m 60 now and a couple of years ago I decided to start writing a little of my own. Here’s a couple of links:





    I have a new novella “Soldier of the Brell” coming out soon as an E-book on the Xlibris site that will also be available on the IPAD, Amazon’s Kindle, and other e-readers.  




  20. inimitablej // June 20, 2010 at 5:04 pm //

    Zenna Henderson’s The People series.

    Ray Bradbury’s I Sing the Body Electric


  21. Guy Plunkett III // June 23, 2010 at 3:45 pm //

    Ditto on The Mushroom Planet books by Eleanor Cameron! I haven’t thought about those in years, but they were definitely early influences on my reading taste, along with mythology (d’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths). Then came Verne, Wells … then the Heinlein juveniles, and I was hooked solidly.

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