Anyone else finding it hard to get into old(ish) sci-fi?

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  • phAge 12 Jul 2015 21:07:24 25,487 posts
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    I read a lot of sci-fi (both good and well, pulp), yet I'm finding it consistently hard to get into stuff written more than a decade or two ago.

    Case in point: Sirens of Titan (1959) by Vonnegut. It's supposed to be brilliant, but it just doesn't work for me. Same with Gregory Benford's Timescape from 1980 - the concept is good but the (for good reason) rather dodgy vision of THE FUTURE (in this case 1998) really taxes the suspension of disbelief. Cat's Cradle by Vonnegut was OK, but suffered as well.

    OTOH there is stuff like 1984 and Ender's Game, both truly stunning, so I guess it doesn't hold true for all older sci-fi, but still. Seems like books in that particular genre just ages somewhat faster than most others.
  • brigadier 12 Jul 2015 21:11:44 1,036 posts
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    Aside from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I really struggled to keep going through Philip K. Dick's other works. I'm not even sure why to be honest.
  • GuiltySpark 12 Jul 2015 21:15:35 6,782 posts
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    I Am Legend is horror sci fi, and is fucking brilliant. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is dystopian sci fi, and is equally as good.

    Neither are hard sci fi, but both are worth a shot if you haven't read them already. And then watch The Day the Earth Stood Still! And you've basically done all the prep that I did for my dissertation on the matter.
  • nickthegun 12 Jul 2015 21:16:41 82,376 posts
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    Kind of the opposite. I find older, harder sci-fi much easier to read than newer, more esoteric stuff
  • mal 12 Jul 2015 21:16:47 29,326 posts
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    I think the only pre-1980 sci-fi I've read is some Wyndham stuff when I was a kid, some Asimov and 1984. I've also listened to a few Heinlein short audiobooks, which were fine if a bit hokey. Oh, and I may have read an Arthur C., but I forget which one (not one of the 2k books).
  • phAge 12 Jul 2015 21:16:48 25,487 posts
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    I've actually just finished Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and found it... decent. I liked how it explored the question of what exactly "real" is - but other than that I wasn't terribly hooked either.
  • phAge 12 Jul 2015 21:19:20 25,487 posts
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    GuiltySpark wrote:
    I Am Legend is horror sci fi, and is fucking brilliant. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is dystopian sci fi, and is equally as good.

    Neither are hard sci fi, but both are worth a shot if you haven't read them already. And then watch The Day the Earth Stood Still! And you've basically done all the prep that I did for my dissertation on the matter.
    Read I Am Legend a couple of years ago - that was really good - and Fahrenheit 451 is a couple of books down on my on to-read shelf. Very much looking forward to it. Never considered TDTESS though - thanx for the recommendation.
  • Deleted user 12 July 2015 21:24:40
    I think it might be the styles, I didn't find either of the few books I've read of Vonnegut or K.Dick that enthralling either, although the stories themselves were memorable.

    And one of my annoyances with slightly older sci-fi is their ridiculously optimistic predictions - like we're taking the jet pack every where in 2004.

    Wyndham is solid gold though.

    Edited by gekoneko at 21:25:13 12-07-2015
  • mal 12 Jul 2015 21:26:22 29,326 posts
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    FWIW, this is reportedly the source for TDTESS. I've not read it though.

    Edit: Replaced link with a web.archive link. I'm sure it was working when I posted it.

    Edited by mal at 22:42:30 12-07-2015
  • McEwan 12 Jul 2015 21:32:59 884 posts
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    The Stars My Destination will always be timeless.
  • Deleted user 12 July 2015 21:37:10
    Foundation series by Asimov was really good I thought. The first dune book was good, but aside from that, try Julian May and the many coloured land.
  • Gibroon 12 Jul 2015 21:42:08 2,310 posts
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    @Legacy_System

    Yep, recommend both The foundation series and Dune. I'll have a look at Julian May. Cheers
  • Deleted user 12 July 2015 21:46:04
    Post deleted
  • Deleted user 12 July 2015 21:46:08
    Gibroon wrote:
    @Legacy_System

    Yep, recommend both The foundation series and Dune. I'll have a look at Julian May. Cheers
    Lucky bugger. Wish I had the Golden Torc Series to look forward to. I hope you enjoy it.
  • Saul_Iscariot 12 Jul 2015 21:47:56 3,745 posts
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    I got The Many Coloured Land when I was in hospital and read the entire series in two weeks. One of the best sci fi series I have ever read. I'm currently rereading HG Well's novels. I'd never read the Invisible Man and decided to give it a go.
  • mothercruncher 12 Jul 2015 22:26:35 17,839 posts
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    Absolutely- I know I ought to love Asimov, but I just can't stick at Foundation for some reason.
  • drhcnip 12 Jul 2015 22:30:45 6,462 posts
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    would recommend earth abides, alas babylon & death of grass if you fancy a post-apoc sci-fi kick from the older canon....

    Edited by drhcnip at 22:31:14 12-07-2015
  • disusedgenius 12 Jul 2015 22:56:21 10,546 posts
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    I was surprised how easy a read Asimov was, to be honest.

    But, yeah, authors like Philip K Dick and Vonnegut are tough nuts to crack - but not necessarily any worse than someone like China Meville these days.

    But in terms of classic sci-fi: Ringworld, Rendezvous with Rama, The Forever War, The Demolished Man, Inverted World and Tau Zero all stand out from the various lists I've just looked up. But yeah, some of them require more a little bit of adjusting for their time.

    Edited by disusedgenius at 23:01:22 12-07-2015
  • mur07 12 Jul 2015 23:03:43 187 posts
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    I bought Tiger! Tiger! by Alfred Bester for 10p in a charity shop years ago. It had "Also known as The Stars My Destination" in small print on the cover.

    Absolutely loved it. At the time I thought it was one of the 60/70's New Wave, but the first printing was 1956. I think William Gibson cited the book as a massive influence on Neuromancer.

    All JG Ballard's early 60's writing is timeless - The Terminal Beach could have written this year, let alone 1964.
  • GrandpaUlrira 12 Jul 2015 23:13:32 3,832 posts
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    Sirens of Titan isn't Vonnegut's best. Vonnegut works best in short stories, in my opinion. The Stars My Destination is a classic, and The Demolished Man is also very good. Tau Zero, Roadside Picnic, Behold the Man, Eon, Gateway, and Lord of Light are all easy-to-read older sci-fi. One issue sci-fi has is that either it dates because of the technology, etc., or it is ripped off so much that it's easy to forget the old book was 'first'.
  • gammonbanter 12 Jul 2015 23:43:38 1,968 posts
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    Read Man in the high castle and you will be a PKD fan for life!
  • Saul_Iscariot 12 Jul 2015 23:48:13 3,745 posts
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    I haven't read them for years, but I used to really enjoy Ben Bova's Orion series.
  • BeebleB 13 Jul 2015 00:02:54 1,328 posts
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    I Second man in the high castle, is a very good read. Ive read a few PKD and i really like his paranoid jittery style.
    Robert Heinlein I also like, Asimov too.

    Iain M Banks' Culture novels and How to live safely in a science fiction universe by Charles Yu are a couple of modern ones I enjoyed but mostly I do tend to read much more older sci fi.
  • mur07 13 Jul 2015 00:54:47 187 posts
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    If late 60's/70's stuff then IMHO A Scanner Darkly is PKD's best book.

    I know it's a cliche to say his ideas were better than his actual writing (read the short story collection Beyond Lies The Wub to see a man throw 30 amazing ideas away on cliched 50's Sci Fi pulp - Hollywood has) but it's a paranoid masterpiece.

    I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream by Harlan "Sue 'em" Ellison is also well worth picking up - Also Hothouse by Brian Aldiss, and his Barefoot In The Head never gets the recognition it deserves.
  • JoeBlade 13 Jul 2015 01:53:39 5,109 posts
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    Asimov's work holds up very well IMO, he came up with practically everything we take as "base line sci-fi stuff" these days. Energy shields, pew pew lazorz, hyperdrives and whatnot, he (arguably, I'm not fact checking this shit) imagined a lot of that stuff.

    I can but praise The Man in the High Castle and A Scanner Darkly as well. I can definitely see how most of PDK's work is marmite literature though. Same with Vonnegut.

    However, Slaughterhouse Five should be mandatory reading as far as I'm concerned :p
  • Khanivor 13 Jul 2015 03:47:34 44,482 posts
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    brigadier wrote:
    Aside from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I really struggled to keep going through Philip K. Dick's other works. I'm not even sure why to be honest.
    The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is very readable.

    Edited by Khanivor at 03:57:14 13-07-2015
  • Khanivor 13 Jul 2015 03:56:07 44,482 posts
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    Old sci-fi, which I class as pre 1960, pre space age stuff, can be hard going. Stiff from 1960 to say the 80s however probably stands out the worst for disparity between the works they foresaw and the world that came to pass. I suppose the lack of computers and space flight makes old scifi more akin to fantasy, in some respects.

    But once the technology started to develop and writers started to explore the future of that technology then you wind up with them being unable to predict just how fast it would develop. Lots of old Clarke stuff I have read is so anachronistic because of this, and he was a futurist of quite impeccable degree.

    Fortunately he could write a good yarn as well. An author for whom 'future shock' was their primary schtick will suffer a lot more if read today.

    So read you some Harry Harrison - Star Smashers of the Galaxy Ranfers is brilliantly bonkers - or Heinlen, the guys who wrote loads of books because they had so many stories to tell. Not so much the ones who couldn't stop writing because they had issues :)
  • anephric 13 Jul 2015 08:17:47 4,207 posts
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    Just to reiterate, although it's obviously not golden-age SF, pretty much anything by Ellison reads like it could have been written yesterday.

    His Dangerous Visions anthologies are fucking excellent too.

    Of the golden-age stuff, it's only Heinlein I ever really liked, although with many, many caveats. There's tonnes of new wave stuff I love, though: Ellison, Zelazny, Moorcock, Herbert, Farmer (some of his stuff is fucking amazing)...
  • Tonka 13 Jul 2015 08:21:21 30,901 posts
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    My dad have a bunch of oldish (i'd guess 60-70's) scifi short story collections and I remember really enjoying them. Haven't read them for a while though.

    Then I read Old Man's War and even though I enjoyed it I couldn't help but thinking it had aged badly wrt tech. Then I saw that it was written just a decade ago.
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