WEEKLY BOOK BUZZ- Who are the Greatest Science Fiction Writers of All-Time? - Mania.com

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WEEKLY BOOK BUZZ- Who are the Greatest Science Fiction Writers of All-Time?

Chime in on your picks!

By Tim Janson     January 12, 2009

Aquaman and Batman from the cover of The DC Universe Illustrated by Neal Adams
© DC Comics/ Warner Bros.


It’s an extremely light release week and in fact, many of the best genre releases are graphic novels including the latest Star Wars Omnibus from Dark Horse Comics, and Boom! Studios outstanding Salem: Queen of Thorns. As a life long fan of comic artist Neal Adams, I’m ecstatic over DC Comics’ release of DC Universe Illustrated by Neal Adams. The three planned volumes will collect nearly every story the great master did for DC. 
I’m working on one of those great TOP lists that you all love so well! The question is, who are the greatest Science Fiction writers of all-time. I’ll likely present a Top 15 list but even then it will be a daunting task. How much credit do you give to the old-school writers like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne? There are the early pioneers of modern Sci-Fi such as John W. Campbell, A.E. Van Vogt, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. The 1960s and 70s introduced the second great generation of writers that included Frank Herbert, Harlan Ellison, and Samuel R. Delaney. There is the hard Sci-Fi of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; the Cyber Punk of William Gibson; The Alternate History fiction of Harry Turtledove, and Philip K. Dick; the humorous adventure work of Harry Harrison; or modern space opera of C.J. Cherryh. The diversity of sub-genres and styles in Sci-Fi is daunting! 
So give me your choices, be it one or ten, who are the greatest Sci-Fi writers ever, and I will let you know my picks soon!
The Revenant Road Michael Boatman (Drollerie Press)
Obadiah Grudge is tall, dark, and ... gaunt, though he prefers the word rich. He dresses well and has a taste for the finer things, so it’s a good thing that the mysteries he writes consistently hit the top of the bestseller lists. The critics hate him; his public loves him. He’s got everything he wants. Then one day he gets a call. His estranged father is dead, and it’s time for the family funeral. While his mother, his father’s partner, and finally his father’s ghost work to convince Obadiah that he’s special, Obadiah is discovering that for himself. He barely escapes death by deranged killers, not all of whom are entirely human. Obadiah has inherited his father’s monster-killing business, his lunatic of a partner, and his pet Raven. It’s too bad he didn’t inherit his father’s skill. It seems Dad’s death has put Obadiah’s feet on The Revenant Road, and there’s no escape from that. Including the bonus story: “Neville and the Midnight Miracle Massacre” Neville, Grudge’s partner in the monster killing business, came by his mistrust of religion and his hatred of monsters early, but he’s never liked to talk about it. Then Neville disappears, and Obadiah finds he has to get nosy if he’s ever going to be the monster-killing partner his father was.
Changeling Steve Feasy (MacMillan)
Trey thought he was an ordinary teenager. Then he meets a mysterious stranger, Lucien Charron - luminously pale, oddly powerful, with eyes that seem flecked with fire and skin that blisters in sunlight. Somehow Trey finds himself in a luxury London penthouse, like a Bond villain's lair. It's the heart of a sinister empire, built on the powers of the netherworld - werewolves, vampires, sorcerers, and djinns. And Trey himself has a power that's roaring to break free. Is he a boy or is he a beast?
New In Science Fiction
Nexus Archives Volume 8 Mike Baron (Dark Horse Hardcover)
Horatio, Judah, and the Badger have survived their reentry of the Bowl-Shaped World. As they head from outer rim to inner city, the threat that prompted this journey worsens: the Gravity Well is nearing collapse. The Web's population is evacuating in a panic, hoping to escape the artificial black hole. By the time this installment of Baron and Rude's celebrated sci-fi series comes to a close, the desperate trio will fight a powerful, fusionkasting tyrant in mortal combat, Kreed the Quatro will be sentenced to death for the Mars massacre, and Horatio will hang up the Nexus mantle once and for all!
Star Wars Omnibus: Rise Of The Sith Various (Dark Horse)
Collected in this newest Star Wars Omnibus are tales leading up to The Phantom Menace. First - previously uncollected and out of print - Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi save a sinking ship in The Aurorient Express and investigate an unexpected death in Last Stand on Ord Mantell. The origins of bounty hunter Aurra Sing are revealed in "Aurra's Song." Then, in Jedi Council and Prelude to Rebellion we follow two key Jedi Masters, Mace Windu and Ki-Adi-Mundi, as they face new foes that will try the Jedi ways to the very limit. And finally, in Darth Maul, the terrifying Sith apprentice leaves a trail of death in his efforts to keep the secrets of his Master.
New In Horror
Salem: Queen of Thorns Chris Morgan & Kevin Walsh (Boom Studios)
Colonial America. Salem. For mankind's greatest sin against God, they were born - the Coven of Thirteen. Thirteen witches granted elemental powers, each one derived from an aspect of Christ's crucifixion. One man stands against them: Elias Hooke. A new hero in the tradition of Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane or Clint Eastwood's The man with No Name from the screenwriter of Cellular and WANTED!
Deadworld: Frozen Over Mike Raicht (Desperado Publishing)
With the streets of New York still snowed in, our survivors attempt to find a way out of the city before the thaw comes. But not only are they dealing with the harsh weather and the thousands of zombies still wandering the streets of New York, they also are going to have to deal with the baddest zombie of them all - King Zombie! But why is the King searching for Kolin Fleet and his band? And what deal did the King strike with the terrifying zombie known as the Giant in order to find them?
Isabel Burning Donna Lynch (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
As a young woman raised in the soot-covered mediocrity of an English industrial town, Isabel has led a common and directionless life. Secretly she yearns to be the center of something, anything, that is momentous and vital. She dreams of making marks on the world.
Her new job as housekeeper at Grace mansion is hardly exciting but does surround her with the accouterments of aristocratic lineage while allowing her to observe the habits of the enigmatic Dr. Edward Grace. Captivated by his tales of travel to Africa, Isabel is inexorably drawn into a tumultuous relationship which eventually reveals the Grace family's dark heritage and lays bare every secret, even the ones she keeps from herself
Halloween Volume 2: The First Death Of Laurie Strode Stefan Hutchinson (Devils Due)
Michael Myers is back with some time to kill in this second volume of Halloween! As the only survivor of Michael Myers' rampage through the small town of Haddonfield on Halloween night 1978, Laurie Strode is haunted by the memories of her encounter with the face of evil. To make matters worse, she is convinced Michael Myers is still out there, ready to strike again - and the only person who believes her is Dr. Sam Loomis!
The Imago Sequence and Other Stories Laird Barron (Nightshade Books)
To the long tradition of eldritch horror pioneered and refined by writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Peter Straub, and Thomas Ligotti, comes Laird Barron, an author whose literary voice invokes the grotesque, the devilish, and the perverse with rare intensity and astonishing craftsmanship.
Collected here for the first time are nine terrifying tales of cosmic horror, including the World Fantasy Award-nominated novella "The Imago Sequence," the International Horror Guild Award-nominated "Proboscis," and the never-before published "Procession of the Black Sloth." Together, these stories, each a masterstroke of craft and imaginative irony, form a shocking cycle of distorted evolution, encroaching chaos, and ravenous insectoid hive-minds hidden just beneath the seemingly benign surface of the Earth.
With colorful protagonists, including an over-the-hill CIA agent, a grizzled Pinkerton detective, and a failed actor accompanying a group of bounty hunters, Barron's stories are resonant and authentic, featuring vulnerable, hardboiled tough guys attempting to stand against the stygian wasteland of night. Throughout the collection, themes of desolation, fear, and masculine identity are played out against the backdrop of an indifferent, devouring cosmos.
New in Non-fiction
Flowers from Hell: The Modern Japanese Horror Film Jim Harper (Noir Publishing)
Over the past decade, Japan has become a key player on the contemporary horror scene, producing some of the most influential and critically respected genre movies of recent years and helping to spark off the worldwide interest in Asian horror.
Flowers from Hell is the most in-depth look at the vibrant and challenging world of modern Japanese horror so far, covering the best directors, the most important films and the most popular themes of the past 25 years
Dark Places: The Haunted House in Film Barry Curtis (Reaktion Books)
Horror films revel in taking viewers into shadowy places where the evil resides, whether it is a house, a graveyard or a dark forest. These mysterious spaces foment the terror at the heart of horror movies, empowering the ghastly creatures that emerge to kill and torment. With Dark Places, Barry Curtis leads us deep inside these haunted spaces to explore them – and the monstrous antagonists who dwell there.
In this wide-ranging and compelling study, Curtis demonstrates how the claustrophobic interiors of haunted spaces in films connect to the ‘dark places’ of the human psyche. He examines diverse topics such as the special effects – ranging from crude to state-of-the-art – used in movies to evoke supernatural creatures; the structures, projections and architecture of horror movie sets; and ghosts as symbols of loss, amnesia, injustice and vengeance. Dark Places also examines the reconfiguration of the haunted house in film as a motel, an apartment, a road or a spaceship, and how these re-imagined spaces thematically connect to Gothic fictions.
Curtis draws his examples from numerous iconic films – including Nosferatu, Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Shining – as well as lesser-known international works, which allow him to consider different cultural ideas of ‘haunting’. Japanese horror films and their Hollywood remakes – such as Ringu and The Ring, or Juon and The Grudge – come under particular scrutiny, as he explores Japanese cinema’s preoccupation with malevolent forces from the past.
Whether you love the splatter of blood or prefer to hide under the couch, Dark Places cuts to the heart of why we are drawn to carnage.
DC Universe Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 01 (DC Comics hardcover)
At last, it's here – the first of three hardcover volumes collecting nearly every DC Comics story and cover by Neal Adams. Featuring rarely seen stories from OUR ARMY AT WAR #182, 183 and 186, STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES #134 and 144, DETECTIVE COMICS #369, TEEN TITANS #20-22, ACTION COMICS #425, SUPERMAN #254, WEIRD WAR TALES #12 and 13 and more!
Capsule Reviews
Cane River Scott A. Johnson (Batwing Press)
Effective ghost stories are becoming harder and harder to find in today’s horror landscape where the emphasis has been on the more visceral and “in your face” tone. But Scott A. Johnson manages to deliver a very solid, modern day ghost tale set within the sleepy, backwoods town of Cane River, Texas. Bill Wheeler, freshly widowed returns to his hometown where his father is considered the local crazy and where he will discover deeply buried secrets about his past. 
Soon, several local boys turn up missing including the son of Bill’s new girlfriend. Bill, and other townspeople have been seeing the apparition of a terrifying little girl, staring at them with a wicked smile on her face. What does this little girl have to do with Bill and his family? Johnson’s story is delicately paced and he leaves you guessing until the very end as to the spirit’s true intentions. The scares are subtle but build in intensity as the story progresses. Well crafted example of a true American ghost story! Grade A-

Spectrum 15 Cathy & Arnie Fenner (Underwood Books)
Each year there is one supreme collection of fantasy and Sci-Fi art that stands head and shoulders above all others and that collection is Spectrum, now in its fifteenth volume. Spectrum is the Oscars, Emmy’s, and Grammy’s all rolled into one for genre art as it truly collects and presents the best of the best. 
Each year Cathy and Arnie Fenner give out their gold and silver awards in the categories of: Advertising, book, comics, conceptual, dimensional, editorial, institutional, and unpublished art, as well as their year’s Grand Master award. The book always begins with a comprehensive and enjoyable look at the previous year in fantastic art before moving on to the various categories. Each piece of art presented includes the artist, title, studio, client (where applicable) medium, and size of the piece. The back of the book features a full index of each artist’s address, e-mail address, website, and often even their phone number, just in case you want to call and heap praise upon them. 
While I certainly would not dispute any of the winners, Miles Teves’ stunning piece “Creating a Vampire” was my favorite in the books section. I definitely would not dispute James Jean’s winning piece from DC Comics Fables #66 in the comic category with his Renaissance-like depiction of a knight slaying a dragon. Always a fan favorite, the book includes several great pieces from Frank Cho’s Jungle Girl series. The Dimensional category features various sculptures and busts and leading the way is A. Brent Armstrong’s spot-on design of the Boris Karloff Mummy. If you are a lover of fantastic art this is the ONE book you must have each year! Grade A


Showing items 1 - 9 of 9
LittleNell1824 1/12/2009 11:44:18 AM

I love Charles Sheffield. I wish he was mentioned more in favorites list. This guy deserves some hype.  Someone described his books as Science fiction with the emphasis on the Science but he had some really memorable characters as well. His books are great reads and his realistic visions of the future stick with you. He doesn't get weighed down in existential philosophical arguments but he doesn't shy away from how brutal or uncomfortable life on other planets might be. His books are intrigues and mysteries set in a realistic future with fun characters. For more info on Charles Sheffield if you haven't read him yet, check here  www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/s/charles-sheffield/ and www.locusmag.com/2002/News/SheffieldAppreciation.html for more information.

raulendymion 1/12/2009 12:52:11 PM

You mentioned my top pics but here's some additional thoughts:

Dan Simmons. His Hyperion Cantos and Ilium/Olympus epics are what great Sci-Fi is all about: innovative ideas, great charaters, and enough action/adventure to satisfy any Star Wars fan.  Simmons can write in any genre and has to be one of the best fiction writers out there.

Richard K. Morgan. His Altered Carbon series is great, innovative stuff (but for adults only). He's a young cat (43 or44) and has a serious future ahead of him.

Robert J. Sawyer. His books are quite accessible and unique, plus he churns out a new book like every year. I wouldn't say he's one of the best but perhaps one of the most enjoyable.

Robert McCammon. Ok, technically he doesn't write Sci-Fi but virtually anything he writes is top-notch. I'd say he and Simmons are the best fiction writers on the planet, they should be household names like Koontz and King.

TKay42one 1/12/2009 4:25:50 PM

I'm the first to admit that I'm not very sophisticated when it comes to my tastes in Sci-Fi, so with that in mind (and I'm not saying he's among the greatest, but he is among my favorites) I have to say that I enjoy the work of Peter David.  His work on Spiderman 2099, X-Factor, and the Incredible Hulk were all superb, and he's written the best Star Trek novels out there also.  You can read my review of his "Q Squared" on mania.  The review is called "The Best Star Trek Movie They'll Never Make".

SONYMANswallows 1/12/2009 7:37:59 PM

Arthur C. Clarke is the undisputed master of Sci-Fi. He has given so many ideas that have come true in his works. His short story THE SENTINEL  helped create the greatest film ever  made 2001: A Space Odyssey. His  works  2001, 2010, 2061 and 3001 bring fantasy and reality together in a way that makes Chris Nolan Blush. As most sci-fi tries to be philosophy, Arthur's work accomplishes the task in a way that makes you think and does not talk down to you. Its sad that he and Kubrick gave us a glimpse of a future that is so close and bright. The sad reality is though that when you look at the world around us we know that reality is far away.  I think Arthur and Peter Hyams realized that with 2010..


But hey thats when we go with funny lesbian comedy sci fi like the bible and patriot act.. That women can write some good stuff, to bad the readers dont fact check.

ashamel 1/13/2009 12:56:47 AM

Dan Simmons, Philip K Dick, Neal Stephenson, Greg Egan, Isaac Asimov and William Gibson would seem among the best and influential SF writers.

Also Stephen Donaldson, for his Gap series, which is brilliant (and I know now much you all love his fantasy work...)

DaForce1 1/13/2009 1:50:06 AM

Harry Harrison, Harlan Ellison, Phillip K. Dick, and Jonathan Lethem as honarable mention for "Gun, With Occasional Music".

DaForce1 1/13/2009 11:31:28 AM

I also forgot Alfred Bester.

eblood 1/13/2009 4:36:21 PM

Frank Herbert for the original Dune series. 

Paul Di Fillipo for his book Ribofunk, one of my all time favorites.

byrdstation1 1/13/2009 5:15:38 PM

Heinlein. Asimov. Cherryh. Niven. Brin.



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