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Great Science-Fiction & Fantasy Works

Science-fiction & fantasy literature: a critical list with discussions.

Welcome to the Great Science-Fiction & Fantasy Works web site!

You have apparently come to this page from a link on a search engine or another site. If this is your first visit here, I much recommend that you take a few minutes to look over the introductory material accessible via the red “Introductory” navigation block just below the pictures. An understanding of the purposes and principles of organization of this site will, I hope and believe, much augment your experience here, for this page and in general. You can simply click this link to get at the site front page, which, unsurprisingly, is the best place to start. Thank you for visiting.
Search, or just roll your cursor over the colored boxes farther below.
Click the “X” above to dismiss the Search results.

You are here:  Home  »  Introductory  »  Welcome ( = this page)


Site navigation: place your cursor over a block below to see the pages list for that block.

Welcome


Quick page jumps:


“This is the circus of Dr. Lao.
We show you things that you don’t know.
We tell you of places you’ll never go.
We’ve searched the world both high and low
To capture the beasts for this marvelous show
From mountains where maddened winds did blow
To islands where zephyrs breathed sweet and low.
Oh, we’ve spared no pains and we’ve spared no dough;
And we’ve dug at the secrets of long ago;
And we’ve risen to Heaven and plunged Below,
For we wanted to make it one hell of a show.
And the things you’ll see in your brains will glow
Long past the time when the winter snow
Has frozen the summer’s furbelow.
For this is the circus of Dr. Lao.
And youth may come and age may go;
But no more circuses like this show!”


– The Circus of Dr. Lao,
Charles G. Finney

A Request

There are, atop this and most pages of this site, colored Site Directory blocks—but I ask that before you start sampling the meat of this site you bear with me through two steps: first, this short page, which deals briefly with a few mechanical details; then, an admittedly lengthy Apologia (to which I will guide you when we finish our business on this page), where I set forth how and why I hope this site will be useful to you, a setting forth that necessarily includes my ideas about quality in literature in general and in science fiction and fantasy specifically. That is not—or not primarily—an exercise in vanity: it is information essential to an understanding of why certain science-fiction and fantasy authors and books are or are not included on this site, and that is why you really need to read it first.

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A Rambling But Brief Preliminary

I have been reading in the fields of science fiction and fantasy steadily and hungrily for about two-thirds of a century—since the days when one eagerly awaited the next book from the Gnome Press. I dearly wish now that I had at once developed the habit of retaining bought books, even those few I then had (adolescents in that long ago were not regularly equipped with monies equal to the purchase of hardcover books; paperbacks were hardly out of the novelty stage; and much of my reading was thus by courtesy of the New York City Public Library system)—but most I let go, I cannot recall how or where, and the few I did not were afterwards dropped somewhere along the trails leading to the adulthood in which one possesses bookshelves of one’s own in a home of one’s own.

(One of the few compensatory joys of age is being able to say things along the lines of “Hah! I remember when….” Well, I remember when paperback books first came along. For some time, Pocket Books—remember Gertrude the kangaroo, their logo?—was both a trade name and the only going description of the things; a young male got the strangest looks in drug stores and such places when he asked if they carried pocket books—a term commonly used in that time and place for purses. And I can scarcely now convey the excitement I felt when the Ace “double-book” series—two science-fiction novellas in one book, one printed upside-down relative to the other, allowing two “front covers”—first appeared.

But at some point—I no longer remember when, possibly in college—I started retaining every book of any kind if I thought that book one of quality. Even if I could not readily imagine myself actually re-reading the book, putting it up on my shelves to retain the option was a sort of vote for or endorsement of the book; that no doubt seems silly, but there was a definite pleasure to be had out of the act, with its little ritual of finding just the right spot (every collector has a unique way of sorting books) and making the needed room just at that spot.

Conversely, the books that I did not like, and the many more books that I enjoyed but only as a passing pleasure—all told, many thousands, even just of those within our fields—went out to used-book shops or, latterly, as donations to libraries. (In halcyon youth, I doggedly finished even books that I found I was not enjoying, for I had acquired from somewhere the opinion that buying a book or a glass of beer morally mandated finishing the thing no matter what; I have since lost that attitude about books.)

Creating this site—a time now quite some years past—brought me to consider our collection as a whole for the very first time. I had never, for example, until just this minute as I am writing (that’s still several years ago as you read this), counted the physical volumes of science fiction and fantasy in that collection (I say “physical volumes” because a number of those volumes are omnibus compilations of several books). I found that after what was then getting on for a half century of accumulating, we had fewer than a thousand science-fiction and fantasy volumes on our shelves. That works out to but one or two books a month saved, which—for what this household annually goes through in the way of science-fiction and fantasy books—isn’t an awful lot. (My rough guess is that my books-read total is in the five-figure range, mostly speculative fiction.)

(Since writing that, we have—attendant on constructing this site—already acquired literally hundreds more science-fiction and fantasy books by looking out works by authors we already like and, in a few cases, authors much recommended by others; most of those acquisitions are “keepers”, though we have had some disappointments in the “recommended” category. We’re now up to about 1,300 shelved volumes.)

“But”—as a character in one of Kai Lung’s justly famed tales observed—“however entrancing it is to wander unchecked through a garden of bright images, are we not enticing your mind from another subject of almost equal importance?”

A Quick Overview

We can, if crudely, compare this site with a solar system:

All this is explained in much more detail—with discussions keyed to the color-coded Site Directory blocks—on a page we will come to soon. But for all of that, at bottom this site is simply a list of good authors and good books by those authors: in short, any author or book listed on this site is one I think a civilized reader likely to enjoy. (And I continue to add authors and books to the lists.)

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Those Mechanical Details

These are things minor but not altogether unimportant:

» Navigation: I have assumed that you know how to work your web browser, and so have not cluttered up your screen with childish navigational frames, or Back or Home button images. Each site page has a nearly complete Site Directory—links to all pages except the many individual-author and individual-book pages—as colored blocks located in the page-top area, plus a free-form Google site-search box.

» “Best Viewed With”: This site uses no frames, Java, Javascript, Flash, or other such inventions of the Devil: just honest, standard HTML (version 5)—thus any standards-compliant browser will display it perfectly. If your browser does not present it correctly—for instance, if you see strange-looking text alignments or misalignments—then that browser is not standards-compliant and you should get a fully compliant browser instead.

» Buying Books: Because people who read about books often want to buy books, each book title listed here is a click-on link to the ABEbooks pages of offerings for that title (both new and used).

» Links: I go to some trouble to try to assure that all the many links on these pages are up to date. Still, “valid” connects can nonetheless lead to changed or dummy pages, so if you find a link that doesn’t seem to work the way I lead you to expect, please report it to me. Thank you.

» Me: If, after becoming well familiar with this site, you feel that you need to know more about the “webmaster”—what a comically pretentious term!—there is a trifle about Your Host on a short page listed in the Site Directory “Miscellaneous” block atop each site page.

» “Science Fiction & Fantasy”: If you are wondering if a literate writer really needs to repeat the terms “science fiction” and “fantasy” and “literature” as often as they appear on this page and elsewhere on the site, the answer is No; but nowadays one needs to cater to the vagaries of automated search-engine spiders, which have not critical perceptions as fine as yours—and this explanation provides three more uses each of the terms “science fiction” and “fantasy” and “literature”—how droll it all is!

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Some Thanks

Several persons have been kind enough to assist with the preparation of this site by patiently reviewing draft versions of the various pages and, with equally great patience, pointing out the many defects of grammar, syntax, diction, and felicity in those drafts. The many defects that yet remain are not owing to any failing on those reviewers’ parts but to my innate stubbornness about taking good advice.

Mr. Gerald E. Smyth was so especially giving of his time and effort that I must single him out for my highest thanks. His insights have not saved me from all the errors of my idiosyncratic ways—no one and nothing could—but they have made this site a deal better than it otherwise would have been.

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A Favor Sought

If you find this site to be of interest or usefulness, I would be most grateful if you would post a link to it. Anywhere you can put a link—on some site of your own, on message boards, on social media— would be just fine. There is a little cream-colored “Please link” box in the upper right of virtually every of this site: if you run your cursor over it, it will show the wanted link URL. But, for convenience, I repeat it here:

https://greatsfandf.com/

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(Of course, if you want to link to some particular page here rather then the Home page, please feel free to do so.)

And Now…

Click here to continue on to the Apologia

Note!

A certain portion of the visitors to any web site will be season ticket holders to Short Attention Span Theater. If you choose to bypass the recommended introductory material, I cannot stop you; as noted, a directory of the entire site—intended as a convenience to returning visitors—is at your disposal on every page. This site, however, was designed for civilized readers, not for the MTV generation: if what I have to say in the Apologia seems to you wrongheaded or tedious, all you need do is leave. But you ought to always—as a courtesy if nothing else—come into a new site in the way its designer intended. (All that is sometimes summarized in the phrase best known by its acronym: RTFM.)


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This page was last modified on Monday, 12 October 2020, at 7:55 pm Pacific Time.