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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Continuing the Answers: space opera

Here are a couple more answers to Ask Me Anything!. These ones are all related, so I'll print them all first and then reply:

I want a space-opera-reading update: Have you read any yet? Are there any of the suggestions that you received that you refuse to read? In what order are you going to read the space opera books that you do read? Have you read any that you're sorry you've read? Or that you're really glad you've read?

For newer readers (hey, I can have newer readers!), this is in reference to the long-term project I announced here. I want to read lots and lots of space opera.

Now, my plan was never to spend months reading nothing but space opera, so I hope it won't serve as a disappointment that I've so far read exactly one space opera book since I solicited titles. That book is Poul Anderson's Ensign Flandry, of which I'm not going to say much in this space because I read it for review in GMR. I'm writing and submitting that review early next week, and then it'll run at some point thereafter; I'll link it when it appears. (But I can at least note that I liked the book a good deal.)

My aims on reading space opera is to make this basically an "over the next few years" kind of thing, and maybe even beyond. I'm the type of reader who rarely reads books of the same genre back-to-back, and who also jumps about from one book to the next, based sometimes on whim and other times on recommendation and other times on certain authors having new books out and other times on seeing some book mentioned on some blog or some such place. So I'm unlikely to plow through four or five consecutive space opera novels; it's just not how I do things.

But what I have done is acquired quite a bit of the stuff through eBay booksellers and the like, and I've also rejoined the Science Fiction Book Club. Titles include The Man Who Wanted Stars, The Enchanted Planet, The Starmen of Llyrdis, Neverness, Assault on the Gods, and so on. I'm not just interested in the well-known names of SF, but also the lesser-known lights who may have left little veins of ore in those mountains for me to find. (God, what an awful metaphor....)

And I swear the SFBC is tailoring things specifically toward me as I rejoin them, and they're scheming to have me part with as much of my money as they can get. (Well, duh!) I opened my latest mailing from them this morning, to find three omnibus editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs's "Barsoom" novels. I'll probably get the first one to start with -- if memory serves, A Princess of Mars is Burroughs's first Barsoom tale -- and then pick up the other two at a later time. And in addition to the Barsoom books, there's a big full-page advert for this collection from David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, who happen to be two of the best anthologists you'll ever find. Sigh. Just what I need: more space opera to read!

(Oh, wait -- that actually is just what I need! Bless you, SFBC!)

A commenter recommended H. Beam Piper in response to the earlier post; I'm keeping an eye on eBay for his work. I'd also love to read some space opera comics or manga, if anyone can suggest any. In terms of how I pick the books to read, well, I tend to kind of go at random. I briefly considered a chronological approach, but what if I missed something? Ditto a "reverse" chronological approach, as well -- so I settled on what my usual modus operandi: no approach at all. I'll just grab a space opera and read away. Some I'll finish, some I will bounce off. The ones I bounce off, I will attempt again one day. (I tend to give books two chances to impress me, because I've too often had the experience of hating a book at first and then loving it when I returned to it a while later. But I am an experienced enough reader by now to be able to distinguish between bouncing off a book and just plain hating it. Case in point: I'm not ever going to return to The Celestine Prophecy on the off chance I may like it, because I'm willing to bet that I won't.)

Finally, is there any book or author I refuse to read? Well, not so strongly as that, but I can say this: while I know that as long as Ender's Game sits unread on my shelf there's a hole in my SF-reading background, and eventually I'll probably get tired of that hole and read the book in order to fill that hole in, it'll be a good long while before I do. Maybe his books are just wonderful, but Orson Scott Card's politics make me want to vomit. A strange position to stake, I know, coming from a guy who loves the music of Wagner despite that fact that had Wagner lived fifty years later he would have been happily composing scores to Leni Riefenstahl's Nazi propaganda films, but there it is. I'm large and I contain multitudes and yada yada yada.

So when do I plan to do some serious space opera reading? Soon, after I get a couple more GMR review books swept aside. I'll be ready for a good dose of spaceships and action by then.

(BTW, if you were a commenter on that earlier thread, rest assured that I saved all the recommendations there before I removed the old commenting system.)

1 comment:

Jayme Lynn Blaschke said...

I sympathize with how you feel about Ender's Game. I read it about the time I learned of Card's beliefs. Wasn't thrilled, but read it anyway, since it's a Landmark Book. It's a good book, although I'm not convinced it's particularly award-worthy. It's a cliche idea done particularly well, as opposed to Ringworld, which was a brilliant idea done particularly badly. Both won big trophies and have legions of fans, so what do I know?