Fantastic stories and where to find them.
In response to my Twitter call for underrated and unfairly maligned fantasy and science fiction:
I received some great replies. Contemporaneously, there was a Twitter discussion on the “Mundane Science Fiction” movement. I’m not sure if JD Cowan started it, but he certainly kicked the hornet’s nest:
I couldn’t help but notice that the less well know stories that people were excited to send me were about as far from “mundane” as one could possibly get. Across nearly a century of literature, on multiple continents, men and women from wildly varying backgrounds had written exciting stories in almost every subgenre of speculative fiction. Far future Catholic first person dying Earth literature (not “literary sci-fi,” the wannabe important books, Gene Wolfe’s work is an ACTUAL literary masterpiece)? Yeah, that’s there. Pulp sword and planet? Oh yeah, we got that. Cyberpunk? Of course. Hard sci-fi? You bet. Non-Tolkien high fantasy? Yes, it exists, and yes, it’s good. Trashy licensed universe fiction? Not just on the list several times, but not all of it is even trashy.
And that’s just the mainstream authors from major publishers. So why is boring, slice of life “I did the laundry today, IN SPACE” sci-fi being pushed on us?
Honestly, I have no idea. I can speculate. Maybe the people who publish such things equate “boring” with “important.” Maybe they look down on the kinds of people who traditionally bought speculative fiction (overwhelmingly white males). Maybe writers started to listen to writing professors instead of reading the great books in their genre. Maybe they’re just the spiteful children who liked breaking other kids’ toys on the playground. Whatever the reason, the people who decide what gets published under the major imprints have decided that they want to move away from the kinds of books people want to read. Not entirely, some will still slip past the boring editors and the sensitivity readers to sell books, and Baen still exists. But to really get your fix, you’ll have to search out the small publishing houses and the indie authors. The excitement is still out there if you look.
A partial list of authors recommended by readers. While some of these may seem fairly mainstream for an “unknown or unfairly maligned” list, I’ve left them in because some readers (especially those new to the genre) may not be acquainted with them. In no particular order:
Clark Ashton Smith
Samuel R. Delaney
A.E. van Vogt
Gordon R. Dickson
Once in a paradise of tales and ancient lords
Brave men re-challenge fate and legends come to life
– Freedom Call, Spirit of Daedalus