Category Archives: English and Editing

Fifty Most Significant SF and Fantasy Books

According to the Science Fiction Book Club, below is a list of the fifty most significant SF Books from 1953-2002. I’ve placed an asterix beside the ones I’ve read, which makes 28, or 56%. How many have you read?

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov*
3. Dune, Frank Herbert*
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein*
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson*
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke*
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick*
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury*
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.*
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov*
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett*
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany*
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card*
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson*
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman*
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling*
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice*
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny*
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement*
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke*
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien*
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut*
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson*
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein*
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks*
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford*
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer*

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NaNoWriMo 2006- Day Twenty-two

Trying to keep the momentum going, even though I reached the 50,000 word goal early (Yea!). The writing’s slower also because the story has become a lot more complex and I have to keep more details into my head. I usually make notes but, in this case and for expediency, I didn’t.

In the meantime, and if you’re still into this story, here’s another excerpt:

Jacqueline stopped as if she were listening to something. “The search on the invisible species is completed. There are fifteen species that fit all your requirements, another fifty-nine partials.”

Holy crap. I was beginning to think that the story of the Invisible Man was a real biography. Almost seventy-five species that had an invisible feature in their makeup. Data began to crawl up on the screen. “Hey, what are you doing?”

“I’m showing you the results.”

“I can’t read that fast. Can I hook my printer to this thing?”

“Oh, you wanted it printed out.” Jacqueline’s hand snaked out of the screen, a ream of paper in her hand. Except it wasn’t really paper. It was virtual paper. When I touched it, my finger passed right through it. It was, however, opaque. “The paper will disappear when you close the station. It’ll reappear when you open it again. To turn a page, just wave above it.”

“What are you doing?” Eve said.

I raised my head, gaped. She’d sneaked by me anyway, and her looks just gut-punched me. She’d grown into a woman, with all the right curves and hollows, visible even under the sweatshirt. Her hair, a lustrous brown, reached down to her butt. Her eyes seemed paler but longer-lashed. Her lips were full and… calling out for a kiss.

If I thought I was in trouble before, I might as well shoot myself now. The only way I wouldn’t be able to lust after that woman was if I was dead.

And I had to go and call her Eve. I could certainly imagine her naked and tempting me with an apple. Sharing it with me, more like. Every muscle in my body, including the most obvious, had jumped to attention.

“Jack? Did you hear me?”

I tried to speak. I croaked instead. Sharp pain speared my ankle. “Ow!” Fred sat there, grinning his feline grin, looking innocent. I lifted my pant leg and checked the damage. Two gouges, already pearling with blood, ran from the front of my leg to over the bone ankle. Fred had swiped me. “You think that’s funny, do you?” The scrapes began to burn. I got up for a paper towel.

His ploy, painful as it was, had worked. I was no longer in a daze. In fact, now that I looked at Eve again, she looked more cute than gorgeous to me. I looked around the desk. Sure enough, the yellow diaper bag was sitting beside me. I stayed in the kitchen, not wanting to be influenced by whatever compulsion it had for me at the moment.

“Did you bring that bag here, Eve?”

“No. I’ve been watching the television all that time, but I got tired of it.”

“Yeah, it’s a pretty brainless activity, most of the time. Could you take the bag back to the bedroom?”

“Sure.”

She picked it up, obviously unaffected, and walked to the guest bedroom. She didn’t enter, simply threw the bag on the bed. As she walked towards the kitchen she said, “So, are you telling me what you were doing or not?”

“I was doing some research.”

“On what?”

“Nothing important, really.” It looked like I’d decided not to tell her anything, after all. I strode to my desk, pushed the black button on the station. The virtual pages floated back into the screen and the station folded in on itself. A moment later, it looked like any black businessman’s briefcase. I picked it up, set it down on the floor, and began putting my desk to rights.

“Jack, can I ask you a question?”

“Shoot.”

“I’m not like you, am I?”

“That’s true, you’re not. I’m male, you’re female.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

I looked back at her. She looked so serious, so intense, so bright. I should’ve know she would have suspected something. “What makes you say that?”

“You, Isabel, me. Not much of a sample, but the television added some information.”

“It said that to go from baby to adult, it takes at least twenty years.”

“Sometimes longer.”

“I was a baby this morning. I was a teen only a few hours ago. Now I’m an adult. But you and Isabel didn’t change that fast. So I’m not like you, right?”

“I guess you’re right.”

“You asked me earlier if I knew what I was. I don’t. But you do, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Will you tell me?”

I shook my head. The apartment had gone darker with nightfall and I hadn’t bothered turning on any lights except the one under the kitchen cupboard but I could still see her face clearly enough. Was I callow enough to tell her she had only a few hours to live? No. I couldn’t do it. But I could fudge better than anyone.

“You have a condition that accelerates your growth to adulthood,” I lied. “It’s nothing to worry about.”

“Are you my father?”

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NaNoWriMo 2006- Day Nineteen

I’m seeing the end of the 50,000 word tunnel, although the story will be far from complete. I’ll have reached the target tomorrow, unless something happens. Shouldn’t put the cart before the horse (or, as we say in French, the plough before the oxen).

Here’s another unedited excerpt to either feast your eyes on or take a red pen to:

“How much would it cost, in dollars, to buy a Phoenix?”

Jacqueline frowned. “Sales of Phoenixes are prohibited on Earth, due to humans’ overwhelming lack of knowledge of other species. Owning such a species as the Phoenix could change the balance of knowledge and accelerate humanity’s—”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard the speech before. Next you’ll tell me my brain is too small to understand all of it. How much?”

“Hold, please, while I convert funds.” She disappeared again. I glanced at Eve. She looked sad, almost ready to cry. “I’m not thinking of buying you,” I said, my voice grumpy even to my ears. That did it. Her face scrunched like a dried-up apple, then she launched a wail that made the windows tremble. Shit.

What did I do, now? Every time that happened at Terry’s, Betty intervened, whisked the child away, and, after whatever she did or said, the cries stopped. Problem was, I never was privy to what she did or said, so I had no idea how to deal with Eve.

“What did you do to her?” Isabel asked behind me.

I turned, relieved beyond belief. “I didn’t hear you come in, I said above Eve’s cries. And I didn’t do anything. Really.”

Isabel threw me a pitying glance and walked over to Eve. “At least you could’ve picked her up.” She did just that. “Come here, sweetie, come here. Why so sad?”

Isabel sat in the chair, Eve on her lap, and rocked back and forth. Eve calmed down to silent tears and hiccups. “Jack mean,” she said.

Isabel looked at me, startled. “She talks?”

“Yeah. Phoenix didn’t, but Eve does.”

“Eve.”

“I had to call her something. Anyway, I’m not being mean, I’m trying to figure out what’s going on.”

“Where did you get that gizmo on the table?”

“Winston sent it. He had to leave unexpectedly on a mission, but he didn’t leave me completely in the lurch.”

“I have the data,” Jacqueline said as she appeared on the screen.

Isabel’s eyebrows rose. “Jacqueline?”

I grimaced. “Winston’s little joke. So, what would it cost me?”

“Again, I must emphasize—”

“Cut it, sister. I asked you a question.”

“Very well. The twelve-hour model is between two hundred and five hundred thousand, depending on where you order it from. The twenty-four hour model would run between one million five to two million, again depending the source factory.”

I whistled. That was no chump change. I could easily afford the half-hour model; the twenty-four one would be a bit of a stretch, but, with equal payments… I blinked.

Wait a minute, here, I thought. What was going on? All of a sudden, I wanted to buy a Phoenix? I stared at the bag, which was sitting right beside the communication station on the coffee table.

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NaNoWriMo 2006- Day Seventeen

I’ve passed the 40K mark, and it’s downhill from now. The story is going well, I’m actually pleased with it. It’s pure Jack, and so far, he’s coping. Kids have a way to put a hitch in his stride. If I sound like Jack, Terry, Claire, Isabel are real to me, it’s ’cause they are. I know them more intimately than myself. And, really, sometimes they’re more fun to be with than “real” people.

Here’s another unedited excerpt. Feel free to send feedback if you wish. Comments are open.

Eve opened her eyes, smiled sweetly. “Hi, Jack,” she said. “Eve went beddy-bye.”

Ice cold water in the face would’ve been less shocking. Not only was Eve talking, but she knew the name I’d given her. I hadn’t called her by her name once. How did she know it? For that matter, where did “beddy-bye” come from? Okay, maybe Isabel had said it to her and she remembered it. That still didn’t explain her knowing the name I gave her. Nowhere in the information I’d read did it indicate that Phoenixes were telepathic or mind readers. According to the data, their intelligence level was borderline retarded. Although that wasn’t the impression I had from Eve.

From his place beside her, Fred looked at me. Blinked. Began to wash.

“You’re a great help,” I muttered.

Then I remembered the diaper bag. And Claire’s theory that, somehow, I was deflected from exploring it fully. Three times, now, I’d opened the first zipper, found diapers and formula and food, but as soon as I thought of opening another, something happened to make me forget what I’d been about to do.

I’d already seen a lot of weird things in the past year, so the thought that some kind of charm or magic compelling me to forget the bag. Maybe that was a bit too much and I was beginning to get cabin fever.

I’d seen Isabel take the bag into the guest bedroom. “Stay,” I told Eve. She nodded, her eyes serious. Sure enough, the bag sat at the foot of the bed, the bright yellow and pink jarring with the muted colors of the walls and bedspread. I picked it up and brought it to the coffee table. Eve’s eyes lit up. She clapped her hands. I remembered the power bar. “The kid must be hungry,” I muttered to myself.

“Hungry. Yes!” She laughed. Here eyes changed color, the blue deeper, the gold brighter.
I unzipped the middle zipper, dug for the bar, tore the foil wrapper, and gave the bar to her. “Thank you,” she said very politely after a second, looking up at me. Then she dug in. I suddenly remembered my mother asking, “And what do you say?” after she’d given me something.

That’s when I knew it for certain. There was someone in the apartment with me.

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NaNoWriMo 2006- Day Fifteen

Had to take a break yesterday. The brain went on strike. Still I managed to write thirteen hundred words, but I had to leave Jack in the middle of a battle, his saber poised to strike a really ugly alien. His arm must be getting tired by now.

It’s midmonth and I’m more than halfway there (for NaNo, anyway), but I want to pick the pace back up. Meantime, here’s another undedited excerpt:

I gaped. I’d assumed that I’d get a similar experience with Eve as with Phoenix. It looked like she was developing fast but more normally; I remembered Terry’s little Evie doing exactly what Eve was doing. Eve, Evie. Was it a coincidence I’d chosen such a similar name? They didn’t look the same at all. Evie was dark-haired and had been slender, even as a baby. Eve was light-haired and pudgy. Both of them, though, had beautiful eyes, even if Eve’s were weird-looking.

While I was being amazed, the case on the table had expanded. The two sides had revolved and lay flat. On the left side, a flat screen with a keyboard, on the other side, some kind of communications device that resembled what Neola was using. I felt a twinge thinking of Neola. I knew she was dead, along with my other self, and I knew she’d used me but I did miss her anyway. I missed her quirky mind, her sense of humour, her guts.

I looked for a switch to turn the screen on but couldn’t find one. More out of no knowing what to do than anything else, I touched the screen; it lit up without even a sputter. I hoped I didn’t have to give more blood to be able to operate it.

It was well and good to have equipment, but I had no idea what to do with it. The screen narrowed to a pinpoint, then lit up again. A gorgeous, bosomy blonde appeared. “Mr. Meter, I’m Jacqueline, your avatar.”

“Funny, Winston, very funny.”

Jacqueline smiled. “I’m here to help and guide you through the AGES database and to contact the people you might want to talk to. How can I help?”

Using the database was going to be easier than I thought. “Give me everything you have on a species called Phoenix.”

“One moment please.”

It was only one moment, and data blinked onto the screen. Jacqueline, reduced to a small window in the left corner, smiled. “Did you want me to read the data to you, Mr. Meter? I can also summarize the salient points.”

“I’ll read some first, see how’s that going for me. If it’s too difficult to understand, I’ll ask you to interpret.”

“Just say my name, and I’ll be there.”

Jacqueline blinked out. I began to read.

The more I read, the more appalled I was. The Phoenix species was not a natural species but a fabricated one. It took on the external appearance of the owner it was attached to but, internally, it stayed the same. I wondered how that would work for my alien friends the Thrittene, who were many and one at the same time.

Initially, the Phoenix had been bred as a pet, or a piece of interesting, renewable furniture. Their intelligence was very low, maybe that of a bird –hence the name Phoenix, that the humans who knew about them had given them—plus the fact that they did die and renew themselves every morning. The individuals didn’t die, they wore out. When that happened, they could be given a form of poison that stopped their renewal.

They had been originally fabricated on a small planet in Alpha Centauri –the closest galaxy to ours, I knew—but there were now several factories across other galaxies. There were two models: a twenty-four hour and a twelve-hour model, the longer-lasting model being more expensive, of course.

I wondered if whoever was doing this had given me two cheap models or one of each. Would Eve last a whole twenty-four hours, or would she evaporated in eight hours? I glanced at her. She’d fallen asleep, her face leaned against her little pudgy hand, her curls longer and darker. Her clothes seemed to be a lot tighter. Cute kid. My heart twinged. Damnit to hell.

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