I picked up my fiction reading since I turned indie (it’s a lot easier to schedule afternoon reading breaks when you work at home), but it’s still not like when I was a kid. I was a reading machine back then. And I read a lot more science fiction. I read a lot of other stuff, particularly the mysteries of Agatha Christie and Earl Stanley Gardner, but it was the science fiction stories that made an impact on me. I used to just sit by the stacks in the public library and churn through a book in an afternoon. I can barely remember most of the stories, but I remember some books in particular.
First was 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. That was my first significant book and probably not the best choice to start off the book-reading contest I entered in second grade. And I had no idea what latitude and longitude meant. But every book after that was like reading a Cliff Note and it got me on a Jules Verne kick and maybe some H.G. Wells.
My favorite author was Robert Heinlein. I liked Starship Troopers, of course, but my favorite was Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, a teenager fantasy (not like Porky’s). The Moon Is a Harsh Mistressgrabbed my imagination (rebelling colonists lob rocks on Earth) And I always wondered if the body snatchers movies were based on The Puppet Masters. I just realized Donald Sutherland was both in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Puppet Masters. The latter was missing a neat and logical concept of the book – once the alien symbiotes are discovered, nudism becomes popular to avoid a lot of security hassle (shades of the TSA).
Another one that got made into a movie, an old movie, was The Day of the Triffids. Some cosmic event blinds the populace and meanwhile mobile venomous plants take over. I’d like to see a modern film version of that.
I’ve wondered also if The Dueling Machine by Ben Bova was the “inspiration” behind the movie Dreamscape with Dennis Quaid, where people get assassinated in dreams (come to think of it, that’s the idea behind all the Freddy Krueger movies). However, I just read in Wikipedia that Dreamspace was based on a Robert Zelazny story. The Dueling Machine is a way for people to fight without getting hurt, until someone figures out a loophole. Pretty cool.
And then of course there was Isaac Asimov (I, Robot and the Foundation series), Arthur C. Clarke (Rendezvous with Rama and a bunch of other shorts stories, and the 2001 novels), and Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man…) But you’ve heard of all of those. And to tell you the truth, I considered the Roald Dahl stories science fiction. A glass elevator in a chocolate factory that goes into space? Giant bugs rolling around in a peach?
What am I reading these days? Well, The Hunger Games was pretty good. I read each of those books in one or two days. And I’ve been reading some Philip K. Dick short stories. It’s sort of apples and oranges, but the stories are better than the films based on them. To tell you the truth, I liked what I read before, like The Man in the High Castle, but I didn’t think he was that great a writer – the longer fiction seem to start off with a great premise and then just kind of end, but in the short story form he excels. The original short stories behind Minority Report, Total Recall, and Paycheck are entertaining to hilarious, and the story behind Screamers (which is a movie I liked, by the way – Peter Weller on a planet with self-replicating killing machines) is just plain creepy awesome.
I’d like to read some Neal Stephenson again, if his next book is less than a thousand pages. In the meantime, maybe I’ll crack open Snow Crash or the Diamond Age again…