Ben’s Virtual Sci-Fi Bookshelf

May 15, 2017

The time has come, I’m afraid, to clear out my bookshelf once again.  The first time came when I stopped living with my mother.  I performed the task in two passes: less-loved titles, then more-loved.  The more-loved set included what, at the time, I considered to be one of the world’s great collections of Gordon R. Dickson. In fact the collection was far from complete but nonetheless I still feel a pang of loss to this day when I see the row of Gordon R. Dickson at the local second-hand bookshop (Gould’s in Newtown).  The spaceships on the front cover are so clean and crisp and futuristic… I feel sure they are the copies I once owned, even though I know for a fact they all went in the garbage bin. Oh the loss…

Enough reminiscing.  I’ve been on a sci-fi reading binge for some years now (maybe 5?) and the bookshelf is full. I went back to reading sci-fi looking for great ideas and great philosophisings, and also I guess because I enjoyed reading the genre as a kid / “young adult”.   I had stopped reading the genre the first time because I felt it was not grown-up or cool enough or something.  This kind of attitude is pretty common, but not really justifiable.   In sci-fi the author has great power to imagine and write almost anything.  They are free to engage in thought experiments, imagine the future, look beyond humanity, etc.  Other genres and general fiction seem rather constrained by comparison.

More on this point: which other fictional genre can you speculate about the future of all humankind (Last and First Men, Olaf Stapledon), or all creation (Starmaker, Olaf Stapledon), or warn of the dangers of bad governance (1984, George Orwell), or reinvent society for the better (Utopia, Sir Thomas More¹), or even imagine living in a different dimensionality (Flatland, Edwin Abott Abott)?

Anyway, enough pontificating.  The plan is to take a photo of each book and write a short piece about it before returning it to the second-hand bookshop.  I’ll be starting with some of my less loved books and some of the bulkier ones that use up lots of bookshelf inches. This is probably not the best way to write a blog, but no matter, my true intent it to create a non-bulky virtual bookshelf.

I’m kicking things off with Plague From Space by Harry Harrison…

¹ Utopia may not be considered by everyone to be science fiction, but it in my estimation it is.  I’ll refrain from writing an essay on the argument here.

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