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A Quest for Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books: Guest Post

Posted by in Guest Posts, Lit Chat | 19 comments

planet, sci-fi and fantasy

Sci-fi and fantasy books take center stage today as Jon Jefferson shares some memories for this best books guest post. His sense of wonderment at the stories he  encountered is surely one that will have each of you conjuring your own images from the books that held sway over your imagination as a child.

A Quest for Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books

I never really understood the term Literary Fiction. This is not the world I grew up in. I was born in the early 70s; sci-fi and fantasy hadn’t come out as a big thing yet. There was pretty much just “speculative fiction” and mainstream fiction.

Don’t misunderstand me here. Sure there were sci-fi and fantasy books written before the 70s. Classics like Dracula and Frankenstein were even written before the turn of the century. So there were plenty of books that would eventually fall into the categories. But the categories just didn’t really exist yet, not like they do today.

Imagine a world where fantasy is relegated almost entirely to a children’s category. Science fiction that is only seen as fluff and B-movies or so hardcore you need an advanced- degree to understand it. Books like Dracula were not even considered horror at that time. They fell into a category called Gothic.

sci-fi and fantasy, cobwebs

Maybe this is an extreme view. But it is the reality I grew up in. When Star Wars came out it was a huge thing. It was a game-changer on so many levels. But even then much of what we had to read was a carryover from an earlier time. Pulp serials were a dying breed, but they still existed in places. Many of the books at the time were extensions from the 40s and 50s, stories that were originally printed in pulp magazines found their way into trade paperback.

My early reading revolved around the books of writers like Lester Dent (writing as Kenneth Robeson). I call him up specifically because the stories of Doc Savage were a big part of my reading life when I was a kid. These stories were a marvel of quick writing. The writers in this era would spend much of their time pumping out books in quick succession for little money. But they were incredibly prolific. Much like many of the romance novels you might find now, these books were a bit formulaic. But in the eyes of a child looking to discover adventure, they were the world.

Something happened in the 70s. There was a shift that brought much more attention to certain forms of fiction. This is when the genres we know now as sci-fi and fantasy really took off. People like George Lucas took an idea and ran with it, creating a movement that was unheard of.

Around the same time that Star Wars was hitting the big screen, writers like Terry Brooks were hard at work creating worlds of their own. Some of these worlds, created in the late 70s, are alive and kicking today. His Shannara series is still being written now (a new book scheduled to come out in the summer of 2013), even the Star Wars series is actively being written as well as new movies are scheduled to come out.

sci-fi and fantasy, robot

It is hard to imagine the worlds we had before the growth of all this, but without the pulp fiction of earlier times this may never have happened. Those old formulaic novels, a dime a dozen, pushed out over a weekend many times, these are the stories that formed the base we have built our new worlds on.

Looking back, there are a number of writers that stand out for one reason or another. There are books that I will gladly read again and again (never enough time). But there is one book that stands out as a turning point for my idea of what constitutes a fantasy story.

I still have my copy of Sir MacHinery by Tom McGowen. The book came out in 1970 and made it into the Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club. Granted I do believe my copy was a hand-me-down I stole from my brother. For me the book changed my view of the world. It was a fantasy that wasn’t written as a faerie tale. It expanded and changed folklore much like Tolkien had done, to create a new version of the world. And it has a robot in it so you know it has got to be cool.

Much of our reading life has come to us through various forms. We all age and change and find we are drawn to something specific for so many different reasons. But sometimes it is remembering our wonderment as children that can remind us that dreams and fantasy are good parts of who we are.


Jon Jefferson, sci-fi and fantasyJon Jefferson is a long time fan of sci-fo and fantasy stories in all their forms. He has spent most of his life looking for magic in the every day moments of life. He writes and maintains the blogs 10th Day Brewing and Misadventures in Strange Places.

His is currently getting ready to publish his first collection of short fiction titled Fractured Hearts.

 

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Photo Credit:  Robot 

Jeri Walker-Bickett
JeriWB writes short stories, creative nonfiction, and psychological suspense. The rough Idaho mining town she grew up in populates her literary landscape. She also works as a freelance editor.
Jeri Walker-Bickett

@JeriWB

Author of short stories, creative nonfiction, and psychological suspense. Blogger of writing tips and lit chat. Freelance editor. http://t.co/sfCsmQ5hyM
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Jeri Walker-Bickett
Jeri Walker-Bickett
Jeri Walker-Bickett
I offer a variety of freelance editing services. Previously, I served as an editorial assistant with The Idaho Review, Boise State's literary journal.

19 Comments

  1. Isn’t it great when we discover that our childhood influences (music, books, movies, etc.) are still wonderful! I’ve had the same best friend since first grade (I’m not going to reveal how long that’s been) but we recently talked about what great taste in music we had at 11. It sounds like your compass for science fiction/fantasy literature was pointing to true north early on.

    • Is it odd that I still listen to quite a bit of the music I listened to when I was 11?

  2. I think I would disagree about sci-if and fantasy emerging in the 70s. On film, yeah, it really took off, but still, you had planet of the apes in the 60s. In literature you had Asimov and the foundation series in the 50s, and Tolkien finished Rings series. In my opinion it was 1965 when the greatest novel was written by Frank Herbert. Dune encompassed everything, from ecological issues, to religious differences, to Social politics. I read this book and was blown away.

    I always met fellow readers of sci-fi to be highly intelligent. They gave into ideas presented. So many stories were parallels to what was happening in their countries at the time. Jeri’s husband and I when we were kids would read and discuss various works of sci-fi, comics, and fantasy. I still have late fees from libraries from missing books. Sorry bcpl.

    • You hit right the nail right on the head. Sure there was some sci fi and fantasy, but you could count the writers on one hand. Even Gene Roddenbury was making a mark back then. But most of what was there was hidden or had cult status. It wasn’t until the stuff like Star Wars came out that it was pushed into the main stream. After it became mainstream the number of writers became much more widespread.

  3. I read much more fantasy and sci-fi as a child/teen than I do now (and I was born in the early 1960′s). The Hobbit was certainly a favorite. I read a lot of Asimov and Bradbury. At some point much later life took a different spin. Now I read a lot of non-fiction, classics and very realistic fiction about tragic times. My son reads every sci-fi or fantasy book he can find … isn’t it funny how the next generation makes their choices. Sometimes I read fantasy books that he recommended (my favorite was the His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman).

    • I agree. I look at what my oldest daughter reads most (Nicholas Sparks) and I have to wonder where that comes from. Seems she isn’t happy unless there is tragic love involved in some way.

  4. I remember when Star Wars first came out. How right you are, it did change everything in what is now written and what we watch on the big and little screen. It is utterly astonishing to see where it has taken us. For me, I will never forget the first time I picked up and read Dune. It was as if another world I never knew existed was now revealed. :-)

    • I remember years ago when The first Dune movie came out. That movie was amazing. The elements they used to tell the story (internal monologues and such) added so much depth.

      Too bad the viewing public wasn’t quite ready for that much depth in their movies.

  5. Sci-Fi – now you are talking my language. Maybe I love it because on the surface at least it appears to be the inspiration for new technology. Think Start Trek and the communicator & flip or clam shell phones. I am a huge Star Wars fan and like Susan I loved the Dune series. Yeah, me and Sci-Fi… we hold hands a lot. :)

    • I just caught a great series on Netflix showing the technologies that many sci fi writers talked about and how we are making them reality now. I was surprised to see that Gene Roddenbury didn’t get an episode. There are quite a few things we have now based on his vision.

  6. Cool post from Jon and so generous of you Jeri to share your platform here for us to read his work! I am not a huge Star Wars fan but can appreciate when Jon says it was a real ‘game changer’ when it came out – on so many levels.

    • Quite a bit has changed now. It’s kinda cool to be a part of the rampant change we live in now.

  7. Thank you for inviting me into your home Jeri. Your hospitality is greatly appreciated.

    • And thanks for doing a guest post while I’ve been busy with moving matters :)

  8. I can’t help but to think the new found “creativity” found in the 1970s could’ve been attributable to the new “free thinking” and the things that promoted it :)

    • This true Dan. Quite a bitin our world changed in the 70s. The slow food movement, the craft beer revolution and a few other big things now came about from changes in thinking in the 70s.

  9. Dune all the way!

  10. I find Jon such a prolific writer and I am always intrigued to read anything he writes. I remember when I discovered Piers Anthony and his Immortal Series. Fell in love with fantasy/ Sci-Fi. :-)

  11. Some Sci FI interests me but I don’t like anything is too far out for my little mind to grasp

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