100 dollars, 100 books: science fiction (part 1)
Special note: if you are looking for the monthly Snapshot analysis, typically published on the first of the month, it may be delayed a few days due to special circumstances.
Imagine somebody saying to you: ”I want you to pick some books for me. Not just any books: good books. I’m going to give you $100 to spend, and I want you to find me 100 books in the Kindle store.”
That’s the premise of this new feature. I’m going to recommend 100 books for you to buy. It’s up to you, of course, if you buy any or all of them.
In this first post in the series, I’m going to say that you’ve asked me to build you a science fiction library.
I don’t know that much about you. I don’t know if you are already a fan, or somebody curious about the genre. I’m just tasked with picking “good books”.
As to what is science fiction…well, that has created a great deal of debate over the years. I’ve seen many definitions, including Damon Knight’s, “Science fiction is what we point to when we say “science fiction”.” (That’s from memory, but is probably pretty close).
For me, science fiction presents something which could not have happened in the current reality, but does not violate commonly accepted theories in science. That’s a very loose definition…for example, I don’t need science fiction to explain faster than light travel and death rays, if the audience is supposed to believe they are derived from science.
This is all for fun, but I’m hoping you might get some good ideas out of it…and that it might stimulate some conversation in the comments.
I do need to say that the prices may have changed by the time you read this, and that they may not be the same in your territory (I’ll be looking at the USA Kindle store). As always, check the price before you click that Buy button.
It’s also important to note that I can’t get you more than 100 books…that would be easily possible with $100 (there are many free books), but I need to constrain my choices: no more than 100, no fewer. Books that have more than one book in them (an omnibus) are not acceptable (although short story collections and anthologies are.
Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley: Free
Science can be scary…and that was certainly the case for many people in the early 19th Century. By the 1950s, we were perhaps more afraid of what science could do, but at this point in history, even a science which produced something which was profoundly good might bring down divine retribution.
The 1931 Boris Karloff version was a horror movie (indeed, earning an “H” certificate ((roughly the equivalent of an R rated movie today))) in England. The book, though, is much more philosophical (not that it is without its horrors), and clearly examines the role of science in society.
Books remaining: 99 | Money remaining: $100
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) by Jules Verne: Free
By this point, it wasn’t the science (and technology) itself that was necessarily bad, it was the way it might be used. This is an adventure story, yes, with the forerunner of the Bond villains in Captain Nemo, but there is science and there are questions about its appropriate use.
Books remaining: 98 | Money remaining: $100
The Time Machine (1895) by H.G. Wells: Free
Coming into the new century, science is cool. Our hero uses science for good, and is ahead of his time (both metaphorically and literally). This is a story that invents whole new concepts, and really explores them.
Books remaining: 98 | Money remaining: $100
So far, we’ve seen the evolution: science is bad/user is bad, science is good/user is bad, then science is good/user is good.
The Lost World (1912) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Free
What a rollicking adventure! There is no wonder that it has been made into a movie more than once, and that Doyle would return to Professor Challenger in later books. Is it science? Well, it’s certainly presented that way, even if it doesn’t use it to project into the future.
Books remaining: 97 | Money remaining: $100
A Princess of Mars (1917) by Edgar Rice Burroughs: Free
This certainly isn’t “hard science fiction” (how John Carter gets to Mars isn’t likely to get a DARPA grant any time soon), it influenced many other works (see my post, Based on Barsoom?) and is, it has to be admitted, what many people think of when they think of science fiction. It’s well-worth reading, with its world building and alien races.
Books remaining: 96 | Money remaining: $100
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.