Science Fiction Studies

#61 = Volume 20, Part 3 = November 1993

Unjustly Neglected Works of Science Fiction

In May of 1992, we sent the following letter to 64 writers and critics of SF:

Dear Friends,

We have decided to conduct an old-fashioned de gustibus non disputandum est-style survey for SFS. Please list the 5-10 (or whatever) works of SF and/or authors that you feel are the most unjustly ignored or unknown by SF critics and scholars. Works can mean anything—novels, films, story collections, individual stories, real-world SF phenomena, etc. The survey is being sent to SFS consultants and friends, and we will print it once we get most of them back. The publication format will be the list of titles under the name of the contributor. We have two goals in mind: 1) lists like this are entertaining in their own right; and 2) we are conscious that SFS has concentrated on a sort of canon that has influenced other readers of SFS, and has led to a kind of self-reinforcing list of Great SF Works. We believe one good way to get out of our canonical rut is to alert other critics to the sorts of texts we would be especially interested in discussing. Please give some thought to your suggestions—we hope to have contributions collected by September or October.

Thanks in advance,

The Editors

By Spring of 1993, we had received 35 responses, which we publish below.

Why? Because as editors of an academic journal concerned with SF, we are aware that many scholars from many disciplines now work with SF, and their knowledge of and interest in SF comes as much from their exposure to SF-commentary as from reading fiction. These scholars and critics no longer have to explain why they find SF interesting and important, as did the last two generations of SF critics. They have been educated in a time when the study of popular culture is not only acceptable in the humanities and social sciences, but de rigueur; and from this perspective SF ranks as one of the classical genres of the postmodern. The facility of historical and philosophical speculation that are SF’s birthright have given it a privileged place among the popular genres. But not only in popular literature. Many critics and theorists have placed SF at the leading edge of contemporary fiction,1 and it is not uncommon to see political commentary cast in terms of SF-counterfactuality, as if History gives less guidance in understanding the recent drastic transformations of geopolitics than SF.2

All this has followed, in part, the establishment of an elite canon of sophisticated SF works, to which critics return again and again for examples and themes. SFS has been probably more responsible for the development of this canon than any other single organ of critical commentary (as the many SFS essays on Lem, LeGuin, Dick, and a handful of others attest). We don’t wish to deny that these writers have deserved the attention they have received. But times have changed. In the current state of SF criticism, it appears that the elevation of SF to cultural nobility may have come at the expense of many works that have not been so presentable in polite society—or indeed artistically ambitious works that did not speak to the ideological and aesthetic concerns of past critics. Anyone who works in the field of SF knows that no one can keep up with the production of even the most aesthetically engaging works. Nor will any single critic ever be able to keep up with the past of SF, either. For unlike the elite tradition of literature, where major works very rarely escape the attention of critics and scholars, SF is sufficiently rough and tumble for some of its best works to have flickered out of print and almost out of memory, surviving only through the nostalgia of critics or esoteric patronage.

One of the functions of SF criticism should be to alert educated readers to the works that are most worth reading, especially ones that have been unjustly ignored or kept from the public eye. The anarchic, brazenly ad hoc lists of this survey do just this. There are almost as many different kinds of responses here as there are critics. It is a sign of the maturity of SF criticism and SF itself that it inspires so many agendas, ranging from recuperation of pulp classicists, to feminist or national traditions, to consideration of the SF base in widely divergent fields. Because so many different names and titles have been cited in the survey, there isn’t much point in identifying any patterns and trends. But for what it’s worth, we’ll note that the names of a very few authors were listed by four or more respondents: Cordwainer Smith (7), Poul Anderson (6) Joanna Russ (6), Brian Aldiss (5), Samuel Delany (5), Robert Silverberg (5), Theodore Sturgeon (5), The Strugatsky Brothers (5), Alfred Bester (4), Carol Emshwiller (4), William Tenn (4), R.A. Lafferty (4), Robert Sheckley (4), A.E. van Vogt (4), Clifford Simak (4). The two works most often cited were David R. Bunch’s Moderan (3) and Bernard Wolfe’s Limbo (3).

At the end of his contribution, Gary K. Wolfe lists a number of unjustly neglected topics that he feels SF critics should turn their attention to. This is probably a good time to add our own views about what we as editors of SFS would like to see treated in the future: SF and race, SF and music, SF and childhood, feminism and SF, SF and simulation arts (video, graphics, games, installations, virtual reality, amusement parks, etc.), SF’s nightmare (SF and horror), the commercial SF industry, SF and philosophical discourse, SF and language (futurolinguistics, neologo-genesis, commercial prose styles, etc.), SF and the "irrational" (SF’s links with psi, esoteric philosophies, etc.), gay and lesbian SF, prehistoric SF, Islamic SF, the SF of China, the SF of South America.


1. Recent critical writings that have placed SF at the leading edge of postmodern literature include Larry McCaffery, "Fictions of the Present" in The Columbia History of the Literature of the United States (1988); and Brian McHale, Constructing Postmodernism (Routledge, 1992).

2. A recent story on NPR’s All Things Considered devoted to nationalism in Central Europe opened with a Hungarian MP’s description of a map of a counterfactual U.S. on the analogy of the map of Hungary following the loss of two thirds of its territory after World War I: "The Gulf Coast is Spanish territory. New England and the upper midwest belongs to Britain. The Southwest has been seized by Mexico. And the Pacific Coast and the Rockies are occupied by Japan." Similarly, The Economist’s survey of Eastern Europe of March 13, 1993, opens with a science-fictional historical inversion: "‘A far away country of which we know nothing." Thus the Czech president of the Central European Union, refusing to commit peacekeeping troops to England in the wake of nationalist riots that followed Scotland’s secession from the United Kingdom.... It is 2038" (3).

Responses to the Survey

Brian Aldiss

1. John Christopher: Death of Grass

2. David I. Masson: Caltraps of Time

3. S. Fowler Wright: The World Below

4. Wettenhovi-Aspa: DiamondKing [sic] of Sahara (Helsinki, 1935)

5. Kingsley Amis: Russian Hide-and-Seek

6. Aldous Huxley: Ape and Essence

7. Harry Martinson: Aniara (Stockholm, 1956) [English translation, Hugh MacDiarmid, London 1963]

8. James Blish: The Frozen Year


Brian Atteberry

1. David R. Bunch: Moderan

2. Clifford Simak: Waystation; City

3. Theodore Sturgeon: Venus Plus X; short stories

4. Carol Emshwiller: short stories

5. John Crowley: Engine Summer; Beasts

6. R.A. Lafferty: short stories

7. Fritz Leiber: short stories

8. Andre Norton: early novels

9. Edgar Pangborn: A Mirror for Observers; Davy


Marleen Barr

1. Jody Scott: I, Vampire

2. Jody Scott: Passing for Human

3. Zoe Fairbairns: Benefits

4. Marlys Millheiser: The Mirror; Gerd Bartenbergr; Egalia’s Daughters

5. Sheila Finch: Infinity’s Web

6. Katherine V. Forrest: Daughters of a Coral Dawn

7. Sandi Hall: The Godmothers

8. Jane Palmer: The Planet Dweller

9. Lisa Goldstein: The Dream Stars


Gregory Benford

1. Barry Malzberg

2. Cordwainer Smith

3. Olaf Stapledon

4. Joanna Russ

5. Poul Anderson

6. Robert Silverberg

7. Vernor Vinge

8. Arthur Clarke

9. Larry Niven

10. Dean Koontz


Albert Berger

1. "Hard science" authors, for example Hal Clement, Frank Herbert, Poul Anderson, Greg Benford.

2. The "storytellers" who usually get categorized as "sub-literary," but who certainly were the main stem of the genre for most of its history after 1926. Lester del Rey comes to mind as a ready example.

3. I find it interesting that, for all their literary aspirations, the "new wave" authors of the sixties get "so little attention these days." Do SFS contributors have nothing to say any more about Ellison, Spinrad, Silverberg, Brunner, Aldiss, and so on? We are coming to the point where we have some historical perspective on those folks. We are living in the times of the futures about which they wrote. . . . Is there no one who might like to write something about the Clarion workshops and their development?


Stephen P. Brown , editor and publisher of Science Fiction Eye (Not ranked in order, nor necessarily my favorites— though the Sturgeon novella is perhaps my all-time favorite novella—just stuff I think SFS has insufficiently considered.)

1. Hank Stine: Season of the Witch

2. Misha: Red Spider, White Web

3. Howard Waldrop—any and all of his works

4. Theodore Sturgeon: To Here and the Easel (novella)

5. The Works of Barrington Bayley

6. Bernard Wolfe: Limbo

7. The SF of Julian May (not her fantasy)

8. The Turkey City Workshops, early ‘70s in Texas 

9. Robert Crane: Hero’s Walk

10. John Shirley: Eclipse Trilogy


Roger Bozzetto

1. Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Mars and Venus texts

2. E.A. van Vogt: The Weapon Shop of Isher and The Weapon Makers

3. Robert Sheckley as a fool/mythmaker (for instance, "Early Model," "The Laxian key," "All the Things We Are")

4. William Burroughs

5. Karl Capek

6. Maurice Renard and "le merveilleux scientifique"

7. Jacques Spitz

8. Rosny the Elder and Les navigateurs de l’infini and/or Le Voyage de Hareton Ironcastle.

9. Serge Brussolo (no English translations, what a pity!)

10. Theodore Sturgeon


Scott Bukatman

1. Tron

2. Mystery Science Theatre 3000

3. Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg

4. comics in general

5. David Skal’s Antibodies


Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr.

1. Gunhed (the movie, Japglish version, not the English dub)

2. Tarkovsky’s Stalker; Lukyanov’s Letters from a Dead Man

3. The Strugatsky brothers’ Monday Begins on Saturday and The Tale of the Troika

4. Karel Capek: The Absolute at Large

5. Fred Pfeil: Goodman 2020

6. Sherri Tepper: Grass

7. John Clute’s criticism

8. The Day the Earth Caught Fire

9. Russel Hoban: Riddley Walker

10. Chingiz Aitmatov: The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years (the acme of Central Asian SF)


Arthur B. Evans

1. The SF works of J.H. Rosny the Elder (the "French H.G. Wells")

2. Maurice Renard (on whom I’m currently working)

3. Albert Robida

4. Michael Jeury

5. Serge Brussolo

6. Jules Verne’s later novels

7. Gustave Le Rouge

8. Camille Flammarion

9. Michael Moorcock

10. Poul Anderson

11. Clifford Simak

12. Kim Stanley Robinson


John Fekete

1. K.W. Jeter

2. Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, and other Russian and Soviet SF 

3. East-Central European SF, especially Hungarian)

4. Pat Cadigan

5. Canonized, but underanalyzed, writers, e.g., Samuel Delany, Brian Aldiss, John Brunner

6. Recent women writers, e.g., Connie Willis, Emma Bull, Octavia Butler

7. Recent crossover postmodernists, e.g., William Volman: You Bright and Risen Angels, Kathy Acker: Empire of the Senseless and several texts by Angela Carter: especially Heroes and Villains.

8. Neglected and regrettably out of print texts from the 60s and 70s: e.g., by Norman Spinrad, Michael Moorcock, Harlan Ellison, Joanna Russ, Cordwainer Smith, Barry Malzberg, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, J.G. Ballard, James Tiptree, Jr., and many others.

9. Forgotten gems of the 50s, like Shepherd Mead’s The Big Ball of Wax and Dave R. Bunch’s Moderan

10. SF theory


Peter Fitting

1. Brian Aldiss, Hothouse (The Long Afternoon of Earth)

2. Samuel Delany: The Einstein Intersection

3. Robert Sheckley: Mindswap

5. Norman Spinrad: Bug Jack Barron

6. A.E. Van Vogt: Slan

7. Ian Watson: Mind Swap


Carl Freedman

1. Philip K. Dick: Time Out of Joint (This 1959 novel best refutes the widespread notion that Dick began to produce major work only with The Man in the High Castle)

2. Howard Fast: The Edge of Tomorrow (Much of the old liberal’s historical fiction can be pretty hard to take, but this astonishingly little known collection of SF stories remains fresh and provocative).

3. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Lost World and The Poison Belt. (I don’t offer the Professor Challenger novels as great literature, and they’re ideologically offensive in more ways than I can count offhand; but they also remain among the most sheerly readable works of British SF before the Great War.)

4. Joanna Russ: On Strike Against God (Kept in print by the Crossing Press but generally ignored even by those who pay attention to Russ’s work in general, this excellent autobiographical novel is sometimes listed as Russ’s only "non-SF" fiction but actually provides a most useful test for any definition of SF.)

5. J.G. Ballard: "Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan." (Sure, the title is famous; but how many are aware that this parable from The Atrocity Exhibition, written during Reagan’s Sacramento years, was once avant-garde SF and now stands as a soberly accurate description of American political culture during the 1980s and beyond?)

6. Stephen Hawking: A Brief History of Time (Not generally neglected; sure; but a good reading of this wonderful prose poem as SF could throw some valuable light on the much vexed critical problem of the fictionality of all discourse.)

7. H.G. Wells [writer] and William Cameron Menzies [director]: Things to Come (Deserves to be as much a classic of SF cinema as 2001 or Alien; often preposterous but always powerful, like so much of Wells.)


Donna Haraway

1. Elizabeth Vonarburg: The Silent City (La silence de la cité)

2. Carol Emshwiller: Carmen Dog

3. SF publishing endeavors like Tesseract Books in Canada and the Women’s Press in UK.

4. John Varley

5. Canadian SF generally


David Hartwell . (I’ve chosen to list authors, including some of the most famous in the field, whose works are in my opinion worthy of serious investigation. Some of the most influential writers in SF are almost unknown to many academics.)

1. Hal Clement (Harry C. Stubbs— paradigm hard SF)

2. Poul Anderson

3. Theodore Sturgeon

4. John W. Campbell’s fiction

5. A.E. Van Vogt

6. Clifford Simak

7. Alfred Bester

8. S. Fowler Wright

9. Damon Knight

10. Kate Wilhelm

11. William Tenn (Philip Klass)

12. Henry Kuttner

13. Michael Bishop

14. Fritz Leiber

15. Larry Niven


Katherine Hayles

1. Tom DeHaven: Freaks Amour

2. Bernard Wolfe: Limbo

3. Octavia Butler: Bloodchild

4. Joseph McElroy: Plus

5. Don DeLillo: Ratner’s Star


Veronica Hollinger

1. Bernard Wolfe: Limbo

2. Angela Carter: Heroes and Villains

3. Cordwainer Smith: the Instrumentality stories

4. K.W. Jeter, especially The Glass Hammer

5. Liquid Sky, director, Slava Tsukerman

6. Monique Wittig: Les Guérillères

7. Samuel R. Delany: Dhalgren

8. C.L. Moore: "No Woman Born"


John Huntington

1. Damon Knight: stories

2. Robert Sheckley: stories

3. Naomi Mitchison: Memories of a Space Woman (Robert Crossley first told me about this generally unnoticed novel)


Edward James , editor of Foundation

1. Brian Aldiss: The Helliconia Trilogy

2. Michael Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)

3. Mary Gentle: Golden Witchbreed (1983)

4. Frank Hampson: Dan Dare—Pilot of the Future (1950)

5. Gwyneth Jones: Escape Plans (1986)

6. Christopher Priest: A Dream of Wessex (1977)

7. Brian Stableford: The Walking Shadow (1978)

8. George Turner: The Sea and Summer (US: Drowning Towers (1987)

9. Ian Watson: Miracle Visitors (1978)

10. All SF short stories except "Nightfall" (the proviso suggested to me by Farah Mendelsohn).


Fredric Jameson ("in no special order"):

1. John Brunner: Total Eclipse

2. Tom Disch: Wings of Song

3. Philip K. Dick: We Can Build You

4. Ernest Callenbach: Ecotopia

5. Wyndham Lewis: The Human Age

6. Alasdair Gray: Lanark

7. Vonda MacIntyre: The Exile Waiting

8. Keith Roberts: Pavane

9. Strugatsky Brothers: Roadside Picnic

10. Stanislaw Lem: Eden


David Ketterer

1. "Max Adeler" (Charles Heber Clark): "Professor Baffin’s Adventures"/"The Fortunate Island" (1881)

2. Fredrick Niven: "A Story of the Future" (in Niven, Above Your Heads 1911; Salvatore Proietti’s "discovery")

3. Philip Wylie: The Disappearance (1951)

4. The Man from Planet X (1951; film)

5. Three Captain "Space" Kingley volumes, (1952;53;54; overlooked British "young adult" titles)

6. William Golding: The Inheritors (1955)

7. Nigel Keane: Quatermass and the Pit (1959 BBC TV serial)

[Info on Adeler and Captain "Space" Kingley will appear in the revised Clute/Nicholls Encyclopedia of Science Fiction]


Brooks Landon

1. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home


Ursula Le Guin

1. Cordwainer Smith

2. Vonda MacIntyre

3. Robert Silverberg

4. Austin Tappan Wright

5. Patricia Geary (Living in Ether; Strange Toys )

6. Carolyn See (Golden Days)


Larry McCafferey

1. Sun Ra: The Nubians of Plutonia

2. Matt Hechert: soundtrack to A Bitter Message of Hopelessness

3. Skinny Puppy: Clean, Fold or Manipulate

4. Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music

5. Kraftwerk: Computer World

6. Jimi Hendrix: album two of Electric Ladyland

7. Ministry: The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste

8. Brian Eno/David Byrne: Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy; Eno/Lang: Apollo

9. Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation

10. Devo: Are We Not Men?

11. David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust

12. Yellow Magic Orchestra

13. Severed Heads: Butthead (?)

14. Laurie Anderson: Big Science

15. Elliott Sharp: Loopool (?)


17. William S. Burroughs

18. Glenn Branca: Symphony No. 5; Describing Planes of an Expanding Hyperspace

19. Patti Smith: "Birdland" (on Horses)

20. "Flying Saucer" (single)

21. Sheb Wooley: "The Flying Purple People Eater" (single)

22. Lou Reed: "Cool It Down" (single)


Patrick McCarthy

1. A. E. Van Vogt (Somewhere Leslie Fiedler said that for criticism of SF to be valid, it must be able to deal with Van Vogt. For once he was right. Very influential—if flawed—writer.)

2. Alfred Bester (He won the first Hugo for The Demolished Man, and Delany called The Stars, My Destination the greatest SF novel ever. Why so little criticism? His works after the 1950s are inferior, though?)

3. Robert A. Heinlein (Most popular SF writer ever, and very influential. There’s a fair amount of criticism on him, but nowhere as much as there should be. The best book [Franklin’s] needs updating.)

4. Mordecai Roshwald: Level 7 (Masterful use of diary as narrative form. Book was long out of print.)

5. Pierre Boulle: Planet of the Apes (The novel is a marvelous Swiftian satire. Have critics been scared away by the movie?)

6. Katherine Burdekin: Swastika Night (Discovery of Murray Constantine’s real identity should lead to more on this work.)


Carol McGuirk

1. "Lewis Padgett" (pen-name for Henry Kuttner and Catherine L. Moore). Good Lewis Padgett stories are inimitable, though Bradbury and Sturgeon tried. Critically neglected.

2. Frank Herbert’s original Dune novel— awkward and primitive in style, which somehow only increases its epic power. Critically maligned.

3. The mythopoeic short stories of Cordwainer Smith, especially "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard." Opaque to current critical methods and therefore slighted.

4. The Door into Summer; critically neglected even more than Heinlein’s other work of the 1950s, and his only lyric novel for adults. Strong possibility of influence from Nabokov’s Lolita (key scene at camp is identical, published the same year).

5. Phantom Empire (best of the worst division). Low-budget movie serial of the 1930s; involves a subterranean evil empire located just under Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch. Will the boys escape in time for the afternoon broadcast? The evil empress’s robot-retainers wear tin cowboy hats.

6. Pamela Zoline’s "Heat Death of the Universe"; neglected classic.

7. Robert Sheckley’s Mindswap; forgotten classic of SF humor, burlesques various soft SF cliches.

8. Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside; neglected classic.

9. Weird Science/TV: Mann and Machine (Blade Runner meets I Dream of Jeannie)

10. Not Wanted on the Voyage (1985) by Timothy Findley. Speculative rather than science fiction, but should be better known: the story of Noah retold as a critique of patriarchy and its cultural consequences.


R.D. Mullen (Ten subjects for articles I would like to read)

1. William D. Hay: Three Hundred Years Hence (1881; interesting as the most radical specimen of Baconian hubris; must be viewed in context; contemporary response to the book, if any, would provide much of the context)

2. John Taine and his alter ego, Eric Temple Bell; his fiction viewed in the light of his nonfiction and life.

3. John Norman and his alter ego, John Lange (How could a professor of philosophy write such stuff? Perhaps an explanation is to be found in his professional writing.)

4. Michael Young: The Rise of the Meritocracy (a satiric masterpiece, perhaps not neglected in the social sciences, but seldom mentioned in SF circles; how much currency did the term have before the book was published?)

5. Joanna Russ, who has not received her due.

6. Stanton A. Coblentz.

7. Damon Knight as short-story writer, editor, and critic.

8. William Tenn (Phil Klass, if he’s still with us).

9. The Healy-McComas Adventures in Time and Space (reprinted as Famous Science Fiction Stories; perhaps the most successful SF anthology ever; compare the stories with those in Asimov’s Before the Golden Age)

10. Judith Merril as editor, author, and critic.


Rafail Nudelman :

1. Greg Bear: Eon (and not Eternity)

2. Dan Simmons: Hyperion (and not The Fall of Hyperion)

3. Iain Banks: Consider Phlebas (and not others)

4. George Turner: The Sea and Summer; Brainchild

5. John Varley: Ophiuchi Hotline; Millennium

6. Clifford Simak—the opus

7. Robert Sheckley—the opus

8. V. Vinniczenko: The Sun Machine (Ukrainian, circ. 1920-30)

9. A. Zulavsky: On the Silver Globe; The Victor; The Old Earth (Polish)

10. L. Sanderts: Tomorrow’s File


Patrick Parrinder (Not a list, but a plea for the rediscovery and reprinting of just one novel, even though its title, the name of the heroine, is now something of an embarrassment): Gay Hunter by J. Leslie Mithcell (Lewis Grassic Gibbon), 1934.


Robert M. Philmus

Robert Cromie’s The Crack of Doom


David Porush

1. The talmud

2. Harukai Murakami: Hard Boiled Wonderland

3. Norman Mailer: Of A Fire On the Moon

4. Alfred Bester


Eric Rabkin

1. The 1939 World’s Fair

2. Elmer Rice: The Adding Machine

3. Ads for patent medecines, e.g., Listerine in the July 1939 Astounding

4. Frederick Turner: Genesis: An Epic Poem

5. Scientific theory formulation and analogical argumentation, e.g., Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene and Lewis Thomas’s The Lives of a Cell respectively.

6. Hesiod’s Works and Days (see the explanation of Hesiod’s cosmological symbolism in Anthony Aveni’s Empires of Time)

7. Strategic Air Command war games

8. Flying Saucers by C.G. Jung

9. Ethnography and medical case histories (see, for example, W. Arens’ debunking of the reports of cannibalism and my article, "A Case of Self Defense" showing how the narrative process can deform medical practice).

10. "The solution is left as an exercise for the reader."


Kim Stanley Robinson

1. Cecilia Holland: Floating Worlds

2. Peter Dickinson

3. D.G. Compton (also, the movie Deathwatch from The Continuous Katherine Mortentoe)

4. Strugatsky Brothers: Beetle on an Anthill; Prisoner of Power; The Far Side of Paradise; (in fact, all except Roadside Picnic and Hard to Be A God)

5. Carol Emshwiller

6. Langdon Jones

7. Edgar Pangborn

8. Under-read by Americans: Iain Banks, M. John Harrison, Gwyneth Jones, and Geoff Ryman


David Samuelson

I’ve sat for two months on your...letter because I’m not at all sure how to answer it. SFS clearly has a canon, deliberate or not, but I have seen few indications that anyone of stature is deliberately excluded. Chip Delany seems to think he is "off limits" but Dale Mullen recently expressed envy that someone else would publish my essay on Delany’s critical writing. The fact that I was commissioned to edit a "hard SF" issue is inconsistent with a self-limiting elite.

The gambit of making lists, moreover, has little appeal to me. To pretend to know the "most unjustly ingored or unknown" SF works and authors would be to claim encyclopedic knowledge of everything published as well as omniscience about what does not yet exist. It might also give the impression, however inadvertently, that I share the implied conviction that SF writers have no value until they are recognized by an academic fraternity with a distinctly small readership and eccentric critical standards.

The most I am willing to say is that I would like to see much more original investigations into the following authors, some of which I may have to produce or instigate myself. Most SF criticism seems less investigative than canonical (sometimes in the shape of canonization). The order is alphabetical and does not pretend to any other significance. I don’t presume to tell other people that my obsessions should be theirs:

Brian W. Aldiss

Poul Anderson

James Blish

John Brunner

Octavia Butler

Samuel Delany (especially Dhalgren and beyond)

Thomas M. Disch

Walter J. Miller, Jr. (beyond Canticle)

Chad Oliver

Joanna Russ


Pamela Sargent

1. Chad Oliver’s Shadows in the Sun, Unearthly Neighbors, and The Shores of Another Sea, Oliver’s anthropological SF is the precursor of more recent novels by Ursula K. LeGuin, Michael Bishop, and others.

2. James Gunn’s novels The Listeners and The Joy Makers. Gunn is a solidly realistic writer; flashy and fanciful writers who aren’t half as good have received much more attention.

3. Ward Moore’s novels Greener Than You Think and Bring the Jubilee. Greener Than You Think is an early environmental disaster novel that hasn’t dated and is far more elegantly written than many such books. Bring the Jubilee remains one of the best alternate history novels we have.

4. Margaret St. Clair’s short story collection, The Best of Margaret St. Clair, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, and various short stories. St. Clair, who has also written under the name Idris Seabright, is one of the most neglected writers in SF.

5. William Tenn’s novel Of Men and Monsters and various short story collections. Satirical, full of black humor, but more deeply felt that a lot of such works. Anyone unacquainted with his fiction does not deserve to be called a science-fiction scholar.

6. Carol Emshwiller’s short-story collections Joy in Our Cause and The Start of the End of It All. One of the best writers we’ve got; what more is there to say?

7. George Zebrowski’s novel Macrolife. Utopian novel about space colonies; one of the earliest on this subject, and the first to work out a lot of the technological, social, and cultural implications.

[I decided not to list newer writers I think are neglected, or more recent works, because maybe it’s too soon to call them "ignored." If, however, various misguided critics continue to treat the so-called cyberpunk school as the only recent stuff worth discussing, future lists of great but unfairly neglected science-fiction works can only increase in size.]


Lewis Shiner

1. Russel M. Griffin: The Blind Men and the Elephant (1982), Century’s End (1981)

2. John Kessel: Good News from Outer Space (1989)

3. Joyce Thompson: Conscience Place (1984)

4. Daniel M. Pinkwater: Lizard Music (1976)


George Slusser

1. R.A. Lafferty

2. Cordwainer Smith

3. William Tenn

4. Poul Anderson

5. Walter Miller, Jr.

6. John W. Campbell

7. Anne McCaffery

8. James Schmitz

9. Michel Jeury

10. Kurt Steiner (André Ruellan)

11. David Brin

12. Kim Stanley Robinson


Kathleen Spencer (Authors/works I would like to read essays about):

1. Joanna Russ

2. James Tiptree (Alice Sheldon)

3. Theodore Sturgeon

4. Thomas Disch

5. Samuel Delany

6. Octavia Butler

7. R.A. Lafferty

8. Alfred Bester

9. The "New Stuff" that isn’t cyberpunk, to help me keep up with new trends and writers.

10. Cordwainer Smith (won’t somebody please explore the effects of traditional Chinese narrative styles on his fiction? she said plaintively)


Gary K. Wolfe

1. John Wyndham—one of the few British writers to date back to the thirties American pulps, and his fifties novels did as much as anything to define what Aldiss calls the "cozy catastrophe" school, helping to lay the groundwork for Ballard and others.

2. Barry Malzberg—has not only produced consistently stimulating work, but has probably written about SF, both in his fiction and his essays, as perceptively as any practicing writer.

3. Kate Wilhelm—is simply an excellent writer, especially strong on character and manipulation of point of view, who somehow seems to have escaped rediscovery during the feminist era of balance-redressing.

4. David Bunch—may be a one-book author (plus some stories), but his Moderan was far ahead of anything else of its time, and in some ways even cyberpunk hasn’t caught up with it yet.

5. Philip Jose Farmer—has had a couple of chapbooks written about him, but many critics regard him unfairly as a macho post-pulpster; this ignores not only his complex explorations of sex and religion, but his intertextual gamesmanship and his relation to William Burroughs as well as Edgar Rice.

6. Chad Oliver—was developing quiet, superbly crafted anthropological fictions long before anyone had heard of LeGuin; maybe his slight output and unassuming plots (and being out of print have caused people to overlook the carefully-thought-out ideas behind his fiction).

7. Fritz Leiber—produced a huge body of first-rate work over a long period of time and in many genres; possibly his very versatility has worked against his reputation. Some of his short-stories are among the finest in the field, though most think of him as a novelist.

8. R.A. Lafferty—may put people off with his jokey style, but he completely reinvented SF for his own quasi-theological ends and developed a world-view that has yet to be fully explored, or even partially illumninated, by us critics.

9. Joe Haldeman—may have seemed too young for a chapbook when Joan Gordon’s study of him appeared, but by now he’s established a body of work that moves the Heinlein tradition into a distinctly modern idiom (god, that sounds like a jacket blurb). He also writes the cleanest line in SF today.

10. Gregory Benford—like Haldeman, has by now produced a body of work substantial enough to warrant discussion, not only in terms of how he redefines hard SF, but also in terms of his cultural roots in Southern literature.

11. Brian Aldiss—has had one thick book on him, but I’m not sure he’s gotten the attention he deserves, especially for his mainstream fiction, which says a great deal about SF indirectly.

12. Harlan Ellison—may be even stranger than Aldiss on this list, but since I’ve been doing research on him I’ve found that the same three or four stories always get recycled in critical discussions, and the bulk of his good work gets ignored.

13. Murray Leinster’s career spanned a half-dozen decades and produced a surprising number of thoughtful and well-done stories and novels; he was in many ways the quintessential independent SF writer of his time, neither an Amazing hack nor a member of the Campbell stable.

Here are some topics that I’m surprised to see overlooked:

SF scenarios and folklore beliefs: This would include explorations not only of the Shaver phenomenon and UFOs, but of how cult-like movements from scientologists to neo-Nazis to conspiracy theorists use SF-like ideas to structure their beliefs. SF has been around long enough to become a source of folk beliefs, not merely an expression of them.

SF influences and popular music: Not only the atomic bomb metaphor in fifties rock and r&b, but later musicians from Kraftwerk to Devo who deliberately adopted SF conventions and translated them into terms for a broader audience. While I’m at it, SF television is also pretty much ignored. There’s generally a tendency, now that we think we’ve got respectable to shy away from the more obviously pop-cult manifestations of the genre.

SF editors: To read the scholarship, you’d think that Gernsback and Campbell were the only editors to have any impact on the field at all. But there’s a whole generation of us out here who have learned what SF was from the anthologies of Conklin, Merril, and Derleth, who liked Boucher’s taste much better than Campbell’s, and who watched Pohl and Moorcock and Goldsmith publish stories that Campbell would not even read. Even as we speak Gardner Dozois pushes the field toward the mainstream in his magazine and his best-of-year anthologies. This doesn’t even mention publisher-editors like Wollheim or in-house editors like Hartwell.


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