Collecting Science Fiction
|I will arbitrarily limit the books that I discuss in detail (i.e., providing bibliographic information, approximate sale values, cover illustrations where possible) to those published after 1960. This is due in part to the tremendous changes that have occurred in SF during the last forty-some years; many key works have been published that have redefined the genre. Just as importantly, there is a very real chance that many of these more recent books can be found by a knowledgeable, diligent hunter at a yard sale, estate or library sale, or thrift store.|
I will mention classic SF titles from the so-called Golden Age of the 1930's to 1950's or earlier when relevant as key early works, but the odds of finding such books in the usual book scout haunts are decidedly slim, and so they will not be discussed in depth here.
It's likely that many of the titles I will discuss will have been published within the last twenty or so years. SF constantly re-invents itself; new themes arise as technology and culture changes. A good example is the advent of Cyberpunk, popularly associated with the publication of William Gibson's Neuromancer in 1984. At the same time, established themes are re-visited and redefined, again often in response to changes in technology and culture. Over the years SF has accumulated an amazing array of tropes and clichés, perhaps more so than any other genre of writing. This makes it that much more memorable and exciting when a fresh young author is able to breathe new life into a tired old idea. There are many examples of these, the new and the renewed, published within the last twenty to forty years. Most are highly collectible and command excellent prices within the SF market, and yet many are virtually unknown to those outside of the SF field.
At the risk of trying to be all things to all people, I will attempt to offer something of interest to both readers and collectors of SF, as well as to booksellers wishing to learn more about the SF market. I will also attempt to impose some kind of order on this discussion by focusing on a particular theme of the genre in each column. Of course, the literature of SF is like life itself in that it stubbornly resists any attempts to impose limits and boundaries on it. A book such as Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep could quite cheerfully take its place under the themes of Artificial Intelligence, Future War, Galactic Civilizations, World Building, or Children in SF (to name just a few). And, speaking of boundaries, I will discuss some themes and titles that are not, strictly speaking, SF - that is, there will be forays into fantasy, historical fiction, techno-thrillers, suspense, supernatural and horror, and even romance novels.
I will admit up front that my criteria for choosing books to discuss will be somewhat subjective. As I mentioned earlier, my focus is on recent seminal works, those published within approximately the last forty years that defined or profoundly altered the way SF approaches a particular idea, as well as on those books that are highly coveted by SF collectors. There is, of course, a huge overlap between these two. If I leave one of your favorite titles out of a discussion, it may be because I didn't feel it was important either in the development of the genre or as a collectible title. It may also be because there may have been too many other titles to discuss and not enough space. Or it may just be that I overlooked it. At any rate, I invite you to email me directly with your questions, comments, compliments or criticisms. Better yet, share it with everyone by starting a discussion in the Forum section of BookThink.
EDITORS NOTE: Tim's next column will appear in the December 22 BookThinker Update.
Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark