Here are the names offered up thus far, with vote totals in parenthesis and a bit of commentary here and there as seems warranted.
- Gregory Benford
- Alfred Bester (3): Clearly I'm going to have to try Bester. (Side note: longtime Chicagoans will remember when there was a sci-fi bookstore on Belmont named after his best-known novel, The Stars Our Destination.)
- James Blish: Atticus warns me to stay away from Blish's Star Trek books, not realizing that the one area of sci-fi in which I've read deeply (aside from Asimov) . . . is Star Trek novels. I read probably seventy-five of them in middle school and high school. Such is youth?
- Octavia Butler: I've actually read one Butler, Fledgling (2005). Though it suffered a bit from being the first of a planned series, which Butler's accidental death prevented from continuing, it was definitely interesting enough to make me want to read more.
- John Crowley: Oh, have I read Crowley. But I've not read Engine Summer, the closest thing to straight sci-fi he's written.
- Thomas Disch (4): Disch was the winner in this unscientific poll. I've not read him at all, though David Auerbach's essay on his work at the Millions last year nearly convinced me. Should I start with On Wings of Song, as marco suggests?
- R. A. Lafferty (3): Anonymous wrote that Lafferty "is not afraid of extravagant language." "Be ye not afraid of extravagant language" would make a nice motto; I think I'll be checking Lafferty out.
- China Mieville: I tried The City and the City, and while the concept was fascinating, I felt like the characters weren't very substantial, and I couldn't keep going.
- Ursula K. LeGuin
- Ian McDonald: This suggestion, from Thomas, a bookseller friend from 57th Street Books, is the only one I've already acted on. I'm about 40% of the way through McDonald's Brasyl and am really impressed so far. (And this can serve as a reminder: if you don't have a local bookstore that you haunt often enough that the booksellers hand you things they think you'll like, you're really missing out on one of life's great pleasures.)
- Dan Simmons
- John Sladek (2): Atticus describes him as "very funny," which is always a plus in my book.
- The Strugatsky Brothers
- Michael Swanwick
- James Tiptree, Jr.: Ed Park seconded this one via e-mail.
- Jack Vance
I'll definitely be giving a lot of these authors a try; thanks to everyone who took the time to make suggestions. In gratitude, I'll pass on one of my own, courtesy of Ed Park: back in February he used his Astral Weeks column in the Los Angeles Times to recommend a one-a-week, year-long sci-fi diet consisting of the fifty-two stories in The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction. Ed wrote,
his big book is both a thrilling entertainment and a convincing argument for the way SF can refresh the mind, play boldly with form and reflect its era creatively — in other words, what all good literature should do.Now that I've got sci-fi on the brain, I think I'll start on the Wesleyan diet this weekend.