The Joy of Reading Science Fiction

GalacticIn college I rediscovered recreational reading when I learned to buy books that appealed to me personally as opposed to my English teachers. The first book that kicked off this new found hobby came at the suggestion of a friend. It was War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. No wait, that’s not right. What was it? Oh yes, it was Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard.

For some reason this book spoke to me like no other. I inhabited the main character, Conan, as he strode across a prehistoric Europe in a loin cloth, sandals and broadsword. The society was like medieval Europe but thousands of years before there was a medieval Europe. At the time of the stories Europe featured a dry desert like Mediterranean basin and the British Isles were connected to the continent. There was sorcery, political intrigue, piracy, gods, battles and a hero that didn’t hew to the values of so called civilization. He was a brute but an intelligent one equally comfortable in the roles of mercenary, thief, pirate, general and even king. I was actually sad when I read the last book in the series but my appetite had been whetted for other material.

I went on to read different genres including thriller, political science, mystery, history, non-fiction, sports and my favorite, Science Fiction. There were several notable series that I read with perhaps my favorites being The Foundation by Isaac Asimov, Berserkers by Fred Saberhagen, The Many Colored Land by Julian May and a two book set called Galactic Empires.

I consider Galactic Empires a special case. It’s a wondrous anthology of Sci-Fi short stories written between 1941 and 1975. I’ve read them several times and they always recall the fun and wonder I felt when I first discovered science fiction as a boy.

One of my favorite stories in Volume One is titled Protected Species by H. B. Fyfe. Imagine a vast construction project to build a city on an alien shore on an alien world. It had homes, administration buildings and a dam a few miles upstream on a nearby river. It had all the things necessary to support a human society. And its trillions of miles from Earth. But the most awe inspiring thing is that it’s being built next to the ruins of some long vanished race. Our hero, Jeff Otis, visits to inspect the construction but also becomes curious about the abandoned city. Cliffs had risen and the course of the river had changed since the ancient city thrived but whoever built it had chosen the location for the same reasons the current builders did. Proximity to the narrow bay and the fresh water river among other things made it an ideal location.

Due to boredom several of the construction workers found sport in chasing some of the local animals including skinny gray ape-like creatures. Jeff disapproves but begrudgingly accepts that the men need a diversion. He’s aghast, however, to find one of the apes stuffed and mounted. The animals looked enough like earth apes that he wondered if a travesty had been committed over a semi-intelligent creature. Armed with speculation that the ruined city could’ve been built by these creatures’ ancestors he issues an order to ‘protect the species’.

Just before departing, Jeff decides to explore the ruins for a second time. Upon entering a chamber he’s surprised to find himself face to face with one of the grey apes. The ape then speaks to him in English. Otis is thunderstruck but eventually engages the alien and learns that the apes are not native to the planet. They’re called Myrbii. The Myrb then adds that he’s glad that humans are coming back to their old planets and regrets what happened between their two races long ago. You see the ruins are not Myrb, they’re human.

Wow! What a payoff to the mystery of the ruins. We learn from an alien that there was a space faring human civilization on Earth tens of thousands of years ago and that it was nearly blasted to extinction in an interstellar war with these Myrbii. They have since monitored humanity and noted Jeff’s order to ‘protect the species’ of gray apes. Based on this they decided that Jeff was the best person to contact with the news that they too had issued a ‘protect the species’ order but for the protection of mankind after both races fought a war several millennia ago.

That kind of impact ending isn’t common particularly in modern Sci-Fi. That’s why I cherish books that make me go wow! They inspire me to deliver the same kind of experience to my readers. Did you enjoy my stories? I invite your commentary at [email protected].

 

Look for Michael J. Foy’s latest release,

Ghosts of Forgotten Empires: Volume II,

A Cord Devlin Adventure

Now available on Amazon, http://amzn.to/1pca3Q2

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. I can’t say it falls within the realm of pure sci-fi, necessarily, as it’s part of the New Weird subgenre, but China Mieville’s work has always resonated with me. Particularly Perdido Street Station. It was the first novel of his I’d read and I was struck by just how gritty and, frankly, gross his descriptions and imagery were. And yet somehow it was still eloquent and beautiful, even in its viscerally disgusting prose. I’m not explaining this well, but reading Perdido Street Station seemed like a breath of fresh air, daring and strange and unlike anything I’d read before.

  2. Daniel Cutmore says:

    A norwegian sci-fi triology called “the Plates of Lushon”, which consists of “The Plates of Lushon”, “Anubis” and evercity. It’s about a wolf/human hybrid who goes by the name “Evv Lushon” and it starts in Oslo, the capitol of Norway. The story around Lushon and his son Greymane, and how they have to survive in this post-apocalyptic world that has been taken over by Islam, and the muslims rule the world. Really good reading, and if anyone is an atheist, it’s a damn good story. Don’t know if it has been transaleted though.

  3. Arbor Day says:

    Reading House of Leaves changed my idea of what a book could be. Not even so much as the story, but the page layouts, and other things the author tries with the book elevated the platform from one of mere words to a more intricate art form.

  4. Frank Sollie says:

    I read everything from western novels to sci-fi. I try to find the “good story”, and there are some in every genre. Louis Mastersons hero and Texas Ranger Morgan Kane is the James Bond of the wild west. When it comes to sci-fi I really enjoyed the books you, Michael, have written so far. Then there`s Raymond Feist who combine Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter (not sure HE would put it that way). It`s magic, it`s battles, it`s good vs evil, it`s romance…the books got a little bit of everything. Then there are the books in the “Horus Heresy” series, where humans have conquered the entire universe. Great series and you really get to know all the characters as the story continues in book after book, but every book has it`s main storyline, and the books aren`t written by the same author, and that give the story some unusual twists and turns.

  5. Lei Lani Lucero says:

    When I was growing up, my mom read “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs to me and my brother as our bedtime story (along with many other books, of course) but this one stuck with me for the last 40 + years. Having the juxtaposition of John Carter being a Civil War soldier with the advanced civilizations on Barsoom, the plot line, the fantastic imagery that played in my head as I fell asleep as a child has translated into a lifelong love of the written word. I just finished reading the final book in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson, a series that I started in the late 1980’s. The characters resonated with me, as Thomas Covenant was a leper, and most people feel outcast from society from time to time. But, my all time favorite story (the one book that I give to everyone to read, if I like them!) is the Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as Science Fiction, (more of a fairy tale) but it is a fantastical, whimsical story that taught me the value of perspective. I hope everyone who reads this picks up this book (and ignores that it is usually found in the children’s section of the book store) and reads the story of Milo, the bored teenager, who travels to Lands Beyond and eventually rescues Rhyme and Reason (even though it was impossible). The play on words reminds me of Piers Anthony novels, and the illustrations by Jules Pfeiffer are timeless.
    p.s. Michael, your books are too new to be considered classics, yet, by me, but I have thoroughly enjoyed Cord Devlin (and have a serious crush on that character!)

    • You’ve read a lot of good Science Fiction. I’ve read the John Carter series too but more recently. Ever hear of Frank Frazetta? He’s an artist whose work includes scenes from John Carter as well as other fantasy and SciFi themes. You may want to check out his books of art. I think they’re beautiful.

  6. The first BIG book I read was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that was my first novel. I had read comic books, short stories… but this was my first venture into the REAL book section in the library. My world was about to change. I had such vivid movies come to life in my head. People and places formed out of thin air. They became so real to me, as if they were my friends and family. I got to the end of the story and tears came to my eyes… not because how this wonderful story ended, it ended beautifully. I was sad that it was over. I would never see or hear any more about these new friends. I went back to the library, asking if there was more to this story. Was this all there was? The lady at the desk sadly looked me in the eyes and said… “No, that is all there is for that story.” She then got up and walked around that desk and turned me around, so that I could see the rest of the library. She stood behind me and said these magical words, “Right now, on all those shelves, are more worlds, friends and family, just waiting for YOU. They have been sitting there in anticipation… knowing one day you would come looking for them. Go, a lifetime awaits you.” That was when I was transcended. People, if you want to feed the soul of a writer, read their books!

    • Wow! What a great librarian. Your story of your relationship with books kind of reminds me of my own. And I’m always hopeful that I’ll pick up another book or book series that brings to life other new worlds for me.

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