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1950s Science Fiction books - Adventure Books

1950s Science Fiction books

The Defining Science Fiction Books of the 1950s

In 1963, when I was 12, science fiction began imprinting on my brain, so that science fiction from the 1950s is how I define the genre. All science fiction novels I’ve read in the succeeding fifty years are measured against those stories I first discovered in my early teens. That’s why I so completely understand the statement, “the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12.” Younger generations of science fiction fans have since imprinted on science fiction via television shows like Star Trek, or movies like Star Wars, and even later forms of the genre that I don’t even understand like comics and video games. Science fiction is very hard to pigeon-hole because its so radically different from generation to generation. For me, science fiction is defined by certain books I first read in 1963, 1964 and 1965, and most of those were first published in the 1950s. I discovered 1950s science fiction in libraries, as cheap paperbacks on wire racks, in dusty used bookstores, and most of all by joining the Science Fiction Book Club which often promoted the classic books from the 1950s.


Sad to say, many modern science fiction fans don’t know about the science fiction I point to when I think science fiction. That time is so far in the past that the Library of America has even published American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, a two-volume boxed set, edited by Gary K. Wolfe. The collection is almost an academic preservation of old, mostly forgotten, science fiction novels.

  1. The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth
  2. More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
  3. The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett
  4. The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson
  5. Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein
  6. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
  7. A Case of Conscience by James Blish
  8. Who? by Algis Budrys
  9. The Big Time by Fritz Leiber

To get a feel for capturing the science fiction novels of the 1950s, just take a gander at their companion website, especially their wonderful Timeline, and their short overview essays. And you can pick up even more details about the decade by reading Arthur D. Hlavaty’s review in The New York Review of Science Fiction, or visit the Library of America Science Fiction Facebook page for more reviews to read. Everyone remembers something different about the 1950s.

Now, here’s the funny thing, those nine novels aren’t the nine novels from the 1950s that would define my memory of 1950s science fiction. Not that I am saying Wolfe selection is a bad, it’s just not mine. Like the web site The Burning House, in which people take photos of their favorite possessions, the ones they would grab first while running out of their burning homes, my selection of 1950s science fiction novels would be different.

And there’s a further complication. For the last decade I’ve been rereading many of those Oldie-Goldie science fiction novels from mid-20th century by listening to them on audiobook, and most of them are disappointing to me now, even though I thought they were wonderful back then. Would a 12-year-old today discovering these books find them exciting, or would they seem dumb and quaint compared to all the modern books, television shows and movies of today?

In other words, if we are defining the classic SF novels of the 1950s do they have to succeed for Golden Age readers (age 12, remember) or for people of any age in any reading year? For example, The Foundation Trilogy was mind blowing for me at 13 in 1964, but I found unreadable clunky at 59. Conversely, I thought Asimov’s The Naked Sun was boring back then and page turning fascinating a few years ago.


The Mammoth Book of Vintage Science Fiction: Short Novels of the 1950s (The Mammoth Book Series)
Book (Carroll & Graf Pub)

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Weekend RR: Bikes, books, computer problems.

2011-02-08 00:11:19 by UncleRoss

Long, interesting weekend here in Columbus, GA.
The Friends of the Library semiannual book sale was held Saturday and Sunday. I hit it on Saturday for 1 Grocery-Getter full of books. I hit it again on Sunday for another nearly full bag of books, spending less money on the fill-a-bag sale. Picked up a lot of good science fiction including some stuff from the early 1950s (older than me). Buying paperbacks at $.25 each allows me to trade them at local book stores for 1/4 of retail and still come out ahead.
Rode to Willy's Wings for the SuperBowl. Carib and LemonPepper wings were not inspiring

People & Events

2005-04-01 06:49:00 by sunshine5864

Hannah Spearitt (1981) -- rising British starlett
Ali McGraw (1938) -- film actress who starred in Love Story
Debbie Reynolds (1932) -- TV and film actress who defined the "wholesome girl" look of the 1950s and '60s
Milan Kundera (1929) -- This Czech writer will change your sense of what life's about, with books like The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Anne McCaffrey (1926) -- science-fiction writer who created the Dragonriders of Pern
Lon Chaney (1883-1930) -- actor and movie makeup innovator who created a film look for The Hunchback of Notre

Sci-fi writer Harry Harrison dead at 87

2012-08-15 19:06:19 by RFiveDFour

Popular science-fiction author Harry Harrison, whose book "Make Room! Make Room!" was the basis for the 1973 film "Soylent Green," about a futuristic society and its fictional food, has died, his publisher said Wednesday. He was 87.
Born in 1925 in Stamford, Connecticut, Harrison was best known for his 12 novels about the futuristic character "Slippery Jim" DeGriz, also known as the Stainless Steel Rat. Harrison also was the main writer for the "Flash Gordon" comic strip during the 1950s and '60s, according to his publisher, Tor Books

Turner Home Ent The Thing from Another World
DVD (Turner Home Ent)
Library of America American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s
Book (Library of America)
Blue Deacon Publishing Extreme Hardboiled Sci-fi from 1950s & 1960s (Best Sci-Fi Series)
eBooks (Blue Deacon Publishing)
Image Entertainment Rocketship X-M
DVD (Image Entertainment)

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