Who are your favourite 'real' sf writers?

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posted on Oct, 17 2006 @ 02:51 AM
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I have loved science fiction ever since I read 2001: A Space Odyssey at the ripe old age of ten, so the discovery that BTS had a forum dedicated to fantasy and science fiction got me seriously excited -- until, that is, I looked at the forum. Ninety percent of the threads in it seem to be concerned, not with science fiction, but with television shows and Hollywood films of the type beloved of scientifically uneducated adolescents. This stuff isn't science fiction. It's 'sci-fi' -- commercialized, intellectually unchallenging, unscientific to the point of hilarity (this is a genre in which spacecraft engage in dogfights in vacuo, manoeuvring like fighter planes, and never seem to switch their thrusters off) and leadenly semiliterate.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with discussing stuff like that. In fact, I think it's a good thing, because a small percentage of the kids who go for material of this kind may be inspired, through it, to discover and enjoy proper sf. But I'm an old man and I'm no longer interested in stuff like this. What I am interested in is real, grown-up literary sf. And what I'd really like to see, and participate in, is discussion of that kind of material. I'm posting this to ask if there are any others like me out there on ATS (or BTS, or whatever) and whether there's any chance of our being able to discuss matters relating to real sf in this forum.

To help explain what I mean by real sf, here is a short list of some of my favourite science-fiction writers, with links to information about them, just in case anyone's curious.

- J.G. Ballard
- Iain M. Banks
- Arthur C. Clarke
- Philip K. Dick
- William Gibson
- Robert Silverberg
- Neal Stephenson
- Gene Wolfe

That's far from being an exhaustive list of my favourites. And there are, of course, apart from my favourites, scores of other writers whose books and stories are real, discussion-worthy sf -- old masters like Asimov and Heinlein, contemporary exponents like David Brin and Dan Simmons, and many, many more. Sadly, none of these people seems to get much of a look in at BTS -- the best one can find is a thread on Orson Scott Card or Terry Pratchett, who sell lots of books but can hardly be called leading exponents of good sf.

Anyone care to help me remedy this deficit?

A good place to start might be to stand up and be counted. If you're a fan of real sf -- the kind of thing I'm talking about -- post on this thread with a list of your favourite writers, preferably with a link to some information about them, as I have done. We'll see how it goes from there.

Fingers crossed.

[edit on 17-10-2006 by Astyanax]




posted on Oct, 17 2006 @ 08:07 AM
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I'll tip in with my two penneth! Over the years I've mainly read fantasy books, but i decided as a massive fan of science fiction I would get some books several years ago. I haven't really read that much but I'll list the main ones I have read. I personally love big sagas, stories that go on for several volumes at least, rather than single stand alone books.
The first I'll mention is collectively known as 'The Nights Dawn Trilogy' by Peter F. Hamilton. I personally loved the whole story and have re-read it several times. Heres a little from the Wiki entry and a link to the full listing.


The story of the Night's Dawn Trilogy is separated over three books primarily: The Reality Dysfunction (1996), The Neutronium Alchemist (1997), and The Naked God (1999); but is also supported by "A Second Chance at Eden", a collection of short stories which provide insight into the history of Hamilton's universe.

The story is divided in many threads, based around primary, secondary and tertiary characters. Not all of these will be discussed here, as they delve deeply into the rich and complex texture of the Universe providing a greater sense of verisimilitude, also exploring some of Hamilton's darker themes. These story lines include Dariat's struggles inside Valisk, and the Deadnight's voyage to their 'Saviour'.

In the 27th century humans have colonised nearly 900 worlds, have living, sentient starships as well as the conventional kind, living also in Asteroid communities and in large, living Space stations. Due to policies of 'Ethnic Streaming' by the colonisation authorities, worlds are generally united under a single government, with these governments collectively forming a Confederation. The Confederation includes both Adamists and Edenists, a small collection of Alien races including the Tyrathca and the Kiint, has an armed Navy (which acts primarily against smugglers, pirates and anti-matter production facilities, which are considered highly illegal) and a central 'house' based on the world of Avon. Earth is still an important world, with a massive population, exporting massive amount of colonists (both voluntarily and involuntarily), but virtually environmentally destroyed after years of technological abuse.

The Night's Dawn Trilogy

The second is called 'The Gap Cycle' by Stephen Donaldson. Again, fantastic piece of work , worthy of several reads.

Morn Hyland, an ensign with the United Mining Companies Police, is on her first mission aboard the UMCP destroyer Starmaster (which is crewed by members of her extended family). When they arrive at Com-Mine Station, a ship, Bright Beauty, piloted by the pirate Angus Thermopyle, flees, and Starmaster follows. Witnessing Angus slaughtering a small mining settlement (Angus had left Com-Mine without supplies and needs air scrubbers), Starmaster attempts combat, but is almost destroyed by a massive internal explosion. Morn suffers from gap-sickness, a mental disorder that inflicts itself on a small portion of people who travel through the Gap (the series' analogue to hyperspace). Symptoms of gap-sickness vary wildly; in Morn, it manifests itself as an uncontrollable urge to engage self-destruct, and is triggered by exposure to high-gravity conditions. Morn, left alone on the auxiliary bridge when Starmaster engaged Angus' ship, experienced gap-sickness for the first time, and attempted to destroy Starmaster.

Angus boards the wreck hoping to salvage some air scrubbers, murders Morn's father (who had survived Morn's attempted self-destruct) and kidnaps Morn. Seeking both control of her gap-sickness, and Morn herself, Angus places a zone implant - a remotely-controlled electrode - onto her brain, which allows Angus to control Morn's every feeling and action. By giving Morn an unauthorised zone implant, Angus has committed a capital crime, and will be executed if he is caught.

The Gap Cycle

I have read a few others, single book stories or the first volume of a series of books but I'm at work and can't remember them off the top of my head. I'll look later and post. Although one book I read won't need any introduction, or links, as its H. G. Wells War Of The Worlds



posted on Oct, 18 2006 @ 12:54 AM
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On the basis of the works you've referenced, I have a few recommendations for you to try.

Most of Iain M. Banks's science fiction (highbrow space opera might be a better description) is set against the backdrop of a super-technologized, scarcity-free, more or less utopian interstellar culture called the Culture. The Culture is essentially humanoid (though not terrestrial) in origin, but artificial intelligences, some of almost godlike potency, play a large role in it and are considered sentient beings with the same rights and duties as humans.

The Culture is, like most utopias, a fairly dull place, so Banks's stories are always based on the interactions and confrontations between it and other civilizations and entities with which it shares the Galaxy. The Culture has great faith in itself and its brand of civilization, so it meddles in the affairs of other cultures, hoping to lead or push them forward intellectually and ethically to the point where they can be assimilated with the Culture or at least allied to it. Often these other civilizations, especially the more primitive ones, haven't a clue they're being meddled with.

The best Culture stories for newcomers to Banks's work are The Player of Games, a novel, and The State of the Art, a novella which is part of a story collection published under the same title. The latter story is about the Culture's encounter with earth humans -- who don't come off very well by comparison with it!

That's my first recommendation. My second is completely different: the Majipoor stories of Robert Silverberg.

The first of these, a doorstop-thick novel called Lord Valentine's Castle, came out in the early Eighties, I think. It's a classic fairy-tale plot -- dispossessed prince discovers the truth about his patrimony and sets out to reclaim it, helped by a colourful motley of friends and followers, has many adventures along the way, righting wrongs, falling in love, etc. The book is only technically science-fiction; to read, it's more like a fantasy, though there is no magic in it (there is a lot of advanced 'technology' that acts just like magic). If you liked Night's Dawn and you like fantasy, you'll love this.

Silverberg then went on to write a shedload of Majipoor stories, many -- Valentine Pontifex, etc. -- featuring the same cast of characters as LVC. I haven't read most of them, but I enjoyed the ones I did read. Silverberg is an imaginative and versatile writer who can cope with a wide range of subjects and styles, and has had a successful career spanning several decades. The Majipoor stories represent the sunny side of his talent; to experience the dark side, try Dying Inside, the story of a telepath whose talent, instead of giving him an advantage over other people, turns his life into a misery of failure and isolation.



posted on Oct, 22 2006 @ 01:55 AM
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Looks like you and I are the only real sf fans on ATS, ridcully.

I guess that explains the lack of posts regarding real science fiction in this forum.

Well, at least I tried.



posted on Oct, 23 2006 @ 03:06 AM
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Sorry I haven't replied sooner Astyanax, got some nasty flu at the moment and dont feel upto much other than lurking! I'll get back to you when I feel a little better



posted on Oct, 23 2006 @ 07:04 PM
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Ninety percent of the threads in it seem to be concerned, not with science fiction, but with television shows and Hollywood films of the type beloved of scientifically uneducated adolescents.[ex/]

Actually the popular usage of the term Science Fiction is interchangable with Sci-Fi. The word for serious 'hard' science fiction is Speculative Fiction. The one basic rule for Speculative Fiction is that the Author must only ask their readers to believe in one or two unbelievable concepts.

Dan Simmons is a good Speculative Fiction author, he wrote Hyperion Cantos.

I see you've already added in the Author of Snow Crash so I won't repeat him.



posted on Oct, 25 2006 @ 12:48 PM
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Astyanax- thought I'd check out some of your threads because you were so nice to me on one of mine!

We both read 2001 at the same age - the book was so much better than the film, I thought...

I'm also a fan of Iain M Banks, and Peter Hamilton. I thought the first two books of the Night's Dawn trilogy absolutely rocked, but the denouement was extremely disappointing, I have to say. Such a shame. His more recent two-parter was pretty cool.

I'm not reading much sf at the moment, but I have to recommend, if you don't know them already, two writers I admire tremendously.

Greg Bear has written quite a few books and I've read most of them. My favourite, by far, is /Slant, a tour-de-force of plot and multiple writing styles. Chapters are often headed by either quotations from a polemical manifesto related to elements of the plot, or by contemporaneous news items from a variety of invented sources. Each source has a distinctive voice that is totally credible. The heroine is complex and sympathetic, and the themes and ideas (identity being one, and is treated in some ways as complexly as in a Philip K Dick novel) are fascinating and intricately wrought.

The other guy I absolutely adore is Bruce Sterling. His shaper/mechanist dualism prefigures Hamilton's Adamist/Edenist schism, and his writing style is astonishing - Twenty Evocations is one of the sparest, most affecting pieces of prose I've ever come across. There's a completenes to it that reminds me of Pat Barker's Regeneration (not sf, I know, but a great novel nonetheless). Distraction is another excellent book and Sterling is adept at creating quirky, not-wholly-but-mostly likeable characters and using them to explore wonderful themes and ideas. Distraction may be the ultimate political novel.

Ok, that's hyperbole. But I really liked the book.



posted on Oct, 26 2006 @ 04:28 AM
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OK Rich23, so I had to look up the meaning of 'denouement'! I know what you mean now! lol Yes, I thought the ending of Nights Dawn was pretty weak, but damn, was it ever a good ride getting there! I've tried to think of how it could've been done better, and came up blank. Although I did like Quinn Dexters comeupance.

I've just had a good look at your avatar for the first time....rofl excellent!

[edit on 26-10-2006 by ridcully]



posted on Oct, 26 2006 @ 04:41 AM
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The ...er... denoument was so disappointing precisely because of the buildup. I was so pumped up by the first two books, I bought The Naked God (should have been warned by the title, in retrospect) in hard back as soon as it came out. Talk about "deus ex machina"! (I apologise iin advance if you have to look that one up, but if you do, it's a really good one to know.)

But like I say, I really rate Bruce Sterling and Greg Bear... if you haven't tried 'em, check 'em out.



posted on Oct, 26 2006 @ 04:50 AM
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Looks like there's life in the old thread yet.

Thanks, rich23. Yes, I've read Greg Bear, though not Slant. I mean to; I've heard it's very good.

Bruce Sterling was harder going for me. Something about the way he writes.

Peter F. Hamilton -- great read, but nearer to old-style space opera than 'proper' science fiction in my opinion. Still, I've recently been feeling the urge to re-read the Night's Dawn books. Never seen a writer throw everything at the reader like he does -- great fun.

sardion2000, the terminology isn't set in stone, but 'speculative fiction' was actually a term coined by writers of the British New Wave of the 1960s to refer to the kind of sf they were writing, which was based more on 'soft' sciences like psychology than on the physics, chemistry and astronomy with which Golden Age sf was chiefly concerned (inasmuch as it was concerned with 'real' science at all).

Sci-fi, to a science fiction enthusiast, is a derogatory term, as explained in this limerick, which appeared in a 1980s issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine:

Dear Reader, you ask yourself 'Why
'Isn't sf the same as sci-fi'?
Well you see, there's a fine line
Between Robert Heinlein
And Son of the Two-Headed Fly

I've talked about the difference before in this forum, only to be blown off by some Dutchman who informed me that he had 'been working in sci-fi for years' and that there was no difference between the terms. I forebore to reply, since I figured that (1) his knowledge of English probably wasn't perfect and (2) people who 'work in sci-fi' probably think it's the same thing as science fiction. How would they know any better?



posted on Oct, 26 2006 @ 10:37 AM
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I am Legend
by

Richard Matheson

Ask an SCI-FI writers today and they will tell you this is the guy that inspired them. This was made into a movie with the Charlston Heston called Omega Men. In 2007 Will Smith will take on the role of Robert Neville as the last man on earth. Should be good, he is a good actor and is hard not to like. Omega Men was okay for a 70's movie. Eitehr way you look at it, I am Legend is a worthy read.

Turn out the lights, put on some Beethoven, make a stiff drink and enjoy.



posted on Oct, 26 2006 @ 10:46 AM
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Hard to believe that no one has mentioned the great Isaac Asimov yet. While his Foundation series might be a bit too far out there for some, his Robot series are fantastic! And to think he wrote much of this back in the 1950s. He was truly ahead of his time.



posted on Oct, 27 2006 @ 03:47 AM
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Originally posted by dbates
Hard to believe that no one has mentioned the great Isaac Asimov yet.

He was bound to come up, though.

Between the end of the second world war and the worldwide cultural explosion of the Sixties, science fiction was dominated by the Big Three: Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. Asimov's masterpiece, the Foundation series, as well as the first two 'robot' books, The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun, were all written in the Fifties.

Of the Big Three, it was Arthur C. Clarke I discovered first (see above). It was probably his writing that first lit my scientific and metaphysical fuse. It certainly provided the incendiary material: 2001, with its speculations on the nature of consciousness and the future of life, was quite an eye-opener, but the one that really blew my mind wide open was The City & the Stars, in which life and consciousness are viewed through a forbiddingly mechanistic lens whose aperture suddenly flies open, halfway through the book, to engulf a galaxy's worth of transcendence.

As a boy, I couldn't grasp more than a fraction of the ideas I was reading about in Clarke. I was far too busy living the characters and the plot, anyway. But the ideas -- simultaneously disturbing and liberating -- stuck, and now in middle age I find that they have shaped my perceptions and even my life in decisive ways.

When I came to read Asimov and Heinlein a year or two later, the experience was very different. Asimov's work had little of the metaphysical dimension I found so absorbing in Clarke's. His universe, even in the galaxy-spanning Foundation novels, is always of strictly human dimensions, comprehensively mapped and tapped. In Clarke's writing, you have the sense of an infinity of wonders hovering just beyond the fringes of perception; you never got that feeling with Asimov. Still, one neither wants nor expects epiphanies every day. As a teenager, I enjoyed Asimov and found his work intellectually stimulating. But as I grew older and more demanding, I found his literary flaws less and less easy to ignore, till at last I could read him no longer.

With Heinlein, my experience was very different. To this day I've only read a few of his books and stories: Starship Troopers, Starman Jones, World Enough & Time, a few early pulp-magazine stories collected in later, historical anthologies of science fiction. Nor do I have plans to read any more; I find his work repellent. The right-wing politics, the thinly disguised love of violence for its own sake, the whiff of incipient megalomania -- these were things I had already begun to turn away from at the age of fifteen. Besides, the writing was indigestible, all lumps and clumps, crude.

The truth is, few sf writers of the classic era have worn well. A.E. van Vogt and Fritz Leiber are all but forgotten. L. Ron Hubbard, sadly, is not -- we all know what became of him. Frank Herbert, a slightly later arrival, has turned into something of an embarrassment, the result of crude legacy-milking on the part of his heirs. The others? James Blish is remembered mostly for one novel, A Case of Conscience. Frederick Pohl and Ray Bradbury have fared better, especially Bradbury, though I suspect that he is less often read than reverenced. I think this proves that, in the end, literary values remain values even in genre fiction -- Bradbury and Pohl were, in a literary sense, by far the best writers of the bunch.

In the Sixties and Seventies, the field expanded enormously. In the process it became attractive to people who actually knew how to write. It's the sf of that period that I know and like best, though I have many favourites from earlier and later eras too. I find it difficult to relate to a lot of contemporary sf -- it's as if real life has caught up with science fiction, and wild extrapolatory ideas are harder to come by. As I mentioned earlier, I like Iain M. Banks and William Gibson. I can read Dan Simmons, but his writing is awfully variable -- Ilium was brilliant, Olympos was a creaky jerry-built pile of rubbish with bits falling off every time you looked. I'm currently reading Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds. I'm up to page 100 and it still looks promising, so I have high hopes.

But what I really like is science fiction that concedes nothing to mainstream writing in terms of literary ambition (and quality). Sadly, very few writers are capable of producing that calibre of work. Gene Wolfe leads the pack, so to speak, but it's an awfully small pack; I really can't think of anyone else who qualifies fully apart from Iain Banks and Neal Stephenson. Even Stephenson's a bit iffy.

Any suggestions, fellow readers?

[edit on 27-10-2006 by Astyanax]



posted on Feb, 17 2007 @ 09:43 AM
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Frank Herbert, a slightly later arrival, has turned into something of an embarrassment, the result of crude legacy-milking on the part of his heirs.


The original Dune books I thought to be great... but these new ones... eh, might as well turn my brain off. I especially hated the newest one, Hunters of Dune or somesuch... it's like the two guys writing it wanted to see how self-referential they could get!

Some time ago, I bought a 50s-vintage science fiction anthology and was just blown away by the quality of the writing. Everything made sense. No plot holes...

I stepped into this forum and thought, "Oh my god. It's like a TV show discussion, not science fiction."

Then I saw this thread and realized there was still some good in the world.



posted on Feb, 17 2007 @ 03:22 PM
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Some one already mentioned one of my favorites:

Ray Bradbury

Another one of mine, one of the first I happened to pick up at the local library as a kid, and one that really began my love of scifi, was

Lester del Rey

Another one I like, that I rarely see mentioned, is .....Steven Vincent Benet

His short story "BY THE WATERS OF BABYLON" was required reading in high school...and is very appropiate considering today's headlines. You can read it here:
www.tkinter.smig.net...



posted on Mar, 29 2007 @ 12:23 AM
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I more or less agree with the list so far.. although I never could get into asimov and I hated the space odyssey books. However Neal stephenson and william gibson blow my mind.

Another one I would like to add is peter watts, he has wrote a beautiful near future series starting with the book starfish, then maelstrom, then behemoth : B-max, and culminating in behemoth: seppuku. IT's the ultimate man made biotech disaster series! Totally plausible technology and mind blowingly sinister dystopian extrapolations of what our society is becoming. (aka a nanny state where people crave the illusion of freedom but want more than anything for someone else to make the tough decisions) The whole story is evocative and has characters that are "real" no hyper super duper laconic dark male heroes in a beat up leather jacket.

Also I like a few of the things travis S. taylor has written or cowrote. particularly vonneumans war.

In the less feasible but amazingly good reading catergory I put john ringo and david drake. david drake's hammers slammers is classic high tech mayhem, and john ringo's legacy of the aldenata series is amazingly cool.

And contrary to popular belief it's not just you old guys that like good hard sci fi aka speculative fiction. I for one am 25 and love actually plausible sci fi. and would kill to live in the world of snowcrash lol



posted on Nov, 14 2007 @ 03:24 PM
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Here are a few of my favorite "real" SF authors:

Larry Niven. One of his fans has created a website which maps the "Known Space" universe that many of his novels inhabit:


www.larryniven.org...


That site also includes a complete bibliography of Niven's SF novels.


Frederick Pohl, the author of Gateway (which has several quite good sequels). Here is a website that describes the plot of Gateway:


www.sfreviews.com...


John Wyndham, the author of The Day of the Triffids. Wyndham gets the science right, while adding his own uniquely creepy touch; very convincing. Here is a synopsis of the plot of Day of the Triffids:


www.sfreviews.com...


I've enjoyed several novels by James P. Hogan (a very hard-science novelist), whose website includes info on his forthcoming novels:


www.jamesphogan.com...


Michael Crichton, sometimes that is. His novels Prey, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and The Andromeda Strain were very compelling, but some of his other books were kind of weak. In addition, Crichton has been criticized for "cardboard characters" in his novels; there is a certain amount of truth there, but all writers have their strengths and weaknesses. Here's his website with summaries on plots of his books:


www.michaelcrichton.net...


[edit on 11/14/2007 by Uphill]



posted on Nov, 14 2007 @ 06:05 PM
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Will no one mention Vernor Vinge?

With his novella, "True Names", he predicted the Internet or "Cyberspace" in 1981, three years before Gibson wrote "Neuromancer". He doesn't write much, but what he does write is excellent.



posted on Nov, 14 2007 @ 06:15 PM
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reply to post by Astyanax
 



I like all the ones you posted except for William Gibson. Enjoyed the first couple but then.....ehhh you know...

Iain M Banks is brilliant and one of the few SF authors whose non SF work is equally as brilliant, except for perhaps the master, Asimov.

I much prefer older SF, from when the craft was in its infancy and it all seems to have a freshness and vitality about it.

L. E. Modesit is one of my faves who has never received a lot of recognition, but moorcroft, heinlein, greg bear, olaf stapleton, vonnegut, phillip dick, harry harrison.....i could go on for days.



posted on Dec, 7 2007 @ 03:36 PM
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After 30 years of Sci-Fi fandom, my favorite still has to be Robert A. Heinlein. Whatever your particular craving is, he's got a book for you. Space Opera? Try Starship Troopers, Space Cadet or any of his other 50's books. Sci-Fi as social criticism? Friday has to stand out as one of the greatest books of the genre. I don't read his books once, never to look at them again. I return to them time after time over the years and he always has something new in an old favorite. And in his juveniles, he never, ever talked down to his readers...he was like that crazy uncle that most people have.

Also worth mention is H.P. Lovecraft. Many might think his stuff is too morbid to be legit Sci-Fi, but he deserves a lot of credit for defining the genre of American Sci-Fi...yeah, I know...some will point to H.G. Wells and Jules Verne as the founders, and their books are well worth reading, but Lovecraft defined the genre of pulp sci-fi that gave us Asimov, Heinlein and the other greats.





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