I’ve been an avid reader and fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy for most of my life. It is the genre that really grabbed my attention and nurtured my love of reading and books. They are the books and movies that gave me refuge in the most challenging times of my childhood. It is responsible for a myriad array of fan groups and wildly devoted followers. Yet for me, I never quite belonged to one of these groups. I have friends who shared interests and loved many of the same things, but never really a group of people I knew because of a shared love of a book or series of books, movies or TV shows.
That changed for me a few years back when my wife the aspiring author found herself a mentor in local author and all around amazing lady Gini Koch. Suddenly I was part of The Alien Collective so named for her Alien Series. I rather came at it sideways as I didn’t start reading the series right away. Eventually I had to start reading so I could understand all the references to the diverse worlds in the series rather than sit around clueless. I have come to enjoy the series though I am still quite a bit behind.
I recently started connecting more with the various fans on Facebook. One of these was devoted fan Elizabeth “Beth” Vrabel. She was part of the Collective so long that Gini herself doesn’t remember exactly when she joined. Sadly Beth died suddenly on Sunday. I’ve read several moving goodbyes from people who knew her far better than I. She supported numerous Kickstarter projects that included Gini Koch in their number, often grabbing up the opportunity to name a character in whatever story Gini was presenting to us. I wish I had known her better. I know even through our little online interactions she brightened my life and had an even bigger impact on the lives of those who knew her better and longer.
So I puzzle over how to say goodbye to someone I barely knew. I try once again to remember to tell those I care about just how important they are to me. I continue to do what I can to help promote those creative types around me that have become valued friends. I move forward with life, but know that there is one less fellow fan to share a love of books with. Thank you Beth for all that you shared.
Till next time.
See you among the stacks,
This week I thought I’d take up the suggestion from my lovely wife and talk about my favorite authors and books series.
Of course I have an amazing number of wonderful and supportive author friends who I could certainly say are among my favorites simply for being the wonderful people they are, but for this post I will stick with a few of the authors who’s books have had an impact on me.
My first author has both a series I very much enjoyed by him and a couple of series written by other authors, but using his creation, the rather iconic science fiction master Isaac Asimov. I started reading Asimov in high school courtesy of a birthday gift of 3 books from my father. I received the 1st book in the Robot City series, the 2nd book in the 2nd series Robots & Aliens. These series marked the 1st time Asimov had allowed other authors to use his positronic robots and the 3 laws of robotics. I set down and plowed through the 1st book in a matter of hours the very night I received it, which was quite an achievement for me. I then had to set about finding the other five books in the 1st series, then at least the 1st book in the follow up series. I enjoyed them immensely and credit them as part of the reason why I delved into reading books by Asimov himself. The other part would be, of course, the 3rd I was gifted. Robots & Empire is the 4th book in the robot detective novels. Not being much of one to jump into any series without starting from book one, I had to find and read The Caves of Steel. This series really did combine two wonderful elements for me, mystery and science fiction. The finish of the 4th book is my first memory of wanting to throw a book from the shear punch of the ending. I could not argue with the beauty of the ending, but it was frustrating none the less. Still, a reaction which marks an investment in the story and characters and a sign of great writing. I am also a fan of the robot short stories Asimov wrote with my personal favorite being Bicentennial Man. The novelization done by Robert Silverberg is to me a masterful expansion of a beautiful story about what it is to be human. Sadly, much as I enjoyed Robin Williams in the title role, the movie falls well short of what I loved about the source material. For me, Data from ST:TNG is the best example of what I loved about the story.
Next, is more from a series stand point than necessarily the authors, the Dragonlance series. My favorites of this shared world series are easily those by Margaret Weiss & Tracy Hickman. Dragonlance represents a rich fantasy world with some really great characters. I haven’t read everything set in the Dragonlance world, but I did enjoy most of what I’ve read.
Now, on to the 1st of the three authors I am currently actively reading, the somewhat infamous George RR Martin. My first introduction was when a friend in part responsible for me becoming a bookseller handed me a copy of Game of Thrones, the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. I started reading the series long before the HBO series was even being hinted at. I was captivated by the world and the expansive cast of characters. Of course, as with so many fans, I found favorite characters suddenly dead by the end of the first book. Even starting the 1st book around the time the 4th book was released, I have not been immune to the pain of having to wait years for the next book to hit shelves. I look forward to the conclusion of a story that I am enjoying in two formats now. I am also currently reading the Wild Cards series which Martin is an editor of.
The second of my 3 currently reading authors is Jim Butcher of The Dresden Files fame. I was introduced to Jim Butcher by a good friend of mine years ago via The Dresden Files. Again, I was given 2 great loves combined in one series, this time fantasy and mystery. Harry Dresden Wizard P.I. was an instant love for me. Butcher has also written the Codex Alera series which apparently stems from a challenge on the worst possible combination discussion on the internet. In this case, Pokemon meets the lost roman legion. Proof that a good author can find a way to turn a terrible idea into a wonderful story. While I initially waited till the 1st book came out in paperback, it quickly became a series I did not want to wait for the subsequent books to be released in paperback and bought the rest of the series as they were released in hardcover. Most recently released was his first book in his newest series, The Cinder Spires. The Aeronauts Windlass is Butcher’s take on Steampunk. Again, great characters and a use of language that just grabs me and doesn’t let go. Jim Butcher definitely ranks as one of the authors that I love everything of his that I’ve read.
The final of my 3 current authors is the amazing Gini Koch. Funnily enough, it was a chance to meet Jim Butcher at a local convention that led to discovering Gini Koch who in turn led to me writing this very post. An extremely prolific author (read 2 books/year just from her main series), I was bit slower to start reading Gini’s books. I started with Alexander Outland: Space Pirate, a fun rollicking book reminiscent of what I loved about Firefly and Han Solo. Fast paced as is all of Gini Koch’s writing, Alexander Outland was a fun, easy read that I truly hope is given the chance to get the rest of series it deserves. Next, I read The Night Beat, 1st of the Necropolis Enforcement Files series, a great take on many of the iconic “undead” and creatures of the night. The second book in the series Night Music is forth coming if not official released yet (not quite sure on this point). Of course this all leads to the big series from DAW Books The Katherine “Kitty” Katt Alien Series currently at book 13 Camp Alien and book 14 Alien Nation due out in December. I’m a bit behind here, still working my way through book 6 Alien vs Alien. The first book Touched by an Alien introduces us to the gorgeous aliens from Alpha Centauri living on earth and fighting “fuglies”. Katherine “Kitty” Katt is the earthling main character who stumbles across a world she didn’t know existed and takes us along for the ride. Fast paced and funny, these books are a great read that just keeps getting better. I definitely recommend that people check them out. Beware that they are a bit steamy Sci-fi/Romance books and contain sex scenes.
Finally, I come to possibly the author who might be my top favorite, the amazing and funny Terry Pratchett. A brilliant man and writer who was lost to us far too early and way too recently. Many people will know him from Good Omens written with Neil Gaiman. For me, he is the brilliant mind behind one of the funniest and thoroughly enjoyable series I’ve every read, The Discworld Series. I stumbled across the Discworld series practically by accident on my way home from visiting family in England back in 1991. Browsing through the airport bookstore, I found an intriguing sounding book called The Colour of Magic. It was a captivating title with great cover art. Rincewind the inept Wizzard instantly grabbed my attention and I had to hunt through my local library for quite some time to get the follow up book The Light Fantastic. Down through the years. I have continued to love the books in the Discworld Series and the many wonderful funny characters Pratchett created. Like so many of my fellow Terry Pratchett fans, I was saddened by news of his passing last year. I was never so lucky as to have met him in person, but he certainly had a long and lasting impact on my life through his writing and satirical humor. I am a few books behind in the series so have some adventures yet left to me. I will have to reluctantly leave Discworld to fond memories when eventually I read the final words of the final book in the series.
I look forward to continued enjoyment of my favorite authors still tapping away at their keyboards with the stories they are driven to tell. Should I manage to get caught up with my current back log of books to be read, I look forward to discovering new favorite authors among the many I find myself surrounded by. So now in the interests of creating a discussion rather than just “talking” to myself for your hopeful enjoyment, I turn the question to you. What are some of your favorite authors or series of books?
Till next time, see you among the stacks.
Welcome to the Duncan’s Books and More Books & Entertainment Blog. My intent is to start a discussion about books and other forms of entertainment. I hope to show a little more of who my guest bloggers are and generate interest in their books without the constant “go check out these books”. Disrespectful or off topic comments will be deleted. This is my space to encourage reading and other forms of entertainment and I am the ultimate arbiter of what content I feel appropriate. The current plan is do have a weekly post on a given topic. I want to encourage guest posts from the many amazing authors I know and welcome topic suggestions from readers. Most of all, I want enjoyable lively discussion about the topic at hand.
That’s all for now. Unleash the suggestions. See you among the stacks.