A Few of My Favorite Things

11 April 2001

I like having things cleaned well in advance of having company. My parents and grandparents don't arrive until this evening, and I finished the last of the vacuuming (my last task) yesterday before supper. Clean apartments are on my list of favorite things. But -- aren't you lucky -- that's not what I meant to talk about here.

I was talking to David-from-Strange-Horizons about Octavia Butler yesterday, and I mentioned that Blood Child was one of my favorite short story collections. It's right up there with Aliens of Earth (Nancy Kress), Georgia on my Mind and Other Place (Charles Sheffield), Dreams Underfoot (Charles de Lint), and The Past Through Tomorrow (Heinlein), I said. And hey presto, I had a list of Top Five short story collections.

My favorite short stories are not all in these collections. But I think they're the ones that I like best as collections. They're not just stories thrown together because they happened to be what the author was writing at the time. Sheffield, for example, included less than a quarter of what he had written in the years spanned by the stories. And it wasn't just "his best." ("No multiple submissions -- send us only your best," some guidelines say. Pfff. Like everyone has only one best story. "We want to keep response times down": good reason for not allowing multiple subs. "We think you have one best story": bad reason.)

So David said he'd done an article about his top five SF novel picks and asked what mine were. Well. I'm not very good at picking an arbitrary cut-off point, so the top five I have today are not the top five I'll have tomorrow, I can guarantee it. But what I told him was, in alphabetical order by author:

Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov. I like all the Foundation books. (Well, all the ones written by Asimov, anyway....) Some of them are better than others. Arkady Darrell is the best. All the stuff with the Mule was cool, too, but Arkady is the reason I loved this book. My dad gave me my first Asimov book when I was eleven. I just fell into it, and that was that. Soon thereafter, I learned the term "science fiction," and that there was a whole section in the library and bookstore devoted to books that interested me. Bliss.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. I really think this is the best Heinlein book, and I like Heinlein a lot, childbirth under high gravity notwithstanding. Podkayne of Mars notwithstanding. The wretched messes they've made of his books in Hollywood notwithstanding. I want me a subversive AI. Really.

Callahan's Key by Spider Robinson. This book made me cry twice for two totally different reasons. I don't cry over books. Well, except Bridge to Terebithia, which is hands down the best kids' book I ever read. But everybody cries over Bridge to Terebithia. When I grow up, I wanna be like Spider. Only with more curves and better hair. Failing that, I just want to hang out with him once and tell him a pun story on Algis Budrys. (He did pun stories about so many other SF people -- how could he possibly avoid Algis Budrys?)

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. This is the funniest book about the Black Plague I've ever read. Nobody else could possibly have pulled this book off. I like to be able to say that about a book. It's so well-done. I like other Connie Willis stuff -- Bellwether and To Say Nothing of the Dog are springing to mind. But Doomsday Book is amazing.

Fool's War by Sarah Zettel. This is probably my quirkiest, most time-dependent choice. I figure in about a year and a half, three years tops, my SF-reading friends will be going nuts trying to catch up on the past works of this "new" wonderful author. Spare yourself the rush and start early. She's got everything I want in a far-future SF novel, right there in Fool's War. She also has three other pretty cool books. Read them. They're Neat.

I could make a much, much longer list, but one needs to cut it off somewhere. So many books....

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