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Ask Slashdot: Most Underappreciated Sci-Fi Writer?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the nice-try-zombie-brunner dept.

Sci-Fi 1130

mvdwege writes "In the thread on the most depressing sci-fi, there were hundreds of posts but merely four mentions of John Brunner, dystopian writer par excellence. Now, given the normally U.S. libertarian bent of the Slashdot audience, it is understandable that an outright British Socialist writer like Brunner would get short shrift, but it got me thinking: what Sci-fi writers do you know that are, in your opinion, vastly underappreciated?"

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Ayn Rand (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924237)

She gave thousands of low-life sociopaths legitimacy through having a book to justify their beliefs.

Re:Ayn Rand (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924729)

You misspelled overappreciated.

Ursula K. LeGuin (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924239)

Because I can.

Stanislaw Lem (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924245)

I don't think he was the greatest science fiction writer but I think he got the shaft because he wasn't American or British and on top of that he wrote at a time when the Iron Curtain hindered the flow of information -- even fiction. Evidence for this can be seen when he released 17 works in the eight years that followed the "Polish October."

I will admit I don't know Polish and have only read the English translation of his works but I will also say that where I find contemporary authors like Stephen King or Cormac McCarthy to be masters of description, Lem was lacking. His works, however, I often found mirrored in later American science fiction and sometimes what he packed into a chapter could be as deeply philosophical and have as much political commentary as an entire novel by his contemporaries. One of my Polish computer vision professors in grad school saw me reading the Cyberiad and picked up my book and held it up to the class and hyperbolic-ally announced "Every work of science fiction past 1960 is a derivative of this man." He's probably a hero in Poland but I have friends that consider themselves very avid readers and haven't even heard of him.

I have to admit I even stumble upon works of his I never got around to and find pleasure in them [slashdot.org] .

Re:Stanislaw Lem (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924375)

Lem underappreciated? He's a megastar! (deservedly)

For underappreciated, try Sam Delany. Also, according to Wikipedia, the most misspelled.

Re:Stanislaw Lem (1)

Eddy_D (557002) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924481)

Works by Stanislaw Lem were in my public library and I read them. Mind you that was back in the early 80's when I was in high school. I read what I could find.. interesting perspective.

Re:Stanislaw Lem (5, Interesting)

grogo (861262) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924573)

I am of Polish descent, and have read all of Lem's books in Polish, and most in English. The originals are of course better -- he was a master of inventive wordplay which just doesn't translate very well into other languages. He shaped my appreciation of SciFi forever -- I could never understand why people liked Star Trek for example, which seemed so simplistic in comparison. He's very well known in the East, but hard to find in the West, even now.

Re:Stanislaw Lem (4, Interesting)

ACS Solver (1068112) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924625)

I was hoping in fact just today there'd be an appropriate reason for me to post this on Slashdot.

Lem is relatively well known in the USA, from what I can judge. The couple of English translations I've encountered weren't particularly good. Lem's Solaris is brilliant, and several other works are well worth reading.

But whom I really want to point out to sci-fi fans in the USA are the Strugatsky brothers (Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky). Soviet sci-fi authors with legendary status in post-Soviet space among anyone who reads sci-fi. As an avid sci-fi fan, I put them on the very top tier of authors, along with the better known English-language greats like Clarke, Asimov or Bradbury.

English translations are not too numerous, but I discovered last month that one of their best books, Roadside Picnic, has been re-released in the USA with a new translation. Amazon link [amazon.com] . Give it a try. I really hope that new edition will help in getting them to be better known in the English-speaking world, and greatly hope that this post will get at least a couple of Slashdotters to look into it.

Re:Stanislaw Lem (2)

notandor (807997) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924709)

For a US-centric Sci-Fi audience (as here on /. with a more ... libertarian crowd) you might be right, in continental Europe Lem is quite known. I also read that the English translations of his books are quite bad and no his literary work no justice. This might be an additional reason why his books are not as highly valued as they should be in the US.

Lems texts contain a heavy dose of philosophy (mostly epistemology), mathematical theory and statistics and also sometimes sociology and psychology and medicine, he was a polymath with a very interesting biography. Also, often he is often able to include a witty sense of humor into these sometimes dry topics that make it a delight to read for somebody familiar with the corresponding scientific background.

His works in both Polish (of course) and in German are top-notch, it would be quite hard to find a writer similar as to how he wrote, maybe the Strugatsky brothers, and a little bit of Gene Wolfe, Umberto Eco and Jorge Borges.

My favorite novels of him are actually non Sci-Fi books:

A Perfect Vacuum: Lem reviews non-existent books (that also cannot really exist physically the way they are described).
The Investigation: A detective is tasked with solving murders and uses statistical theory and philosophical metaphysics during his investigation.
The Cold: Another murder series to be solved, involves again statistics and chaos theory.

Re:Stanislaw Lem (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924849)

That's an excellent choice, if by "underappreciated" you mean "widely read and extremely popular with sci-fi fans, but not quite a household name. Oh, and George Clooney starred in a movie adaptation of one of his novels."

Subjectivity (0)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924247)

Isaac Asimov.


Re:Subjectivity (2)

stridgedom (2703879) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924397)

Isaac Asimov is also my favourite, but I don't think he is under-appreciated. The 3 laws of robotics has been quoted in quite a few movies and he is well known in scientific circles as well, especially astronomy and of course robotics. One of my new favourites would definitely have to be Alistair Reynolds. I picked up one of his books at random at the library, and could not put it down until breakfast the next day, when it was done.

Re:Subjectivity (4, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924615)

Well, being well known and oft-cited isn't the same as being appreciated for what you really are. Consider Adam Smith who wrote *The Wealth of Nations* a book far more cited than read.

Asimov was merely a *good* writer, but he was a *brilliant* thinker. There are, therefore, multiple layers of irony then in the way the three laws are cited. They don't have the kind of scientific validity they have in his robot story universe, where people simply cannot build robots that violate the laws. In the real world we are far from building robots that are capable of interpreting the three laws.

The real significance of the laws is literary. They killed the popularity of the robot-run-amok story, because suddenly everyone expected a more sophisticated -- or at least more clever story than a third-hand Frankenstein retread. Such a story would pose no challenge nor offer rewards to an intellect like his.

The ultimate irony is that while the three laws are the sci-fi trope par excellence, Asimov used them as an excuse to slip numerous variations on the classic locked room murder mystery past sci-fi readers. He wrote a number of great pure sci-fi stories, but I think he was at heart a mystery writer.

Alastair Reynolds (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924249)

Love the Revelation Space series...

Re:Alastair Reynolds (2)

rgknox (2700179) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924591)

I don't know if Reynolds is under-appreciated, but I like his work also. He comes up with some pretty far-out ideas and is capable of conveying what he's envisioning. Some of my favorites: Revelation Space collection, House of Suns, Diamond Dogs, The Prefect.

Frank Herbert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924261)

Dune is a masterpiece. The masses don't know it exists. The award-givers looked him over. And only the first book got any real acclaim from critics.

Re:Frank Herbert (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924293)

Dune had a major motion picture, and 20 years later, a miniseries. It's also a fairly hard read and while it's a good book, I can see why it's not popular with the masses.

Re:Frank Herbert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924425)

Dune had a major motion picture...

...which was really not Dune at all, has multiple versions, and which basically no one saw.

...20 years later, a miniseries...

Which was truer to the book, but not as flashy, which even fewer people saw.

It's also a fairly hard read and while it's a good book, I can see why it's not popular with the masses.

Which is why, even though a LotR treatment would make for an excellent film, it will never happen.

Hence: Underappreciated

Re:Frank Herbert (1)

sgbett (739519) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924803)

Massive Agree. A universe to rival middle earth, a society/back story every bit as detailed and interesting as 'The Culture'. Perhaps only bettered by the foundation series by virtue of it having been written first.

The film was at best a superficial introduction to characters that missed out swathes of story, and appeared to run out of budget half way through (or maybe never had any at the start!). The TV show... well...

You could easily crank out an amazing film(...series of?). I nominate the Wachowskis!

J. K. Rowling (5, Funny)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924271)

Going for a downvote record!

Re:J. K. Rowling (4, Funny)

drobety (2429764) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924369)

L. Ron Hubbard!

Re:J. K. Rowling (4, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924571)

Oh, I totally agree!

We need an "L. Ron Hubbard award for literary audaciousness".

What other sci-fi writer jumped the shark with such intense audacity as to proclaim a series of lackluster works of science fiction space opera cliches as a genuine religious faith?

Clearly, this level of literary audaciousness deserves a analog to the raspberry award.

Re:J. K. Rowling (5, Funny)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924825)

You gotta admire the innovation though. I mean, many sci-fi stories have been turned into movies or video games, a few into plays and some have even inspired albums. But to my knowledge, Hubbard is the first to turn a sci-fi series into a decades long piece of performance art so encompassing that most of the players don't realize it isn't real life. He even called his shot!

Kilgore Trout. (5, Funny)

some old guy (674482) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924273)

And so it goes.

Re:Kilgore Trout. (1)

rgknox (2700179) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924477)

Well played.

Daniel Suarez (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924279)

Daniel Suarez and his trilogy of Daemon, Freedom(TM), and Kill Decision.

Re:Daniel Suarez (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924587)

Daniel Suarez and his trilogy of Daemon, Freedom(TM), and Kill Decision.

I would not consider Kill Decision to be a third of a Trilogy. It seems to be a break from the Daemon universe, and it ends in a way that naturally lends itself to a follow up. Not disagreeing with you, Daniel Suarez is great, just putting a fine, pedantic point on yours.

Kurt Vonnegut (5, Insightful)

Stolzy (2656399) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924281)

The man who inspired Douglas Adams at an early age.

Libertarian bent? Pfftpt. (0)

RandomFactor (22447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924289)

L. Neil Smith obviously

Karin Boye (2)

Lorens (597774) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924295)

Just one "SF" novel, "Kallocain", written eight years before Orwell's 1984. Definitely worth reading for the day when technology can easily detect lies and/or force people to speak the truth.

L. Ron Hubbard (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924309)


Re:L. Ron Hubbard (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924725)

But according to Scientology, there's millions of Scientologists around the world who appreciate the works of L. Ron Hubbard!

Piper (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924317)

H. Beam. Piper: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._Beam_Piper [wikipedia.org]

But then he cut his own life short, so who knows where he might have gone?

Re:Piper (1)

Jake Dodgie (53046) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924817)

I have to agree Piper's stories are awesome, far reaching and entertaining.

Fuzzys FTW.

Me (5, Funny)

multiben (1916126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924325)

I wrote a short story in 3rd grade about being transformed into a sultana. My teacher said my handwriting was too messy. I never wrote again.

Re:Me (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924357)

To be "underappreciated" there must first be something worthy of appreciation. I fear your teacher may have been right.

Re:Me (2, Interesting)

swell (195815) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924443)

"My teacher said my handwriting was too messy. I never wrote again."

You were lucky. My teacher said I was smart and my writing was good. She almost had me believing I was smart, but I've wasted 60 years writing in an age when writers outnumber readers.

Cordwainer Smith (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924327)


Subjective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924331)

These things come up again and again. The goal is always to find that diamond in the rough, that one sci-fi author that you haven't read yet because you've gone through Stephenson, Asimov, Clarke, Niven, and etc. Well as far as I can tell there aren't any diamonds in the rough. There are cult hits, that you have a very small chance of loving. But there's no real broad hit out there that few have heard of, no real wonderful and great author that's going to be like the first time you read (insert favorite sci-fi novel) out there.

I wish it weren't true, but it is : (

Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924347)

George Lucas

Roger Williams, aka kuro5hin's localroger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924349)

Williams is the author of the "Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect", a fascinating, over-the-top sci-fi set in a fully virtualized future. The book is self-published as no publisher would take it, and available for free online. http://localroger.com/prime-intellect/

Re:Roger Williams, aka kuro5hin's localroger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924577)

Dear Sir,

Are you yourself a pedophile, or do you merely enjoy reading the works of pedophiles?

Slashvertisement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924355)

This story posted by John Brunner's publisher.

Olaf Stapledon (4, Interesting)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924365)

Way ahead of his time.

Jack Lance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924377)

Wrote Binary Dream 5 years ago. That or Kurt Vonnegut-

Robert Anton Wilson (4, Interesting)

gallondr00nk (868673) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924399)

The Illuminatus Trilogy was brilliant, and his SchrÃdinger's Cat Trilogy was pretty awesome too. I guess there's better writers out there, and more prolific ones, but there's something thought provoking about his work. For me , they allow you to see the world differently and they make you ask questions. RIP RAW.

Are Those His Only Books You Have? (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924621)

He has more. LOTS more. You may find yourself delighted to find that out. I seem to remember that he had an article or two in Magical Blend magazine back in the day (The day when I was subscribing to Magical Blend Magazine, which was some number of days ago now.) That was a fun magazine too. If I recall correctly, Wilson noted that if you rearranged the letters in "George Herbert Walker Bush", you got "Huge Berserk Rebel Warthog". Timothy Leary, I think it was in the same issue, speculated that Bush was so uptight because he had a dirty asshole. Leary had apparently just had a bidet installed in his house and was looking down his clean asshole at everyone else.

What was I talking about again? Oh, yeah! You can find a ton of his stuff on Amazon, definitely worth a look-see!

Terry Pratchett (2)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924403)

Terry Pratchett and Discworld are almost unknown outside of fandom. He's REALLY popular in fandom, but not seemingly widely read outside. And yes, he is a science fiction writer with The Bromeliad...

I also enjoyed Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail. Granted, it was a translation, but it was a helluva interesting story about the third world deciding to invade the first, through mass population exodus. I got to read that in a pop culture sci fi English class in college, even though it was originally written in French and translated.

I enjoy some Piers Anthony, even though I didn't enjoy Bio of a Space Tyrant. The Xanth series is fun if you're bored and willing to read 'em straight through, and like puns. Mute was good.

I read a lot of David Weber, though I wish he'd get on with the Honorverse and with Dahak and Safehold. After Robert Jordan's death I swore I wouldn't read any more authors who were living or at least whose series were still going somewhere and weren't done, and Weber is one of the few that fits that. Dammit, finish the stories!

And Bruce Sterling seems under-appreciated these days too.

Re:Terry Pratchett (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924569)

I enjoy some Piers Anthony, even though I didn't enjoy Bio of a Space Tyrant. The Xanth series is fun if you're bored and willing to read 'em straight through, and like puns. Mute was good.

I must dispute this. I enjoyed Piers as a kid, but when I got older I realized the man was just a creepy pervert obsessed with underage sex. Which is all the more disturbing when you realize that all his books are targeted at teens.

That said, the first three Xanth books are good. They were written while he was a starving author, but when he started making money, the Xanth books became a zero-effort pure gravy train for him. He even says so in his famously long "afterwords".

Re:Terry Pratchett (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924605)

The same Terry Pratchett that's been honoured by the queen and is a best seller?

Re:Terry Pratchett (1)

Thornae (53316) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924697)

If you haven't read Pratchett's two early SF works, Dark Side of the Sun and Strata, you're missing out. For all Pratchett's fame, I'd count those two works as underappreciated.

And I've often said that Sterling's The Artificial Kid is like reading alternate chapters of an Iain M. Banks novel (so you only get the one story), ten years before Banks really hit the scene.

Philip Dick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924411)

Considering the number of successful movies his stories have spawned, I would say Philip Dick is under appreciated. I would like an adaptation of "The Man in the High Castle".

Re:Philip Dick (1)

verbatim (18390) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924449)

I think, in his time, he was under-appreciated. But he certainly is appreciated now, if not a cherished part of the science-fiction canon. We are fortunate, as science-fiction readers, that he did not move on to other genres as he originally had intended (or, maybe not, I don't know. In some other reality, PKD was a furnature saleman who never had the inkling to write at all).

9/11 truthers and moon landing deniers (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924423)

Their "explanations" truly push the limits of the laws of physics.

Walter M. Miller Jr. (4, Interesting)

Ian Lamont (1116549) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924431)

I read a lot of post-apocalyptic sci-fi when I was a kid, and the author that really stood out was Walter M. Miller, Jr., author of A Canticle for Leibowitz. He's a strong short story writer as well, but he's seldom mentioned in sci-fi lists -- I speculate it's because his prime writing period was in the 1950s.

Philip K. Dick (5, Interesting)

JoeDuncan (874519) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924451)

He was almost unknown while he was alive, I'd never heard of him until I was an adult, and the only reason most people know about him is because Hollywood has been mining his mind-nuggets post-mortem for decades.

I'm sure the Slashdot crowd appreciates him, but I'd still say he's under-appreciated because he deserves to be up there with the likes of Asimov, Wells and Verne.

Re:Philip K. Dick (1)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924623)

He was almost unknown while he was alive, I'd never heard of him until I was an adult, and the only reason most people know about him is because Hollywood has been mining his mind-nuggets post-mortem for decades.

I'm sure the Slashdot crowd appreciates him, but I'd still say he's under-appreciated because he deserves to be up there with the likes of Asimov, Wells and Verne.

Ditto, almost verbatim.

Also, while I wasn't really thrilled about the story, I particularly appreciated the audiobook of "A Scanner Darkly" -- I really enjoyed Paul Giamatti's reading of it. That plus his performance in American Splendor made me sit up and take notice of him as an actor.

Re:Philip K. Dick (1)

supercrisp (936036) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924819)

I have to really disagree on him not being well-known outside of the Hollywood remakes. His name has been in pretty wide circulation for three decades.

Keep it that way (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924453)

See what they did with Lewis Padgett's Mimsy Were the Borogoves. Sometimes being just ignored and leaving they great work unspoiled by hollywoodisms is a good thing.

Robert Arthur (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924463)

altho that might stray into fantasy and horror


Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924467)


Daniel Keys Moran (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924475)

Daniel Keys Moran
Trent the Uncatchable is the best character. Ever.

Quite a few are in the weeds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924487)

There are several that I consider unappreciated (or underappreciated).

  • Stanislaw Lem
  • JG Faherty
  • Guy Anthony De Marco
  • Quincy Allen
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt
  • Dani and Eytan Kollin (Unincorporated Man kicks ass!)
  • Peter J. Wacks (he has a novel where you can read the chapters in any order)
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  • Roger Zelazny
  • Joe Haldeman

There's plenty more. Harry Harrison is another, I loved the Stainless Steel Rat and Deathworld series.

Roger Zelazny (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924491)

Though honestly he was more "fantasy" than "Sci Fi", I think. Even if you find someone who's heard of him, they pretty much just read the Chronicles of Amber and called it good. His experimental works were a lot of fun. I don't think he was the best sci fi writer ever, but he's one of my personal favorites.

Re:Roger Zelazny (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924831)

Don't know if I'd call Zelazny underappreciated, but maybe that's because I've grabbed everything I could of his. You can usually btw find people who've read Lord of Light too. But yeah, Zelazny's heroes tend to be exceedingly pratical and snarky at the same time, which is kind of fun.

Margaret Atwood (1)

JoeDuncan (874519) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924495)

She's under-appreciated as a sci-fi authour because she says she doesn't write sci-fi, even though that's what she's best at and the rest of her work is mediocre.


Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924515)

!! !!

Me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924531)

Me. Although admittedly it's mostly my own fault - I haven't finished writing a book to publishing standard.

Moses! (1, Funny)

citylivin (1250770) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924533)

Number 1 in print, but he's not the first person you think of!

Neil Stephenson (2)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924539)

Because Snow Crash is the first piece of science-fiction I've ever read, and then reflected that it actually predicted its future pretty well.

Under-appreciated? (1)

Demena (966987) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924541)

That would have to be H. Beam Piper. The SF community has been claiming that for a long, long time. But I am sure that Clifford Simak would get some votes too.

Re:Under-appreciated? (1)

supercrisp (936036) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924833)

Yes to Simak! Some of his stuff is just brilliant, and he was pretty hot when his stuff was new, but you don't hear his name as much these days as you should, partly I think because of the cyberpunk fad.

Robert L. Forward (3)

TopSpin (753) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924551)

Robert L. Forward. An actual physicist.

To those evolved on the surface of a neutron star, you are mere smoke.

Yevgeny Zamyatin (4, Informative)

PAPPP (546666) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924561)

I'll argue for Yevgeny Zamyatin [wikipedia.org] , at least for authors unknown among people who otherwise appreciate Sci-Fi. We [wikipedia.org] is probably my favorite of it's style of dystopian novels (Think 1984 and Brave New World) - it uses a clever mathematical symbolism as a framework for the story, it has an awesome IRL history of copies being smuggled in and out of the Soviet Union, and Zamyatin was an Old Bolshevik disenchanted with later developments in the party. This means it has a little bit different perspective than the similar pieces by western authors, and explains the nifty "There is no final revolution" mantra in the novel.

Brothers Strugatskie (1)

avmich (194551) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924565)

One of the very strongest sci-fi writers USSR ever produced, and almost completely unknown in the West. IMO, easily comparable with best English/American writers.

David Brin (3, Informative)

Antipater (2053064) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924581)

I don't hang out much with people who read sci-fi, so I don't actually know how well-known he is. But I've never heard him brought up during a sci-fi discussion, despite his work being amazing. So he gets my vote.

Fredric Brown (4, Insightful)

knarfling (735361) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924613)

As a kid, I loved many of the Fredric Brown short stories. It amazed me that most of them were written in the '50s. He explored concepts such a time travel, alien visitors, imortallity and power in short stories that were amazing. I loved this beginning (and ending) to "Knock."

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door...

One of his more famous stories, Arena, was made into a Star Trek episode, although I liked the story better. My favorite story is a just a few paragraphs about a many who invents a machine to manipulate time.

Fredric Brown helped me to understand how limited my imagination really was and prompted me to expand it. What is more amazing to me is how well these stories still hold up today.

Eric Frank Russell (4, Informative)

aitala (111068) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924629)

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Frank_Russell


My list (1)

Thornae (53316) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924661)

If you extend that to "... underappreciated by modern audiences", I can think of a few.

There's Keith Laumer, who was huge in his day and then largely forgotten until Eric Flint and David Weber (and friends) re-invigorated his work, particularly the "Bolo" series.

James H. Schmitz wrote some cracking stuff, which has also recently been rediscovered by the Tor crowd.

James Tiptree Jr. (aka Alice Sheldon) is better known, but still fairly obscure to the modern SF reader.

Christopher Priest has also had recently renewed interest, almost entirely due to the film version of The Prestige, but he wrote a bunch of other goddamn weird, dark, depressing books.

Lloyd Biggle Jr. wrote some marvellous gently humorous stuff - his Cultural Survey novels are particularly good.

Clifford D. Simak is another acknowledged master of the genre who seems to get short shrift in modern SF collections.

But my own pick for Most Underappreciated would be Janet Kagan, who wrote a heap of short fiction, two utterly superb standalone works, and a Star Trek TOS novel, and then tragically died in 2008. I personally think she's as good as Lois McMaster Bujold, and had she lived to keep writing, she might be better known.

Daniel Keyes Moran (2)

llib_xoc (667319) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924665)

He's a rollicking adventure writer and can be very funny as well. All his works to date are on fsand.com as e-books. Here's an excerpt from "AI Wars - the Big Boost" Trent the protagonist speaking to his boss, Melissa:
Trent: Listen,” he said in a confidential voice, “you tell the Elite Commander everything is under control, and he’s not to worry.”
Melissa: “ ‘Everything’s under control, and he’s not to worry.’ ”
Trent: “Exactly. We like the hardware, and the hardware likes us. We have mutual respect and admiration.”
Melissa: She stared at him. “You have mutual respect and admiration. With the hardware.
And this has trimmed seventy-seven days off your completion estimates.”
Trent: "And the new people, of course."

Get the omnibus edition to have all of them.
No, I didn't get paid for this endorsement.

Alan Dean Foster (5, Informative)

conspirator23 (207097) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924667)

Foster has single-handedly committed all the cardinal sins that Serious SF Authors(tm) must never do:

Movie/TV spin-off novels? Check (See: Splinter of the Mind's Eye [wikipedia.org] ).
Crossing over into Fantasy? Check (See: Spellsinger [wikipedia.org] ).
Dabbling with humor? Check (Spellsinger, Glory Lane [goodreads.com] , etc.).
Indulging a disrespected fringe group? Check. (Furries man. See Spellsinger (again!), Quozl [wikifur.com] , the Icerigger trilogy).

If there is a scale that measures prolific hackery, with Peirs Anthony on the bottom and Stephen King on the top, I would put Foster far, far closer to King. Glory Lane, To the Vanishing Point, and Into the Out Of are all truly excellent reads. They're not life changers, they're just damn good. He's got a fine roster of clever and poigniant short stories. For old school geeks, the most notable of which is "Why Johnny Can't Speed" which has been cited as direct inspiration for the classic Steve Jackson game Car Wars [wikipedia.org] .

And hey, without Car Wars, SJ Games might never have been successful enough to launch GURPS. Without GURPS, there would be no GURPS Cyberpunk, no Secret Service raid on SJ Games in 1991, and maybe no Electronic Frontier Foundation either. How's that for underrated?

Re:Alan Dean Foster (2)

Immostlyharmless (1311531) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924813)

Ugh Why is it I never have Karma when I WANT karma? Alan Dean Foster is my favorite author bar none. I LOVED the Spellsinger series as a teenager. So many others: Flinx and his minidragon Pip, Dinotopia, The Man who Used the Universe. Foster is awesome. If you've never given in to reading any of his books, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to an afternoon reading one of his novels!

H. Beam Piper (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924677)

Uller Uprising......lots of details and visuals for 1952. And you can dig it up in the Gutenberg Project since its so far out of print !

Hugh Howey (1)

fixanoid (656159) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924687)

If you haven't read Wool series, please do.

Theodore Sturgeon (2)

glassware (195317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924717)

You should read the short story "... And Now The News." It's truly one of the most eye opening short stories that nobody knows about. In many ways, it's a gloriously alternative view about the sadness of life and the optimism that people can have. Truly one of the best stories I'd recommend to anyone.

Here's the link:
http://books.google.com/books/about/And_Now_the_News.html?id=wpuJQrxHZXAC [google.com]

Some more commentary:
http://www.physics.emory.edu/~weeks/misc/faq.html [emory.edu]

Philip Jose Farmer, (1)

BubbaDave (1352535) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924719)

you insensitive clods!

Samuel R. Delany (1)

Josuah (26407) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924723)

Samuel R. Delany [wikipedia.org] is highly acclaimed but I think out of reach for most readers. His prose is dense and complicated, requiring serious concentration to consume. The themes are complex and subtle despite having obvious presentation, and can make readers uncomfortable. His are the types of books English teachers have a field day with, typically to the dismay of students. Also unlike most they are written as and read like contemporary fiction rather than science-fiction. (I feel like William Gibson's newer works are like this as well, but annoyingly so.)

Yes, i do know (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924733)

But he is so badly unappreciated, that he is not even translated to any other language, including English of course. I remember one scene only, in Paris, when the new emperor Caligula (yes, it is science fiction, and yes, it is in the future), declared the day he become the new emperor (read my lips, killed the old one) as a holiday, and increased the social pension with 12 pens, and everybody was happy, because this one is different one, and he will make the difference, and he takes care of the poor people.........Eh, classic scene, don't you agree?

Harlan Ellison (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924735)

I have no mod points and must troll.

More of a Fantasy Writer... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924743)

...than hard sci-fi, but Jack Vance is amazing. He has an extensive body of work, with some personal favorites being:

The Dying Earth series
The Demon Princes series
The Lyonesse trilogy


R.A. Lafferty (4, Informative)

HaroldBakker (708586) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924749)

His writing wasn't 100% Science Fiction but close enough and since it's either that or Fantasy we'll have to allow it I think.

Re:R.A. Lafferty (1)

crunchygranola (1954152) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924837)

Absolutely! one of the my three favorites of all time. Neil Gaiman credits him, for a span of time in the late 60s and early 70s, of being the greatest short story writer in the world.

Runners-up: Gene Wolfe, and Jorge Luis Borges (the greatest writer of the 20th Century).

So many to choose from... (1)

blacksmith_tb (855386) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924769)

I'd say first place should go to Cordwainer Smith ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordwainer_Smith [wikipedia.org] ) though I have a soft spot for Clifford Simak ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifford_Simak [wikipedia.org] ), not to mention Jack Vance ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Vance [wikipedia.org] ). None of them are exactly unknown, but I don't think they get much credit these days for having influenced FSF.

Here's a surprising suggestion (3, Interesting)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924789)

HP Lovecraft. He generally dismissed as a horror writer by non horror fans but he's not given credit for the scifi nature of most of his work. There are obvious scifi stories like "In the Walls of Eryx" but most of his stories had scifi themes. At the Mountains of Madness was about an alien race that built a city in Antarctica millions of years ago and potentially created human life if not all life on Earth. Even stories like The Whisperer in Darkness dealt with a race of aliens that harvested brains to transport the minds of people between worlds. The old gods were described as very powerful aliens. He talked about alien races, space travel, dimensional travel and engineering lifeforms with science not magic. The magic in his stories was mostly expressed as alien super science even the spells and symbols used were seen as science. Another story Cool Air was about some one preserving life after death with chemicals and refrigeration. People forget the original Herbert West Reanimator was a Frankenstein like story of resurrecting the dead through science not magic. Yes he was a horror writer but the bulk of his world was more science fiction than fantasy.

Brian Daley (1)

jtnix (173853) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924795)

He'd written about two dozen novels before his untimely death in 1996, but an amazing writer with both a gifted imagination and gift for words. I was never bored reading any of his books.

My favorites are:

Han Solo Trilogy: The best Star Wars novels, hands down.

Adventures of Alacrity Fitzhugh and Hobart Floyt: Fun space opera trilogy with lots of heart, amazing back story and plenty of action. Sadly, out of print but easy enough to obtain 99cent copies online.

GammaLAW: Epic science fiction series about a group of super soldiers sent to a distant world that has fallen out of communication with the rest of the settled worlds hoping to solve the mystery of an alien race threatening mass invasion. He once likened GammaLAW to 'War and Peace in space, with a cast of characters in the hundreds', he was working on the manuscript at the time of his passing, and his longtime friend and pseudonym sharing author, James Luceno, pulled the final script together which was released in 4 paperbacks in the late 1990's. Sadly, also out of print.

Other fun things he worked on were the novelizations of (and serious improvements on) the Harmony Gold Robotech animated television series, where apparently he and Jim Luceno took turns writing 3 books each of the initial 12 book series and alternating on the 5-book Sentinels novels and writing each section of the final 'wrap-up' novel.

The tongue-in-cheek Black Hole Travel Agency quartet of novels show how far out he and Jim could go in their world building and plot scenarios, which is pretty far out.

I've never found a comparable author that I have enjoyed to read so much, and I sure have tried. Iain Banks is as close as I've gotten, but he still falls short in the storytelling, humor and wit departments.

Can we do most overrated next? (1, Troll)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924797)

If so, my vote for that is Ayn Rand - especially in this community where her writing has become a handbook for life for many.

Gene Wolfe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924809)

He is an astonishing author who writes challenging, ambiguous, affecting, beautifully-wrought work.

Ursula K. LeGuin: "Wolfe is our Melville."
Neil Gaiman: "Gene Wolfe is the smartest, subtlest, most dangerous writer alive today, in genre or out of it."
Michael Swanwick: "Among living writers, there is nobody who can even approach Gene Wolfe for brilliance of prose, clarity of thought, and depth in meaning."
Thomas Disch: "[Wolfe is the] most underrated author...all too many have already gone into a decline after carrying home some trophies. The one exception is Gene Wolfe."

Heinlein or Zindell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40924829)

Heinlein is well known enough to be sure, but definitely under appreciated for the content of his collected works.

Zindell, because you've probably never heard of him but his "Requiem for Homo sapiens" is an amazing piece of hard science fiction that introduced me to a large array of philosophical ideas for the first time ever.

For the record, neither had been mentioned prior to this post (the best I could tell). Absolutely subjective, but that's my two suggestions.

Cheers all!

Too many to mention. (2)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#40924841)

I started to read sci-fi in the early 1970s, after the Golden Age but while many of the Golden Age writers were still with us. Time has passed and many great (and countless very good) writers are no longer with us are fading into obscurity: C.L. Moore, Alfred Bester, Clifford D. Simak, and Randall Garrett to name a few.

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