Little lost books

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SF Signal (a very cool blog for those who want to keep a finger on the SF/F media pulse) posted a list of 10 Obscure But Superb SF Novels. I’ve read Wasp, but none of the others.

So many books fall between the cracks – good books, books that seem like secret treasures to those few who actually find and read them. Sometimes the author only had one good story inside him to tell. Other times the sales just didn’t support offering a second book contract, and the author either changed names or left writing. Death, of course, takes good writers before we’re ready for them to go. We, as writers, never want to think of our work slipping into obscurity that way, but it happens. Lots of reasons for books to fall by the wayside (especially if the changes Faith spoke of yesterday continue.) It’s good for writers to read not only the bestsellers, but the obscure books as well. What did those writers do wrong, or not do at all? What did they do beautifully, and why didn’t it work for the majority of readers?

I scanned my own bookshelf for some of my favorites, and I found:
Frostflower and Thorn by Phyllis Ann Karr
(the first feminist fantasy I ever read, recommended by my first game master)
Harpy’s Flight by Megan Lindholm
(I still miss Ki and Vandien, Robin! Just so you know!)
Phaid the Gambler by Mick Farren
(a rambler and a gambler and a sweet-talkin’ ladies’ man – I love a good rogue!)
Soulsmith by Tom Dietz
(Contemporary fantasy before much of anyone else had even tried writing it – I still love the radio tarot reading)
Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp
(this short, gothic novel scared the pants off me back in 7th grade, and to this day, I can’t look into a reflecting ball without getting the willies)

I love every single one of those, even though no one I’ve talked to seems to have heard of them. A dreadful shame, that. If you need something good to read, (and you’ve read all of our books already *grin*) try one of the titles above. In the meantime, I’m sure there are a few titles you love that I don’t know about. No longer must they suffer in silence – bring them out into the light! Tell us what books you love that no one around you has heard of or read. Why do you think they’re languishing now?

**Special bulletin!** Stay tuned to this blog for a fabulous guest appearance tomorrow by Alethea Kontis, Ingram Buyer by day, New York Times best-selling author by night!

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9 comments to Little lost books

  • Wow, I haven’t read any of those. 🙂 I don’t think I’ve got any real unknown classics on my shelves (well, I *know* I don’t right now, because we have a severely limited portion of our books here), and I can’t even think of any to rah rah about off the top of my head. Maybe I’m too sleepy. 🙂

    -Catie

  • One book that I loved, but that few people seem to know is THE STILL by the late David Feintuch. David’s maritime books are well known, but this little gem seems to have slipped through the cracks. It’s a challenging book (on several levels), with a disagreeable lead character and a rather explicit gay male relationship. Well worth the read.

  • Ooh, I remember Frostflower and Thorn — and Thorn had all the best lines. And the most fun.

    Gods, that was so long ago.

  • Radish said: “Gods, that was so long ago.”

    Wasn’t it? Hey, around the same time frame… do you remember Christopher Stasheff’s “The Warlock in Spite of Himself”? I never really liked the sequels. But that first novel was so much fun!

  • Chris Branch

    I cannot see my bookcase from here at work, and the only one that comes to mind is The World is Round by Tony Rothman. He went on to be a physicist rather than a writer, but this book from 1978 is hard SF in the pattern of Niven’s Ringworld, and I think just as good.

  • Michele Conti

    I’m in the midst of packing. Unpacking. Repacking some more. Ugh. All of my books, save for the ones I haven’t read yet, are currently in boxes.
    Most of the books I own are ones that were recommended, or that I found on the 10$ or 5$ shelf at Chapters.
    I thought I had a few unknown poets in there, then I searched their names on google… not so unknown after all.

    I think there might be some gems in my “second hand book store collection” …but it’s packed away too. Oh well.

  • Chris Branch

    By the way, Misty, I cannot get to “listverse.com”; maybe my work network is blocking it? I can wait and try at home, but if anyone has a chance before then, I’m curious: what are the 10 books?

  • I understand the agony of work networks blocking things – I work in a middle school. *grin* So just for you…

    10. Bloodworld – Laurence Janifer
    9. Skinner – Richard McEnroe
    8. The Greks Bring Gifts – Murray Leinster
    7. House of Stairs – William Sleator
    6. Iceworld – Hal Clement
    5. Ballroom of the Skies – John D McDonald
    4. Midworld – Alan Dean Foster
    3. Agent of Chaos – Norman Spinrad
    2. Of Men and Monsters – William Tenn
    1. Wasp – Eric Frank Russell

  • Chris Branch

    The funny thing is my network doesn’t block too much, and when it does I get an error saying so. This time I just get nothing. Anyway thanks!

    I’ve only read Midworld, and I agree with that one whole-heartedly. In fact, Alan Dean Foster was my favorite author for a while, and the other one of his I’d consider for this list is Icerigger.