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Which [Science] Fiction/Fantasy book would you teach?

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  • Which [Science] Fiction/Fantasy book would you teach?

    If you had to choose a fiction/fantasy book to teach to first year university students, which one would you choose and why?
    The only limiting factor is that it must be able to be a standalone story not part of a series.
    ie. The History of the Runestaff is ok, as the complete story is told in one book but The Mad God's Amulet is not as it is only a part of the Runestaff story.

    I ask because I might be teaching such a fiction/fantasy reading class next year and am having a hard time choosing a text.

    Thanks for your inspiration.

    Sincerely,
    Conrad

  • #2
    Of Mike's? Probably 'War Hound and the World's Pain', it has the hero's journey, ties in with history and religion that any student will recognize, has a very direct morality that can be explored, and holds up in terms of quality to stuff they might be reading in other classes. If you want more of an 'alternate world' I might go for 'Warlord of the Air' and you can talk history and politics. If you really want straight fantasy I'd pick 'Stormbringer', it has everything all the later straight fantasies have with his strongest fantasy character.

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    • #3
      Hey Conrad, given the fact I only read Hawkmoon series this year and I am 39, I really think this was something I should have read long before, so that would be my choice.
      "From time to time I demonstrate the inconceivable, or mock the innocent, or give truth to liars, or shred the poses of virtue.(...) Now I am silent; this is my mood." From Sundrun's Garden, Jack Vance.
      "As the Greeks have created the Olympus based upon their own image and resemblance, we have created Gotham City and Metropolis and all these galaxies so similar to the corporate world, manipulative, ruthless and well paid, that conceived them." Braulio Tavares.

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      • #4
        Breakfast in the Ruins - a story of man's continuing inhumanity to man.

        A Solzhenytsin-dark fantasy and a history lesson for all of us.
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        • #5
          Definitely War houd as it is a fine introduction to MM world, asks many questions and needs reference to world history ..... Not a book for lazy students.

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          • #6
            A recommendation

            Conrad,

            If your question extends past Mike's work, then I would suggest The Shadow Year, by Jeffrey Ford. A fine work of fantasy. It's one of the finest books I've read in a while, well-deserving of all the rewards and accolades that have come its way. And it's also, in my opinion, a book that, in time, should rank with A Separate Peace and To Kill a Mockingbird.

            Hope this helps!
            MW

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            • #7
              Hmmm... good question!

              I think it depends... do I want to illustrate to the class a typical fantasy or an atypical fantasy to show its range? The origins of fantasy to show its development? Literary fantasy or pulp fantasy? Trad or modern? Whichever single novel I choose has the capacity to significantly define a student's initial impression of the genre, so while I'm very tempted to say Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy, I can hardly say that Peake is particularly influential upon the wider genre.

              If I was to choose one of Mike's I think I'd have to suggest the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks edition of Elric that contains the original Elric cycle up to Stormbringer, with none of the later works that to my mind lack much of the gnarly energy of these early works. Indeed, of Mike's sword and sorcery work it is still represents his best imo. I prefer Dancers, but it's just too atypical and I don't think that it as a representative intro to the wider genre (although it would be my suggested starting place for getting into Mike's work).

              However, I think I'd probably suggest The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson as my fantasy book. It has the energy of REH, the tragedy of Moorcock, its in the epic tradition and like Tolkien it wears its folklore roots on its sleeve and it makes an interesting comparison text for those who already know Tolkien. I think it would make an excellent starting place for newbies and is probably just about obscure enough to educate the few of the class who are already casual fantasy readers. It's also an excellent read.

              I'll be interested to read more suggestions as they come in - so don't be shy people!
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              • #8
                A few years back, I tried to get an evening class in discussing, SF in English since WWII, off the ground, here in the Netherlands. I only had two takers, so I had to scrub the idea. The three books I chose for the course were: The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger, Tiger!), by Alfred Bester; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K. Dick; and Camp Concentration, by Thomas M. Disch.

                I still think that that would have made for a really interesting discussion group.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Pietro_Mercurios View Post
                  A few years back, I tried to get an evening class in discussing, SF in English since WWII, off the ground, here in the Netherlands. I only had two takers, so I had to scrub the idea. The three books I chose for the course were: The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger, Tiger!), by Alfred Bester; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K. Dick; and Camp Concentration, by Thomas M. Disch.

                  I still think that that would have made for a really interesting discussion group.
                  I have to admire your SF choices - Bester's Stars would definitely be my pick for a SF equivalent of this topic's question. I might choose Gene Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus in the mix too, especially if I thought I had a hard-nosed lit fiction crowd.
                  forum

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                  2. a medium for open discussion, such as a magazine
                  3. a public meeting place for open discussion

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                  • #10
                    If I were doing it today, I'd definitely add, A Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

                    If I were to add one of Mike's novels, to make the five (after short consideration), I'd add either, Behold the Man, or, Warlord of the Air.

                    To keep with the general, 'Coming into awareness of one's true nature and dealing with it, for good, or bad, theme for a meditation on the human condition in the post Holocaust World', as a possible direction for the discussion.

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                    • #11
                      I am hoping to introduce the students to the genre without overwhelming them.

                      Course title is Introduction to Fiction and Fantasy.

                      Only one book from each genre is allowed.

                      There is no restriction on who the author is so anthologies are also possible.

                      A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is being covered in the Canadian Writers class so I am not allowed to use it.

                      Thanks for the suggestions so far.

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                      • #12
                        Science fiction ?

                        Isle odf dead by Zelazny or Babel 17 by Delany or better : Bug Jack Barron by Spinrad !

                        This last book about the media powers was really anticipation ......

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                        • #13
                          I would also throw my hat into the ring with The Gate of Time (aka Two Hawks from Earth) by Philip Jose Farmer, or Mikes books The Shores of Death and Behold the Man.

                          All three of those contain elements other than the pure sci fi/fantasy (alternate history, political, sociological and others) but remain undaunting as single works.
                          Twitter: The system that put paid to the old adage 'politicians only lie when their lips start moving'

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Pietro_Mercurios View Post
                            A few years back, I tried to get an evening class in discussing, SF in English since WWII, off the ground, here in the Netherlands. I only had two takers, so I had to scrub the idea. The three books I chose for the course were: The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger, Tiger!), by Alfred Bester; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K. Dick; and Camp Concentration, by Thomas M. Disch.

                            I still think that that would have made for a really interesting discussion group.
                            All great suggestions.

                            MW

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