by James Wallace Harris, Friday, November 25, 2016
Happy Birthday to me! Last year I wrote “64 Classic Science Fiction Books I Want to Hear” for my 64th birthday. It was published at SF Signal. I had hoped audiobook publishers would have granted my wish by now. Unfortunately, only one title has shown up at Audible.com – Nova by Samuel R. Delany. I bought it and it sounds wonderful. Maybe more will show up by the time I’m 66. But guys, I can only live for so long.
Here’s the list updated to 65 titles for my 65th birthday. I’ve substituted some collected works for older original short story collections. I figure it’s probably easier to get the audio publishing rights to the most recent collections.
If I had three wishes from a genie, one wish would be for Adventures in Time and Space (1946) edited by Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas in a perfect audiobook edition. Great anthologies on audio are rare. I expect publishing rights are hard to arrange. I’m still wishing for six completely out-of-print volumes to come out in audio. Most of these books below are available in print or ebook editions. Does it take a certain demand for print/ebook editions before publishers will risk an audio edition?
Most of the great science fiction classics have shown up on audio. Starting in 2002 when I join Audible.com, I’ve been “rereading” my favorite science fiction books from youth by listening to them. I love hearing old science fiction when read by a great narrator. If you can think of an old science fiction book that’s not on my list below, chances are its available on audio at Audible.com. If you haven’t gotten into audiobooks yet, I recommend starting with an old favorite. You might be surprised to hear something you missed.
Many of the books below are forgotten classics, especially the older ones. People from my generation might remember them, but younger readers may never have heard of many titles. The real question is whether or not these books still hold up. Just because I want to hear them doesn’t mean they are great stories. They are just books I often read about when reading about science fiction.
What amazes me are the authors that have no Audible.com editions of their work. Or next to none. I can’t figure out if this is for legal reasons, or there’s no interest in their work. These include:
- Eleanor Arnason
- Alfred Bester
- Michael Bishop
- Pat Cadigan
- R. A. Lafferty
- Maureen F. McHugh
- Eric Frank Russell
- James H. Schmitz
- William Tenn
- James Tiptree, Jr.
- Wilson Tucker
65 Books I Want to Hear
H=Hardback T=Trade paper M=Mass market E=ebook *=OOP
- A Voyage to Arcturus (1920) by David Lindsay – HT
- The World of Null-A (1948) by A. E. Van Vogt – TE
- The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950) by A. E. Van Vogt – T
- Bring the Jubilee (1953) by Ward Moore – TE
- The Demolished Man (1953) by Alfred Bester – TE
- A Mirror for Observers (1954) by Edgar Pangborn – H
- Mission of Gravity (1954) by Hal Clement – TE (as Heavy Planet: The Classic Mesklin Stories)
- Cities in Flight (1955) by James Blish – E
- The Stars My Destination (1956) by Alfred Bester – TE
- Wasp (1957) by Eric Frank Russell – E
- The Lincoln Hunters (1958) by Wilson Tucker *
- Rogue Moon (1960) by Algis Budrys – E
- The High Crusade (1960) by Poul Anderson ME
- Hothouse (1962) by Brian W. Aldiss – E
- Davy (1964) by Edgar Pangborn – H
- Empire Star (1966) – T (combined with Babel-17)
- The Witches of Karres (1966) by James H. Schmitz – ME
- Dangerous Visions (1967) ed. Harlan Ellison – TE
- The Einstein Intersection (1967) by Samuel R. Delany – TE
- Camp Concentration (1968) by Thomas Disch – TE
- Past Master (1968) by R. A. Lafferty – T
- The Last Starship from Earth (1968) by John Boyd – *
- Behold the Man (1969) by Michael Moorcock – T
- Bug Jack Barron (1969) by Norman Spinrad – TE
- Macroscope (1969) by Piers Anthony – HTE
- The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by Ursula K. Le Guin – HTME (OOP on audio)
- And Chaos Died (1970) by Joanna Russ – *
- Science Fiction Hall of Fame (1970) edit by Robert Silverberg – T
- The Year of the Quiet Sun (1970) by Wilson Tucker *
- The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth (1971) by Roger Zelanzy – TE
- The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972) by Gene Wolfe – TE
- The Listeners (1972) by James Gunn – T
- The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume 2A and 2B (1972) edited by Ben Bova – T
- The Sheep Look Up (1972) by John Brunner – TE
- Before the Golden Age (1974) edited by Isaac Asimov – *
- A Martian Odyssey and Other Science Fiction Tales (1974) by Stanley G. Weinbaum – *
- The Centauri Device (1974) by M. John Harrison *
- The Female Man (1975) by Joanna Russ – T
- The Shockwave Rider (1975) by John Brunner – TE
- Trouble on Triton (1976) by Samuel R. Delany – TE
- On Wings of a Song (1979) by Thomas M. Disch – E
- Ridley Walker (1980) by Russell Hoban – HTE
- No Enemy But Time (1982) by Michael Bishop – E
- Native Tongue (1984) by Suzette Haden Elgin – TE
- Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (1984) by Samuel R. Delany – TE
- Ancient of Days (1985) by Michael Bishop – TE
- The Falling Woman (1986) by Pat Murphy – E
- Mindplayers (1988) by Pat Cadigan – TE
- Grass (1989) by Sheri S. Tepper – TE
- Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (1990) by James Tiptree, Jr. – T
- A Woman of the Iron People (1991) by Eleanor Arnason – E
- Sarah Canary (1991) – Karen Joy Fowler – TE
- Synners (1991) by Pat Cadigan – TE
- China Mountain Zhang (1992) by Maureen F. McHugh – TE
- Ammonite (1993) by Nicola Griffith – TE
- The Rediscovery of Man (1993) by Cordwainer Smith – H
- Galatea 2.2 (1995) by Richard Powers – TE
- Ingathering: The Complete People Stories of Zenna Henderson (1995) – H
- Holy Fire (1996) by Bruce Sterling – TE
- The Book of the Long Sun (1993-96) v.1 and v.2 by Gene Wolfe – T
- Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn Volume 1 (2001) – H
- Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn Volume 2 (2001) – H
- Aye, and Gomorrah (2003) by Samuel R. Delany – T
- Strange Relations (2008) by Philip Jose Farmer – M (The Lovers, Flesh, Strange Relations omnibus)
- The Big Book of Science Fiction (2016) edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer – TE
13 thoughts on “65 Classic Science Fiction Books I Want to Hear”
Hey James – With all the money and effort companies are pouring into AI and voice interaction these days, I ‘d think that within the next few years you’ll be able listen to an AI narrated story from any text that will sound very human-like. All you’ll need is an ebook version of the story.
Chuck that might become true. I saw yesterday that AI can now read human lips better than humans can read lips. The interesting challenge for AI will be to know how to perform the stories. Professional narrators read the books looking for clues within the narrative that suggest how a story should sound. I assume computers could eventually do that too.
Again, happy birthday!!!
Some great choices there. Of your list, the Bester books are the ones I would most like to see on Audible with a really top narrator. I would also like to see more full cast audio of books, like the ones for a few of the Heinlein juveniles. There are more of those I would like to see given the same treatment, but also Andre Norton’s juveniles.
I can’t understand why the Bester books haven’t been put on audio. They are very popular. Must be some kind of legal issue. Many of the full-cast audio editions of the Heinlein juveniles have disappeared and been replaced by newer solo narrator editions. The site for fullcastaudio.com is down, so I wonder if they went out of business.
If that is the case, then that is a real bummer. Hopefully the library will keep these in circulation as I occasionally want to grab them again and give them a listen.
I clicked on one of your earlier posts about audio books and found this: “Many people have told me they can’t listen to audio books. Well, audio book listening takes practice, just like reading.”
I have to disagree. There are many good reasons not to want to listen to books being read aloud. One of them is that someone else is interpreting the book, possibly altering your perception of it by their voice or attempt at voices, or by dramatizing it. Another, for some readers, is that it’s too slow. I prefer to read at my own pace, which is quite a bit faster than narrated books. Finally, for me at least, there’s the problem of auditory processing disability. I simply don’t get much out of material read aloud, ditto lectures. It’s even difficult for me to keep up with dialogue in movies.
Audio books are great, for many reasons, but not for everyone.
Oh, I agree, Catana. Everyone is different. I believe some people are more suited for reading, while others get more out of hearing. I get a lot more from listening. I like that audio books go slow. The best way to study a book though is to read and listen, either at the same time or at different times.
The four Books of the New Sun are available individually.
Thanks. I don’t know why I didn’t notice that. I made The Book of the Long Sun as a substitute.
When it comes to the availability of audio books (and eBooks, and downloadable audio books), it all depends on which company (if any) owns the rights. And as some readers have pointed out, when it comes to audio books, it’s not enough to have a book that you like… You also have to like the reader. In that sense, it could be twice as hard to find a good audio book as it is a good book for reading. BTW, try librivox.org for free downloadable audio books that are in the public domain.
Great list. I, too, would love to have an audiobook of “The Witches of Karres”. Sadly, the only audiobooks are “sequels” not written by Schmitz. It would seem that there would be demand for it as an audiobook given the sequels are available as audiobooks. I first read it when I was 9 or 10. In college, I concentrated in Philosophy & was delighted to realize the Vatch was a solopsist.
I suspect licensing rights are at play. I know that was an issue with Zelazny’s work at one point due to his having left his family for Jane Lindskold. There was fighting between his OG family & Lindskold over the rights. Since many of his books are now available as audiobooks, something must have changed or been worked out. Interestingly, his book, Donnerjack, which he coauthored with Lindskold is still unavailable as an audiobook.
I LOVE audiobooks. For me, I hear more versus when I read. I was always anxious to see where the story was going & tended to skim through them. As for the reading pace, that’s usually adjustable. Great narration is critical & can add so much to the experience. I love to listen to audiobooks while doing something mindless like an iPad jigsaw puzzle or coloring book. I’m a member of Audible but also have a Scribd subscription. Scribd has an amazing number of audiobooks available including classic SF/Fantasy.
You & I are about the same age. Fingers crossed, many of these books will become available as audiobooks in short order. My hopes are high given how many classics have become available as audiobooks in just the past few years.