Interviewing a job applicant the other day, I saw on the list of modules she had studied in her Literature course "Sci Fi and Fantasy". If only that option had been available when I did my degree in Lit.
I was just thinking how ironic it was that I completely missed out on the rise of William Gibson and cyberpunk. I started reading fiction seriously in 1984, with Asimov: this was when Gibson published Neuromancer, so as I was lapping up the old, hardcore Sci Fi, cyberpunk was being written right there in the background. While I was still in Primary school getting my head around the Three Laws of Robotics, Gibson was prophesying the Internet and Cyberspace. The late eighties took me through Tolkien, then almost every variant of fantasy based on the Tolkien plot (Brooks, Feist, Eddings, you name it ...) while on the Sci Fi front I kept ploughing through the classics like Heinlein and Bradbury. Then, as cyberpunk took off in the nineties, I spent most of that decade studying Literature in university, which meant anything but Sci Fi and fantasy. It took me till last year to finally read through all the cyberpunk "classics" - in fact, I more or less waited till they became classics before I got to read them.
In that respect, I'm quite pleased to be ahead of the curve for once, at least with respect to the last two writers I have been reading. John Scalzi came to me by way of recommendation from Tym, who lent me Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades. Those two books and The Last Colony, capstone to the trilogy, remind me of Heinlein in more ways than one, especially in his depiction of a simpler world view reminiscent of Starship Troopers. I've just finished reading The Android's Dream, a real gem of a book: "lightweight in the best possible way" is how I'd describe it, and I mean that as a real compliment. It's the kind of book I'd start a fanclub around.
The other writer is Charlie Stross, and where Scalzi looks back to the kind of hardboiled Sci Fi of the fifties and sixties, Stross is ... post cyberpunk ... post humanity ... post post anything really. It's the kind of fiction you worry for the longevity of, because it is so current: each novel is like an editorial about the state of the culture - his latest, The Glasshouse, is like looking at gender, domesticity, the family unit, and suburban life through the wrong end of a telescope from a hypothetical future. I've just finished reading The Atrocity Archives, which is demonstrates his range by being completely different - think H.P. Lovecraft meets hacker novel, and you get an idea of what I'm talking about (and you can, in fact read "The Concrete Jungle" online. For free)
For added fun: listen to an excerpt from Scalzi's Old Man's War in Chaucerian English. Why? Because it's there ...