I never wanted to have more culture or expand my horizons. I still don't. My chosen genre is SPACE OPERA. POP Sci-Fi and POP Fantasy, primarily TV and movie tie-ins. And that's the way I liked it! But I declared my genre was science fiction which allowed Kirk the Bookmonkey to trick me into reading the Hugos. And in (god, 4 years?) I've liked about half of them. A small percentage I've ADORED. A small percentage I've DESPISED. Now that nasty old School isn't around to force me to read Madame Bovary I have the freedom to read any old garbage I like. Except for Kirk. I respect him. And because I don't want him to think I'm a complete numpty, I'm slogging through science fiction a commitee deemed 'worthy'. And most of them are. Sigh.
My five favorites I wouldn't have been likely to discover without him are as follows.
The Big Time- by Fritz Leiber
It takes place in one room and the whole of time and space is just outside. In a time war between the Spiders and the Snakes no one remembers who the good guy is and these doctors just do the repairs with a machine that can invert their patients. It's awesome. It's creepy. It's just plain great sci-fi and I wasn't likely to just run across it on my own.
Ringworld- by Larry Niven
O.K., it's just possible that I would one day have noticed the guy who wrote 'The Slaver Weapon' episode of Star Trek the Animated Series wrote a series of adventure, spectacle, comic and sexual antics, and the exoploration of a bizarre artificial world by a bizarre group of humans and aliens.
But probably not. And then I wouldn't have read the Ringworld Engineers, either. Also a treat. When I finally put these award-winners behind me I'll be able to get back to the series.
The Forever War- Joe Haldeman
Vietnam allegory, probable influence on the Gunbuster anime series I just enjoyed. Violent, time-travelley, my heart just bleeds for the lead character. Its semi-sequel Forever Peace also deserves special mention. An great author I wouldn't have spotted without the Bookmonkey.
The Uplift War- David Brin
It's not the one book so much as all of them. This is a splendid series. Humans meet the neighbours and discover just how culturally backward these aliens are- institutionalized eons of indentured servitiude are exacted from the beings raised or 'uplifted' to sentience. Humans and their sidekicks the chimps and dolphins are not looked on too kindly for their free-wheeling attitude to traditional slavery. Some meanness ensues.
To Say Nothing of the Dog- Connie Willis
I have to include a lady writer, frankly, so as not to appear sexist. And I got more laughs out of this one than almost any other Hugo, which, to be fair, are a pretty dour and serious bunch. It is a great one, and it forced me to read an excellent classic of English (ugh) literature into the bargain. Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men In A Boat is a delight that deserves its classic status every whit.
There should have been more of THESE in school. But then I probably would have hated them.
Because what I can't stand most of all is being told something is a classic and that I have to read it.
What a perverse little creature I am. I'd rather soldier on through an indistinguishable slush of cookie cutter genre fiction than try new things. And even as I write it I know how backward it sounds.
But the Hugo winning novels have been... worth it. They can be as long as a journey on foot to Alpha Centauri. They can be dull as the backside of, well, Uranus. Or as it was sensibly renamed, Urectum. For every Lois McMaster Bujold, churning out epics of delightful space battley goodness, there's a C.J. Cherryh lurking to make me want to bash these books against my brain at the indignity of reading literally THOUSANDS of pointless, turgid, tedious pages.
(Just a little tip: do not clone a rapist just because she was a smart old bird. There, I've just saved you reading Cyteen.)
So, I've got 8 more to go. AND two of them are Neil Gaiman! Goody goody goody goody...