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Loki
02-08-2013, 04:14 AM
I would like to know.

Dizzy
02-08-2013, 05:14 AM
You mean who's our favorite author?

Daikaiju
02-08-2013, 05:32 AM
Pratchett.

Loki
02-08-2013, 05:34 AM
You mean who's our favorite author?

Yes, well, typo. Now answer the question: who are it?

Droewyn
02-08-2013, 06:29 AM
Right now I'm really digging on Seanan McGuire.

Paul le Fou
02-08-2013, 06:32 AM
Murakami? Mitchell? Chabon?

Super Megaman X
02-08-2013, 08:03 AM
Some people may find this sad, and if they do, I could not give a damn: C.S. Lewis & J.K. Rowling.

Karzac
02-08-2013, 08:31 AM
I don't really read enough of single authors to have a good sense of my favourite, but I do really like Salinger, Woolf and Steinbeck.

Daikaiju
02-08-2013, 08:40 AM
Some people may find this sad, and if they do, I could not give a damn: C.S. Lewis & J.K. Rowling.

Who are these people? We need to point and laugh at them.

Patrick
02-08-2013, 09:07 AM
My favorite author is a woman. Her name is Susanna Clarke.

The Raider Dr. Jones
02-08-2013, 09:14 AM
Fiction, James Ellroy. Non-fiction, A.J. Liebling. Probably? Something like that.

Little Sampson
02-08-2013, 09:20 AM
Faulkner.

Wait, no, Vonnegut.

Evil Dead Junkie
02-08-2013, 10:49 AM
Hmmm if you're talking about Favorite in terms of sheer pleasure given it would probably have to be King or Chesterton.

If you're talking favorite because "Oh Holy Shit I Am So In Awe Of The Way You Write." Probably David Mitchell or Charles Portis.

Kirin
02-08-2013, 11:51 AM
There are two authors by whom I will pretty much read anything written - fiction, non-fiction, random bloggery, whatever: Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman. (Sadly, of course, one of them is no longer producing new material.)

I realize these are pretty standard NERD CANON picks, but oh well. They write good.

Traumadore
02-08-2013, 12:07 PM
Yehuda Amichai, Wendell Berry, and Shakespeare, no contest. Prose is a waste of time!

Googleshng
02-08-2013, 03:53 PM
Roger Zelazny. Hands down.

jpfriction
02-08-2013, 09:08 PM
My favorite author is a woman. Her name is Susanna Clarke.

Good choice, I'd love to see a new novel by her. I'd have to go with Douglas Adams myself. I've read through the hitchhiker books a few too many times but I think I'll revisit Dirk Gently very soon.

Mightyblue
02-08-2013, 09:17 PM
Hmm, for most kinds of fiction it'd probably be Lois Bujold and Modesitt Jr. when he isn't busy redoing the Recluce series over and over again (although the Imager books are pretty nice, aside from his sci-fi based stuff).

Issun
02-08-2013, 10:01 PM
Dickens 4 lyfe.

Rascally Badger
02-08-2013, 10:40 PM
My favorite author is a woman. Her name is Susanna Clarke.

Yeah, but is she going to write anything else?

As for me, I'd say Michael Chabon or Jasper Fforde. Chabon has written 2 of my favorite books ever, Yiddish Policeman's Union and Kavalier and Clay, while everything I've read by Fforde is just exploding with imagination.

Violentvixen
02-08-2013, 10:44 PM
Italo Calvino.

Raven
02-08-2013, 10:47 PM
My most honest answer would be Agatha Christie.

Naturally, I like PD James as well. Stephen King. Jonathan Stroud. Anthony Buckeridge. Joe Abercrombie.

Adrenaline
02-09-2013, 09:22 PM
Vonnegut.

Wolf
02-10-2013, 10:49 PM
Living Authors:

Neil Gaiman is probably my favorite for the time being. What I like about him is difficult for me to describe. Part of what I like about his writing is the way he seems to walk a fine line between the whimsical and the grim. It's something I think Tim Burton does as well, but I feel like Gaiman's sense of balance in this is much better. I also like the way he puts words together, the skill with which he focuses his emphasis in a given scene, and the way he lets the plain facts speak for themselves. He doesn't really seem to overstate things, which I like.

I'm also pretty fond of Stephen King. He may not be perfect, and the quality of his stories can be uneven, but his writing has always been pretty accessible for me. Pet Semetary is one of the few horror stories I've ever read that managed to give me a genuine sense of dread. Much like Gaiman, I feel like he understands that sometimes, the little details are the ones that really help us to gain a more complete and focused understanding of an object or character or event.

Mary Stewart. Hard to pin down what I like about her style, but I think she's probably told what is, to date, my favorite rendition of the Arthur legend.

Also:

Hmm, for most kinds of fiction it'd probably be Lois Bujold and Modesitt Jr. when he isn't busy redoing the Recluce series over and over again (although the Imager books are pretty nice, aside from his sci-fi based stuff).

I don't know that there's anything about Modesitt Jr.'s style that really stands out for me (aside from his use of sound effects, which I could take or leave), but anyone who can illustrate, at length, the connections between the order- and chaos-based forces that drive the world and such exciting professions as woodworking, blacksmithing, barrel-making and economics -- clearly this person is doing something very, very right, and should be applauded for it.

Speaking of Modesitt Jr., what other books (or series; I have a feeling he doesn't really do single novels) by him are good? And what should I avoid? I like the Recluce series a lot, but don't know much about his other writing.

Dead Authors:

J.R.R. Tolkien. If nothing else, you can't fault his imagination. And I do like the way he writes certain things. He does tend to get a bit dry at times, this I will freely admit, and I do not want to write like he did. But sometimes that dryness works. The writing in "The Children of Hurin" is cold and distant, but in a way that gives the story a sense of mythic grandeur.

T.H. White. I really should read more of his books, since my only real experience with him is The Once and Future King. That book seems to slide back and forth between conversational and lecturing in the writing, but in a warm and inviting way.

Kurt Vonnegut. Sharp, biting and humorous. Like T.H. White, I need to read more of him beyond the one or two books I've read so far.

Robert E. Howard. Sure, the man was racist and sexist, and there's no apology for that. I've heard his writing described and muscular, and that's an apt description. He was passionate about what he wrote, and he wrote in such a way as to express that passion. He wanted to write stories about dangerous adventure, hair's-breadth escapes, exotic and half-forgotten locales, and slaughterous brawls, and he wanted to put you right in the thick of it, to feel what his characters felt. And damned if he didn't nearly do just that.

Robert Jordan. I fell a little bit out of love with the Wheel of Time past the fourth book, and a little bit more out of love from the sixth and beyond, but there's no denying the man could write. He might have been spending three pages describing the surroundings of a scene, along with the relevant characters' wardrobes and hairstyles (as well as those of the irrelevent characters, from time to time), for every one page of actual description of important events, but when he got down to business, few things are better. I still remember the soft shivers that went down my spine toward the end of The Great Hunt, when the Horn of Valere was first sounded, and the Heroes of the Horn came.

Mightyblue
02-11-2013, 12:59 PM
Modesitt does do single novels (with one loosely linked duology tossed in the mix) that represents most of his sci fi based output, which generally tends to focus on the ethics of power and its use vis a vis technology and societies and different aspects thereof. Most of his series are fantasy, or fantasy-like.

Said duology (Parafaith War and Ethos Effect) are probably my two favorites of his sci-fi end; the former basically centers around the costs of war in societal terms and the further costs of trying to end the underlying social conflicts between the two cultures that started the physical conflict in the first place. Also notable for having the MC being an outlier (in terms of physical appearance) from a Sino-European descendant interstellar federation and the opposing culture being Space Mormons and a lot of the undertones of the book deal with cultural preconceptions.

Ethos Effect is a sequel, but featuring a different MC in a later time period and from a different culture (a few centuries) post-Parafaith War which asks the questions of whether there are some societies that are so twisted in terms of cultural and ethical values that they cannot reasonably coexist with other cultures and also cannot be changed to the point where they can coexist without destroying that culture. It is very much a companion piece to Parafaith War despite technically being a standalone book, and I think that you can't really get the full measure of Ethos Effect without having read Parafaith War first.

Most of his latter day series are fantasy novels (I think the only two outright sci-fi ish series he's done are the Ecolitan books and the Ghost novels, and I haven't read the former). If the Recluce books are broadly understood as the personal ethics of the usage of power, then the Imager series (his latest) is basically that premise inverted; though you do have the small groups of specially/magically talented people (imagers), the first trilogy serves to setup the whole shebang as well as asks the question of why would the common masses and their leaders tolerate those who possess great personal power who by definition cannot be restrained without society moving en masse to stop them. The second trilogy (still in progress) goes back in the setting a few centuries prior to the unification of the country the first trilogy takes place in and where the imagers are still generally persecuted and maltreated wherever they go. That set of books deals with setting up the kind of arrangement in the first set of books where the imagers gain a degree of security and freedom from oppression in return for service to the country as a whole or at least the precursor to it. The series as a whole generally tends to ask the thorny questions of how those who have great personal power (well, "magic" really) would fit into a society of people who largely do not have that power.

The Corean Chronicles is basically all about colonialism, post-colonialism and imperialism as seen through the prism of a colony world settled by the unwitting slaves/livestock of a race of lifeforce vampires, though most of the novels take place a few millenia after said master race got kicked off the colony world by the remaining native inhabitants, themselves a collective of different races of life vamps. At any rate, most of the novels center around the attempts of the former master race to regain control and access to the colony worlds by manipulating the events and leaders of the former slaves by different means. The setting is honestly pretty amazing, but most of the novels spend their time dealing with the spurred conflicts (military, political and commercial) started by the influence of the former masters rather than the former masters themselves (and basically shoots its collective narrative wad in the final book of the first trilogy). Has a lot of late 19th-century equivalent cavalry combat in it though, which is honestly pretty different to see in a fantasy series.

The Spellsong Cycle is basically "What if we stuck a middle-aged vocal instructor in a Middle Ages setting with song magic and gradually turned her into a tough and intelligent regent mage trying to improve the lot of the world and the women who live in it" for the first set of novels and then "Okay, her story's done, but what about her foster daughter who now has to fill her giant boots?" for the second set. I liked it back when I read them in late high school and my early college days, but it's been years since I've read em.

BEAT
02-11-2013, 02:16 PM
DEAD GUYS
GK Chesterson.
H.P. Lovecraft
Robert W Chambers.

ALIVE GUYS
Dave Barry
Tim Dorsey
Max Barry

JAPANO COMICS?
Boichi

FUCK YOU
Suda51

Nodal
02-11-2013, 02:23 PM
I've read a lot of modesitt books so I suppose on some level I must enjoy them, but the thing that sticks out to me is when in Imaget the MCs younger brother calls him a pedant, and he's right.

Edit: I was trying to think of my favorite author, but then I saw Dave Barry and I just thought "of course!"

BEAT
02-11-2013, 02:26 PM
Dave Barry is super great.

I love Dave Barry so.

Nodal
02-11-2013, 02:30 PM
I am not making this up, Dave Barry is the best.

Patrick
02-11-2013, 02:39 PM
Good choice, I'd love to see a new novel by her.

Yeah, but is she going to write anything else?


She's working on a novel that starts a few years after the end of JS+MN.

Alixsar
02-11-2013, 02:40 PM
Bryce Wilson. :D <3 <3 :smirk:

Evil Dead Junkie
02-11-2013, 10:06 PM
Are you fucking with me or not Alex I simply can't tell with you anymore.

http://i1111.photobucket.com/albums/h476/evildeadjunkie21/A_Scanner_Darkly_51306_Medium_zps11a40e30.jpg

Stiv
02-11-2013, 10:31 PM
good choice of image because my vote is for good ol' Phillip K. Dick

Paul le Fou
02-12-2013, 05:41 AM
Dave Barry is super great.

I love Dave Barry so.

Yeah he is pretty fantastic he is.

John
02-12-2013, 12:28 PM
If you would have asked me a couple years ago I would have said Gene Wolfe hands down. However, I haven't read any of his work in a while, so I don't know if I would still have that opinion. I certainly admire his writing style, but it sometimes intentionally obfuscates what should be really simple to get across to the reader, to the point where re-reading is necessary just to figure out what happened. Sometimes a simple story told cleanly is better, which is why I've read more Stephen King than Wolfe recently.

Derra
02-14-2013, 12:31 AM
Thirding Vonnegut.

I'm working through Letters right now.

Pombar
02-21-2013, 03:56 AM
Alive
Chris Wooding, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Neil Gaiman, Robin Hobb, Ian Irvine
Dead
James Clavell, Douglas Adams, Robert Graves

ravinoff
02-21-2013, 06:29 AM
Jorge Luis Borges

Teaspoon
02-21-2013, 11:50 PM
George Orwell wrote things besides Animal Farm and 1984. Lots of them, actually. Burmese Days is as savage a take on British India as is possible while still allowing for even vaguely sympathetic characters, Keep the Aspidistra Flying is an appalling black comedy making fun of the grotty intellectuals he liked mocking in his essays, Down and Out in Paris and London ought to be required reading for anyone in governmental positions who has anything to do with handling poverty issues just for its forcibly irresistible demand that you empathise with its narrator (who is a wee bit fictionalised, but it's a forgivable crime). The Road to Wigan Pier is an exercise in pro-socialism propaganda more than anything else, which means the best bits are the human interest stories rather than the arguments, so that's a bit mixed. "Homage to Catalonia" has one exceedingly technical chapter but the rest of it is as good a primer to what the Spanish Civil War was all about and why anyone would care about it (hint: this is when people started getting killed again over the sort of things that made WWII happen). And a good anthology of his essays is possibly the best way to start reading him.

On the other hand, "A Clergyman's Daughter" is pretty much just dull and has a stupid plot to boot. So it's not all good.

Dizzy
02-21-2013, 11:58 PM
Keep posting.

Teaspoon
02-22-2013, 12:12 AM
Keep posting.

Thanks, will do.
(It's a bit late to do another one tonight, but tomorrow you can all enjoy a baroque writeup of why Eudora Welty is made of charmingly Gothic win and you should all read her. Or how comedic genius makes Nowheresville, Yorkshire seem like a perfectly natural setting for a sitcom slice-of-life about a Yorkshire vet. Or C. S. Lewis' foray into science fiction and the weird places that took him.)

Teaspoon
02-22-2013, 09:21 PM
Oh look, it's a wall of text!

(See, I was planning to do just a quick thing about C. S. Lewis and his wacky space stories, but then I had to do some setup and I could see it went on for miles and miles...)

Lewis wrote loads more books than Orwell did (he lived a lot longer, in much better health, and snagged a cushy university job instead of working crap jobs in between feverish writing sessions), so I've read proportionally less of his stuff. Also a lot of the non-fiction in particular is fairly obscure and hard to come by; I would love to take a peek at "English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama" but it's not exactly on every library shelf, tragically. Whereas his poetry is not exactly T. S. Eliot and can be best summed up by his ode to the bourgeoisie (http://allpoetry.com/poem/8508351-In_Praise_Of_Solid_People-by-C_S_Lewis), in which he has the worthy goal of attempting to break new ground for poetry but does so in the least artistically interesting way possible. Short version: it's bland.

So. Fiction! "The Screwtape Letters" is probably the most accessible of his Christian apologies (it's a theological term, you can go google it, though somehow I never heard about anybody but Christians writing the things). The entire book: a devil is advising another devil on the concrete details of how to damn a man and have him sentenced to hell for eternity. It's a series of very odd shifts between a disturbingly logically worked out idea of the hell-heaven ethos, and fairly straightforward points on morality that a ten-year old would know to be trite, but the overall effect is definitely worth the reading. The sequel is one long scene about how stupid educational systems that give every child a sticker for participation are, and depending on your opinion therein is either black comedy or an absolute slog.

"The Great Divorce" attempts something along the same lines but to less success; the narrator goes on a trip to heaven and hell and learns how they work. As an attempt to follow up on a train of argument that's included St. Augustine, Milton and Dante, it's extremely readable and refreshingly straightforward; by any other standard it's best just to think of it as an pulp SF take on what the afterlife is like, as that's where he got the idea in the first place.

"Till We Have Faces" is a very odd book, as it's a version of the Cupid and Psyche myth (Roman-era novel, actually, the first one we have) rewritten from the point of view of the Ugly Sister, by a man who wants to write about a strong female character but isn't, himself, a feminist. The result is something that ends up looking like Mary Renault fan fiction, by someone who thinks that Greek myth can be used as a metaphor for Christianity (yes, Virginia, there's a pattern here). It's worth a look for the atmosphere and Orual's first-person narration is very convincing, but if you don't like the first chapter you won't like the book period.

Teaspoon
02-22-2013, 10:16 PM
(Would you like some double cheese for your double post?)

So the bit I was actually going to talk about was Lewis' Space Trilogy. The short version for people who don't like spoilers: the first book is a parody of Wells' "The First Men in the Moon" written by a man who's been reading a lot of bad 30s pulp SF and is concerned that space travel might actually be evil and horribly anti-Christian. This is a dysfunctional way to write a book, as it does some genuinely good worldbuilding coupled to 19th century imperalism coupled to parody of same, coupled to, you guessed it, theology. Despite this it has an extremely straightforward plot and is accordingly very easy to follow. Also the hero is a thinly veiled version of his good friend J.R.R. Tolkien, which is increasingly amusing the more outre the plot gets.

The second book is a retelling of the Adam and Eve story IN SPACEEEE...literally, he puts the 30s stereotype of Venus being a younger water/planet to surprisingly clever use here. This entails coming up with a plausible conception of what Eden was like, and the pulpish world building in the first half is probably the best part of the book. The second half is a duel with the forces of evil which remains convincing largely because Lewis is at his best when he's mucking around with the concrete details of whatever reality he's building up, and he only has a few characters.

Book three is where it really goes to town on the crazy. Short version: evil post-war bureaucracy is going to invoke the forces of evil via paperwork. Also Merlin is involved. Think of the exact opposite of T. H. White's interpretation; this one is a shouty Welsh druid who's deeply religious and in all other ways is incredibly barbaric and a bad dinner party guest. He's compared to a bear a lot. Specifically, the one the heroes keep as a pet.
Honestly, there's a lot more to dislike about this one than the first two. There's an entire subplot devoted to the subject of how terribly evil it is for a woman to want to use birth control, and this is by the good guys. The bad guys are mad scientists planning to destroy all life on earth due to having read too much Nietzsche and deciding that life is inherently evil.
On the other hand, individual bits of the book are absolute jewels of characterisation; there's a terrifying scene in which modern psychological torture is coupled to old-fashioned Protestant imaginings from the Spanish Inquisition that would be ridiculous if the villain, hero, and narrator didn't all take it so bloody seriously. Up until the Villain's Secret Motives are revealed and it delves straight into skiffy proper, the whole atmosphere of encroaching modernisation via paperwork and lying tabloids is coming from the same psychological place as Tolkein's "The Scouring of the Shire". You can link this up with, say, Richard Adams' "The Plague Dogs" into a general piece on the peculiarly British take on a global issue, but that's a much longer and more sensibly constructed essay. And like Tolkein, when we're having a cheerful pastoral scene it comes with all the bells and whistles on top; the scene where our rather muddled, glad-to-be-alive hero is recovering from torture and finds a batch of Sherlock Holmes stories to read is more lyrical than any of his poetry that I've seen.


It does all hang together more coherently than my plot summaries suggest, largely by Lewis building up a systematic theology of the solar system that owes a lot to Ptolemy's spheres. The punchline of the first book is that "heavenly bodies" is a pun. Lewis being Lewis, this is all carefully worked out to be compatible with his Christian belief, but really, if you managed to get through the Stone Table scene in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" a more intellectually developed version ought to be at least as interesting. All three of them are certainly worth a read.

And did I mention that Númenor gets a look in?

Grignr
02-23-2013, 06:05 PM
So. Fiction! "The Screwtape Letters" is probably the most accessible of his Christian apologies

I really like Screwtape and Perelandra; reading about devils and temptation is pretty fun and Lewis does a great job with it. His other Space books were influenced by Tolkien (first) and Charles Willams (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Williams_(UK_writer)) (last book and why it's so darkly weird) and I probably only like the middle one because it feels the most Lewis.

I liked Lewis' autobiography Surprised by Joy, which is about his early life and conversion and not a pun or reference to his later wife Joy.

Issun
02-23-2013, 09:08 PM
My mom read Out of the Silent Planet to me when I was a kid. I recall it being quite good. Need to go back and read the whole trilogy someday.

Edit: And they're a decent price on kindle! Hurrah!

Teaspoon
02-23-2013, 11:32 PM
Ooh, details on an Inkling I hadn't looked up before. I'll have to go investigate Charles Williams tomorrow and see what stuff he's made of. It looks like he liked his Plato as much as Lewis did, and that bodes fair when coupled with magical realism.

And next I think I'll have a go at the subject of this psychology article (http://harpers.org/archive/1954/12/the-jet-propelled-couch/?single=1). The first part is largely setup; it gets even more surreal in part two.

Behemoth
02-24-2013, 08:04 AM
The least surprising answer in the history of answers: Dostoevsky.

Kylie
02-25-2013, 08:34 PM
Wodehouse.

Falselogic
02-28-2013, 04:29 PM
No way I could choose a favorite author... Just thinking about all the authors I enjoy and picking just one is giving me anxiety.

Dizzy
02-28-2013, 05:22 PM
I'm in the same boat. Doesn't seem like it'll sink yet.

cool onion
02-28-2013, 06:50 PM
I'm in a second boat where my reading is really scatter-shot so I usually have only read like one or two books by a given author so the question for me basically becomes "what is your favorite book?"

(it's either Pale Fire or Huckleberry Finn, so Nabokov or Twain I guess)

Evil Dead Junkie
03-01-2013, 02:19 AM
I can't help but find that reasoning a bit flawwd Watchmen may be tied for first as my favorite book but no way in hell is Alan Moore my favorite author.

Loki
03-01-2013, 02:49 AM
That's a good point.

cool onion
03-01-2013, 03:01 AM
And it's kind of a silly thing for me to say in relation to Nabokov and Twain since I actually have read a bunch of their stuff and could pretty legitimately call either my favorite author. I guess what I was trying to get at is that I'm envious of the guys in the other boat who have read enough people extensively enough that they can't even pick a favorite instead of just going, well, shit, here are the only people I've read and liked more than two books by.

Plus I'm pathologically unable to say something about art like "I like Nabokov." I have to say "I like Nabokov but I haven't read shit and you shouldn't care."

Teaspoon
03-02-2013, 08:35 PM
Cordwainer Smith: a science fiction writer with an output of one fairly large anthology of short stories and one medium sized novel, and still author of some of the most gloriously strange and beautiful writing the genre has ever seen. It would be far more a wrench for me to spoil his material than the other two authors I've mentioned; he started off his professional SF career with the story "Scanners Live in Vain (http://www.baenebooks.com/chapters/1416521461/1416521461___5.htm)" an excellent, horror-flavoured short story pondering the dangers of space travel and social consequences therein, and it really only ramps up from there. Which kickstarts all the rest of his work, a series of loosely connected stories about the creation of a universal, galaxy-spanning utopia (anyone familiar with O. Henry's "Cabbages and Kings"? Now there's another author to do some time; point is, any of them can be read separately but they're much richer and more beautiful when taken as a series), and more interestingly, what happens after you've created the perfect society. I'd recommend getting "The Rediscovery of Man" if you can, as it includes all the short stories in the proper order; he wrote stories more or less in chronological order, so they only become richer and stranger as you go along. (He was an expert on Chinese culture for the US government and a lot of people say that this flavoured his story telling; I don't know about that, but they have an almost mythical flavour.)

Particular favourites of mine are "The Dead Lady of Clown Town", one of the first ones I ever read and a retelling of Joan of Arc with a blend of deceptively straightforward narration and gloriously resonant language. "Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons," a introduction to the mad, sheep-ridden world of Norstrilia and as clever a "space criminal" story as you will ever see (it was only afterwards that I read some of Harry Harrison's "The Stainless Steel Rat" or I might have wondered about an implicit crossover). And "The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal", one of the most delicious of temporally-aware stories as I have ever seen. Also included: adorable cats.

But none of this description really does him justice. Go on, seek some of the stories out and don't read too many of them at once. It would be like glugging a rich aged wine.

Tiers in Rain
03-05-2013, 07:39 PM
Orson Scott Card

Dizzy
03-05-2013, 09:04 PM
You know, I think I am going to settle on one person:

David Foster Wallace

http://i.imgur.com/6dJyHwn.png

I know the publishing industry is currently cannibalizing his entire life and life's work. And his canonization was celebrated with more zeal than any actual saint. But if I had to choose at this moment, it shall be him. With that, some pros and cons to hedge my decision.

Pros:


Ridiculously entertaining prose style. His non-fiction reads like Lester Bangs on cocaine while his fiction brims with a striking range of voices.
Incisive, unsentimental psychologist. Fucking hilarious, too. He manages to lay bare the consciousness and self-deceptions of his characters without devolving into stream-of-conscious word soup.
Excellent storyteller. Whether he's focusing on a single event or juggling a series of nested stories, he doesn't let the stories drag or become insanely difficult to follow. Also came up with some brilliant concepts, gags, devices and scenarios.
Excellent cultural critic. Both his non-fiction and fiction have enduring insights about modern American culture, media, success, addiction, depression, gender, literature, technology, irony and social institutions.



Cons:


Needed a goddamn asshole editor to control those footnotes/endnotes and make the prose more concise because he could vomit oceans of prose as if he were on cocaine and Adderall.
His shittiest, most unforgettable stuff was anything that engaged in any Thomas Pynchon-type gimmicks or metafictional wankery. However, his more emotional, down-to-earth stuff could suck too when it was inundated with narcissistic self-loathing or silly attempts at spirituality.
His cultural criticism could be quite socially conservative, poorly researched or deeply unfair. Also, TV is actually awesome and I don't see anything wrong with eating lobsters.
He did inspire generations of terribad imitators. There's too many to list, but in general they are all white, male and nerdy. He also has an annoying cult following who treat him like Jesus.

shivam
03-06-2013, 01:25 PM
These days, my favorite author is probably Brandon Sanderson. Every book of his that i've read, i've loved. He does incredible world building and character building, and even his short stories are vibrant and lively.

Adrenaline
03-09-2013, 05:52 AM
Orson Scott Card

boo

Tiers in Rain
03-09-2013, 06:00 AM
These days, my favorite author is probably Brandon Sanderson. Every book of his that i've read, i've loved. He does incredible world building and character building, and even his short stories are vibrant and lively.

He's definitely one of my favs right now. I'm just starting the Mistborn series now but I love everything he writes.

Teaspoon
03-16-2013, 11:35 PM
Isaac Asimov!

I've read far, far more Asimov than most reasonable people would ever attempt, and as his output was something on the order of 450+ books I don't feel too bad about a summary based on the several dozen I have finished. My reading order is a wee bit different from any I've seen, but there is some logic to it...Starting off with the Susan Calvin robot stories and the original Foundation trilogy was what I did, and I still think it was the best choice I could have made; his writing would become somewhat more sophisticated after these, but there's a reason both are classics. They're both thought experiments in the purest kind of hard science fiction imaginable, and the almost mythical tone of the stories makes up for what is, in some cases, fairly simplistic characterisation. Not clumsy; just extremely clear and uncomplicated. Like his prose style (you know how Bradbury's language will, sometimes, simply sing in all its poetic glory? Asimov...doesn't do that, to say the least). So if you don't like either after your first perusal, it's not going to grow on you.
(Incidentally, Harlan Ellison's unproduced screenplay of "I, Robot" is very entertaining for the number of psychological readings it gets into the characters, but don't read it unless you're well familiar with Asimov already.)

After these, jump to the Elijah Baley trilogy: "The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn". Baley is one of two contenders for single best characterised Asimov character (the other being Hari Seldon, of whom more anon), and the first of these in particular is a story where the sheer number of things that Asimov is trying to do makes for a particularly rich and textured tale (it's a meditation on irrational phobias, and a buddy-cop murder mystery with a twist, and a loving treatment of what a futuristic New York might be like that is also a bit dystopian...). "Robots and Empire" is the sequel to these, but you may not want to read it for a while as it's the keystone to all of his novels in one way or another (trying too hard to pull a Robert Heinlein with a complete Future History, if you ask me). Also, not to be too spoilery, it depends a lot on how much you enjoy one of Asimov's more luridly over-the-top women. If you're asking me, I liked her and the book rather a lot, though the extent to which Asimov ruthlessly forces situations to fit in with what he's already done is slightly terrifying.

You can skip the three Empire novels unless you're a completionist ("The Stars, Like Dust", "The Currents of Space", and "Pebble in the Sky") although the last of these has the best ideas and is also an interesting perspective on Asimov grappling with his Jewish atheism (that's well complicated and a subject for another time and another thread, probably). These were early work and a bit pulpy even by his standards. So go on to the last two Foundation novels, "Foundation's Edge" and "Foundation and Earth". A lot of fans are not at all fond of these, and I can see why to a certain extent; there's a slightly cynical edge about them (by the time the heroes are fleeing yet another planet at the end of Foundation and Earth, it starts feeling like the closing sections of "Candide" and for much the same reasons). Still worth a read in my opinion, but not as good as the two Seldon novels, "Prelude to Foundation" and "Forward the Foundation". Hari Seldon is perhaps my own favourite of all his characters and well deserves the two books revolving around him, although from the point of view of entertainment the first is more fun. Both offer some long-overdue pondering about how psychohistory might be expected to work. "Forward the Foundation" is...a tragedy written by an old humanist who believed in the implications of that philosophy with all the attendant horror and glory, and it's heartbreakingly autobiographical in places, and as fine a way to end his career as any book could ever be.
(okay, technically that was "Asimov Laughs Again", a humour anthology. Which is also very appropriate; he's a very witty writer and that counts for a lot with me. Although it doesn't excuse his dreadful shaggy dog stories...)

There's two oddities which could be read anywhere amidst the sequence, "The Gods Themselves" and "The End of Eternity". The first of these is composed essentially of two interesting-but-hugely-lengthy info-dumps bookending a short story about "aliens, sex, and alien sex", as someone had apparently said in his hearing that he'd never done either of those things and thus prompted him to do both at once just to prove a point. If not quite as good as he claimed (the man was a massive egotist, as he was first to admit), it's still very cleverly done and much better than anyone else would have expected from him. "The End of Eternity" is a time-travel story done by someone who has bothered to sit down and plot out all the possible repercussions of same, and is thus gloriously self-consistent in a way I wish more writers would manage (there is no "timey-wimey" in this novel, believe you me). But still with lots of juicy time travel conundrums, all the same.

(There's still a great deal of Asimovian fiction to read even after all this, including some truly excellent short stories I haven't had time nor room to mention, but there's also a lot of embarrassing early material that kept getting recycled into one collection or another. Don't get "Buy Jupiter and Other Stories" unless you're set yourself the hobby of buying one of everything he did.)

I also collected a bunch of his F&SF essay compilations, which are wonderful little snippets of science fact. You could teach yourself basic chemistry, physics, astronomy, and a lot of miscellaneous science history from them, and I did; for instance, the drama about Mendeleev's attempt to sell the chemical community on the Periodic Table was made permanently memorable not from my school textbooks but from the casual, enthusiastic air in which he described it. They're written in crisp clear language and even though some of them are a little out of date nowadays (we've learned quite a bit about astronomy since he started doing these in the 50s) still very well worth reading.

Of course he wrote lots and lots and lots of other things. Of the things that come to mind of the top of my head, his autobiographies offer a good history of the evolution of science fiction writing in addition to a lot of tangential humour, any of his annotated guides to subjects you're even vaguely interested in are worth getting (understanding what he was talking about in the Shakespeare book was one of my incentives to tackle him again after a doleful attempt at reading some of the comedies for school), and "Murder at the ABA" is still one of the funniest mysteries I have ever read. You could keep yourself busy for years getting through all this. I did.

edit: oh goddess, that went on for ages. Did I mention the 450+ books?

Pombar
03-19-2013, 12:12 AM
Not just 450+ books, but I believe he published books under 9/10 of the Dewey Decimal System's major categories. So that's a hell of a variety within those several hundreds to boot!

Asimov is just hilarious, though - apparently just as much in real life as in his writings.

Madmachine
03-28-2013, 07:39 AM
Favorite dead guy is C.S. Lewis. Favorite alive guy is E. Colfer.

I've been wanting to get into F. Kafka, but never really got around to it.

Teaspoon
03-28-2013, 09:10 AM
"The Metamorphosis" is pretty straightforward for about ninety percent of its page count, at least in terms of comprehending what's going on--why, exactly, what's going on is an entirely different matter, and what exactly he meant with what amounts to a very long extended metaphor is something critics are still arguing about. But it's still a good jumping-off point for Kafka if you want to read him.
(of course, I haven't read "The Trial" yet myself, so what do I know. But I have read a number of his short stories and found them pretty readable even apart from the whole Great Author is Great thing.)

Madmachine
03-28-2013, 07:45 PM
I've actually already read The Metamorphosis; that's what got me interested in Kafka in the first place.

It's one of those things that's work to read, but when you're done you feel as though you've come out with something genuinely worth something, even though you have no idea what it is.

A classic is something everyone wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
— Mark Twain

Teaspoon
03-28-2013, 08:45 PM
I was about to recommend "The Three Hermits", but that's Tolstoy, not Kafka. Although it's worth a look in any event.

The first Kafka I read was in this old anthology and it was "The Hunger Artist". It's not too long, but it's...not cheerful either. Ends on something of an odd note that I'm still trying to decipher.