I’ve finally resuscitated this machine.
Anyway, here’s my arbitrary list all time best Science Fiction Writers:
1. Isaac Asimov. Who else? Foundation won the all time Hugo award, beating Tolkien. That’s too bad that Tolkien lost, because scify and fantasy/horror are two distinct genres and should not compete nor compared with each other. I never liked Tolkien but he should’ve won in a different genre. Still there is nobody like Asimov.
2. Stanislaw Lem. The only sci fi writer in the same league with Asimov is Stanislaw Lem. If you don’t know the Polish language you’ll have to read the translation. Where Asimov believed space travel and colonization was critical for the survival of the human race, Lem believed it was stupid and insane, since we are not evolved to exist in space. And damn if I don’t agree. Not because space travel is stupid but because I think the biosphere will be uninhabitable in just a few centuries and we wont have anything like interstellar travel for one to ten thousand years. Long before that the air will be uninhabitable and the Earth too hot and we will be extinct.
3. Greg Benford. The greatest living scify writer, because he writes hard science fiction, the only true science fiction that deals with science and humanity, not a hybrid of science and mysticism. You can argue about which is his best, But I like Great Sky River, Timescape, and Cosm.
4. Greg Bear. This writer, unlike any of the others, is truly protean. He can write hard scify like Eternity but can write silliness like early Ron Hubbard, and even writes a horror story I cant remember the name of that is as good anything Stephen King ever wrote.
5. Larry Niven. Niven is a greatly underrated writer because his style is deceptively immature, probably because he lived a sheltered life. But he knows the science inside out, and has the kind of scientific imagination that rivals Asimov’s.
6. Michael Kube McDowell. Another hard scify writer, best know for his trilogy The Trigon Disunity. In particular the second book has one of the most tear jerking love stories I’ve read, and it’s based on time dilation (Special Relativity) and you need to understand that to really get this book.
7. Arthur Clarke. I never considered him in the top three because he has written a lot of average stuff, some that is pure crap. His best is The Fountains of Paradise, which compares well with even Asimov.
8. Robert Silverberg. Silverberg understands the science, but he writes a lot of junk. Then he turns around and writes a masterpiece, like The Man in the Maze, or the millenial story The Masks of Time.
9. Greg Brin. He’s a a great writer, but undisciplined. In The Uplift War there are so many different kinds of aliens I couldn’t finish the first chapter. Startide Rising is a fine work. But Brin’s best is Foundation’s Triumph. After Asimov’s death, Bear, Benford, and Brin each wrote a Foundation sequel. Brin’s was the best. I think he does the best when he has to work within constraints, such as when he writes in Asimov’s universe.
10. Ben Bova. He’s an old guy that grew up before I did, but he shares the benevolent, humanistic values that all these writers share. Because he does, he beat out Robert Heinlein, who has some good stories but writes like he learned the English language last week.