When I wander into bookshops I always, and obviously, head to the science fiction section. Lately I’ve noticed the diminishing number of shelves containing science fiction, and that made me realise that there are a great number of books that used to be there but simply aren’t anymore. There is a huge back catalogue of science fiction that deserves to be in print.
Firstly, anything by Samuel R. Delany. A couple of years ago a few of Mr. Delany’s novels were reprinted, but have since sold out. I feel works like Babel-17, Nova, Triton, and Dhalgren should always be in print. His work has earned four Nebula and two Hugo awards, but why aren’t they on the shelves? Add to this the fact that he won these awards in a field made up predominately of caucasian males and this makes his achievements even greater. The fact that you cannot simply go into a shop and purchase his books at any time is a crime.
Robert A. Heinlein. I know that there are a number of his books always in print, but there are some that should be reprinted as well. The two that come to mind for me are Starman Jones (1953) and Space Cadet (1948). These two are certainly aimed at more juvenile readers, but that does not make them any less enjoyable. I remember these stories fondly and would love to see young science fiction fans have the opportunity to read these books.
Harry Harrison. Harrison has written a number of books I’ve enjoyed, most especially the Stainless Steel Rat series. These books may have been the first I read where the protagonist was a rogue and a criminal and an all-round scoundrel. I loved the character of ‘Slippery Jim’ diGriz and the wry humour of Harrison’s writing. With twelve books in the series it’s a shame I can only ever find the latest The Stainless Steel Rat Returns (2010).
The last author I will mention is John Brunner. Brunner was a prolific writer with dozens of novels to his credit including the 1969 Hugo winner Stand on Zanzibar (1968) and his best known work The Shockwave Rider (1975). When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s Brunner took up a good portion of the science fiction section. Now not one of his books can be easily found.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. I know there are many authors whose work should be better represented than they are today; writers like Clifford D. Simak, Andre Norton, Alfred Bester, and I’m sure many of you can think of many more that I haven’t.
There is, however, some good news.
While these books and others like them are not readily in print, thanks to the internet we can still find these wonderful titles from second-hand book sellers. My favourite site for finding old books is Abebooks. Thanks to Abebooks (although my wife might not thank them) I’ve been able to find any book I’ve wanted.
I would suggest to you that the next time you’re browsing in a bookshop take a look for some of the older titles you may have wanted to read. If you can’t find it just mention that to the bookshop. If enough people start asking for them, who knows, maybe someone will print them once more.
These books need to be in print so they can entertain and inspire a new generation of science fiction readers.