The Personal Website of Mark W. Dawson

Containing His Articles, Observations, Thoughts, Meanderings,
and some would say Wisdom (and some would say not).

The Science Fiction of My Youth

I will concede to no one my love of Science-Fiction. Since I was a young boy, I have read and enjoyed Science-Fiction stories, as well as viewed many Science-Fiction movies and television. I have loved most of them in my lifetime. Starting as a young boy, I have been awed by the action and adventure of Science-Fiction, as well as the technology and alien races presented in Science-Fiction. As I became older, my response to Science-Fiction became more mature, and I realized that the storylines were the most important thing about Science-Fiction. The human drama, the relationships between people and science and technology, as well as the interrelationships between humans and aliens, became more important. My love of Science-Fiction led me to a love of science, and I became much more knowledgeable about science. Both loves led me to examine the Science of Science-Fiction. I began to apply my science knowledge to the Science-Fiction I was reading and watching as an intellectual challenge that stimulated me. Today, when I read or watch Science-Fiction, I enjoy all of this. I first read or watch Science-Fiction for the entertainment it provides. I then think about the storyline to ascertain its meaning. After that, I apply my science knowledge to critique the Science in the Science-Fiction. All these activities are enjoyable for me.

This webpage is about the Science Fiction of my youth. These science fiction stories, films, and television series sparked my imagination and made me think differently. As to the stories of science fiction that I read in my youth, they number in the many dozens of novels. As it is not possible to list all of them, I have restricted this article to the most influential science fiction novels that I read in my youth. However, I believe that I have read most of the Hugo Awards winners from 1951 through 1970. As to the short stories, they numbered in the thousands and were written by many different authors, and they were also influential in my life. As there are too many short science fiction stories to list in this article, and I have forgotten most of them, I have forgone listing these science fiction short stories in this article.

I can say that the most influential authors of science fiction that I read in my youth were Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury, with a special nod to Frank Herbert. The following are the most influential science fiction novels that I read in my youth and novels that I still remember very well.

Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

“Set on the planet Arrakis, Frank Herbert's epic Dune saga tells the story of Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness.

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction will set Paul and his family on a journey towards a destiny beyond imagination, one that will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.”

Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers, and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

“A human raised on Mars, Valentine Michael Smith has just arrived on planet Earth. Among his people for the first time, he struggles to understand the social mores and prejudices of human nature that are so alien to him, while his own “psi” powers—including telepathy, clairvoyance, telekenesis, and teleportation—make him a type of messiah figure among humans. Stranger in a Strange Land grew from a cult favorite to a bestseller to a classic in a few short years. The story of the man from Mars who taught humankind grokking and water-sharing—and love—it is Robert A. Heinlein’s masterpiece.”

“Johnnie Rico never really intended to join up—and definitely not the infantry. But now that he’s in the thick of it, trying to get through combat training harder than anything he could have imagined, he knows everyone in his unit is one bad move away from buying the farm in the interstellar war the Terran Federation is waging against the Arachnids. Because everyone in the Mobile Infantry fights. And if the training doesn’t kill you, the Bugs are more than ready to finish the job.”

"Widely acknowledged as one of Robert A. Heinlein's greatest works, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress rose from the golden age of science fiction to become an undisputed classic—and a touchstone for the philosophy of personal responsibility and political freedom. A revolution on a lunar penal colony—aided by a self-aware supercomputer—provides the framework for a story of a diverse group of men and women grappling with the ever-changing definitions of humanity, technology, and free will—themes that resonate just as strongly today as they did when the novel was first published."

The Foundation Series, The Complete Robot, and Nightfall and Other Stories  by Isaac Asimov

“For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future—to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save humankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire—both scientists and scholars—and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for future generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.

Collected in this boxed set, Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation form the celebrated original trilogy that started it all. One of the most influential in the history of science fiction, the Foundation series is celebrated for its unique blend of breathtaking action, daring ideas, and extensive worldbuilding. Here, Asimov has written a timely and timeless saga of the best—and worst—that lies in humanity, and the power of even a few courageous souls to shine a light in a universe of darkness.”

“The Complete Robot collects Isaac Asimov's prophetic stories about remarkable robots and their interaction with humans.” and defines “The Three Laws of Robotics” (often shortened to The Three Laws or known as Asimov's Laws). “These laws are a set of rules devised by science fiction author Isaac Asimov and were introduced in his 1942 short story "Runaround" (included in the 1950 collection I, Robot), although they had been foreshadowed in some earlier stories. The Three Laws, quoted from the "Handbook of Robotics, 56th Edition, 2058 A.D.", are:

First Law - A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

Second Law - A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

Third Law - A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

These form an organizing principle and unifying theme for Asimov's robotic-based fiction, appearing in his Robot series, the stories linked to it, and his Lucky Starr series of young-adult fiction. The Laws are incorporated into almost all of the positronic robots appearing in his fiction, and cannot be bypassed, being intended as a safety feature. Many of Asimov's robot-focused stories involve robots behaving in unusual and counter-intuitive ways as an unintended consequence of how the robot applies the Three Laws to the situation in which it finds itself. Other authors working in Asimov's fictional universe have adopted them and references, often parodic, appear throughout science fiction as well as in other genres.

The original laws have been altered and elaborated on by Asimov and other authors. Asimov himself made slight modifications to the first three in various books and short stories to further develop how robots would interact with humans and each other. In later fiction where robots had taken responsibility for government of whole planets and human civilizations, Asimov also added a fourth, or zeroth law, to precede the others:

Zeroth Law - A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

The Three Laws, and the zeroth, have pervaded science fiction and are referred to in many books, films, and other media. They have affected thought on ethics of artificial intelligence as well.”

"From one of history’s most influential writers of science fiction comes this collection of twenty short works of fiction, arranged in order of publication from 1941 to 1967. Compiled by Asimov himself, who prefaced each story with an introduction, it begins with “Nightfall,” the tale of a world with eternal sun that is suddenly plunged into total darkness and utter madness. Published when the author was only twenty-one, “Nightfall” was arguably Asimov’s breakout work, making such an impression that, almost thirty years later, the Science Fiction Writers of America voted it the best science-fiction short story ever written.

The other stories in the collection span far and wide: Machines that learn to think for themselves—and direct their thoughts to overturning the establishment. The discovery that Earthlings are being destroyed by a mysterious kind of psychological virus. A day when walking outdoors becomes a sign of psychosis. And many more. Twenty stories: each riveting, each a classic."

Childhood's End, A Fall of Moondust, and The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke by Arthur C. Clarke

“Without warning, giant silver ships from deep space appear in the skies above every major city on Earth. Manned by the Overlords, in fifty years, they eliminate ignorance, disease, and poverty. Then this golden age ends--and then the age of Mankind begins....”

“Expanding the Moon's population hinges on building a thriving tourist industry. But when a prototype tourist craft called the Selene encounters a moonquake, the ship plummets under a vast body of liquid-fine moondust called the Sea of Thirst. While time runs out for the passengers and crew, rescuers find their resources stretched to the limit by the unpredictable conditions of the lunar environment.”

"Author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood's End, The City and the Stars, and the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke is the most celebrated science fiction author alive. He is―with H. G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, and Robert A. Heinlein―one of the writers who define science fiction in our time. Now Clarke has cooperated in the preparation of a massive, definitive edition of his collected shorter works. From early work like "Rescue Party" and "The Lion of Comarre," through classics like "The Star," "Earthlight," "The Nine Billion Names of God," and "The Sentinel" (kernel of the later novel, and movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey), all the way to later work like "A Meeting with Medusa" and "The Hammer of God," this immense volume encapsulates one of the great SF careers of all time."

The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

“Soar above the fossil seas and crystal pillars of a deadworld in the pages of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. A milestone of American literature, Bradbury’s classic collection of interconnected vignettes about life on the red planet diverges from the War of the Worlds theme, in which humanity must defend its shores against its neighbors, for in Bradbury’sprismatic vision, humanity is the conqueror, colonizing Mars to escape an Earth devastated by atomic war and environmental catastrophe. Bradbury’s TheMartian Chronicles is a must-read for any fan of science fiction or fantasy, a crucial precursor to films like Avatar and Alien and books like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, and a haunting prophesy of humanity’s destiny to bring our old dreams and follies along with us wherever we may venture forth.”

"Ray Bradbury brings wonders alive. For this peerless American storyteller, the most bewitching force in the universe is human nature. In these eighteen startling tales unfolding across a canvas of tattooed skin, living cities take their vengeance, technology awakens the most primal natural instincts, and dreams are carried aloft in junkyard rockets. Provocative and powerful, The Illustrated Man is a kaleidoscopic blending of magic, imagination, and truth—as exhilarating as interplanetary travel, as maddening as a walk in a million-year rain, and as comforting as simple, familiar rituals on the last night of the world."

As to the science fiction movies that I watched (and re-watched), the following list is the movies that I thought were noteworthy and thought-provoking.

As for television, my list is very short, as my family had only one television, and the viewing time was split between my father, mother, and two sisters. I, therefore, had little opportunity to watch science fiction television, and my only regular viewing of television science fiction series was The Outer Limits (original) and The Twilight Zone (original), as my father liked these programs and wanted to watch these television series with me. I occasionally watched other science fiction television such as The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; however, these television series were more entertaining than thought-provoking. The reason that Star Trek (The Original Series) is not on this list is that my sisters were watching other things when Star Trek (TOS) was running, and I never was able to view this series in my youth. It wasn’t until Star Trek (TOS) was re-run in the seventies that I watched the entire series, and thus it does not qualify as the science fiction of my youth.

Science Fiction is much more than action and adventure with special effects and technological wonders. Any science fiction that only has these components is nothing more than mindless entertainment. While this entertainment is often very enjoyable, it does not contribute anything meaningful to your life. Science Fiction with meaning is, therefore, an enrichment of your life and should be treasured as such.