My Comic Con schedule!

August 31st, 2014

It’s time for Salt Lake Comic Con!

I have a full schedule this year, and I would love to see you there. I may or may not be dressed as Jayne from Firefly at some of these events…

Thursday September 4
3:00 pm: Creating a Compelling RPG Campaign, Room 255F
6:00 pm: Breaking Bad, Room 151G
7:00 pm: Han Shot First: Character Defining Moments, Room 255E

Friday September 5
1:00 pm: Build a Story, Room 255B
3:00 pm: Signing, Shadow Mountain Booth (#111, Main Expo Floor)

Saturday September 6
12:00 pm: Battlestar Galactica: 10th Anniversary of the Reimagining of the Classic Science Fiction Series, Room 251A
4:00 pm: Signing, Shadow Mountain Booth (#111, Main Expo Floor)
6:00 pm: Supervillain Smackdown (The Game), Room 255C
7:00 pm: Writing Excuses: The Panel, Room 250A

Yes, I did an Ice Bucket Challenge

August 21st, 2014

Youve almost certainly heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge: someone challenges you, and then you have to either a) donate in support of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), or b) dump a bucket of ice water on your head, or c) both. Then you get to challenge two other people. I’ve heard some rumblings online about how this is a useless campaign, or “slacktivism,” in which people on social media pretend to be involved with a cause without actually doing anything to help, but let’s be real: the ALS organization reports that their donations have spiked from one million dollars (typical for this time of year) to four million dollars, which eagle-eyed readers will recognize as being four times higher. If a social media campaign can raise donations by 400%, to the tune of three million extra dollars, while also generating this much awareness, calling it “slacktivism” seems pretty stupid.

*UPDATE*: The article I got my numbers from was both out of date and wrong. According to the ALS organization itself, their typical donations for this time of year are $2 million, and the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised that to more than $40 million. Slacktivism shmacktivism.

But how about I cut the crap and show you the video?

The video quality is poor, and I’ll do what I can to improve it, but for now there you go. Ive donated ALS, and because it’s a cause close to my heart I’m donating to a mental health organization as well.

Brandon Sanderson challenged Howard Tayler and I, so I will pass the challenge along to our fellow podcaster Mary Robinette Kowal, recognizing that it might be hard for her because she’s traveling. Don’t worry, Mary, there’s an ice machine right down the hall from your hotel room :)

And as long as we’re challenging authors, let’s bring some YA into this. Claudia Gray, I choose you!

The great and wonderful John Cleaver contest!

July 3rd, 2014

The time has come, and tomorrow is the official launch day for Next of Kin, the new John Cleaver novella. This novella is a great way to get a head start on the new John Cleaver series, which starts next year with The Devil’s Only Friend, but you know what’s an even better way to get a head start? How about just reading the whole novel a year early? This sounds like a job for: a contest!

Here’s the deal: Next of Kin is on sale pretty much everywhere books are sold, and you can even get it Print on Demand if you really love paper. Buy a copy, take a screenshot of the receipt, and email it to NextOfKinContest@gmail.com, and you’ll be entered in a drawing; the winner, to be determined on July 11, will be chosen at random from among those emails, and I will send that winner an electronic copy of the manuscript for The Devil’s Only Friend.

Kindle: 2.99

Smashwords: 2.99

Nook: 2.99

Print on Demand: $6.99

If you happen to be in our near Salt Lake City, come to the live launch party at WesterCon, Friday morning at 11:30, in the con suite (room 1508). We’ll have free pizza, a reading, and several hard copies for sale which I will lovingly sign just for you. And if you really know your John Cleaver trilogy, you just might win another copy of The Devil’s Only Friend….

Spread the word! Tell all your friends! Buy fifty-seven copies and get your Christmas shopping done early! This new series is awesome, and I can’t wait for you to read it.

The cover for NEXT OF KIN

June 25th, 2014

Want to see the cover for Next of Kin? Yeah, me too. It’s beautiful, and I can’t stop looking at it.

 

NextOfKinCover-front

The cover was designed by Chersti Nieveen, and assembled for production by Ben Crowder. The book will be available on July 4, with specific purchase info coming soon.

A New John Cleaver Story Coming NEXT WEEK

June 24th, 2014

As I announced a few months ago, I’ve started work on a new John Cleaver trilogy. The first book is called The Devil’s Only Friend, and it comes out next year, but I have ALSO written a novella, called Next of Kin, that leads in to the new trilogy. Next of Kin will be released next week, on July 4.

The Devil’s Only Friend picks up one year after I Don’t Want to Kill You, with John still struggling to deal with the horrible things that happened in the first trilogy. On the plus side, he’s working with a group of FBI demon hunters, but on the down side, that’s not actually a plus side: he’s spent his whole life trying not to think about killing, and now it’s his job. He feels trapped, he feels desperate, he feels his control slipping away, and then…well, I’d better not say anything else. There’s a war brewing between humans and monsters, and John’s trapped in the middle, and it’s not going to end well for anyone.

Next of Kin gives us a brief look at the other side of that war: a demon’s-eye view of what it’s like to live in our world, and hide in our shadows, and prey on our weaknesses. Elijah Sexton lives on other people’s memories, and does his best to stay out of trouble, but his fellow monsters are trying to recruit him, and his stolen memories are calling out, and then there’s that quiet young man he keeps running into….

Next of Kin will be available in all ebook formats, and in Print-on-Demand, starting July 4. If you’re online, keep your eyes peeled: I’ll be doing a giveaway with some fun prizes, including an advance manuscript of The Devil’s Only Friend. Better yet, if you’re at WesterCon or FantasyCon in Salt Lake City you can come to the launch party at 11:30 am, where I’ll be giving away free pizza, reading from both stories, and doing a bunch more awesome giveaways. You probably have the day off, and you’re family barbecue doesn’t start until the evening, so come on down and grab an awesome new book. I will even compliment your shirt.

People have been asking me for years to tell the rest of John’s story. This is it. The time has come. Kiss a corpse and smile sweetly at a cat: John Cleaver has returned.

I Am Not A Serial Killer, coming soon to a non-prose medium near you

May 5th, 2014

Let me tell you a funny story.

Back in January I was going through my spam folder, as I do every few days, and found an email with the subject line: “A Stage Play? John de Lancie.” John de Lancie, as you probably know, is the actor who played Q on Star Trek, and Jane’s dad on Breaking Bad, and a ton of other awesome things. I’m a fan, and have been for a while, and I figured I must have signed up for a John de Lancie newsletter or something. I do this a lot; I’ve been on a Barenaked Ladies mailing list for sixteen years, for example, and I don’t think I’ve read a single one of their emails. So I deleted it.

Yeah.

Two days later I got the same email again, and thought “This is a pretty aggressive mailing list. I’m delighted he’s doing a stage play, and I wish I could go see it, but I live in Germany and there’s no way.” So I deleted it again.

And then immediately I felt bad, because the email was just too weird to completely ignore. I don’t typically get a lot of emails from famous people, but I get just enough rights questions from Hollywood studios that I couldn’t let this one slide. I dug into my deleted folder, pulled out the email, and read it.

Turns out it was from the real John de Lancie, and he’s a big fan of the John Cleaver books, and he wants to turn I Am Not a Serial Killer into a stage play. So that’s pretty awesome.

I emailed back and forth with him for a few weeks, and then on my RUINS book tour I stopped by his house on my way through LA, and we talked about the possibilities and challenges of bringing IANASK to stage. He’s an incredibly nice, extremely intelligent and funny guy. The first half of the story would be easy–very minimal adaptation required–but the second half, where it starts to get really supernatural and action-y, will take a lot more work. He’s found a theater in LA that has the right facilities (run by Gates McFadden, who you may also know from Star Trek), and we’re taking a look at what we can do to make it happen. I have no idea how long it will take, or what will be involved, or anything–I did a ton of theater in high school and college, but it was all little stuff, community and black box things with friends, and I’ve never written for stage before so I’m going in completely new. Unlike a movie, where you sell the rights and the studio takes over, this stage play is something I’ll be doing in collaboration with John, working together to make this the best thing we can make it.

The other big difference between movies and stage is that movies are incredibly secretive, and I’ve been involved in the we-hope-it-happens IANASK movie production for five years now and there’s still nothing I can really tell you. That’s why I haven’t said anything about this stage play thing for four months: not because I couldn’t, but because I’ve been conditioned not to. John, on the other hand, has been talking about it at conventions all year, and most recently on the Nerdist podcast, which was pretty awesome. So yeah: this is a thing, and we’re working on it, and it might happen and it might not. I have high hopes. My sister and brother-in-law are also theater people (he runs the theater department at a college in Tennessee) and are working on adapting my ebook A Night of Blacker Darkness to stage, so if all goes well I could have two stage plays next year. We’ll see what happens.

Anti-Jump Muscles

April 21st, 2014

Let’s talk about OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A lot of people say they have OCD because they, for example, like to keep things ordered or do things in a certain way every time–the kind of people who separate all their M&Ms by color before they eat them, that kind of thing. That’s not OCD, that’s just “being really organized.” Actual OCD, the mental disorder, is crippling and dangerous and potentially deadly.

When my brother was first diagnosed with OCD, and described the symptoms to me, I was shocked. His brain would tell him to do things, like throw himself down the stairs or punch the wall until his hand bled, and he was literally compelled to do it–as in, manipulated by an outside force. When your brain tells you to do something it’s every bit as un-ignorable as when your body does it. Imagine that you have to pee, and you try to ignore it, and it just gets worse and worse until you’re squeezing your legs together and dancing in place because if you don’t go pee RIGHT NOW you’re going to explode. Now imagine that instead of peeing, you get the same urge with the same intensity about making your head bleed. You have to make your head bleed RIGHT NOW or your entire life will be a disaster, and come on what are you waiting for you’re miserable and horrible and your head needs to bleed and why won’t you let it because it would make everything better just do it. You know, objectively, that making your head bleed is wrong, and harmful, and a bad thing. But your brain is sick, and it wants what it wants, and you have to live like that for the rest of your life.

I remember an old comic by the cartoonist R. Kliban, who did a lot of stuff in the 70s and 80s, including several about cats that you may have seen somewhere. The one that always stuck in my mind was “Anti-Jump Muscles”:


The idea of muscles that work in reverse is funny, but this is the reality that people with OCD live with every day. When my brother’s brain tells him to break his hand, or hurt himself or (on a couple of terrifying occasions) his family, it takes all his willpower to not act. His Anti-Jump Muscles are fully flexed, day in and day out, just to live a normal life. It is scary and lonely and utterly exhausting, and he is only one of millions of people in the world who have to suffer through that.

If you know someone with OCD, give them a hug or send them an email, and tell them you love them. Tell them you support them. Do what you can to help.

And if you’d like to help my brother, and to raise awareness for other people with mental health issues, take a look at our Altered Perceptions campaign that just opened today. Dozens of amazing authors have contributed alternate versions of their published works to an anthology, and none of us are getting a penny from it–every cent goes to help Rob and, if we reach our goals, others like him.

Altered Perspectives: the awesome anthology I’m helping put together

April 17th, 2014

I finished my book! Or at least the first draft, but still: I am very happy. And now that it’s done it’s time to move on to the next project, which is what I’m here to tell you about today.

My brother, the illustrious Robison Wells, was diagnosed a few years ago with a severe panic disorder, was has since blossomed (or perhaps ‘metastasized’ is a better word) into depression, agoraphobia, OCD, and a whole host of other mental illnesses that make it impossible for him to live a normal life. I could talk about this for hours, and in future blog posts I will, but for now I’ll limit it to two main points:

1) Rob’s illnesses have put him into a lot of debt. He writes books, and they are excellent books, but this is not exactly a lucrative profession, and a panic disorder does not work well in an office environment. Watching Rob struggle with disease and debt made me want to do something to help.

2) Mental illnesses are WAY MORE COMMON than most people think. In the US alone, statistics suggest that most of you know someone with a psychosis, and all of you know someone with depression. If you don’t, look harder–you probably know two or three. This is a big problem, and we as a culture and society are not doing nearly enough to help. An American with a mental illness is ten times more likely to be in prison than in medical care. This needs to change.

I wanted to do something about these problems, but I didn’t know what. It was Brandon Sanderson, a good friend of both Rob and I, who came up with the idea: “let’s do an anthology,” he said, “full of authors who know Rob, and use it to raise funds. First we can pay off Rob’s debts, and then if we get enough interest we can keep going and try to help other authors with similar problems.” I thought it was an awesome idea, so we did it. And we put a cool spin on it that I think you’re going to love.

I am proud to announce the science fiction/fantasy anthology ALTERED PERSPECTIVES, which is kind of like a bonus DVD full of deleted scenes and alternate versions of some of your favorite authors’ books. Check out this amazing list:

Ally Condie, the foreword
Dan Wells, the introduction
Annette Lyon, An unpublished chapter from her retelling of the Finnish fairy tale, THE KALEVALA
Aprilynne Pike, TBA
Brandon Mull, Deleted scenes from BEYONDERS 2
Brandon Sanderson, five completely rewritten chapters from THE WAY OF KINGS, where Kaladin makes the opposite choice of what he makes in the published novel
Bree Despain, an alternate ending to THE LOST SAINT, and an alternate beginning to THE SHADOW PRINCE
Brodi Ashton, the first chapter from her YA novel about an unwilling alien fighter who has to rescue the boy she loves
Claudia Gray, a deleted scene from A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU
Dan Wells, the original John Cleaver free-write that inspired I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
Erin Bowman, a deleted scene from TAKEN
Howard Tayler, a creative non-fiction story about life with mental illness
J Scott Savage, three original chapters that led to writing FARWORLD
Jennifer Moore, a deleted scene from BECOMING LADY LOCKWOOD
Jessica Day George, a deleted scene from PRINCESS OF GLASS, where the main character plays poker with a witch
Josi Kilpack, the original opening scene to TRES LECHES CUPCAKE
Kiersten White, an original short story, set in a dystopian, sci-fi world
Larry Correia, a deleted fight scene from SWORDS OF EXODUS
Lauren Oliver, two deleted scenes from PANDEMONIUM, plus a hilarious scene about the plotting process
Luisa Perkins, a short story, “Seeing Red”–a modern-day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.
Mary Robinette Kowal, deleted scene from VALOUR AND VANITY (the scene was cut because readers thought the scene was trying to depict depression)
Nancy Allen, bonus scene from BEAUTY AND THE CLOCKWORK BEAST
Robison Wells, an epilogue to FEEDBACK and the VARIANT duology
Sandra Tayler, a creative non-fiction piece called “Married To Depression”
Sara Zarr, a story featuring characters from one of Sara’s previously published novels
Sarah Eden, “Farewells” for LONGING FOR HOPE and HOPE SPRINGS
Seanan McGuire, The original opening for DISCOUNT ARMAGEDDON
Shannon Hale, “Ravenous,” a previously unpublished scifi short story
SJ Kincaid, the original first chapter of VORTEX, before it was entirely rewritten

You’ll also get to read personal essays and comments from each of the authors, explaining their own connection to mental illness and the many ways it’s changed their lives.

This anthology goes up on IndieGoGo on Monday, April 21, where you’ll be able to buy it in hardcover or ebook, along with a ton of extra perks like manuscript critiques, dinners with your favorite authors, and the ever-popular “die horribly in one of Dan’s books.”

We,re really proud of this anthology, and I’m incredibly grateful for the hard work and amazing kindness of the authors who helped make it a reality. I hope you love it as much as we do.

Entitled: The Disney Princess One-Word Title Game

April 5th, 2014

A few days ago I mentioned on Twitter/Facebook my dislike of the new Disney movie naming pattern: instead of just giving the movie the same name as the fairy tale it’s based on (ie, “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” etc.), they’ve started using one-word titles like Brave, Tangled, and Frozen. Brave is an odd case because Brave was a) not based on an existing story and b) a really stupid title. The character was, indeed, brave, but that’s not what the story nor her character arc were about: she was just as brave in the beginning as she was in the end, so calling the movie “Brave” is about as descriptive as calling it, say, “Celtic,” or “Redhead,” or even just “Girl.” Tangled and Frozen upped the game by using their title to underline–in a cutesy way, of course–the exact emotional obstacle the main character needs to overcome. Rapunzel has severe mommy issues and feels tied down to her old life? Combine that with the hair motif and call it Tangled. The Ice Queen is emotionally stunted and needs to learn how to break free? Combine it with the snow motif and call it Frozen. So yes, they’re more clever than Brave, but they’re way too on-the-nose. You can’t just call out the exact theme of your story, reduce it to a past participle, and call it a title.

Or can you?

As a matter of fact, that is EXACTLY what we’re going to do! I joked online about retitling “The Little Mermaid” in the same style, and was flooded with delightful suggestions, including everything from Beached to Silenced, with plenty of awesome non-past-participle answers thrown into the mix (I suggested Speechless, and my brother-in-law made me laugh out loud with “Shellfishness”). So, that’s what we’re going to do: retitle all the Disney princess movies with one-word titles that wear the character’s main arc, or the movie’s main theme, as clumsily on their sleeve as possible. For the purposes of this exercise we are looking ONLY at Princess movies, so no Aristocats or whatever, and we are imagining a world in which each princess is actually the main character of her movie (in other words, your title for Aladdin will be about Jasmine, because if they made that movie today that’s exactly how they’d do it). You get points for describing the character, extra points for describing the character’s arc, more extra points for incorporating the movie’s visual theme, and even more extra points for making me laugh. Past participles are preferred (mostly that means ‘words that end in -ed,’ but there are exceptions), but don’t let that stop you from laying down a gem like Shellfishness. You can rename one or all, and enter as many times as you like, and–why not?–I’ll pick a winner and give them something awesome. Probably a book, or maybe a T-shirt, or maybe I’ll name a corpse after you in the new John Cleaver. MAYBE ALL OF THE ABOVE. The winner, by the way, will be chosen by me, based on whatever criteria I so desire. I can do whatever I want, because the title of my own personal movie is “Empowered.”

Without further ado, here’s the list of movies:


The Core Set:

Snow White
Cinderella
Sleeping Beauty
The Little Mermaid
Beauty and the Beast
Aladdin
Pocahontas
Mulan
The Princess and the Frog
Brave (because seriously, it needs a new name)


Princesses Disney tries to forget about because their movies are dumb:

Eilonwy (The Black Cauldron)
Kida (Atlantis: The Lost Empire)


The BEST Disney Princess, who is totally a princess, even in-world, but who doesn’t get included in their marketing because even their marketers know she would never be caught dead in a lame-o Disney Princess product:

Megara (Hercules) (I kind of have a thing for Megara)


Other movies it might be fun to rename in this style, even though they’re not about princesses:

Pinocchio
Dumbo
Bambi
Alice in Wonderland
Peter Pan
One Hundred and One Dalmatians
The Sword in the Stone
The Jungle Book
Robin Hood
The Brave Little Toaster
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Lion King
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Tarzan


And why not? Disney owns this now too:

Princess Leia (Can you even imagine the Star Wars trilogy remade as a Disney Princess franchise? That sounds so terrible that I CAN’T HELP MYSELF I WANT IT RIGHT NOW.)

Welcome to Science Fiction! Here are some of my favorites for you to read next

March 3rd, 2014

I’ve noticed something over the last few years, talking with readers in person and online: in YA, people tend to use ‘dystopia’ as a general label for all science fiction. Not everybody does this, of course, but a big enough chunk of the audience that it stood out to me. This makes a lot of sense, when you think about it, because the average YA reader had never really read any science fiction before UGLIES and THE HUNGER GAMES came out and took over a market previously dominated by fantasy. I wrote a guest post for The Sci-Fi Chick, presenting a very brief history of dystopia, and explaining how I think the Partials Sequence fits (and doesn’t fit) into it, but today I want to do more. If you’re a YA reader who loves dystopian books and, through them, has become a science fiction fan, awesome! Science fiction has one of the greatest books around, and you’re in for a treat. Here are some of my favorites, to help you step out into the wider world of science fiction.

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
We’ll start with a YA book to help ease you into it. I assume you’ve already heard of Ender’s Game, even if only for the movie; this is one of the best science fiction books of all time, and I would argue one of the best ANY books of all time. A super-genius six year old is forced into space combat training, horribly manipulated by everyone around him, and tries to figure out who he wants to be and how to define his own morality. It’s a book that celebrates intelligence, and approaches kids on their own level, and I’ve read it three times and loved it more with each one.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
Another one to help ease you in to the wider genre, this is a straight-up dystopian novel about a world where books are outlawed, and the government floods the people with a constant stream of television and other media to keep them stupid and complacent. Ray Bradbury is one of our greatest SF writers, and if you love books and/or dystopias–and if you’re reading this I assume you love both–you owe it to yourself to read Fahrenheit 451.

Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
Now we’re getting into some non-YA, non-dystopia (by most definitions) novels. If you only know Starship Troopers from the movie, forget it; the book is completely different in almost every way imaginable, aside from the names of some of the characters. The starting point is similar to Ender’s Game (bug-like aliens have attacked Earth, and now we’re training soldiers to go out and fight them), but from there it diverges into a completely different story, chronicling not a command school but an infantry boot camp. It’s partly a war story, and partly a philosophical exploration of what war is for, and why we fight, and why even an enlightened society might never be able to stop no matter how much we want to.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
This is the first of a five-book trilogy (that’s not a typo), and that description alone should give you a sense of the completely silly, ridiculous, hilarious nature of the series. A man named Arthur Dent discovers that his best friend is an alien, who helps him escape the planet Earth right before it gets blown up to make way for a hyperspace bypass. It’s funny, sometimes side-splittingly funny, but it’s also brilliant and inventive and surprisingly poignant in places, exploring everything from loneliness to friendship to the meaning of life (and the universe, and everything).

Dune, by Frank Herbert
This is my favorite book ever. It’s kind of science fiction, and kind of space fantasy, and kind of a political espionage story, and kind of a masterclass in theoretical ecology. The desert planet Arrakis is the source of the most valuable substance in the galaxy: a drug called Spice, that lets users see the future. Harvesting it becomes a deadly game of politics, religion, and warfare, and I love EVERY SINGLE DROP of this book. One of the early scenes is a dinner party where nobody trusts each other, and the conversation they have is as thrilling as any fight scene you’ve ever read, and it only gets better from there.

A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
A group of Catholic monks, deep in a desert, dedicate their lives to finding and preserving the last surviving fragments of an ancient civilization: ours, hundreds of years after we destroyed ourselves in a nuclear war. This book is told in three different sections, spanning almost a thousand years, as the post-apocalyptic survivors slowly rebuild a world, discover our lost secrets, and try to avoid falling into the same tragic pattern that killed us the firts time around.

Neuromancer, by William Gibson
This book hit the bookstores like a cannonball, changing everything people thought science fiction was or could be, and has probably influenced more of the modern genre and society at large than anything else on this list. A hacker-for-hire is paid to break into a secured file and find the identity of a mysterious figure, in a journey that takes him around the world and into orbit and back again, uncovering one world-changing secret after another. This book was so far ahead of it’s time that it still feels prescient, even thirty years later, and the writing itself is poetic and beautiful.

Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
The main character is named Hiro Protagonist, a samurai hacker who delivers pizza for the mob, and if that doesn’t make you desperate to read this book I don’t know what will. It’s a mind-blowing cyberpunk where governments have disappeared and private corporations rule the world, and an archeologist has discovered a language so ancient and powerful it can actually be used to infect a human brain like a computer virus. Trust me, you’ll love it.

The Mirage, by Matt Ruff
This the most recent book on my list, just a year or two old, about a parallel reality just like our own, but with one thing flipped: Iraq is the world superpower, and the USA is a squabbling collection of religious extremists. The prologue begins with Christian terrorists crashing airplanes into the World Trade Center in Baghdad, and just in case that wasn’t already fascinating enough, a few chapters later the Homeland Security agents investigating this find a copy of a newspaper from our world, explaining it as a Muslim attack on Manhattan. I’ve rarely ever read a book this audacious, starting with that basic premise and following the rabbit as deep as it goes.

Flatland, by Edwin Abbott
In contrast, this is the old est book on my list, written by a schoolmaster in 1884. It’s both a science fiction story and a mathematical thought experiment, telling the story of a two-dimensional person who slowly becomes aware of other dimensions, and what their existence means for him. This book made me think about the world beyond what I can perceive in a way I never had before, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s incredibly short, practically a novelette, and you can probably read it an afternoon.

A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick is one of the greatest of all SF writers, and while some of his other novels are more famous (his most famous is almost certainly Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, on which the movie Blade Runner was based), this one is by far my favorite. A narcotics officer goes undercover to investigate a drug called Substance D, with effects that mimic schizophrenia, and over time realizes that the drug has broken his mind in half, and he is in fact investigating himself as both officer and dealer. It’s not only a great SF story, it’s an incredibly personal look at the author’s own experiences with drug addiction and mental illness, and presents those kinds of mind-altering effects from an insider’s perspective I’ve never seen anywhere else.

The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
Think of this as a single story split into two books: Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. Together they’re kind of like a far-future SF version of the Canterbury Tales, with a group of pilgrims visiting a mysterious planet and, each in turn, telling their own stories of why they’ve come and what they hope to learn. My favorite of the flashbacks comes in the second book, but all of them are wonderful, and together they add up to an epic story of humanity’s past and future and potential for greatness.

Contact, by Carl Sagan
Most people know this one from the movie, starring Jodie Foster as a SETI scientist who discovers a real message from aliens. The book does a lot of great things, including it’s incredibly plausible description of how our society might actually react to a message from outer space, but that’s only a part of it. The core of the story, the thing that makes me love it, is the way it presents the search for extra-terrestrial life as a parallel to religion and an expression of personal faith: we know that something’s out there, something bigger and greater than ourselves, that might help us to understand our world and our life better. This is the most spiritual look at science I have ever read, and I love it.

These are some of my favorites, and only a very small sampling of the amazing science fiction literature just waiting for you to discover it. What about you: what are favorites?