What do you think Are the Best Classic Fantasy And Science Fiction Books and Stories of All Time?

BAYLOR

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The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles Finney

Characterization thin, plot barely sufficient, yet I've read this 5 or 6 times and expect to read it a time or two more. This is fantasy as satire of American mid-western life and values, in which a circus of thread-bare marvels enter a town the inhabitants of which do not really register how magical the acts are, how spellbinding they would be to an audience with imagination.

Through all the customer interactions Dr. Lao proceeds, becoming who he needs to be for the moment, perhaps a reflection of the expectations of those facing him; a loquacious speaker of pidgeon English one moment, a scholar the next, mostly he acts as a herder of the wonders populating his circus, pushing them through their paces and fending off aggressive customers while shielding the more vulnerable (well, some of them anyway) in his audience.

I've heard some readers complain the ending just trails off, but it's a circus, a circus ends, the wagons pull out and move to another town, leaving some interactions unresolved. It took 3 or 4 readings for it to work for me, but it does now. I wouldn't have it any other way.


Randy M.



This is a terrific book . It was adapted for the big screen in 1964 as The Seven Faces of Dr Lao and, it stared Tony Randal and Barbara Eden
 

Guttersnipe

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This is a terrific book . It was adapted for the big screen in 1964 as The Seven Faces of Dr Lao and, it stared Tony Randal and Barbara Eden
I have The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories. I read all the stories save for the titular feature. A couple of my favorites are "The Limits of Walter Horton" by John Seymour Sharnik and "The Man Who Vanished" by Robert M. Coates. The former is about a man with no known musical ability who one day plays a bunch of songs on the piano consecutively (save for sleeping, eating, etc.), only playing each song once. The latter is about a man whose nostalgia causes him to disappear into the past.

Also, The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao was partially adapted by Charles Beaumont.
 

Randy M.

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I have The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories. I read all the stories save for the titular feature. A couple of my favorites are "The Limits of Walter Horton" by John Seymour Sharnik and "The Man Who Vanished" by Robert M. Coates. The former is about a man with no known musical ability who one day plays a bunch of songs on the piano consecutively (save for sleeping, eating, etc.), only playing each song once. The latter is about a man whose nostalgia causes him to disappear into the past.

Also, The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao was partially adapted by Charles Beaumont.
The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories -- nice contents list.
 

KGeo777

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Gulliver's Travels - Extremely influential and ground-breaking. We discussed it in another thread--I said: just for the idea of playing around with the fish out of water theme-it takes the character through different scenarios where his perspective shifts dramatically (big, small, and then takes it further to the essence of humanity and intellect itself in relation to Nature). He predicted the idea of the Atomic bomb--the scientists of Laputa develop a device that can bring peace by destroying both sides in a war. That alone is an incredible prophetic idea that is constantly talked about.
Yahoos and Houyhnhnms were also a significant fantasy concept.

Frankenstein - It could deserve the number one status as the most significant fantasy story--I put it second for publication chronology reasons. It doesn't explore a range of fantasy concepts like GT does but it is such a profound idea and the themes resonate every day in the news--the most relevant story to modern times.

The Black Cat - The concepts in it are ground-breaking AFAIK. The narrator is transformed from presumably a nice guy into someone psychotic and sadistic--and that is the POV we are compelled to identify with--inside this twisted mind, and captive to his stated desires to kill the cat and then his wife. The appearance of the new cat suggests a supernatural agency, and it seems to me this is the kernel of the idea to Moby Dick. A man obsessed to the point of self-destruction with a non-human inhabitant of the world which may or may not have some kind of magical power.

The Diamond Lens - the idea of a miniature world in a drop of water seems to me to have been innovative--AFAIK, but also the idea of the character falling in love with some microscopic alien woman--that seems to me a significant idea which merits its inclusion on a list of the greatest fantasy stories.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - the exploration of the idea of someone with a dual nature and identity and physical transformation.

The Time Machine
- the exploration of changing biology and time and the stage of the world as finite. The scene with the crabs on the beach as the world is reaching an end--pretty heavy fantasy idea along with the discussion of human change and how it is affected by living conditions.

The War of the Worlds
- to have a war between planets and have the ending be determined by the smallest of bodies--germs--there was a tv show on this and Brian Aldiss was interviewed and he said something on the ending like "Oh my God! What bloody genius!"
It is brilliant. It is profoundly ironic and so simple. Perhaps the best use of or subversion of Deus ex machina.

Others have listed stories of ground-breaking significance since 1900--I am tempted to mention The Damned Thing and perhaps Who Goes There? is also a significant embellishment on alien life from the perspective of the hostile and mysterious but I feel I Am Legend is the most significant story of the 1950s and it is hard for me to think of one after that which is innovative in a way that compares to anything else on the list.

Maybe Colossus: The Forbin Project--the idea of a computer as a god had been done before -- the innovation to me is the machine using practical means to take over the world and that the role of creator and creature gets reversed in the end--Colossus becomes the parent to Forbin who finds himself treated as a child in a sense. At least in the movie that comes across and is ironic.









 

BAYLOR

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The Coming of the Terrans by Leigh Bracket :cool:
 

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