Offbeat Science Fiction Books

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#1
I read Catherynne M. Valente’s “10 Essential Offbeat Science Fiction Novels,” which prompted me to blog about another 18 I thought of: Twenty-Eight Offbeat Science Fiction Books | Featured Futures.

For those not inclined to read my babble about them or the runners-up by the same authors or to see the pretty cover pics, the list was:
  • Alternate Realities (2000) by C. J. Cherryh
  • Carmen Dog (1988) by Carol Emshwiller
  • The City Not Long After (1989) by Pat Murphy
  • The Dead Trilogy (1998) by Richard Calder
  • Divide and Rule (1948) by L. Sprague de Camp
  • Dracula in Love (1979) by John Shirley
  • The Dream Years (1985) by Lisa Goldstein
  • The Green Millennium (1953) by Fritz Leiber
  • Gun, with Occasional Music (1994) by Jonathan Lethem
  • Knight of Delusions (1982, revised from Night of Delusions (1972)) by Keith Laumer
  • Norstrilia (1975) by Cordwainer Smith
  • The Paradox Men (1953, aka Flight into Yesterday) by Charles L. Harness
  • Rogue Ship (1965) by A. E. van Vogt
  • The Solarians (1966) by Norman Spinrad
  • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) by Philip K. Dick
  • Tomorrow and Tomorrow and The Fairy Chessmen (1951) by Henry Kuttner (as by Lewis Padgett)
  • What Mad Universe (1949) by Fredric Brown
  • Wolfbane (1959) by Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth
(Yes, I know four of these aren't novels but omnibi or novella collections. ;)) I also noted that I neglected Rucker but didn't want to redo the list. Still, a huge omission. So what are your favorite offbeat books, especially if Valente or I have still omitted them?
 

BAYLOR

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#2
Limbo by Bernard Wolfe
Scop by Barry Malzberg
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
The Dragon Never Sleeps by Glen Cook
The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon
Jack Faust by Michael Swanswick
Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson
Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub by Stanislaw Lem
Voyage to Acturus by David Lindsey
Way Station by Clifford Simak
In Carvern Below A K A. The Hidden World by Stanton Coblentz
Islandia by Austin Tappen Wright
Triton by Samuel Delany
The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
The Reefs of Earth by R A Lafferty
Norstrillia BY Cordwainer Smith
The Malicia Tapestry by Brian Aldiss
The Veils of Azlaroc by Fred Saberhagen
 
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Victoria Silverwolf

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#3
Lots of good choices here (as well as lots of books I haven't read.)

Assuming we're including fantasy, I'll add The Circus of Dr. Lao (1935) by Charles G. Finney, which is not only unique as an early, North American example of magic realism, but for the author's appendix, which looks at the characters and events of the novel in a different way, even pointing out contradictions and unanswered questions.

I have no argument with The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, but I'd also nominate Ubik (1969), which is at least as weird.

Somewhere between SF and fantasy is The Unconquered Country (1986) by Geoff Ryman, a novella which was published as a separate book. It can be read as bizarre fiction and as an allegory of the tragic history of Cambodia.

Among the many comic and satiric novels of Robert Sheckley, Crompton Divided (1978) may be the oddest, from the initial scenario (a man has three personalities, two of which go off on their own) to the way the author smashes the fourth wall to pieces by the end.
 

Rodders

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#4
There's a lot of really interesting titles here that I want to pick up.

I'd like to add Verner Vinge's "A Fire Upon The Deep". (Mainly due to the concept of varying "speeds" of space and the Tines. (An interestingly written medieval aggregate canine culture.)

Interesting to see how pedestrian my tastes have grown over the years.
 

williamjm

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#5
I think something of Roger Zelazny's should be included here, probably just about anything he wrote could be described as offbeat to some extent, Creatures of Light and Darkness is particularly weird.

Iain M. Banks' Feersum Endjinn would be another that I'd suggest, Bascule's story in particular is very offbeat.

Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash would also fit, any book whose main character is named Hiro Protagonist has to be a contender.
 

hitmouse

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#6
OK, I cannot resist.

The 13.5 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers
The Garments of Caen by Barrington Bailey
The Status Civilization by Robert Scheckley
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
An Alien Heat by Michael Moorcock
Vermilion Sands by JG Ballard
Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
 
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#7
Good stuff, everybody!

Assuming we're including fantasy, I'll add The Circus of Dr. Lao (1935) by Charles G. Finney.... I'd also nominate Ubik (1969), which is at least as weird.... Robert Sheckley
Yep, while I generally took an SF angle, "offbeat" often fuzzes generic restrictions and fantasy's definitely included. AlexH on the "what did you blog about today thread" mentioned wanting to see a fantasy version of the offbeat list (where presumably some SF could slip in). If anyone can make such a list (I don't read a lot of fantasy in book form) then please do. I have that Finney in the pile, so I'm looking forward to it more than ever. (As far as PKD, it is an embarrassment of weird riches, isn't it? Ubik is a great choice. You and hitmouse both mention Sheckley - I've only read Mindswap and The Status Civilization (a long time ago) so that corrects an omission. :))

Barrington Bailey.... To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.... JG Ballard
Bayley's probably a fantastic add - I've never managed to read him but I've heard that he's really, really offbeat. Similarly, I've read some truly offbeat Ballard stories and have finally added some novels to the Pile that I hope to get to soon. That Willis is also in the pile so, like the Finney, I'm even more excited. (I'm not actually a big fan of Willis generally but was hoping this comedy would work for me.)
 

Bick

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#9
The Garments of Caen by Barrington Bailey
An Alien Heat by Michael Moorcock
Definately add these two to the excellent original list.
I'd add Simak's City also - uplifted ants anyone? Connecting stories through robots and dogs? Strange indeed, and also rather unlike anything else he wrote, which perhaps recommends it for the list.
Couldn't we add almost anything by van Vogt? But specifically, I propose The Book of Ptath as another exemplar of his offbeat, slightly mad books. I've not read the one you mentioned.
 

Robert Zwilling

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#10
The Long Afternoon On Earth by Brian Aldiss. It might be even more offbeat because it is an abridged version of Hothouse, never read full version so don't know if it was better the way it was or missing something.
 

hitmouse

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#11
Couldn't we add almost anything by van Vogt? But specifically, I propose The Book of Ptath as another exemplar of his offbeat, slightly mad books. I've not read the one you mentioned.
+1 on Book of Ptath. I dont think I have ever come across anyone else who has read it.
Might also suggest Empire of the Atom.
 

Bick

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#13
The Long Afternoon On Earth by Brian Aldiss. It might be even more offbeat because it is an abridged version of Hothouse, never read full version so don't know if it was better the way it was or missing something.
I’ve read Hothouse, and it’s a good shout in it’s own right for “off-beat”, that’s for sure!
 

Toby Frost

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#14
Off the top of my head, I'd go for Report on Probability A, also by Brian Aldiss, which is spectacularly weird, and Homunculus by James P Blaylock, which I suppose is some kind of early steampunk - but that description doesn't do credit to its craziness.

Would the Jerry Cornelius books by Michael Moorcock count?
 

Cat's Cradle

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#15
I started reading SF in the early 70s. I started with the classics - Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, van Vogt, Campbell, etc.

Then I read certain authors whose stories were a bit more challenging, and out there, and so, to a young mind, more exciting. The order in which I read these stories/authors over the years might go something like this (and some of these might not seem offbeat now, but they did to me in the late 70s to mid 80s)...

Alfred Bester - The Stars My Destination
Stanley Weinbaum - A Martian Odyssey
Cordwainer Smith - Scanners Live in Vain
Harlan Ellison - I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
Samuel R Delany - Dhalgren
John Sladek - Tik-Tok
William Gibson - Neuromancer

I think it's possible that the reading of the first story in my list eventually led to the reading of the next, and the second to the third, and so on. These stories certainly opened my eyes to the world of possibilities when it came to style, and storytelling.

edit - oh! And all of PKD, sprinkled throughout this period. He's my favorite SF author.
 

Bick

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#16
+1 on Book of Ptath. I dont think I have ever come across anyone else who has read it.
Might also suggest Empire of the Atom.
It’s usually a fair to middling bet that Victoria’s read any SF book, if you’re not sure. And indeed I think she probably has read this one - I seem to recall her commenting on it once.
 

SilentRoamer

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#18
Well I always found Olaf Stapledons Star Maker to be pretty offbeat. The whole trippy Englishman joining a galactic consciousness was weird.

For pure weirdness Piers Anthony In the Barn which is a short from Dangerous Visions, Again was the weirdest thing I had ever read, alternate history meets really weird porn, written as if by a teenage boy with generous use of the word pendulous.
 
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#19
More good stuff from everybody. :)

I'd add Simak's City also - uplifted ants anyone? Connecting stories through robots and dogs? Strange indeed, and also rather unlike anything else he wrote, which perhaps recommends it for the list.
Couldn't we add almost anything by van Vogt? But specifically, I propose The Book of Ptath as another exemplar of his offbeat, slightly mad books. I've not read the one you mentioned.
Good calls! In the blog post, I mention that a few authors, including van Vogt, could be represented by most anything they wrote. :) As far as Rogue Ship, it's a fixup of a couple of 1947 and 1950 stories and a 1963 story and it's really the core 1950 "Rogue Ship" aka "Twisted Men" story that's particularly offbeat.

I dont think I have ever come across anyone else who has read it.
I've read it but, then, I've read all of Phase One van Vogt (before 1963 or whenever it was that Fred Pohl got him to start writing new material again with the Selkie stuff in If - I've read some Phase Two van Vogt but not much).

Well I always found Olaf Stapledons Star Maker to be pretty offbeat.
Another good call.
 

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