the Little Red Reviewer

Vintage Scifi: Where to Start

Posted on: January 21, 2019

My definition of “vintage science fiction” is completely arbitrary. I chose anything older than 1979 because that is the year I was born.  Again, it is an arbitrary definition.


Regardless,  there is SO MUCH that was published prior to 1979, it is understandable to not know where to start. How do you know what’s any good? How do you know if it is something you’ll connect to? What it you are looking for vintage SFF that is a particular subgenre? For the world’s most unorganized index of vintage science fiction reviews and posts, you might be able to do worse than just clicking on the “Vintage SciFi Not a Challenge” tab up top.


This post is not a recommendation list of books, but a recommendation list of essays, collections of essay, and generation information that will hopefully make it easier for you to find where to find what you’re looking for. has a super quick, flip-book style of A Timeline of Science Fiction Literature. Not sure where Frankenstein or Overpopulation Fiction fits in the historical trends, this surface reference will help you out.


Interested in the history of dystopian novels? Andrew Liptak has you covered with A Brief History of the Dystopian Novel, where he covers everything from Jack London’s The Iron Heel to Zamyatin’s We, all the way up to contemporary dystopias.  Wait, Jack London wrote a dystopian novel??


interested in Hugo Award winners, and what those ballots said about that year’s state of Science Fiction?  Between 2010 and 2013 Jo Walton wrote a series of blog posts on that discussed the finalists. These posts have been collected in the doorstopper of a volume An Informal History of the Hugos 1953-2000.  These are short, enjoyable columns, and even the comments are entertaining and informative.


Also on is a fantastic article on Where to Start with James Tiptree Jr., by Brit Mandelo


On his blog, James Harris Wallace goes decade by decade for in-depth lists of the defining titles of those years. These essays are incredible, so brew a pot of coffee, get the crock pot going, and start here.


When you get to Harris’s discussion of science fiction of the 1960s, take a quick pit stop to this article, When Science Fiction Grew Up, by Ted Gioia.


And if you are a visual learner, this History of Science Fiction poster can’t be beat!


#SorrynotSorry that I’ve just blown up your TBR lists and also hopefully given you some helpful resources and a lot to think about.

4 Responses to "Vintage Scifi: Where to Start"

I would also suggest that older anthologies of SF, such as the “Best Science Fiction of (year)” are good places to start, because the reader will have a chance to try authors without committing to a book-length read. Inexpensive, used copies of most of these older “Best of” anthologies can be found online or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, a used book shop near you.

Liked by 1 person

excellent suggestion!! I have picked up a handful of the “Best of the year” anthologies at used bookstores. The table of contents are pages and pages long, there are famous authors, authors you’ve never heard of, super short stories if you just want to get one story in before nodding off to sleep, and longer stories that might even be part of larger universes of fiction. What pisses me off about these anthologies? I’ll find a story I love, and then can’t find anything else by that author!


Altered States
by Paddy Chayefsky
Alan Joshua’s review Oct 05, 2015 · edit
really liked it

I recently polled various groups on Google+, asking if they had read this Altered States, seen the film, both, or neither. The majority had seen the film, but ignored the book–as I had.
As a psychologist who tried sensory deprivation tank and LSD, I was anxious to discover what more, if anything, Chayefsky could have written about the then new approach to consciousness research.
I was even more motivated after learning of the dispute between Paddy Chayefsky and Ken Russell in filming that led Chayefsky to identify himself as screenwriter Sydney Aaron.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It mirrored the film in many ways and, as it happens, the imagery of the film helped make the reading even more involving.
It is the story–or obsession–of Dr. Edward (Eddie) Jessup and his longing to search for and find the absolute reality of one’s being.
Chayefsky’s research is obvious. There are many references to neuroanatomy, chemistry, and anthropology that could be sticking points for the lay reader. But the overall intensity wavered only slightly and I felt an urgency to push through the book.
There are negatives, of course. Jessup would not have been able to communicate from the tank in a profoundly altered state–or his words would have been jumbled, his concepts fragmented. It also led to an overly simplistic and romanticized ending, one limited by Chayefsky’s experiences and learning as applied to human consciousness.
Overall, however, Altered States is an underestimated novel. Chayefsky dares to push beyond science fiction, takes the reader on a daring and heart-pounding tour of Eddie Jessup’s inner universe–although it is overly circumscribed and void of meaning. It is a meeting of science, science-fiction and, contradicting Gene Roddenberry’s words, in Chayefsky’s courageous venture into a new genre, the final frontier of human consciousness.


My own novel, The SHIVA Syndrome Trilogy, takes the realism of Altered States and adds the paranormal and military mind warfare. One reader called it “Altered States on meth.”


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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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