11 writers I always read

Everyone has a different method for choosing what they will read. Often times there are multiple criteria. For me, one of my criteria is a list of author’s whose stuff I will always read because I’ve enjoyed their stuff so much in the past. Here is my list of 11 writers I always look forward to reading today (listed alphabetically by last name):

1. Michael A. Burstein

I recall reading Michael‘s first story, “TeleAbsence” in Analog back in 1995 and enjoying the story. I seem to recall emailing him, or perhaps commenting to him on some online forum to tell him how much I enjoyed his story. Of course, he’s written many stories since, most of which have appeared in Analog. I very much enjoyed his meta-fictional “Cosmic Corkscrew” (Analog, 6/98) and I think my favorite story of Michael’s is his 2005 novella “Sanctuary” (Analog, 9/05). Michael’s style is similar to that of Isaac Asimov and being an Asimov fan myself, that makes me a natural Burstein fan. Michael doesn’t write as much as he used to but whenever he has a new story out, I look forward to reading it.

2. Harlan Ellison

I think Harlan Ellison stopped being prolific not long before I “discovered” him. Fortunately, he had a large body of work to keep me busy for some time. In the mid-90s, I looked forward to his occasional appearances in magazines like F&SF, and to his short story collections he put out. I lived in Studio City, California, not far from Ellison’s home (across the street from one of my best friend’s house) and the Dangerous Visions bookstore where Ellison would occasionally make appearances. I was there, for instance, on the day that Chris Carter (yes, that Chris Carter) gave Ellison a slip of paper with the words, “The 100 year-old pregnant corpse” and Ellison sat in the Dangerous Visions window and pounded out the story, “Objects in the Mirror of Desire are Closer Than They Appear”. The first time I ever met Ellison was at a Learning Tree talk he gave where he read a story hot off his typewriting called “Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral”. I’ve never heard anyone who could read a story as good as Ellison. He doesn’t produce much any more, but I enjoyed reading “How Interesting: A Tiny Man” and glad to see it won a Nebula.

3. Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman is one of those guys who writes short fiction and novels equally well. The Forever War is one of my favorite books, and I also loved his novels Camouflage, Old Twentieth, and The Accidental Time Machine. I also enjoy his war fiction like 1968. His short fiction is often times outstanding and I look forward to his occasional appearances in Analog or Asimov’s. I met Joe for the first time at the SFWA authors and editors event last November when Stan Schmidt introduced me (and Jay Werkheiser) to Joe as “two of Analog’s newest writers” and I was rather overcome with awe. I met him again (and his wonderful wife, Gay) at the Nebula Awards weekend and I got to chat with both of them a little longer.

4. Stephen King

I didn’t like the first two books I read by Stephen King. The first was ‘Salem’s Lot and the second was Needful Things. I’d pretty much given up on him and then, on a whim a few years back, I decided to give him another shot and thought I’d read through his body of work more or less in order. In the space of half a year or so, I consumed 10 novels and short story collection, and I was hooked. King is another writer equally versed in novels and short fiction and since short fiction is near and dear to my heart, I admire that. His novel It is probably my favorite of his, and his collection of novellas, Different Seasons is among some of the finest short fiction I’ve read. I’m not a big fan of his fantasy. I did read The Stand and thought it was okay. But I haven’t read any of his Dark Tower series. Still, I will read most anything he writes, and I’ve already pre-ordered his upcoming novel 11/22/63.

5. Nancy Kress

While I’ve known who Nancy Kress was for quite some time, I’d never read anything she’d written until nearly three years ago when I came across a little novella called “Beggars in Spain” in David Hartwell’s The Hard S.F. Renaissance. I started the novella fairly late in the evening thinking I’d read it for a little while and then go to bed. I was up until 3am and finished it and was blown away by it. I don’t know how I’d never read it sooner. The novella made a huge impression on me. More importantly, it single handedly made me a Nancy Kress fan and I’ve tried to read everything she’d written since.

6. Barry N. Malzberg

I first discovered Barry’s work in college. He had a story in Science Fiction Age called “The Passage of the Light” and in Scott Edelman’s editorial for that issue, Scott talked about Barry Malzberg and recursive science fiction. I thought the story was spectacular and soon started checking out Barry’s other books form the school library (which just happened to host the Eaton collection of science fiction). I thought Beyond Apollo was one of the best novels I’d ever read. I devoured Herovit’s World. Eventually, I accumulated and read most of the book Barry wrote under his own name or under his pseudonym, K. M. O’Donnell. I even managed to acquire a few books he wrote under other pseudonyms. In one of those rare, dream-like experiences, I got to meet Barry at Readercon in 2008 and since then, we have become friends and he has been inordinately kind to me, acting as a kind of mentor in this world of science fiction writing. His knowledge of the genre is better than anyone else I know. And he still occasionally has stories coming out in places like Asimov’s or F&SF. You better believe I look forward to them, and to his Dialogue columns (in collaboration with Mike Resnick) in the SFWA Bulletin.

7. Jack McDevitt

I’m trying hard to remember when I first read something by Jack McDevitt, but I know that from the moment I did, I was hooked. His Pricilla Hutchin’s novels are the kind of massive sense-of-wonder science fiction that I love to read, and his Alex Benedict novels are some of the best, most enjoyable science fiction mysteries I’ve read. I also enjoy his stand-alone novels, in particular his Time Travelers Never Die, the ending of which I thought was so cool. I look forward to Jack’s novels and stories lustily. I was thrilled when I discovered he would have a story in the premier issue of Lightspeed (“The Cassandra Project”). Even now, Jack has a story out in the November Analog, “Dig Site” which is a lot of fun. And in just a few months, his newest Alex Benedict novel, Firebird, will be coming out. I’ve met Jack a few times at conventions, and sat in one kaffeeklatsch with him. He is one of the nicest, most approachable people I’ve ever met.

8. Robert J. Sawyer

The first thing I ever read by Robert J. Sawyer was his novel Calculating God and with few exceptions, I’ve read everything he has written since. I met him for the first time at RavenCon in 2007, shortly after selling my first story, and he treated me like a pro there, inviting me to dinner with a bunch of other writers. Rob’s novels are the kind of stories that grab you and don’t let go and also hark back to the kind of stories that Asimov and Clarke would tell, with a very modern feel to them. Among my favorites is Rollback. (When I first met him, I asked him to sign the issue of Analog in which Part 1 of Rollback had been serialized. I’m ashamed to say that I am a little behind on my Sawyer reading. I’ve read the first volume of his newest trilogy, WWW:Wake, but I haven’t yet caught up with the others.

9. William Shunn

William Shunn is another writer I discovered reading Science Fiction Age. I thought that his story “Colin and Ishmael in the Dark” was remarkably good as was his story “The Practical Ramifications of Interstellar Packet Loss.” But it was his story “Two Paths in the Forest Toulemonde” (Science Fiction Age, January 1994) that made me a fan. Of all of the wonderful stories that appeared in the 8 year run of the magazine, some by the biggest names in the genre, I think the Bill’s “Two Paths” was the best thing Scott Edelman published. Bill does not publish as much as he used to. He had an excellent novella in Asimov’s in 2005 called “Inclination”. When I met him for the first time at Balticon in 2007, he read a story called “Care and Feeding of Your Piano” which was hilarious. I believe that one is due to appear soon in Electric Velocepede. I met Bill again at the SFWA author and editor event last November. I know his busy writing novels and memoirs but I wish he had some time to write some more short fiction. I’d eat it up.

10. Allen Steele

Allen Steele is another writer who I’ve read for quite some time, and eventually met and gotten to know a bit. I think the first thing I read by him was “Hunting Wabbit” in the May 1993 Science Fiction Age. Allen is another one of those writers who writes brilliant short fiction as well as novels. If I was pressed, I’d say I think I prefer his short fiction, not because of any shortcoming in his novels, but because I love short fiction and Allen does it so well. He recently won his third Hugo for “The Emperor of Mars” and I look forward to any time he has short stories out. (He had one in the October Asimov’s called “The Observation Post” which I am in the process of reading.) Of all of the writers I read, Allen’s style of writing and his subjects are probably closest to my own. He is another writer who has been encouraging and helpful to me in my own writing career.

11. Connie Willis

Connie Willis is another writer incredibly deft at both short and longer fiction and I love virtually everything she’s written. I was breathless at the conclusion of Doomsday Book and I absolutely loved Blackout/All Clear which combined several of my passions. I was so glad she took home a Hugo and Nebula for that one. I look forward to her appearances in the magazines. She is known for a semi-regular Christmas story in Asimov’s, and indeed has one coming up in the December issue. She sometimes takes a while between novels but it is always worth the wait, in my opinion.

That is my list of 11 writers I always read. To be clear, the aren’t the only writers I read. It’s just that I get particularly excited when one of these writers has something new coming out.

Tomorrow, I’ll post about the writers that I keep meaning to read.


  1. I also loved his novels Camouflage, Old Twentieth, and The Accidental Time Machine.

    I am going to have to disagree with you on the last. I was tremendously disappointed in ATM (and in Forever Peace, too, alas).

    1. Paul, I think we may have had the ATM discussion before. I thought Forever Peace was good, but what I was disappointed by was Forever Free–I didn’t particularly like the ending.

  2. Paul, no need to apologize, I don’t mind discussing it again. 😉 When I saw your comment I thought, gee, didn’t I discuss this with someone before–and then remembered it was with you!


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