Well, I like fantasy, I like SF, and most of the "good" authors I know put out about three books and then disappear. I can only think they aren't selling enough copies and have to go work for a living. Here's my top 7 underappreciated authors:
1. Howard Waldrop. He only writes short stories. He doesn't write like anyone else. This is usually a good thing. He writes about '50s doo-wop bands getting taken by flying saucers, 1899 pistol duels on bicycles on the Eiffel tower, gangsters in Appalachia in the '20s. No two are alike. The weirdest parts are the ones that are historically accurate.
2. Martha Wells. Three books, fairly different in style, all good. "Return of the Necromancer" is about an alternate Victorian world, with magic; "The Element of Fire" is Elizabethan, charming and wonderful, and "City of Bones" has an Arabic feel to it.
3. Elizabeth Willey. The Well-Favored Man deserved better than it got. The other two in the series weren't as good, but still interesting. Has kind of an Amber feel to it, polite, eloquent, classy.
4. Sean Stewart (especially the early stuff. ) Resurrection Man, Passion Play, Nobody's Son. He writes about people first and worlds second. What happens when you marry the king's daughter and get half the kingdom? What's she think about this and how do you deal with her?
5. Wilhelmina Baird. "Clipjoint" and "Crashcourse", but not "Psykosis." There was a book after that, but it was even worse. Very nice presentation- I'd say "cyberpunk" except that it doesn't have the bitter uncaring feel. If she ever started over with a new universe I'd be on it in a flash.
6. Greg Egan. All over. He does good science and good writing. Like Neal Stephenson, he tends to throw in four times as many cool ideas as he has to. "Distress" is full of quantum mechanics, neurobiology, and ethics on a large and small scale. And he's good at all of them. "Idea" science fiction, but really really well done.
7. Nancy Springer. "Larque on the Wing." It's a suburban housewife story about magic. The parts I remembered best were like her ten-year-old son asking the twelve-year-old about sex, and getting a perfectly accurate description with the conclusion "It's gross."
And here are 7 authors that seem to be doing OK but should be noted anyway:
1. Barbara Hambly- she has written about three series that are just plain good. The Sun Wolf books, and the Darkmage books. She writes Star Wars books to pay the bills.
2. David Weber- the Honor Harrington books. Don't worry if you can't find the second in the series; it had a bad case of "too much hammer" on the feminist moral lessons. Glorious space opera.
3. Walter Jon Williams- does more different things well than anyone else I know. . . "Hardwired" is an absolute classic of cyberpunk, "Days of Atonement" is a great novel in about four different ways, he did a really fun SF comedy-of-manners trilogy, etc.
4. Laurell Hamilton, author of the "Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter" books. They're fun, they're good reads. Horror? Romantic comedy? Fashion tips for the heavily armed? WARNING: they're not for the squeamish.
5. Neal Stephenson. Writes books that make entire genres look clumsy and misdone. "Snow Crash" is like cyberpunk, except that Neal Stephenson really understands computers and hackers. It's fun, it's full of satire and it has chunks of wisdom in there. "The Diamond Age" is sort of a classic-SF bit of work, except it's full of things like, "with nanomachines, diamond is cheaper than glass." Go. Get. Read.
6. Guy Gavriel Kay. He does beautiful worlds. With admirable people in them. The history in some books is a little too obvious but the writing is always wonderful.
7. Robert Zelazny. When he was bad he was awful, but when he was good. . . "Roadmarks", "Unicorn Variations", "A Night at the Lonesome October". . . he was just plain good.
Oh, and support your local bookstore!
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