Barbara Hambly is a New York Times bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction, as well as historical novels set in the nineteenth century. After receiving a master’s degree in medieval history, she published The Time of the Dark, the first novel in the Darwath saga, in 1982, establishing herself as an author of serious speculative fiction. Since then she has created several series, including the Windrose Chronicles, Sun Wolf and Starhawk series, and Sun-Cross series, in addition to writing for the Star Wars and Star Trek universes. Besides fantasy, Hambly has won acclaim for the James Asher vampire series, which won the Locus Award for best horror novel in 1989, and the Benjamin January mystery series, featuring a brilliant African-American surgeon in antebellum New Orleans. She lives in Los Angeles.
I still remember the first science fiction book I read. It was Secret of the Ninth Planet by Donald Wollheim, and I was blown out of my socks. It had a blue cover and was shelved on the west wall of that tiny school library at Kingsley Elementary School. I can still feel the cool of the gray concrete floor.
Sunday mornings, we three children would pile into our parents’ room and sit on the bed, and my Dad read aloud from one of his favorites, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s A Princess of Mars. I was writing Barsoom stories after that for about two years. (And being roundly mocked by the other kids in school. That hurt, but not enough to make me quit). It was a revelation.
I was in high school when Stranger In A Strange Land came out, revolutionizing science fiction; college when everyone was talking about Dune and Foundation. I remember being blown away by Niven’s Protector – not realizing that Larry would later become a good friend.
Favorites as an adult:
Hands-down all-time best: Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog. Fun and fluffy and silly and charming and then it hits you on the head like a sledgehammer. Amazing. I still don’t know how she does that. The Doomsday Book – her other book about the Oxford University Time Travel Department – is one of the two Close Seconds, the second close second being:
Gateway, by Fred Pohl. Probably one of the finest novels I’ve ever read. (I won’t say, Do NOT read its two sequels… but I’d have been happier if I hadn’t.)
The Midwich Cuckoos, by John Wyndham. Jawdropping. (And no, don’t see the movie, the infamous Village of the Damned. Just don’t.)
George Alec Effinger’s When Gravity Fails, and not just because I married him. Science fiction as Film Noir, or vice versa.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. What a romp! (Again, the sequels don’t come near the original in quality).
Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I have no idea why, of all of his, that one appeals to me the most, but it does.
As a writer myself, I find that for long periods – years sometimes – I have neither the time nor the emotional energy to read fiction of any kind. I assume that that will change in the future. I’ve also gotten pickier about the science fiction and fantasy that I do read. I’m a professional, and I see them as a professional (“Man, that was a clumsy opening to that chapter…”)
But in my heart I still have a crush on Tars Tarkas.