April 1book140: The Sci-Fi Shortlist

1book140_icon.JPG We created the April shortlist with a clear objective: Offer a range of titles that either helped define the genre of science fiction, or operate well within those boundaries. No crossover, genre-bending novels for us this month. To that end, the following books are intended to offer a diverse selection, but all have contributed mightily to what we talk about when we talk about Sci-Fi. The polls will close at 5 PM this Wednesday, March 28.

The Moon is Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
This 1967 Hugo Award winner coined the phrase, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch," which has a special resonance in this story about a loose society of convicts and malcontents exiled in underground lunar colonies in the year 2075.

Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
Mankind itself is imperiled (something of a theme in the Sci-Fi genre) in this 1985 novel by Scott Card, who wrote the short story Ender's Game is based on while working at BYU Press. The games in this book are serious indeed, as Scott Ender must employ all the tactical brilliance at his command to defeat the Formics, an alien race of, well, giant ants.

Neuromancer, by William Gibson
One of the most popular books, in any genre, of the last 30 years, Neuromancer was the first winner of the Sci-Fi Triple Crown, taking the Nebula, the Hugo, and the Philip K. Dick Award after it was published in 1984. The book tells the story of a has-been hacker who comes out of retirement to perform the ultimate job. Bonus? Gibson regularly tweets at @GreatDismal.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
As longtime bookies will recall, we quite nearly read the Bradbury classic in the very first edition of 1book140 (then called 1book1twitter). We're giving Fahrenheit 451 a second shot. Simply put, it's one of the most influential works of the 20th Century, the quintessential defense of literature in an anti-intellectual, book-burning epoch (pick your dystopia, past, present, or future).

Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne
What would any list of classic science fiction books be without at least one Jules Verne? First published in the author's native France in 1863, JTTCOTE has been inspiring terrible movies and plays ever since. Stick to the original: Verne was a talented storyteller and his alternate vision for the earth's core is as imaginative as any modern-day tale requiring 3D glasses.

Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow
Easily the most contemporary title on our list, Little Brother, takes on that most time-tested trope: Boy against Totalitarian Government Agency of Oppression. Technically, a young adult novel, but it's beloved by readers of all ages. Plus, @Doctorow, like @GreatDismal, is a talented and frequent presence on Twitter.

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Jeff Howe is a professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard. He helps run @1book140, The Atlantic's Twitter book club. More

Jeff Howe is a professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He previously worked as a contributing editor at Wired Magazine, where he covered the media and entertainment industries. In June 2006 he published "The Rise of Crowdsourcing" in Wired. In September 2008 he published a book on the subject for Random House. The book has been translated into 11 languages. Before coming to Wired in 2001 he was a senior editor at Inside.com and a writer at the Village Voice. In his 20 years as a journalist he has traveled around the world working on stories ranging from the impending water crisis in Central Asia to the implications of gene patenting. He has written for Time, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post, Mother Jones and numerous other publications. He lives in Cambridge with his wife and two children.

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