Since childhood, my tastes in sci-fi have been extremely visual. I was a huge fan of Barlowe's guides to extraterrestrials
and, to a lesser extent, fantasy
. I have a well-preserved copy of Stuempke's Snouters
, and so on. But my preferences in written sci-fi are very similar. I want settings bursting with varied alien lifeforms: stories of planetary exploration, "space ark" stories, possibly some transdimensional travel stories. As a child, I often considered plot to be a detriment in books like these. There should be a significant emphasis on visual description, and the alien life should be plentiful, varied, and spectacular.
As touchstones, let's consider:
- Jack Chalker's "Wellworld" series — concerning an artificial planet covered from pole to pole with miniature habitats for all the intelligent species in the universe (the whole northern hemisphere is for exotic non-carbon-based life)
- Cliff Simak's Goblin Reservation — galactic exploration has found various mythical creatures on other planets, the hero attempts to seek out a space dragon specimen for the zoo he works for
- Philip Jose Farmer's "World of Tiers" books — a family of immortal aristocrats (inspired by Blake's Book of Urizen) has created a series of off-the-wall playground worlds that communicate via transdimensional portals
I'd toss in Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus
, but that is both ancient and completely sui generis. Also, I consider Jack Vance's "Dying Sun" books to be bad examples
of the above, because they are extravagantly ham-fisted farragoes.
I welcome your suggestions!