Recommend me some touchy-feely scifi!
October 24, 2006 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Recommend some sappy science fiction/fantasy to me please! I've read and liked Anthony, Heinlein, Goodkind, Card, Stephenson, Martin, and Rowling, but what I'm really looking for is touchy-feely stuff.

I'm ashamed to admit that Stone of Tears is one of my all-time favorite novels for sappy interpersonal relations. I like Richard as a character and I forgive all of Goodkind's flaws for his ability to kindle empathy for his characters whilst keeping the action moving at a pace that keeps me reading.

I've really been in the mood to read some more science fiction of this sort, and any help directing me to some new authors and novels would be great.
posted by onalark to Writing & Language (47 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:41 PM on October 24, 2006

Best answer: depending on your tolerance for heavily sexual themes (you cited Martin, and his stuff can get both visceral and violent) you may or may not like Jacqueline Carey's 'Kushiel' trilogy. It's fantasy that reads like a historical romance novel, but with way more brains. Just be aware that the central protagonist is a rather selfabsorbed courtesan who doubles as a spy and specializes in bondage. believe it or not, the authour actually handles these themes with grace and tact, the action is pretty much nonstop and the political intrigues are highly absorbing.

Sharon Shinn is another fave of mine.

for days when I'm feeling particularly sappy, I tear through some Mercedes Lackey. some of her earlier stuff is very... adolescent. the Black Swan was better and some of her stuff she's done in tandem with other writers (Larry Dixon et. al.) was a bit less histrionic.

posted by lonefrontranger at 7:45 PM on October 24, 2006

Best answer: Oh my goodness. Anne McCaffrey might be right up your alley. She's been described as "the Barbara Cartland of sci-fi" but I think that's a little harsh. Her earlier stuff is, I think, a lot better than the current crop. I enjoyed the first half-dozen of the Pern series (who doesn't like dragons in a Sci-Fi environment?) and the Crystal Singer trilogy. Try a few from the library to test the waters.

You might also like JV Jones, the Raymond Feist/J Wurtz "Servant of the Empire" series and Sara Douglass "Battleaxe" and Axis trilogies. All of the latter are fantasy novels of varying flavours that are well written and have good character development. They are, however, fairly light stuff and tend I tend to re-read them when I'm sick and in need of cheering up.

Good luck!
posted by ninazer0 at 7:51 PM on October 24, 2006

And, on preview, another vote for the Jacqueline Carey "Kushiel" trilogy.
posted by ninazer0 at 7:52 PM on October 24, 2006

Response by poster: I checked out Douglass and wasn't dazzled. I remember reading McCaffrey when I was a kid. I'm not sure which of her books I've finished, though it was at least one, and I remember enjoying her.
posted by onalark at 7:58 PM on October 24, 2006

Best answer: oh I absolutely agree on Feist's 'Servant' series. if you like boy-on-a-quest standard fantasy stuff, his original 'Magician' tetralogy is golden too.

and how could I forget Robin Hobb's 'Assasin' series, or her 'liveship traders'...

also no one who enjoys good prose-driven fantasy should ever pass up Guy Gavriel Kay. his standalone novel 'Tigana' has got to be one of the best fantasy tearjerkers ever written.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:58 PM on October 24, 2006

If you like Heinlein, try Varley's Red Thunder and Red Lightning.

Or his Eight Worlds stuff, maybe.

Or Pohl's Gateway books.

Or Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan books.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:05 PM on October 24, 2006

Best answer: Seconding Robin Hobb. Her stuff is awesome and sounds exactly what you're looking for.
posted by gaspode at 8:06 PM on October 24, 2006

Elizabeth Moon's "The Deed of Paksennarion".
posted by solid-one-love at 8:09 PM on October 24, 2006

Robert Silverberg's Majipoor series maybe?
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:43 PM on October 24, 2006

How about Anne McCaffrey - Dragons of Pern stuff?
posted by b33j at 9:03 PM on October 24, 2006

Run right out for Phillip Pullman- His Dark Materials triliogy.
posted by kimdog at 9:06 PM on October 24, 2006

If you want sappy, read Spider Robinson's Stardancer.

Robert Sheckley (one of the greatest writers ever to grace this godforsaken globe) wrote a small but truly monumental book called Mindswap. It's an incredibly beautiful love story, especially when you consider that the heroine has mandibles.
posted by nasreddin at 9:06 PM on October 24, 2006

Best answer: Peter S Beagle - he's best known for "The Last Unicorn", but "A Fine And Private Place" and "The Innkeeper's Song" have been known to reduce tough guys to tears.
posted by Rubber Soul at 9:36 PM on October 24, 2006

Also, read Roger Zelazny's story "A Rose For Ecclesiastes."

Since reading it, I, an atheist, make a point of rereading Ecclesiastes every month or so.
posted by nasreddin at 9:37 PM on October 24, 2006

Seconding the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold.
posted by Soliloquy at 9:46 PM on October 24, 2006

Maryjanice Davidson writes "paranormal romantic comedies"
posted by krisjohn at 9:53 PM on October 24, 2006

Best answer: I find Clifford D. Simak's short stories to be sappy in the best possible way. I reread Immigrant especially when I'm feeling low.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:57 PM on October 24, 2006

Best answer: You mentioned Heinlein but may not have read everything by him. His short story "The man who travelled in elephants" never fails to reduce me to tears.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:02 PM on October 24, 2006

Nina Kiriki Hoffman's The Thread that Binds the Bones: sentimental and extremely warm, dazzlingly creative and so well plotted the book sitting on my shelf has the hum of a perfectly balanced engine.
posted by jamjam at 10:17 PM on October 24, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everybody for sharing so far, I promise to put together a grumblebee-like list of recommendations when the thread has sputtered to a near-halt as well as mention which ones I've bought.
posted by onalark at 10:24 PM on October 24, 2006

Joan D. Vinge's The Snow Queen series--epic, romantic space opera at its best.
posted by lovecrafty at 10:35 PM on October 24, 2006

The Sparrow and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell. And anything by Ursula le Guin.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:01 PM on October 24, 2006

Sheri S. Tepper- Raising the Stones, Grass.
posted by pointilist at 11:26 PM on October 24, 2006

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
posted by gnutron at 11:27 PM on October 24, 2006

Best answer: Be aware that the Kushiel trilogy isn't just like blindfolds-and-handcuffs you've-been-a-naughty-naughty-spy light bdsm. The sex scenes have more blood and gore than the battle scenes. The intricacy of the plotting is great -- I keep feeling like I should be keeping notes -- but before you buy the trilogy, you definitely want to flip through one of the books to make sure you can stomach it all.

I can't stand Sharon Shinn, but I always mix her up with an author I like very much: Sherwood Smith. Court Duel/Crown Duel is YA, but the relationships are very persuasive, and the court intrigue is perfect. Tamora Pierce, who's been getting recommended all over AskMe lately, has a lot more in the same vein but meant for a slightly younger audience.

John Barnes' Orbital Resonance is great SF along these lines, but nothing else he's written is even similar.

Charles de Lint's urban fantasy qualifies as being rather touchy-feely, but I personally don't like it at all (I love everything else I've recommended here).

I'll also second everything Robin Hobb (she also wrote as Megan Lindholm, but I have yet to find a Lindholm book I can get through) and Anne McCaffrey (but only the older stuff -- I think the franchise is definitely in decline now).
posted by booksandlibretti at 11:35 PM on October 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'd like to double up on Guy Gavriel Kay, please? Tigana is, seriously, totally amazing and totally emo.

And the rest of his work? Also great.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:39 PM on October 24, 2006

Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series; it's SF but reads like fantasy.
Basically in the far future one of the Earth colonies evolves to where the upper class have various psi powers.
posted by exceptinsects at 11:49 PM on October 24, 2006

Terry Brooks Sword of Shanara trilogy. Very similar to the Lord of the Rings.

Also, David Eddings' Belgariad.
posted by whobynumbers at 12:22 AM on October 25, 2006

Blue Champagne by John Varley is my favorite book of short stories. Varley is all about the characters, and this is his best collection. The Seafort Saga by David Feintuch is sort of a "Hornblower in space" and quite good. Begin with Midshipman's Hope and end with Fisherman's Hope. As others have said, McCaffrey's Pern series is one of the best works of fantasy. The Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and White Dragon trilogy is great (I wouldn't go farther), and the Menolly trilogy (Dragonsinger, Dragonsong, and Dragondrums) is equally good in its own way.
posted by Manjusri at 12:34 AM on October 25, 2006

Best answer: One more for Miles Vorkosigan. Memory reduced me to tears.
posted by Jeanne at 3:24 AM on October 25, 2006

Seconding LeGuin. Start with the short stories and go from there.

Excerpts from a whole lot of the short stories can be found online on this page. (Go to "Book Excerpts.") See if they pique your interest. One very good story, from Changing Planes, is online in its entirety: Seasons Of The Ansarac. Enjoy.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:36 AM on October 25, 2006

Sappy? Sci-fi? Enjoyable? You just described all of the Star Trek novels, my friend!
posted by jbickers at 3:46 AM on October 25, 2006

You should try Connie Willis.
She wrote a lot of short stories about relationships and love stories. Check out two of her collections: Impossible Things - in praticulary the Blue Moon story which ends the book, and the longest story in Fire Watch - Spice Program.

Other than that she wrote some novels which are all full of romance and chaos - To Say Nothing of the Dog is about time travellers from the future messing around Victorian england. Some awesome stuff, you get time travel sickness just from reading it. :)
posted by ye#ara at 3:57 AM on October 25, 2006

Best answer: Nthing Bujold. (Jeannie -- I'm right there with you. Memory is one of my favorite books, ever.) And nthing Guy Kay, as well -- I've always thought his Fionavar Tapestry was a bit too standard-fantasy-ish, but his other books are brilliant. Tigana is great, but I'd put in a recommendation for The Lions of Al-Rassan.

Oh, and The Sparrow completely blew me away. I was haunted by it for a long time after I read it.
posted by Janta at 5:51 AM on October 25, 2006

Seconding Joan Vinge and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Even better: Ursula leGuin (also mentioned above) and C J Cherryh are far from sappy, but both have a great deal of psychology, character development, and interpersonal relations. Cherryh is excellent at alien psychology, if you want to give that a shot.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:30 AM on October 25, 2006

She was mentioned once above, but Mercedes Lackey is nothing but sappy emotional love story touchy-feely fantasy. Just start at the beginning. The three Arrows books and three Magic's books are chock-full of sap.
posted by jellicle at 6:35 AM on October 25, 2006

Best answer: I'll add my vote to both Guy Gavriel Kay and Connie Willis.

I can't read Kay's Sarantium Mosiac without getting choked up at the same two or three places every time - not sappy, but deeply moving. Tigana and Lions of Al-Rassan as well - I agree on the assessment of The Fionavar Tapestry (it's what kept me away from Kay for years because I tried to read it first) but there are one or two memorable passages in the series that are hauntingly tragic (if you cry about Boromir in LOTR, this series is for you).

Connie Willis' Doomsday Book was another one that might fit the bill - her books are especially deadly because you'll be bopping along enjoying how clever the concept is and how witty some of the language can be and then BOOM, she tears your heart out.
posted by Cyrie at 6:45 AM on October 25, 2006

Best answer: oh goodness, another how-can-I-forget!! Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion novels! Yes to the Vorkosigan series, but you will definitely enjoy these. I loved these books so much I re-read them three times as soon as I got them. Plus her protagonists aren't the usual peasant-boy-turned-hero but respectable somewhat hard-worn middle aged folks who'd much rather get on with their daily lives than go off and be heroes and get involved in the midst of some paranormal struggle with the gods... because y'know when you're forty, having to ride a damn horse all day on a quest makes your butt ache. Seriously amazing writing and I won't say anymore for fear of spoiling it except to say that her characters' wry wit and struggles to accept the deities' manipulations of them will make you both roar with laughter and reduce you to tears.

Tad Williams, another name known for doing both SF and fantasy, has recently written a standalone novel 'The War of the Flowers' that's a bit of both, and I enjoyed it immensely, much more so than his 'Otherworld' SF series which I had trouble getting through at points.

and if you like Peter S. Beagle, you will love Patricia McKillip. wild, weird prose and all.
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:53 AM on October 25, 2006

Almost anything by Orson Scott Card falls into the touchy-feely bin.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:23 AM on October 25, 2006

Nthing Connie Willis. And Pullman.

The Anne McCaffrey book I enjoyed most was Moreta; I thought it was a great standalone book, and found Moreta to be a much more enjoyable heroine than Lessa or Menolly.

Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown are fine books if you like your fantasy with horses in it. (They don't talk or anything, but they're major characters.)

And dude, Diana Wynne Jones. Year of the Griffin, A Sudden Wild Magic and (my personal fave) Deep Secret are all very fine books.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:34 AM on October 25, 2006

Best answer: If you can find a copy, George. R. R. Martin's Dying of the Light.
posted by loosemouth at 4:18 PM on October 25, 2006

Nthing Connie Willis, Sharon Shinn, Nina Kiriki Hoffman and Lois McMaster Bujold, and adding Robin McKinley, especially her adaptations of Donkeyskin (Deerskin) and Sleeping Beauty (Spindle's End).

You may also want to check out Douglas Lain's short story collection Last Week's Apocalypse, which is not at all sappy, but I found quite affecting nonetheless. Try this short story for a representative sample of his work.
posted by joannemerriam at 4:20 PM on October 25, 2006

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller together write the Korval novels, which are very good space opera meets comedy of manners.
posted by bryghtrose at 8:46 AM on October 26, 2006

Judith Tarr: "The Lord of Two Lands"
Emma Bull: "War for the Oaks"
Orson Scott Card: "Enchantment"
Tanith Lee: "The Silver Metal Lover"
posted by of strange foe at 1:47 PM on October 26, 2006

I think the following authors are known to be touchy-feelie:

David Gerrold
Joe Haldeman
Robert Heinlein
Nancy Kress
Theodore Sturgeom
John Varley
Connie Willis
posted by dgeiser13 at 2:43 PM on October 26, 2006

I second Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown for touchy feely fantasy and will add Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince and Dragon Star trilogies.
posted by rosebengal at 11:24 AM on November 17, 2006

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