Six Great Moon Novels

From the Earth to the Moon
by Jules Verne

Is Jules Verne the father of
science fiction? Too bad they
don’t have a DNA test to
settle this paternity case.
With an offspring so success-
ful, there is no shortage of
candidates seeking custody

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Around the Moon (1870)
by Jules Verne

No one actually says:
“Houston, we have a problem,”
but otherwise this story is
ready for Tom Hanks treat-
ment on the big screen.

Read more here

The First Men in the Moon
by H.G. Wells

Jules Verne ridiculed this
novel for its flippant disregard
of Newton's laws.  The
propulsion device H.G. Wells
uses to get to the moon is
reminiscent of "Flubber" from
Walt Disney's The Absent-
Minded Professor.

Read more here

A Fall of Moondust (1961)
byArthur C. Clarke

I remember a college professor
dismissing plot as a relatively
unimportant aspect of fiction. I
can only imagine what the
good professor would think of
masterful plot constructors
such as Arthur C. Clarke, P.G.
Wodehouse and Agatha

Read more here

The Trouble with Tycho
by Clifford Simak

Seven years before 2001: A
Space Odyssey
, Clifford Simak
set his "contact" novel in the
same lunar crater, Tycho,
where Arthur C. Clarke would
later set up his famous black
slab from deep space.

Read more here

The Moon is a Harsh
MIstress (1966)
by Robert Heinlein

No matter how hard you try—
and some folks have tried
awfully hard—you can’t
attach a simple label to Robert
Heinlein’s sociopolitical views.
Remember that this author
won medals for fencing as a
young man.  You don't get
those by staying in the same
place for very long.

Read more here
Forty years ago this week, science fiction
writers were media celebrities—at least for a
few hours.  When Neil Armstrong stepped on
to the surface of the moon on July 21, 1969,
his “giant leap for mankind” was not just a
fulfillment of President Kennedy’s promise of
a lunar expedition before decade’s end.  It
also validated the starry-eyed dreams of a
legion of pulp fiction writers.  

Long before NASA was founded, the ABCs of
sci-fi (Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke) and others
of their profession had been chronicling the
exploration of the universe in works of
imaginative fiction.  The moon landing was
their shining moment, and the public
recognized it as much as did the writers
themselves.  When the TV networks sought
out talking heads for their coverage, science
fiction writers were on the top of their list.

At the moment that Eagle landed, Arthur C.
Clarke was sitting next to Walter Cronkite.   
Earlier that day, the writer told millions of
viewers, during an interview with Harry
Reasoner, that the space mission was a “down
payment on the future of mankind.”   After
the moonwalk, Cronkite engaged Clarke and
Robert Heinlein in their favorite activity—
speculation about the future.  The sci-fi
veterans could hardly have been more
optimistic.   Heinlein refused to put limits on
where space travel might lead.  “We’re going
out indefinitely,” he proclaimed.

ABC countered with Isaac Asimov and
Frederik Pohl, pulp fiction veterans,
interviewed by Rod Serling.  Ray Bradbury,
for his part, had always been
more partial to
Mars than the moon in his writings, and he
proved to be the spoilsport of the day.  
Bradbury walked out on David Frost’s
, a peculiar British TV concoction which
countered the news coverage of the historic
events with strange entertainment, featuring
everything from Englebert Humperdink to a
discussion on the ethics of the lunar landing
involving A. J. P. Taylor and Sammy Davis,
Jr.  Bradbury was so moved by the Apollo
landing that he was in tears.   The irreverence
of Frost’s coverage was more than he could

Of course, on this night Mr. Bradbury had no
shortage of invitations.  After leaving Frost’s
“party,” he took a taxi to CBS’s studio, where
the author was interviewed by Mike Wallace.  
“This is an effort to become immortal,”
Bradbury proclaimed.  How?  “We’re going to
take our seed out into space and we’re going
to plant it on other worlds and then we won’t
have to ask ourselves the question of death
ever again.”

The grand predictions made that day proved
premature, to say the least.  Sure, the Apollo
program was a success—even dodging a bullet
with the aborted Apollo 13 trip to the moon,
which unexpectedly turned into the most
heroic chapter in the space race saga.  But
Apollo proved to be the end of manned lunar
expeditions, and not the beginning of the age
of space exploration.  Who would have
guessed that, after Apollo 17 in 1972, no more
astronauts would travel to the moon.   Here is
one measure of how quickly things changed:  
a decade later, when people spoke of the
moonwalk, they were usually talking about
Michael Jackson’s dance steps.  

Few people suffered from this turn of events
more than science fiction writers.   The whole
sci-fi community should have been crying
along with Ray Bradbury on July 21, 1969.  
As space exploration disappeared from the
front pages, sci-fi lost much of its glamour and
most of its readers.   I would guess that half of
the stories in this genre during the period
leading up to the Apollo landing dealt with
outer space.   How could these same writers
adapt to a world where rockets and
astronauts had lost their luster?  The authors,
for the most part, stuck to their favorite plots
of space exploration, but the stories rarely
had the same pizzazz as before.  

With the benefit of hindsight, we should
probably admit that the landing of Apollo 11
was the end of the glory days of sci-fi.    With
the conclusion of the Apollo program, NASA
became just another government agency,
more bureaucratic than heroic.  It is all too
telling that the Challenger disaster of 1986
was the next time that rocket ships captured
the attention of the general public.  And the
last time I encountered a space explorer on
the front page, the “celebrity” in question was
Lisa Nowak, the NASA astronaut who
allegedly drove 900 miles wearing a diaper as
part of a plot to attack a romantic rival with a
BB gun.   The case has not gone to trial, and
Nowak has vehemently denied the news
reports about the diaper.  Tawdry, yes . . . but
not quite up to the level of
Dune or The
Foundation Trilogy.  

In the interim between the astronauts with
The Right Stuff and the tabloid-ish story of
Lisa Nowak, readers turned to other kinds of
Amazing Stories, which enjoyed
circulation of 50,000 during the mid-1960s,
had seen it drop to 12,000 by the time of the
Challenger disaster.  The magazine folded in
1995, and subsequent revivals have been
Galaxy, which achieved
circulation approaching 100,000 under Pohl’s
editorship in the early 1960s, shut down in
1980.  A revival in the mid-1990s lasted only
eight issues.   Many other sci-fi magazines
and publishers fell by the wayside during this
same period.  

Let’s be honest, science fiction writers are
much like stock market forecasters.  When
their predictions come true, everyone listens.  
Yet when the prognostications fall flat, their
audience disappears.   The space race was
that rare moment when these writers seemed
to be on the mark.  So many of their other
stories—about time travel, telepathy, alien
invasion, nuclear holocausts and the like—
never came true (thank goodness!), but for a
brief period the rocket ship tales seemed
plausible. The two most powerful nations on
the planet were focused on getting off the
planet.  The scribblers who had been
dreaming about just this state of affairs
looked like sages.

Successful predictions about the moon date
back at least to Jules Verne and his 1865
From the Earth to the Moon.   Here
Verne correctly anticipated that the United
States would be the country to launch the
first lunar mission, and also pinpointed that
Florida would make the best launch site.  He
guessed the right crew size—three
astronauts—and also came very close to the
truth in his descriptions of the dimensions of
the space capsule and the duration of the
voyage to the moon.  Few science fiction
works have been more prescient in their
anticipation of later history.  

After Verne, almost every major science
fiction writer tackled a moon story at some
point.   Lunar classics include H.G.. Wells
First Men in the Moon, Robert Heinlein’s The
Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and Arthur C.
A Fall of Moondust.  Clarke’s most
famous work,
2001: A Space Odyssey, also
relies on the moon for a key plot twist—a
large black slab found near Tycho is the first
evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life,
and its discovery sets in motion the rest of the
story.   Yet it's worth noting that, seven years
before Clarke’s book, Clifford Simak
developed a comparable theme and set it in
the exact same crater in his whimsical
Trouble with Tycho.

When the moon became just another piece of
abandoned real estate, like much of Flordia
after the subprime meltdown, the
psychological impact on sci-fi was
devastating.   Many grand predictions had
been made about the future of space
exploration by these visionary authors.  But
not one of them would have dared to make
this prediction—namely, that 35 years after
the Apollo program, no trip would have been
made to any of the other planets in the solar
system, and no one would have the gumption
to send an astronaut—or even a dog or
chimpanzee—back to the moon.  

Science fiction is experiencing a bit of a
comeback these days, but the moon plays a
low profile in the renewal efforts.  The literary
establishment has discovered Philip K. Dick.  
His novels are now included in
The Library of
America, and he represents a striking case
study in how a once scorned author can be
rehabilitated. Yet it is revealing that Dick
rarely needed rocket ships to work his
magic.   While his peers were imagining trips
to the moon during the 1960s, Dick had
figured out there were other ways of taking a
trip—ones that came packaged in small
bottles or envelopes.  His “alternative reality”
concepts have held up well long after space
exploration became passé.

Even so, it’s hard for science fiction fans to
look at the full moon every month, and write
it off as a failed cause.   It’s been downhill for
forty years, but it wouldn't take much to turn
things around.   I think it’s safe to say that, if
we ever sent a team of astronauts to Mars or
beyond, NASA and their suppliers won’t be
the only sector of the economy to get a
boost.   A few dreamers toiling away at their
word processors might get a few more
minutes of fame.  

Ted Gioia’s next book, The Birth (and
Death) of the Cool
, will be coming out in
conceptual fiction
Curse You, Neil Armstrong!

Did the Apollo Moon Landing Put a
Dagger in the Heart of Science Fiction?

         by Ted Gioia
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Abbott, Edwin A.

Adams, Douglas
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the

Allende, Isabel
The House of the Spirits

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Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands

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Time's Arrow

The Golden Ass

Asimov, Isaac
The Foundation Trilogy

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I, Robot

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The Handmaid's Tale

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The State of the Art

Ballard, J.G.

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The Crystal World

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The Demolished Man

Borges, Jorge Luis

Bradbury, Ray
Dandelion Wine

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Fahrenheit 451

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The Illustrated Man

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Something Wicked This Way

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The Master and Margarita

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A Clockwork Orange

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Ender's Game

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The Kingdom of This World

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Alice's Adventures in

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The Yiddish Policemen's Union

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Stories of Your Life and Others

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Childhood's End

Clarke, Arthur C.
A Fall of Moondust

Clarke, Arthur C.
2001: A Space Odyssey

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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Crowley, John
Little, Big

Danielewski, Mark Z.
House of Leaves

Davies, Robertson
Fifth Business

Delany, Samuel R.

Delany, Samuel R.

Delany, Samuel R.
The Einstein Intersection

Dick, Philip K.
Flow My Tears, the Policeman

Dick, Philip K.
The Man in the High Castle

Dick, Philip K.

Doctorow, Cory
Down and Out in the Magic

Esquivel, Laura
Like Water for Chocolate

Fuentes, Carlos

Gaiman, Neil
American Gods

Gaiman, Neil

Gibson, William
Burning Chrome

Gibson, William

Grass, Günter
The Tin Drum

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The Forever War

Hall, Steven
The Raw Shark Texts

Harrison, M. John

Heinlein, Robert
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Heinlein, Robert:
Stranger in a Strange Land

Heinlein, Robert
Time Enough for Love

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Winter's Tale

Herbert, Frank

Hoffman, Alice
Practical Magic

Huxley, Aldous
Brave New World

Kundera, Milan
The Book of Laughter and

Le Guin, Ursula K.
The Lathe of Heaven

Le Guin, Ursula K.
The Left Hand of Darkness

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The Big Time

Leiber, Fritz
Conjure Wife

Leiber, Fritz
Swords & Deviltry

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The Wanderer

Lem, Stanislaw
His Master's Voice

Lem, Stanislaw

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The Fortress of Solitude

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Magic for Beginners

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Doctor Faustus

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100 Years of Solitude

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What Dreams May Come

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The Road

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Perdido Street Station

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A Canticle for Leibowitz

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Dangerous Laughter

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Cloud Atlas

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Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the
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The Time Traveler's Wife

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The Tiger's Wife

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The Famished Road

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The Color of Magic

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Gravity's Rainbow

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Gargantua and Pantagruel

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Red Mars

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Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's

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Midnight's Children

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Shelley, Mary

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Dying  Inside

Silverberg, Robert

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Simak, Clifford
The Trouble with Tycho

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Smith, Cordwainer
The Rediscovery of Man

Stephenson, Neal
Snow Crash

Stross, Charles

Sturgeon, Theodore
More Than Human

Sturgeon, Theodore
Some of Your Blood

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The White Hotel

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The Hobbit

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The Witches of Eastwick

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The Mixed Men

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The World of Null A

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Around the Moon

Verne, Jules
From the Earth to the Moon

Verne, Jules:
Journey to the Center of the

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Cat's Cradle

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The Sirens of Titan

Vonnegut, Kurt

Wallace, David Foster
Infinite Jest

Wells, H.G.
The First Men in the Moon

Wells, H.G.
The Island of Dr. Moreau

Wells, H.G.
The Time Machine

Woolf, Virginia

Zabor, Rafi
The Bear Comes Home

Zelazny, Roger
Lord of Light

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Notes on Conceptual Fiction
Ray Bradbury: A Tribute
The Year of Magical Reading
Remembering Fritz Leiber
Samuel Delany's 70th birthday
The Sci-Fi of Kurt Vonnegut
Curse You, Neil Armstrong!
Robert Heinlein at 100
A.E, van Vogt Tribute

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