Jacob McMurray is a senior curator at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle. He's also a senior curator at the Experience Music Project, a museum celebrating jazz, hip-hop and other contemporary American music.
Yes, he reads science fiction. And he has some specific thoughts about the genre.
"A lot of books in the '50s and '40s don't hold up at all now because, either the scientific advances that they're talking about just never happened, or these sort of cultural things that were happening at the time are so different than what's happening now that it seems absurd," he tells Liane Hansen. "I think a lot of the stuff from the '60s and '70s, when authors were trying to focus on social aspects of humanity, I think those books hold up really well. You know, a lot of the science fiction that's happening in the '80s and '90s today is less fantastic, sort of focused on scientific technologies that are happening today."
Jacob McMurray's Book List:
The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. (He began reading these books at age 6.)
Sentenced to Prism, by Alan Dean Foster.
The Gormenghast trilogy, by Mervyn Peake.
The Fifth Head of Cerberus, by Gene Wolfe. "Gene Wolfe reminds me a lot of this story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez called "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World." Where this gigantic drowned man arrives on the shore of this little farming village. And the women all come down to the beach and they're so amazed at the beauty of the dead man. And there's never concern that this is a weird situation or that, 'Wow, a dead man has just floated up on the beach.' It's that sort of magicalness is what captivates me with Gene Wolfe."
HP Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life, by Michel Hoellebecq. "Lovecraft felt that we were in this island of placidity amidst black seas of infinity. And if we actually knew what was out there and could fathom all of that, we would go instantly insane."
Hammer of the Gods, by Stephen Davis (a history of Led Zeppelin). "I remember reading this book, drunk at a party... Led Zeppelin is one of those bands where there's a lot of mythology associated with them. There's one story that's a very famous story about sex and fish and the Edgewater hotel that Led Zeppelin was involved in..."
As they used to say on those public-TV book shows for kids, "If you want to know more about THAT scene you'll have to read the book."