When choosing which science fiction or fantasy book to read, a good place to start is by picking a book written by an author who has been recognized for their outstanding achievement in the field of sf/f writing.

Jump-start your 2012 reading with SF Signal's picks for January.

Noting superior achievement in sf/f writing is the purpose of The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award, presented annually to the winning author by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Started in 1975 as The Grand Master Award and later renamed to commemorate science fiction author and SFWA founder Damon Knight, it is still being awarded today at SFWA'a annual Nebula Award ceremony.

Let's take a look at the authors who have won, noting their essential works in the field of science fiction and fantasy along the way...

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1975 - Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)

Robert A. Heinlein is noted not only for his amazing output of wondrous-yet-believable novels aimed at young adult readers (the so-called "Heinlein Juvenile" books), but also for writing a large quantity of short stories and novels that comprised his comprehensive "Future History" that was vast in scope.

Notable Works:  

Have Space Suit­ - Will Travel (1958)

Starship Troopers (1959)  

Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)  

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966)  

Time Enough for Love (1973)

 

humanoids 1976 - Jack Williamson (1908-2006)

Jack Williamson was publishing science fiction—1928's "The Metal Man"—before it even had that name. Williamson's stories, produced during a career that lasted nearly seven decades, emphasized adventure.

Notable Works:

The Legion of Space series (1947-83, beginning with The Legion of Space)

The Humanoids series (1947 – 80, beginning with The Humanoids)  

Darker Than You Think (1948)  

Starchild Trilogy (1964 – 69, with Frederik Pohl, beginning with The Reefs of Space)  

The Singers of Time (1991, with Frederik Pohl)

 

way station 1977 - Clifford D. Simak (1904-1988)

Inspired by the works of H.G. Wells, Clifford D. Simak was a regular contributor to sf magazines between 1938 and 1950. Believing that science fiction needed to connect to readers via means other than science, his pastoral sf stories tended to focus on rural life.

Notable Works:  

City (1953)

Way Station (1963)  

All Flesh Is Grass (1965)  

A Heritage of Stars (1977)  

Project Pope (1981)

 

rogue queen 1979 - L. Sprague de Camp (1907-2000)

L. Sprague de Camp was not a writer to be confined by genre labels. His imaginative stories oftentimes carried elements of both science fiction and fantasy.

Notable Works:  

Lest Darkness Fall (1939)

The Incomplete Enchanter (1941, with Fletcher Pratt)  

Land of Unreason (1942, with Fletcher Pratt)  

Rogue Queen (1951)  

The Reluctant King series (1968 - 1989, beginning with The Goblin Tower)

 

big time 1981 - Fritz Leiber (1910-1992)

Thanks to his wonderful Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories set in the colorful land of Lankhmar, Fritz Leiber is considered to be (along with Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard and Elric creator Michael Moorcock) one of the fathers of sword and sorcery...but that didn't stop him from writing many fine science fiction and horror stories as well.

Notable Works:

The Big Time (1961)

The Wanderer (1964)

The Swords of Lankhmar (1968)

Our Lady of Darkness (1977)

Fritz Leiber: Selected Stories (2010, edited by Jonathan Strahan)

 

beast master 1984 - Andre Norton (1912-2005)

One of most prolific authors of the sf/f field, Andre Norton wrote consistently good stories that often presented an optimistic view, with many stories aimed at young readers.

Notable Works:

The Solar Queen series (1955 – 1997, beginning with Sargasso of Space)

The Time Traders series (1958 – 2002, beginning with The Time Traders)

The Beast Master series (1959 – 2006, beginning with Beast Master)

The Witch World series (1963 -2005, beginning with Witch World)

Tiger Burning Bright (1995, with Marion Zimmer Bradley & Mercedes Lackey)

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews.