Question for the Crowd: Who Writes Like Me?
Posted on October 16, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 166 Comments
I frequently get e-mails from people who’ve liked my fiction but who have blown through all my novels, asking me to recommend other writers who write like me. The thing is, I’m in some ways the worst person to ask, because:
1. When I’m writing novels I don’t read fiction, so I probably don’t read as widely as some people suspect;
2. I’m too close to my own writing to be a good judge as to who writes like me; I’d be all “wait, this is supposed to be like my stuff? I don’t see it” to just about everything, I suspect.
So, I thought I’d throw it out to the crowd here: What writers — current or past, but I think with an emphasis on more recent authors — write like me, and/or which books out there are sufficiently similar to my own that they might be interesting to a fan of mine?
Please put thought it into this; I want to be able to use this thread as a resource. So tossing out the name of any military SF novel just because I wrote Old Man’s War, for example, isn’t actually helpful. Consider tone, theme, style and so forth. And, if you would be so kind, a small explanation of your choice(s) would be helpful.
Also: For the sake of avoiding massive repetition, let’s assume Robert Heinlein is taken as read (literally).
Also also: If you’re an author, please avoid recommending yourself. This isn’t meant to be a self-promotion thread (but please recommend other authors you think will fit the bill).
With those caveats above noted: Who writes like me/which books are like mine? Let me know in the comments, so I pass it along to the readers who want to know.
And thank you!
Having read only “The Algebraist” by Iain Banks, I’m inclined to say his writing is similar. His sense of humor and integration of said humor is similar to your writing. The way he seems to deal with intricacies of technology is also similar.
I just finished Halderman’s “Earthbound,” the conclusion of the “Marsbound” trilogy. I noticed similarities to John’s writing. Not just the Military SF connection (Halderman, of course, wrote “Forever War”), but the tone, cadence of the dialog, attitude of the characters, etc. seemed familiar.
Hmmm. Harry Harrison (Stainless Steel Rat) comes to mind. Also Jerry Pournelle and Poul Anderson, specifically Footfall.
Damn it! It’s “Haldeman,” with no “r.” I knew that.
The first one that comes to mind is Chris Bunch, not just because his “Star Risk” and “Last Legion” series’ overlap your MilSpec genre to some extent, but because he develops characters along a similar path. And he was good (although not as accomplished as yourself) at adding “dimension” to secondary characters and archetypes that too many lazy writers merely sketch, and trust the reader to fill in.
He’s also good at convoluting plot lines and action sequences and yet keeping the main storylines clear and the reader interested. What he does not do quite as well is the “surprise twists” and subversion of genre conventions.
His dialog, like yours, is also very easy to “hear” as I’m reading it, it comes across as natural, what such people might actually say to one another in such a situation. Too often, writers use dialog as a way to sneak in exposition and character development over and above what the situation would actually bear in terms of conversation.
I also detect distinct, but not as closely convergent, similarities between your use of humor and irony, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s picaresque “Vorkosigan” novels.
I agree with Haldeman. Also Brust for wit and dialogue. Also Zelazny (my highest compliment) for vison and pacing. It’s been lots of fun on the Scalzi ride – now keep writing.
The first author that immediately came to mind was Harry Harrison – his various series that combine humor and military science fiction seem very similar to your works in tone and subject.
Another author that occurred to me is Spider Robinson – specifically his Callahan’a Saloon series of books though a bit more fantastical also seem related in tone and topic.
Unsuprisingly, I’d recommend H. Beam Piper’s work. Clear use of language, strong sense of plot movement and story progress, serious stories told with a leavening of humor or a lighter touch.
I’m having a hard time thinking of current writers similar to you.
Jonathan Stroud is equally snarky and humorous.
Charles Stross has a snarky absurd streak to him.
I’d say your writing bears some resemblance to Spider Robinson’s, mostly in tone and the way you use dialogue.Definitely not military SF, though.
In terms of style, though obviously not necessarily content, I am reminded a lot of Nelson DeMille. I think it’s largely because you both seem to be attached to writing smartasses. DeMille’s Detective Corey reminds me a lot of say, Harry Wilson. I’ll attach a caveat that I’ve mostly read the Coreyverse novels from Demille and the OMW novels from you. But DeMille’s protagonist in The Charm School is also a smartass.
Walter Jon Williams has a similar sense of snark. I recommend “This is not a Game” and “The Shard” for good strong plots with a hefty dollop of comic timing.
I’d suggest Christopher Moore. I just finished a couple of his books and I get the same feel from them as I do from John Scalzi books. There’s a nice humourous tone throughout, but the drama and human interaction, along with key emotional moments, really give me a ‘Scalzi Feel’ (trademarking it, you can’t have it, so there).
His work is described as ‘comic fantasy’ on the wiki page so maybe the comparison is best made with The Android’s Dream or Agent To The Stars, since I haven’t encountered any military SF with him yet.
For similar character-driven adventures, with frequent comic interludes, I would recommend Connie Willis and Lois McMaster Bujold. I would recommend then anyway, to anyone, but definitely if you’re looking for something Scalzian.
If you’re looking for young adult novels, go to Scott Westerfeld. He usually writes conspiracy-based series and often has sarcastic characters, Scalzi. His novels also center around “what makes us ‘us'” questions, like the consciousness discussions in the OMW series, as well as other philosophical themes.
I’ll put out there that there’s a bit of Harry Harrison in your tone and style (though he’s a little bit more over the top you have a similar eye for luducrosity in a system). Same goes for Keith Laumer.
Steve Umstead’s Gabriel books are a lot like Scalzi’s.
Richard Morgan’ Takeshi Kovacs series has many echoes with the Old Man’s War series- some of the elements like moving from body to body and the scope of the universe, with Earth as a sort of backwater. It also has a variety of genres withing the storyline, mystery, military, cyber, etc.. Morgan is a bit darker, though, with less of the comic tendency, but still focused on characters coming to grips with new sets of rules in the places they go and the bodies they inhabit.
When I first read OMW, I remember thinking that it was very Haldeman-y in tone and substance. I haven’t read as much Harry Harrison as I should but I can see that to. Certainly the overall effect – quick world building, a light touch on physical description, and pacing – from the first chapter of Stainless Steel Rat reminds me of the first chapter of The Android’s Dream.
I don’t think anybody’s _really_ similar, although I thought of some of the same names that have already been mentioned. Another I might suggest is Greg Costikyan. Maybe Fredric Brown?
One of the many things I like about the OMW series is the balanced blend of:
Plenty of action, and
Occasional humor thrown in.
I find these same 4 elements are strong in the Jon & Lobo series by Mark Van Name. I’m no literary critic – I read for the story, and IMO these books are really enjoyable. (#4 and #5 were “Big Ideas” here on the Whatever; longing to see #6 in John’s ARC stack someday…)
I’d offer Karl Schroeder, particularly the Virga series (starting with Son of Suns, I think). Hard sf that is imaginative and expansive, layered worldbuilding (more than one layer down), enjoyable characters that you can root for. Good storytelling.
Ooh, and Iain Banks’ Culture novels, especially the ones from the AI viewpoint. For the snarkiness, science, politically complex, and sheer joie de vivre.
On the comedy front, I’d say that Androids Dream and Agent To The Stars both put me in mind sometimes of Parke Godwin (in particular the overall tone of Waiting For The Galactic Bus) and sometimes of Good Omens by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett. In particular, the similar combination of satire and silliness combined with just the right amount of real-world.
Donald Westlake never wrote SF, but if he had I think the result would have been very much like Scalzi: generally light, readable prose; genuine characters; truly funny things happening in truly unfunny situations. Dortmunder would be right at home in a Scalzi novel–once he got over, you know, space.
Folks, remember that we’re not doing general recommendations; rather recommendations of work that is similar to mine, in your opinion.
I always thought Robert Asprin was cut from similar cloth, especially in how he handles dialogue.
In style, if not as much substance, I’d say Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels. Of course, they’re modern-day fantasy rather than sci-fi, but the way you both handle characters, subtle humor, and action is very similar. Those novels as well as yours also are very adept at hinting at Big Issues and Ideas, especially moral or societal ones, without being overwhelming or didactic.
Actually, Westlake did write some science fiction, but I don’t recall it being very Scalzic. Robert Asprin, though, that’s a pretty good comparison, now that you mention it. Although Asprin’s stuff wasn’t as substantial.
I’d say David Brin’s Uplift Series of novels could fit in the same ballpark as Scalzi’s OMW stuff.
I always felt the the blend of action and fairly absurdist humor found in books like “The Android’s Dream” most reminded me of Brian Daley’s trilogy (“Requiem For A Ruler Of Worlds”, etc.) about Hobart Floyt and Alacrity Fitzhugh. I’ve always loved a good space opera.
Lisa Shearin’s style reminds me of yours, but I don’t know that your fans would enjoy her books. She’s writing the female fantasy equvivalent -basically D&D chick lit.
I’d point at Charles Stross – particularly the more accessible books like the Laundry Files or the Merchant Princes, and of course Saturn’s Children if only because it is also deliberately Heinleinian.
I would say Robert J. Sawyer has a very similar tone and “feel” to John’s stuff. No military SF from Sawyer, but his ear for dialog, limpid prose, and fast paced plotting all remind me of John’s writing. The closest fit would probably be Starplex, but anything by Sawyer would probably push some of the same buttons in a reader that John’s writing pushes.
In the Redshirts and Android’s Dream vein, I found Debatable Space by Philip Palmer reminded me very much. This book seems to be loathed by many and loved by few, but it made me laugh out loud. Also Ian Rankin’s Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse. More style than substance on that one as well.
In the Old Man’s War vein, I still think the Honor Harrington series. Perhaps not the writing per se, merely in terms of appeal. Nice strong female characters (YMMV as I’m a hetero white dude).
What I like about the Scalzi style is 1) solid storytelling with a twist, 2) a great sense of humor, and 3) clear, transparent prose.
I think Scott Lynch in the Gentleman Bastard series comes pretty close on the first two. His prose can be more florid (in a good way), especially in dialog, and usually for humor.
Not sure the writing is all that similar, but I do think many of your fans would appreciate some of the books by Timothy Zahn.
I really enjoyed the Quadrail series, the Conquerors trilogy and some of the stand alone novels, like The Icarus Hunt, Angelmass and Manta’s Gift. (I still haven’t gotten around to reading any of the Cobra series, but I guess that, too, would attract some of the same audience.)
And then of course there’s this site (http://iwl.me/) where you can put in a sampling of your writing and it’ll tell you what famous writer your style is most similar to. I’m not sure how widely they cast their nets, but it may come up with something for you.
John Ringo, specifically the Troy Rising Series, for humor, the feeling of realistic future war and characters that find themselves being unpredictably heroic.
Peter Hamilton for dialoge and a different take on genre staples.
Nick Harkaway because both of you can incorporate philosphical and sociological aspects into your work that actually makes me feel smarter for reading.
Your writing style has, to me, parallels with The Art of Computer Programming, by Donald Knuth; the start-up parody/rants by Neil Stephenson; and Candace Beebe Pert [26 June 1946 – 12 September 2013] the American neuroscientist and pharmacologist who discovered the opiate receptor, the cellular binding site for endorphins in the brain.
In particular her science-explanatory and vividly autobiographical Molecules Of Emotion: The Science Between Mind-Body Medicine Scribner (1999), ISBN 0-684-84634-9
In 1974 she earned a Ph.D. in pharmacology from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where she worked in the laboratory of Solomon Snyder and discovered the brain’s opiate receptor. Previously, she had completed her undergraduate studies in biology, cum laude, in 1970, from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Pert conducted a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship with the Department of Pharmacology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 1974-1975. She conducted research at the National Institute of Mental Health from 1975 to 1987. Pert is the author of Molecules of Emotion. She appeared as one of the experts in Bill Moyers 1993 PBS video production, “Healing and the Mind”, and in the 2004 film What the #$*! Do We Know!?.
While RAH has already been ruled out by John, and Spider Robinson’s been mentioned a few times, I particularly enjoyed Robinson’s work on Variable Star.
if folks are looking for that gee-whiz Heinlein science fiction aspect of your writing:
James S.A. Corey: Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, Abbadon’s Gate. Solar-system space opera with a very likeable/relate-able cast of characters.
Sarah Zettel’s space books, Fool’s War, for example.
C.J. Cherryh’s Merchanter Books — particularly Downbelow Station and Finity’s End.
See, I was really confused, because I initially interpreted the question as being about your methodology, and the comment about not reading fiction while writing novels sounded like methodology.
I am not sure what I’d describe as similar. Your writing comes across as giving a lot more thought to characterization than a lot of SF. Hmm. *thinks* Well, _Agent to the Stars_ definitely reminds me of Alan Dean Foster — possibly because of the similarities to _Quozl_. And also a little of John de Chancie, specifically the time-travel space trucking books (_Red Limit Freeway_ and friends). The _Old Man’s War_ series tends to remind me of David Drake and John Ringo, only without the painful jingoism. And also, somewhat, David Brin; there’s a certain amount of “I’m just gonna explore these ideas and see what happens” feel.
_Fuzzy Nation_ manages to completely fail to remind me of Piper, and yet, it’s not a hostile retelling in any way. It doesn’t seem to be insulting to Piper’s version, but it’s a radically different story. It reminds me a little of Moon’s _Remnant Population_.
Along with Christopher Moore (as mentioned above), I’d also say A Lee Martinez. Not for similarities to the Old Man’s War series, but because they have the same vibe as the other lighter Scalzi comedy books. (And Martinez moreso than Moore, because Moore can get kind of dark.) Martinez also has the habit of doing different kinds of books.
And if you really liked Agent to the Stars, there’s a small sub-genre of Hollywood Sci-Fi/Fantasy that has a book by KK Beck, one by Alan Dean Foster, and one by Barbara Hambly. There’s probably more. I love that genre, not sure why.
Humorous stories; Military science fiction; Satirical fiction; Science fiction
NoveList suggests as Read-Alikes:
David Drake, Robert Buettner, John Ringo, Robert Heinlein, Eric Flint, Greg Bear, S. M. Stirling, Larry Niven, Joe Haldeman
From what I know of some of those authors, I don’t agree with NoveList! But being in library school, I thought someone ought to consult it at least. :)
I think personally I’d say Tanya Huff. She does humor, and even has some military sf. Her humor tends to come out of the mouths of the characters, /they/ are who are funny. And that’s my preferred type of humor. :)
I have a hard time with this question, partly because your narrative tone varies so much. OMW is quite different from TAD, and both are different from Redshirts.
I must disagree with whomever compared your dialogue to Spider Robinson’s. You have an ear for how people actually talk, and don’t attempt dialects you don’t know well. Neither of these is true of Spider (his misuse of ‘youse’ is particularly, jarringly wrong), fond as I am of some of his fiction.
I was just reading an early (1919) P.G. Wodehouse novel, and kept thinking “what does this remind me of?” While your language style is quite unlike his, your narrative consciousness of the inherent absurdity of characters’ positions is similar, in your comic work. You’re not as blunt about it as Wodehouse, but it’s there.
I know you said novels, but I am a particular fan of your short stories, because they are imaginative and insightful. For similar reasons, I like George R. R. Martin’s collections of short fiction, such as Tuf Voyaging, Portaits of his Children, Nightflyers, etc.
Certainly you are well known for the use of humor in your stories, but your stories aren’t just funny. They are complex, tend to have existential themes, and loyalty is often an important part of the story.
For existential themes, Neal Stephenson and Charles Stross both come to mind, along with Stanislaw Lem (also known for his humor but far more absurdist than you). And C. S. Friedman, who isn’t very funny, does a wonderful job with themes of loyalty, friendship, war, and technological world-building.
I have to echo h2otown66 on Lois McMaster Bujold. Both of you write space opera that feels like it goes beyond the usual genre boundaries of space opera in the best way, rethinking and rewriting the tropes. And there’s similar black humor at moments, and similar science-fiction-romance-ish elements that aren’t overwhelming.
I’d say John Varley. He’s got the same “Heinlein-esque” flavor. Outrageous plots, unique ideas about sexuality and politics. Interesting takes on the future of human colonization? Oh yes. Tongue in cheek? Check. He eats hyperbole for breakfast and craps out snark. Try “Steel Beach,” “The Ophiuchi Hotline,” the Gaia trilogy, or any of his short story collections.
Oh good. I’m not the only one who thought there was a Fredric Brown similarity.
I initially read OMW right after The Forever War, which was a mistake given the similarity. Got very confused between the books until I reread OMW.
For content I could give a list as long as my arm but I will leave that to others here – I will only give special mention to Justina Robson as I think others here are probably less likely to think of her.
For style however, the most similar is Joss Whedon. Mostly because of the touch of levity and wry humour in the human interaction of the characters. Which also brings to mind Ben Aaronovitch, Jim Butcher and Ben Elton, yes they are different genres, but the tone of there writing feels very similar. I know if you try them you will see what I mean.
Also Robert J. Sawyer for the ease of readability comparative to other sf authors in the field. I will always recommend Scalzi and Sawyer to newbies over other ‘more important’ writers of the field just for how easy they are to read. Total gateway drugs the pair of them.
For something that skewers Hollywood and the entertainment industry in a vein similar to Agent To The Stars and/or Redshirts you might try The Starcrossed by Ben Bova. It was written in the mid-70’s, but shares a similar view of the entertainment industry!
I think that Joe Haldeman and John Varley are good calls; I see similarities to each in your writing. One other I’d mention is the writing duo behind James S.A. Corey, but for somewhat different reasons than cited above. Yes, Corey writes hard science fiction, and the characters are real and (mostly) likable, but the thing that knocks me out about the Leviathan Wakes series is how funny the dialog is. I often found myself laughing out loud while reading it, just as I often do when reading your books.
I can see that I’m not alone in my immediate response — Keith Laumer. Especially in reading Election, which may be the most overtly similar by theme. In general, though, I find the similarity to be in quick-paced, snarky humor that leads to laughing at oneself while laughing at the other. I also considered Aspirin because of the light comedic touch and fast pace. However, I feel like Scalzi pokes at deeper “meaning of life” questions that Aspirin doesn’t, and does it in such a way that you continue rethinking your beliefs long after you finish the story (possibly without realizing that’s what is happening).
I recommended this blog to someone who read through some of the most popular topics, asked for a specific recommendation of where to start reading books (I gave OMW), then came back after reading it and said if I liked that, I would like China Mieville. There’s a reverse recommendation. I haven’t dived in to anything he’s written, so I can’t say it’s a similarity in style; probably more a statement that both of you respect the intelligence of your readers.
Your humorous short stories seem rather similar in tone and weirdness content as Dean Wesley Smith’s.
In some ways, you’re a cross between Charlie Stross and Spider Robinson. You’ve got Stross’s style in some ways, and Robinson’s optimism.
You’ve definitely got appeal to people who’re in love with the classics: RAH, Asimov, Clarke, etc. It’s obvious you’ve read them and liked the stories they told, and wanted to tell something like that, but with your own spin on it. Like Stross has. But your optimism is more classical, whereas Stross isn’t as optimistic. Robinson took the element that science, and science fiction was about the elevation of the human psyche. You’re not all that different. The RAH/Asimov part traces back to the essential American-ness of your protagonists.
Lets see .. writing styles similar to yours? Easy ..
John Varley, James. S.A. Corey .. all three of you fit that epic yarn (space opera) that originated by RAH, and the Tom Corbett Space Cadet series.
For similar ease of reading, strong characters and plotting, and complex interstellar wars with a menagerie of aliens I would second the mention of David Brin’s Uplift novels (for fans of OMW series at least). And both sets of stories share the same sense of fun, although the brands of humour are somewhat different.
Other Brin novels strike quite a different tone though.
I’d like to second the recommendation of Timothy Zahn – the books recommended above are the ones that came to mind immediately for me as well.
Chuck Palahnuik has a similar, twisted sense of humor, and some of his lesser known books fall into the scifi and fantasy genre. “Rant” takes place in a dystopian near-future, and “Damned” is about a girl who goes to Hell.
I put a sample from Old Man’s War into I Write Like (http://iwl.me/) and it says you write like James Fenimore Cooper.
So, there’s that I suppose.
Have you read Mark Twain’s “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses“? If so, you wouldn’t take that as a compliment.
I always think of Harry Harrison when I read your work.
OK, I’m stumped. I can’t think of anyone because “Old Man’s War” is a love story set in a military SF backdrop. That’s a… unique… combination of a novel.
It’s got the whiz-bang of military SF, but the military part is actually kind of thin as far as story goes. The tactics are pretty much 2nd Generation Warfare (WW1) but with Star Trek technology, which makes for some cognitive dissonance reading the combat scenes. It’s mostly men with guns in trenches or foxholes or whatever. It doesn’t have the feel of a combined arms exercise of 3rd Gen Warfare, where’s the close air support? Where’s the gunships?
I remember thinking the same thing when I was reading “Starship Troopers”. It’s guys with guns, on the ground, fighting in the dirt, in two-dimensions. The third dimension, air and space, were merely a medium through which troops were delivered to the battlefield, rather than part of the combat itself. Two quote one of the best officers in Star Fleet: “He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking.”
But OMW isn’t like ST at all. ST is a friggen chest-thumping war-loving gung-ho propaganda piece. OMW is, well, it’s a love story with a military backdrop, dammit. The meat of the story, the part that actually goes through the “three-act play” is the main character, John, and his “relationship” with Jane, his “wife”. (trying to avoid spoilers, so, yes, that’s kind of vaguish).
Thing is, I can’t think of any love stories with a war as a backdrop. Casablanca maybe?
Thing is, I can’t think of any love stories with a war as a backdrop. Casablanca maybe?
Farewell to Arms. For Whom the Bell Tolls.
My top suggestions have already been mentioned:
Lois McMaster Bujold
Alan Dean Foster
To me, the sci fi, the characterizations, the humour, and the misleading lightness of tone (in that the book reads as light, but there is a lot of stuff packed in there nonetheless) are the primary hallmarks of Scalzi’s work, Characterizing his stories as specifically part of the military sci-fi genre is misleading, since Scalzi has written books with no military aspect at all.
In other words, I vehemently disagree with a number of the suggestions listed here. But being a polite Canadian, I won’t list them, since this is not just about my opinion.. :-)
I think Sawyer and Varley are excellent calls, and for good storytelling, readable prose and characters you can love, I’d mention two others that I don’t think have been mentioned: Jack McDevitt (particularly the Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins series) and Allen M. Steele (the Coyote universe).
You don’t read fiction when you’re writing novels? I thought that was something you always did, like a doctor practices medicine or a bricklayer lays bricks?
Or am I missing something? Do you only write novels part of the year?
In this order:
1. Joe Haldeman
2. Robert Sawyer
3. Lois Bujold
4. Ben Aaronovitch
5. Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore
“I can’t think of anyone because “Old Man’s War” is a love story set in a military SF backdrop. That’s a… unique… combination of a novel.”
_Shards of Honor_.
I struggled as to whether I’d want to recommend LMB in this thread because it’s asking for more similarity than just “I like both of them”. And while I definitely consider her the only one of the Baen gang that has more than a superficial stylistic similarity, and I’d definitely put her in the other thread on authors/works that most influenced you, I am not really sure that her work presses enough of the same buttons to be relevant here. Probably.
In the same light, I’d also throw my hat in for early Laumer. Before Retief started becoming explicitly humor rather than just light adventure – which is correlated to the time of his stroke, but I’m not 100% sure that was the cause.
In terms of prose style, the two authors that come to mind, to me, are Jim Butcher and Stephen Brust. Like both of them, you have what I would call a ‘casual’ writing style. The prose is deceptively simple at times, clear and descriptive as the situation calls for but never overstaying its welcome. Dialogue, in particular, is a strong suit, with characters engaging in banter that has an air of authenticity. Also, all three of you share a strong streak of humor through your work, even when the work itself isn’t strictly humorous.
Currently, only four authors have ever made me literally laugh out loud while reading their works: John Scalzi, Stephen Brust, Glen Cook and Douglas Adams. Take that for the compliment it is meant to be. As I type this, I would add Glen Cook to that list, as well. Obviously, in terms of story content, these authors don’t match OWM, but in terms of writing style, I think they are in your wheelhouse.
I don’t really see that much similarity between your writing and that of Heinlein, with the possible exception of the “voice” of Zoe and that of Holly from “The Menace from Earth”. I think you someone could pick a dozen random paragraphs from your writing, and a dozen from RAH’s, and it wouldn’t be any trouble to tell which was which from style, tone, theme, etc. (ignoring the plot and characters — in fact, your characters are way different than his). I can see that he would be an influence, but that doesn’t make your writing a lot like his.
Likewise Spider Robinson — I’m not well-read enough to say anyone is similar to SR in writing, but I sure don’t think you are.
I could make a pretty good argument for similarities between Zoe’s Tale and Stephen Gould’s Impulse, though.
But a different question is, “If I like Scalzi’s books, what else would I like?” and the above doesn’t mean that a reader wouldn’t enjoy either RAH or SR.
I see at least partial similarities to so many different authors, and most have been mentioned here.
I have posted this before, years ago: in most ways, your Agent to the Stars has the same vibe, the same feel as Greg Costikyan’s First Contract. Pace, humor, characterization… definitely diiferent books but I think a fan of one would be a fan of the other. I’ve been reading Lois Mcmaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series, and I think there is a larger Venn overlap of stylistic elements between you and her than with many of the other authors who have been cited here so far. I’m not talking about “milSF” or “space opera” stuff, but actual writing styles. I get a similar feel from Bujold that I get from reading Scalzi.
Except The God Engines, which I can only liken to Lovecraft, or perhaps Aleister Crowley’s “The Testament of Magdelen Blair”. Brrr.
I think Fredric Brown is very similar. He is mostly out of print, unfortunately, so many here have never read his work. What Mad Universe is very Scalzic. Many suggestions seem risible to me, but to each his own. At least no one thinks you write like Doc Smith or Olaf Stapledon.
Brian McClellan’s first Powder Mage book seemed to have a similar flavor. A bit more grim but flowed or had the same rythem as yours stuff.
Several people have already named a few of my top choices for writers similar to Scalzi (Scott Lynch, Robert Asprin, Jim Butcher).
A couple more in the fantasy/sci fi genre: Matthew Hughes (particularly his Henghis Hapthorn stories) for funny dialogue and stories that carry you forward so effortlessly, Holly Black, and Scott Meyer’s “Off to Be the Wizard”.
And three writers outside the fantasy/sci fi genre who give me the same kind of feeling as a reader as Scalzi does: Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum mystery series), Lisa Lutz (Spellman Files mystery series), and Sharyn McCrumb (her book “Bimbos of the Death Sun” takes place at a science fiction and fantasy convention and had me in stitches).
Hard to think of a sci-fi author with similar stylings. The main unifying features of your work are prose that goes down almost too easy, characters that are all slight variations on a sarcastic, funny archetype, and imaginative worlds and ideas. Larry Niven’s Ringworld is a pretty good fit. Louis Wu reads like a prototype for the Scalzi characters.
J.D. Farewell to Arms. For Whom the Bell Tolls.
I’ve read them and pretty much every Hemmingway novel I could get a hand on. Hemmingway has a narative voice I’ve never encountered anywhere else.
Let’s not wander off into a general discussion of literature, please (as fascinating a subject as it is).
Eric Frank Russell (Wasp, Call Him Dead, and shorter works like “Alamagoosa” and “Plus X”). A much neglected writer these days.
Ethan seems to think that our other client Jim Cambias will appeal to Scalzi readers, he certainly appealed to Ethan, and Tor, who will be publishing his debut A Darkling Sea in January. Aspects Scalzi fans might appreciate include: interstellar diplomacy, unique first contact scenarios, genuine humor. My client Marko Kloos (Terms of Enlistment, currently available only in e-book and only from Amazon, sequel Lines of Departure as well as paperbacks for both will be available from Amazon in January) attended the Viable Paradise workshop taught by John, and I like to think that some of John rubbed off on him. Aspects Scalzi fans might enjoy: (it’s military SF so…) obligatory space warfare depicted with a degree of authenticity, character driven story telling, good dialogue, bracing pacing, and mysterious and believable alien foes.
My recommendation to someone who liked Scalzi and wanted more to read would be Bujold’s Vorkosigan series and Walter Jon Williams’ Dread Empire’s Fall trilogy. They are perhaps not the most similar to Scalzi’s books I can think of, but they are in some aspects similar and very, very good. (Both series are also examples of Love story against an SF background which Greg calls unique above.)
What they do lack a bit of is the somewhat absurd humor that is and important part of several of Scalzi’s book. In that regard perhaps Stross’ Atrocity Archive series and Peter F Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy would be good books to try.
Also Ian M Banks is a safe recommendation from a quality perspective, but while M Banks do have similarities with Scalzi – galaxy spanning civilization! military conflict! eccentric characters! – there are also some quite large differences, so recommending them on the basis of liking Scalzi is probably a bit hit or miss. (Note that M Banks books are quite different in tone, probably even more so that most other authors including Scalzi.)
Per Matt W above (“prose that goes down almost too easy, characters that are all slight variations on a sarcastic, funny archetype, and imaginative worlds and ideas”): Other Niven works from the period when Louis Wu flourished can also be recommended here, in particular the novellas “The Fourth Profession” and “Rammer.”
Another (in my opinion) Scalzi-like novella is rather obscure but very readable and lots of fun: “Cinderella Story” (1963) by Allen Kim Lang.
He has already been mentionned, but I’d also go with John Varley, for the happy combination of straight, first degree narratives, and tongue-in-the-cheek writing (which by the way is also the main (and somewhat tenuous) similarity I can find between your writings and Heinlein’s).
In the French field, I can see some relation to the humorous works of Roland C. Wagner (another writer from L’Atalante, whom we tragically lost last year).
Surprised that nobody has mentioned Mike Resnick. I find your methods of storytelling very similar. Also, Simon Green to a lesser extent.
I don’t have anything to add to what others have suggested re your fiction, but your collected essays in Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded and The Mallet of Loving Correction reminded me favorably of Harlan Ellison’s essays. Readers that enjoyed those books might like Ellison’s An Edge in My Voice or The Harlan Ellison Hornbook or Harlan Ellison’s Watching. All of the above books, including yours, are ones that I can pick up at any time and enjoy reading an essay or two.
Mentioned by others, but I’ll reiterate Jim Butcher. Butcher is more intimate with the character, whereas what I’ve read of yours seems “at-arms-length”, but the rest is very similar to my simple mind.
I am referring strictly when comparing Old man’s War and the Dresden books. I’ve not read other stuff by either of you, so can’t comment on the breath of your respective works.
I would go with:
1. Mike Resnick
2. Allen Steele (Coyote series)
3. Christopher Stasheff (Starship Troupers series)
Zahn’s work is good, but it has a much different feel from Our Host’s – less frenetic, the humor is less overt, and the snark, while present, isn’t nearly there to the degree you’d find in the Old Man’s War series, let alone Android’s Dream, Agent to the Stars, or Redshirts.
Jim Butcher, on the other hand, has a lot of the same vibe in his writing as Our Host, even though he’s not working in the same genre. The comedy’s not hidden, even when it’s mixed in with terror or horror or thrills (true not just for Dresden Files, but Codex Alera, his six-book answer to what you’d get if you mashed up the Lost Roman Legion and Pokemon), but it’s not forced, either. And there are some first-rate opening lines, too – “The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault” is right up there with “Dirk Moeller didn’t know if he could fart his way into a diplomatic incident”…
Seconding Tanya Huff, specifically her Confederation series (the “Valor” books). Military SF, character-driven, story arc spreading across the entire series, sex-positive, touches of humor. And a lot of fun to read.
Many excellent suggestions here. One suggestion that deserves a second vote is Tanya Huff. Her Confederation series has strong characterization, definite snark, vivid battle scenes, and several unusual alien species. Her voice carries across genres, so If you like her S.F. and also read fantasy, try those.
I remember comparing you to Ross Thomas around the time The Android’s Dream came out, and then somebody else mentioned Donald Westlake, and that sounded right, too.
This is a thing that librarians do, as J. Andrews noted above. If you google “John Scalzi read alikes” you’ll find some of the titles librarians recommend to readers who like your books.
Two authors came to mind and both, by coincidence, are writers of zombie science fiction.
Jonathan Maberry and his Benny Imura series
Rhiannon Frater’s The Last Bastion of the Living: A Futuristic Zombie Novel
Both have good world building, enough to convey the story but not too much as to overburden it. Nice pacing, spots to let you breath but never slows down to the point where you feel like you’re trudging through sand. Always anxious to turn the page to see where the story goes next. Nice characters that are well rounded and have enough depth but are not themselves the story. Both have dialog that is light and engaging with enough sarcasm and wit to make you smile or laugh at times.
John, I’ve heard you say that you planned and wrote Old Man’s War to be a marketable story. I get the same feel from the Benny Imura series. It has the feel of a story that has been crafted and carefully controlled. The story stays its course and doesn’t explore too many tangents.
As I was reading The Last Bastion of the Living I frequently thought of Redshirts. I thought both have a similar emotional engagement, particularly the endings.
I can see comparing OMW to Haldeman (and even The Big Online Store Starting with A— also suggests that), and there are probably other MilSF people in that space.
But while Redshirts starts out seeming like the kind of book a lot of people could have written if they’d thought of it first and had the skills for it, then [Major Plot Twist] happens and you dive off into uncharted territory; I don’t think I’ve seen anybody else do anything like it. Zelazny’s writing is a lot different, but the “What on Earth is the writer doing here?” parts that made the book work for me have some similarity.
To throw out someone people might not be familiar with, Australian author Joel Shepherd’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Shepherd) series about the artificial soldier Cassandra Kresnov always reminded me off the Old Mans War. She was a bad ass female trope before it was trendy. It’s heavy military scifi, leaning a bit more towards cyberpunk than the space opera of Old Mans War (no aliens). The thing that reminded me of Scalzi is the character focus over concept and the mix of humour and action. There’s four books in the series but I’ve only managed to read the first two but I fully intend to get round to the last two and highly recommend them.
Librarything.com has an author recomendation system based on book ownership.
If the members who own John Scalzi’s books own 10% of all the books on LT, and 50% of the books by Charles Stross, then Scalzi readers probably like Stross.
What, no one going for Daniel Keys Moran?! Shock, outrage! Witty repartee, excellent plotting, imaginative story telling; all-around good reads. Moran’s Tales of the Continuing Time are superb S.F. and entertaining for many of the reasons I enjoy Scalzi’s writing.
Agreed on Haldeman, Harrison, and especially Robinson. Also Bujold (duh!) and Huff.
That ought to keep people busy. Many other good suggestions above. Although I’d take Kris Longknife over Honor Harrington any day, if we’re talking milSF women.
I’ll add to the chorus recommending Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan books for people who like yours. Her books range from Romance in war (Shards of Honor) Parenthood in war (Barrayar) Milfic (The Warrior’s Apprentice/The Vor Game) to Mystery (Cetaganda/Memory) to Goofy Capers (Ethan of Athos/Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance) and more, so her range is up there with yours. Her secondary characters are very well fleshed out–no redshirts there. Her dialogue is good and her plots tight.
John Varley’s tone and writing are not like yours but he does resonate and I thought of him right behind Bujold when I read your request.
I don’t see the similarities between you and Spider Robinson mentioned by others.
For those who like your goofy humor, they might also like the Reteif books by Keith Laumer.
How about Frank Herbert? He wrote The Dosadi Experiment which I think could parallel Scalzi’s works nicely. I understand he wrote some other stuff too, but I don’t necessarily think of those stories as being Scalzian.
I would heavily second (Third? ) James S.A. Corey. I wonder about the quantum effect, chicken or egg in that case. Haldeman? Naaah, totally different voice. The pacing and worldbuilding of Haldeman are fairly close, though. As to voice, Niven. Maybe Niven/Pournelle.
But when I consider God Engines…. man, that book still gives me nightmares. Like nothing I’ve ever read. And Fuzzy Nation, well… still makes me happy.
The truth is, I feel you are one of the LEAST derivative authors I have ever read, and I’ve been voraciously reading SF for 45 years.
I had not thought of him till Rob G’s mention above, but Matt Ruff strikes me as a good candidate for this list; you and he both write eclectic, idea-driven books that are both accessible and layered.
Two other writers whom I haven’t seen mentioned and would suggest: David Gerrold, who is similar in having a considerable range and a sly wit; and John Barnes, who is similar in being strongly idea-driven and a creator of distinctively voiced protagonists.
As soon as Nick mentioned Herbert my mind jumped to his Destination: Void series as something a fan of The God Engines might enjoy. Plenty of brutal “this is what you get for messing with things because you *really* aren’t as smart as you think you are”.
I totally agree with checking out Brust for his use of dialogue and making the most of what is and isn’t said by his characters.
Dittoing Asprin because hello. If Redshirts is a kick ass movie then the earlier M.Y.T.H. Inc. books are 30 minute episodes of an awesome sitcom.
John Varley and John Ringo (must be something about the name “John”), especially Varley’s Mars series (“Red Thunder” is one of the titles, don’t recall the others) and Ringo’s “Troy Rising” series. Also the “Merrimack” series by R.M. Meluch and the “Leviathan Wakes” series by James S.A. Corey (the latter mentioned by several above–didn’t see Meluch anywhere). I’m not sure I agree with others on Robert Sawyer in general, but I would say his recent book “Red Planet Blues” definitely fits the bill.
I thought it was interesting that several folks brought up David Brin–I think of most of his work as being much more serious in tone than Scalzi’s. However, one book of his that came to mind even before I started reading the other comments was “Kiln People”–that one I recall being interesting, funny, and downright bizarre in spots–so yeah, it fits.
Rob Reid’s Year Zero leaps to mind, in addition to Christopher Moore’s work. Both had me laugh out loud while reading.
“The Android’s Dream” is always what I imagined a Dave Barry sci-fi novel to be like.
I’d say you’re somewhere between Harrison and Laumer. I know they’ve been mentioned upthread, but those are the only two names I’ve seen in the thread that don’t make me go “but…”
Oh, and maybe with a bit of Bujold mixed in.
Oh, and throw in a pinch of Saberhagen.
I took a science fiction/ fantasy course in undergrad, which is where I first read Old Man’s War, and your book was assigned directly behind Haldeman as similar writing styles. I think they have some similarities.
I’ve thought that Eric James Stone’s work is a lot like Scalzi’s (although Stone focuses on short stories and novelettes). _Tabloid Reporter to the Stars_ had exactly the sort of offbeat humor I expect from Scalzi.
A good book similar to scazli’s writing is schools out forever by Scott k. Andrews
I’m going to concentrate more on your question about “books out there are sufficiently similar to my own that they might be interesting to a fan of mine.” Coincidentally, I just started rereading “The Last Colony.” Your episode with the yotes immediately reminded me of “The Legacy of Heorot” by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes. Similar setup: colonists discovering a new world and its perils, while also imperiled by their own human conflicts. “Old Man’s War” triggered my memories of Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War,” especially how the two books’ protagonists are reshaped by technological and alien cultural environments into which humans never had a chance to adapt through evolution. Readers who like the way you poke a stick in overinflated bureaucracies might enjoy another Niven-Pournelle collaboration: “The Mote In God’s Eye.” Same can be said about the satire in Terry Pratchett’s DIscWorld novels; I personally recommend “Going Postal.” Several people above mentioned Keith Laumer, and the sly wit in his Retief series, but I don’t think anyone said anything about Laumer’s Bolo series, which is his take on augmented (by their tanks) humans in combat. You do action scenes very cinematically; so does James Cobb, whose novelette “Cav” about a cavalry squad fighting in Africa in 2021 is a standout story in Stephen Coonts’ standout collection of military fiction, much of it set in the future, called “Combat.” Anyone who admires and appreciates your dexterity with dialogue should read Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.” People who like your ironic heroes might enjoy Harry Harrison’s “The Stainless Steel Rat” (just choose any one or all of the first four books in the series). Finally, I like the way your plots unfold, with frequent twists and turns and a large cast of characters, all of which reminds me of the late Anne McCaffrey’s work. One specific recommendation similar to “The Last Colony” is “Dragonsdawn.”
Strongly echo those who already named John Varley.
Would also recommend Robert Buettner (his Jason Wander series, “Orphan’s War” and subsequent) and several additional books he’s set in the same universe. Similar style to Mr Scalzi and handles tech, people, etc in a similar way.
John Birmingham is also someone to consider, albeit cheesier in plot, dialog, and characterization. His Axis of Time series and his After America series (I did find each series to fall off significantly after the first book, though; good initial plot/set-up, but weak characterization and dialog became obvious in each subsequent book.)
And of course Harry Turtledove. Pick any of his Alternate History series or books, or others he’s written.
Orson Scott Card, but most will already be familiar with him, his style, and books.
only ONE person recommends Pratchet?
i actually pimp your books to people by describing them as sci-fi Pratchett. i’m just saying.
i recommend MOST the Discworld books that deal with the Watch, and Going Postal and Making Money.
Troy Rising — Ringo killed ‘me’ HORRIBLY, so very, VERY horribly in that series!
IT. WAS. AWESOME!
but not, to my mind, all that Scalziesque? or… okay, i can see it if i squint…
Karl Schroeder. I’m honestly very surprised that I haven’t seen his name mentioned here more. But Ventus, Permanence, Lady of Mazes all scratched a very similar itch that Old Man’s War did.
Granted, there are alot of differences. Your writing centers on the characters themselves while Karl loves his huge, sweeping world-building and playing with future-shock and posthumanity more conceptually, while Old Man’s War did have much Posthuman-stuff in it except for the soldier’s themselves, otherwise it was essentially a human story of war in space, and about a guy losing, then findinga again , the love of his life.
But, I dunno, maybe it’s the way he narrates or the way he constructs sentences, but whenever I re-read the Schroeder books I have, I immedietly need to go re-read the Scalzi books I have, and vice versa. They live on the same street, metaphorically speaking.
Apologies for all my terrible spelling and grammar errors.
Denelian – I thought of Pratchett too but did not list him as he is satire. While they are both very funny P’terry’s books are more random bizzare absurdist humour of juxtoposition, while Scalzi’s humor comes from the characters themselves and is a much lighter touch, if you were just looking for funny you could list Tom Holt, Robert Rankin, Douglas Adams and Mary Janice-Davidson who are all genre humour writers but Scalzi’s writing while funny is not humour per se, the funy is a leavening of the serious though I have to admit that Androids dream is far more satire than Scalzi’s other stuff.
Ok so I’d suggest Alan dean foster and more specifically ‘quozl’ it’s one of my favourite sci fi humour books and almost reads as a grandparent combination of agent to the stars and old mans war.
Classic first contact story with aliens that are well giant bunnies!
In the same light but more serious and in the humans are the most violant race is his ‘the damned trilogy’ genius and for me the closest to scalzi.
Interesting suggestions. So as not to duplicate I’ll recommend the late Charles Sheffield. Cold as Ice and Traders World are fun accessible Sci-Fi. The accessible part is why I recommend Scalzi to my Mundane friends and good gateway books.
“as good gateway books”
Speaking of Gateway, having just re-read it in honor of Fred Pohl’s passing I can see a lot of similarities to Scalzi’s narrative voice in Fred’s work.
@Ambivalent in Tokyo beat me to it, but I also think that Daniel Keys Moran’s _Continuing Time_ series is an excellent fit. The first book, _Emerald Eyes_, is very good, but the 2nd, _The Long Run_, is just AWESOME. There are 3 other books after that and they’re all quite good, and they have a similar feel to me as Scalzi books.
Since someone mentioned “MilSF + Romance” earlier, I’d like to mention the Steve Miller/Sharon Lee Liaden series (the later books are credited as Lee/Miller) – phenomenal characters, tons of well-done action, and interesting romance elements well played throughout the stories. The first book of that series is available for free as part of the Baen Free Library to help get you hooked :) http://www.baenebooks.com/p-595-agent-of-change.aspx
After adding Lee/Miller, I went back to look at how well this list maps onto pastSFWA presidents (and present, since Gould is also mentioned), and it’s doing pretty good – maybe the voters all like the same kind of SF? :)
If your readers are requesting Military themed Sci-fi, then there’s Gordon R Dickson Dorsai novels and Jerry Pournelle’s Falkenberg stories.
Wow, this just wasted a ton of my time at work, thanks.
I can’t believe that no one has mentioned my obvious first choice. Simon R. Green’s “Deathstalker” series; or his “Secret Histories” series.
Yes, you are well known for your Science Fiction series but the reason I can always count on your books as a buy versus a library choice is your amazingly realistic characters. I like Ringo’s military books but I could switch most of his characters around and there wouldn’t be any difference. I like the humor of Robert Asprin, but I don’t care what happens to the characters. You write realistic people that I care about that much like Heinlein are capable and capable of screwing up. You also manage to make me laugh in each book.
Simon R. Green has a huge Space Opera series that is funny, tragic, and so involving I have every book on my bookshelf. His new Druid series is a ripoff/compliment of the James Bond movies in the same way that Redshirts is a ripoff/compliment of Star Trek. I own every book he has ever written and I reread them frequently.
Now, here is the list of almost as good of recommendations:
Lois McMaster Bujold’s “ Miles Vorkosigan” series
David Brin’s “Uplift” Series
David Weber’s “Honor Harrington” series
John Ringo’s “Troy Rising” series
Jennifer Estep’s “Spider” series
Kevin Hearne’s “Iron Druid” series
Patrick E. McLean’s, “How to Succeed in Evil” series
Steve McHugh’s, “Hellequin Chronicles”
Patricia Brigs’ “Mercy Thompson” series
Cassie Alexander’s “Edie Spence” series
Hugh Howey’s, “Wool” omnibus
Richard Kadrey’s, “Sandman Slim” series
John’s writing style is similiar to a summer action movie. Short beginning, fateful decision, then directly into action with some snaky humor thrown in. Old Man’s War reads like a movie script. There isn’t a whole lot of world building (John has admitted to this) and the characters are not all that deep. They are basically the kind of books you steam roll through for pure entertainment and an easy read. I have always thought his books would translate well to movies and wondered if he had that in mind when he wrote them.
I second Pournelle and Niven (well more than 2nd with all the posts). In particular books they collaborate on(they work very well together). I also second or what James SA Corey(collaboration) due to pacing. I am surprised that people compare John to Joe Haldeman. Haldeman does do alot of action based sci-fi but he has a very different writing style and voice to John’s. His books are deeper and the action is less important than in John’s books. Haldeman’s writing style is far more terse and he tries to say alot in as few words as possible. John has more of a flow to his writing style that doesn’t require me to try as hard. It is more of a relaxing read. John won’t like this… but his pacing is very simliar to the first Star Wars movie. I do like Haldeman’s writing alot. However, it is a very different style than John’s.
Though I really like Turtledove, I find it odd that people would compare John to turtledove. Turtledove does the big picture approach to his book and has a large number of birds eye characters. John generally focuses on less characters and does not use much birds eye characters. His latest book is a bit of an exception, but that is less ‘birds eye’ than a group of interweaving short stories and a pretty big departure from his other books.
I think you can compare John’s books to non-scifi thriller novels with the traditional hero characters and a bit of humor.
So John how about a blog post about who you think you are similiar to? I really liked your list of influential authors,… your style is radically different than most of them.
Thank you for asking this. I like to read author blog posts when authors talk about writing because that is what your expertise is in. I have this post and the comments in my favorites. Thanks to everyone who posted comments. I generally prefer to read authors based on recommendations from others and I do like many different styles of authors.
I’ve only read Redshirts and Agent to the Stars as I’m not really into MilSF, but for those two, at least, I think Tom Holt is the English John Scalzi. His humour is definitely more British-flavoured, but stylistically, I think they’re similar. If you haven’t read Snow White and the Seven Samurai, you’re missing out.
Stephen R. Boyett, I recently read his first Novel “Ariel” and I am in the middle of his some years (20+) later sequel “Elegy Beach”. His engaging writing style I would say is similar to Scalzi, and I for sure get as sucked into his novels.
You remind me of Spider Robinson. But I don’t think you really “sound” like him. I would say firmly that if a reader liked your work, they would almost certainly like his as well.
Ussually, the main character of your books is telling us the story. A story where humour, wittness, smartmouth sentenses and a bit of satire are always present.
Given that, I would recommend you “Happiness TM”, by Will Ferguson. It’s not related to science fiction, but it shares all the things mentioned above.
As other many people, I also recommend anything written by Bujold Macmaster.
Jim butcher is the one who leaps immediately to mind. That combination of snarky yet goofy wit with excellent action sequences.
My first thought was Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes books – Funny and clever and quite reminiscent of RedShirts. Smart good stuff.
Ernest Cline, specifically “Ready Player One”, should definitely be in the running for someone with a similar style of writing.
I found that book’s character “voice”, the back and forth light humour between characters, the pacing and breakup between action and narration to be really well done. Plus his universe building was easily on par with yours. Of all your books i would say Ready Player One most closely resembles Redshirts.
I’d like to object to the people comparing Old Man’s War (and sequels) to John Ringo’s “Troy Rising”, largely on grounds of the themes in that latter set. Or, at least, I’d like to object to the comparison against the first one, because I couldn’t finish the series. Basically, as someone commented farther up, Ringo’s recent work is, IMO, overshadowed by his painful jingoism and the sort of attitude which made it seem like genetically re-engineering human women (even by a hostile force) to want to be baby-making machines first and foremost was a good thing. I dunno. That book had too much of an ideology I found distasteful soaking it.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any good recommendations, as my reading list is more limited than it could be. Pratchett definitely has the absurdity down, but his later Discworld stuff was very much more social commentary than anything else. Good Omens, might be a good choice for things to look at. I guess Going Postal and Making Money aren’t bad options either – the plot lines themselves have to do with people who do what they’re doing because they have to but the situations are ridiculous.
Your work is very like that of John Scalvi. He makes more typographical errors than you make — otherwise nearly identical.
Dana Stabenow, in that you are both reminiscent of Heinlein. She wrote three hard SF novels (in which Our Heroine supervises construction on the first L5 colony, then moves to the asteroid belt, then takes the kids on vacation to Mars) and then went back to writing mysteries. She lost me a few years ago when her woo-quotient got too high for my tastes, but the writing’s still good.
A less profane and twisted Warren Ellis. No, seriously.
Also, I put a recent blog post into that IWriteLike website referenced above and it suggested I write like H.P. Lovecraft. Uh… no.
I’d go in tone and character for _The Stainless Steel Rat_ of Harrison. Outside the genre, I’d say Estleman and his Amos Walker character in Detroit.
Topically, Steakley is a better match: close personal experience of the uncertainty of combat and the anxiety that can produce. Both your protagonist in _OMW_ and Steakley’s in _Armor_ manage to excel in the chaos despite their personal misgivings and doubts. Both characters have a tinge of cynicism about their universe.
Now, break the mirror. It doesn’t do you any good.
Kurt Vonnegut? Your books are similarly humanist*, witty, and ingenious. The main differences are that your books are a bit more tightly plotted and your themes are more personal.
*It depends on how seriously you take Vonnegut’s occasional dim view of humanity. I interpret Vonnegut’s books as arguing that the human enterprise is, on balance, worthwhile.
The first author I thought of was Joe Haldeman, so here’s another vote for him. I don’t think anyone’s specifically mentioned his book The Accidental Time Machine, which was what I thought of immediately. Light, fast, funny, and warm.
Another vote for A. Lee Martinez too. I don’t find most of his characters very appealing, but I adore The Automatic Detective (SF where the main character is a robot with issues). It has a very Scalzi feel to me.
What about L. Sprague de Camp? It’s been at least 30 years since I read anything by him so I can’t swear to my memory and can’t even remember any specific titles, but I thought he was hilarious when I was in middle school.
Anyone who’s looking more for your accessible tone and humor rather than specifically SF/milSF might try Kevin Hearne (fantasy), Lisa Shearin (fantasy with dollops of fun romance), Ben Aaronovich (I’m thinking specifically of his urban fantasy Peter Grant series), and Justine Larbalestier (YA fantasy and SF). The themes and settings are very different from yours but they all have the Scalzi snark, smart characters, and basic optimism.
1. Tom Robbins
2. Douglas Hofstadter (mostly Gödel, Escher, Bach)
3. Kurt Vonnegut
not necessarily in this order…Vonnegut is probly the closer match, but mostly because he is more sci-fi-y, than the other two. Some of the Achilles & Tortoise dialogs in GEB match up to your style of explaining complicated subjects.
Elmore Leonard. Boom.
I rarely feel that authors write similarly overall, but I often find stories that are similar. Two that weren’t mentioned were Glenn Cook’s The Dragon Never Sleeps, and John DeChancie’s Skyway series (which is a single story). They both revolve around unusual mechanisms for space travel, with plenty of action, dire situations and people that manage to prevail through pluck, luck and upon occasion actual skills.
The other stories I have read by these authors don’t remind me of any Scalzi story.
I’m going way off the Sci Fi theme, but I see a similarity with Dave Barry. You’re both willing to digress briefly from the main theme of the work to engage in snarky wiseassery and this is often the best part. The differences are clear, too. Barry doesn’t follow a novel structure; his digressions are sharp and obvious and don’t always return to the main theme.
I would also like to put forth similarities to Glen Cook, especially if you relate the Garrett series to tone and dialogue to the lighter momenets, and if I had read any of Glen Cook’s scifi material rather than the fantasy, maybe there is a better analog.
I think Michael Stackpole in terms of pacing and dialgoue could also be a thematic or stylistic match, but it is hard for me to tell since Stackpole seems to have done a lot of his writing inside other established universes (Star Wars, Battletech)
Someone who also gets a lot of story in per page as well is David Gemmell. You get enough description to get a picture of whats going on, but with his books you can find more story elements in a sub-300 page novel than you might find in some current ones weighing in at 600 or more as seems to be a current average.
I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings, but the analogy that comes to my mind is that you are to Charlie Stross what Bruce Sterling was to William Gibson. You two seem to write the same kinds of things. Stross’s stuff is written better (imho) but you research your stuff more, which is why your non-fiction knocks it out of the park. I would cheerfully trade every piece of fiction Sterling has written except maybe Distraction to get him back to writing the column he used to write for Science Fiction Eye, and similarly, I think your essays are so much better than your fiction that if I had to choose between them, I know which one I’d choose. On the other hand, no more of your fiction than I’ve read, it’s entirely possible that I’m completely wrong.
I love the shout out to David Gemmel!!! Hmmm, that is also a good choice.
I agree with whoever said David Gerrold. The Man Who Folded Himself is similar in terms of style, not just the first person storytelling, but also the voice used. Probably War Against the Chotrr also, but that slips a lot into talking at readers on occasion.
Not a current author (sorry) but I would say that your books are similar to James White’s writing. The Sector General series have a similar style of serious challenges with a slight ironic (almost campy) perspective.
My second though is Robert A. Frezza. I only read “McLendon’s Syndrome” by him, but “Fuzzy Nation” reminded me of it.
well…. Instead of who writes like Scalzi, who is one of my favorite authors…. I list some of my other favorite authors.
sort of, if you like this, you may like that…
Jim Butcher, “Dresden Files” ,Semi Modern Wizard Detective (stay away from the TV series) and his Sword and Horse fantasy series “Codex Alera”.
A. Lee Martinez, campy fantasy/horror/satire
Joe Abercombie, Sword and Horse fantasy
S. M. Sterling, the Emberverse series, but only the 1st three. it gets weird after that. Think Stephen King’s The Tower or Dune the later books
Mia Grant, zombie apocalypse
Richard K Morgan, Gritty, Military Sci/Fi
Neil Gaiman, modern fantasy
Basically if any of these authors write so much as ad copy on the back of a cereal box, i would seek it out to read it.
It’s interesting how folks want to pick and choose specific series from other authors and compare them to particular books and series of yours.
When I think of authors that also write clear, clean prose, write across genre, and have a wide ranging style and imagination (and that I like a lot I suppose since I read them) I come up with: Bujold, Zelazny, Brust, Dave Duncan, Gaiman, and I can’t believe no one has mentioned John Barnes. I think he and Bujold are the closest to you in style.
Musereader [and apologies for being late; we’ve had guests]
you can’t seriously tell me there is no satire in Scalzi. just…
it’s LESS satire, i grant. and not every single book has a lot of satire, and some of much more — but Scalzi has satire.
and it is GLORIOUS.
I concede that scalzi does do satire and Android’s dream is quite Pratchett like.
I have counted 147 authors mentioned so far.
By majority opinion who writes most like you is Lois McMaster Bujold with 15 mentions followed closely by Joe Haldeman with 12, Harry Harrison 10, Jim Butcher and John Varley with 8 each, Charlie Stross garnered 7 votes and tied with 6 are Spider Robinson, Keith Laumer, James S.A Corey and Niven/Pournelle (as a pair). David Brin comes just out of the top ten with 5 votes, Stephen Brust, Robert J.Sawyer, Robert Asprin and Tanya Huff got 4 each. And for 3 we have Iain Banks, Christopher Moore, Fredric Brown, Timothy Zahn, Alan Dean Foster, A. Lee Martinez, Ben Aaronovitch, Glen Cook and Terry Pratchett.
Any surprises? Comparisons you don’t understand that you would like explained more? Writers you just wouldn’t have considered to be anything like you? Any other thoughts or opinions on the list generated so far?
Seconding James White’s Sector General novels, for the mixture of humour and real issues, and for the culture-clash storylines. A slight warning, in the first few, there are a number of moments of “wait, is that sexist or ironic?” but it goes away (they were written between 1962 and 1999, so it could be contextual).
If you are looking at (1) themes, (2) writing style, (3) characterization, (4) humor, I think the closest (though hardly identical) would be Eric Frank Russell, especially the Great Explosion stories (most famously “And Then There Were None,” of course).
For OMW’s adventure with serious undertones but a light touch on the characters, I would recommend CJ Cherryh’s Chanur stories (some of her others have a stronger theme of politically-oriented paranoia, which The Last Colony approaches, so if you like that, I’d head toward Cherryh’s Cyteen and similar).
Some of Keith Laumer’s best works (especially the Worlds of the Imperium, recently re-released) also capture some of that OMW-type balance of serious events told and led by a smart, funny person. The Retief stories vary widely to my mind, but the best are clearly cousins (or maybe uncles) to The Human Division. For darker adventure with a kick I would recommend A Plague of Demons.
And I don’t think I saw anyone mention Stanley G. Weinbaum, who also has humor overlaying serious issues (as in his approaching death from cancer) — closer to Agent to the Stars than OMW in that sometimes the intent seems to be primarily humor rather than speculation. Ditto Fredric Brown in that respect. Also Harry Harrison’s The Technicolor Time Machine which falls somewhere between Agent to the Stars and The Android’s Dream.
For those who like trenchant commentary on our so-called civilization with humor, I’d move towards Alfred Bester, whose style and tone is quite different, but who shares some themes and the idea that one person can change the world. (See especially The Stars My Destination.) Or CM Kornbluth, though those stories tend to have a strain of dark cynicism I don’t find in Scalzi.
Others have mentioned Haldeman; beyond the obvious I would read his novella A !Tangled Web (and indeed the whole collection Dealing in Futures) which would cross over well into The Human Division.
Some of Randall Garrett’s work I would also recommend for those who like Scalzi, but not all of it. More of his short work.
I agree with whomever noted Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series as similar in many respects; it also, unlike some of these others, has a certain Midwesterner feel I think can be found in Scalzi. (In contrast with the New Yorker feel of, say, Bester or Asimov.)
Not impressed with “I Write Like”:
– Put in a RAH excerpt, got back first Ian Fleming, then Shakespeare.
– Put in a Hemingway excerpt, got back H.P.Lovecraft.
– Put in a Capote excerpt, got back Margaret Atwood.
I am surprised that no one mentioned Tom Robbinson. While he is not a science fiction author, his humor and the absurd situations in his books remind me of yours.
So, did folks come to an agreement of a handful of authors that write similar to Scalzi?
Can we have a cagematch now?
Or at least a poll of which one is mostest like Scalzi?
I thought Agent to the Stars had a breezy, Clifford D. Simak kind of feel to it. He had a knack for writing stories where the everyman encounters the extraordinary and just matter-of-factly deals with / triumphs over / profits from it, while never losing his mind or his sense of humor.
I can’t claim I’ve read a lot of Scalzi, though. The only other work of any length I’ve read is Old Man’s War, which I think does have a bit of Fifties / Golden Age feel to it, but not necessarily Simak. I could cite a laundry list of similar work, but I’m not sure to whom I would compare it specifically.
I deliberately posted my comment before reading others. I’m a bit surprised not to see more citations of early Asimov and Pohl alongside the prohibited Heinlein. I can certainly see the comparisons with Keith Laumer and Jim Butcher, though. They are not two I would have thought of offhand, but with a bit of reflection there’s a lot of similarity in style, if not necessarily substance.
I’m late to this, but have a slightly different take. Scalzi does read stylistically like Heinlein, Harrison as suggested above, but like many others, I thought of Bujold.
As I read the list above, I kept thinking, no, no not like that author, despite stylistic similarities. After thinking about my reaction, I realized that many of the authors suggested make me cringe, as a female reader. They can’t write women well or treat us as accessories, prizes or stereotypes.
Scalzi, unlike several authors above, writes women characters that feel real and comfortable to me. They are people, not sexy accessories or Mary Sues. I loved Stainless Steel Rat as a teen, but 20 years later, find the free wheeling sexism just irritating. It takes me out of the story. Scalzi never gives me that cringing feeling. All of his characters, men and women, protagonist or antagonist, feel like believable people. There is an underlying respect for all people in Scalzi’s work that is absent in several authors suggested above. That, to me, is integral to my enjoyment of books and my enjoyment of our host’s books.
That’s in part why I thought of Bujold. She also writes characters, including women, well, while sharing some of Scalzi’s sense of language, fun and adventure.
I’ll seconds MNmom’s suggestion of Kevin Hearne’s “Iron Druid” series. When I first read that series I wondered if maybe it might be Scalzi using a pseudonym!
Hm, next to the usual suspects like Haldemann, Harrison etc. I’d also say that the writing style of Neal Asher is similiar, for example in “The Skinner”
Hi, John. I’m a bit late on this, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to the incredibly close comparison so easily drawn between your style, and that of Sarah King; which is no more obvious than in her The Legend of Zero series. The scope, scale and concept of the universe she has created, the apparent care with which she did so, beg to be likened to the same in an OMW.
However, where you skew the closest to each other is in your commitment to writing character driven sci-fi, and delivering that time and again.
Book One in that series is Forging Zero.