I really want to argue against Adam-Troy Castro’s argument here that
nobody discovers a lifelong love of science fiction through Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein anymore, and directing newbies toward the work of those masters is a destructive thing, because the spark won’t happen. You might as well advise them to seek out Cordwainer Smith or Alan E. Nourse — fine tertiary avenues of investigation, even now, but not anything that’s going to set anybody’s heart afire, not from the standing start. Won’t happen.
By objecting that, actually, I so did discover a lifelong love of science fiction through Asimov, Clarke and even Nourse — The Mercy Men was one of the first sf novels I’ve ever read– but considering that happened a good thirty years ago, it’s hardly relevant to what actual young people would read. Even back then, something like I, Robot was several decades old and outdated in its technology and sociological attitudes both, but not so that I noticed as an eight year old reading it for the first time. Almost all children’s fiction I read was like that after all, set in some nebulous present that was clearly not mine: like the Bob Evers series, originally written in the fifties and early sixties. I read all that without caring or noticing much that these were old books, therefore I’m not sure that kids today can’t read in a similar way, even if there are no mobiles or computers in them.
On the other hand, there were a lot less opportunities to find science fiction thirty years ago. We only got cable tv in 1987 or so, our family’s first computer in the same year, no internet until the mid-nineties, etc. etc. There are just so many more ways in which you can get your first taste of science fiction today, that you certainly don’t need to seek out writers who’ve been dead longer than you’ve been alive. On the gripping hand however, some of the young adult stuff I read back then is still being sold today, with little problems though perhaps with some updates.
The rampant sexism and whitebread worldview of much socalled golden age science fiction might be more of a problem. Asimov might still be barely palatable due to his lack of female characters in general, though when they show up, they’re usually awful. The same goes for Clarke, though he was slightly better and few of his characters were well rounded humans anyway. Heinlein? Oy, Heinlein is very much a curate’s egg — parts are excellent, but some are hideous. At this point in time, I don’t think new readers will miss much skipping all these authors in favour of those like Dick, Delany, LeGuin or Russ which had slightly more to offer than just the strength of their ideas.