“The Golden Age of SF is 12”
You’ve heard that phrase, right?
For me, it may be the SF I read when I was 12, but I was not yet reading contemporary SF at that point. Thanks to an older brother introducing me to HIS Science fiction, I was reading for the most part slightly older science fiction than the contemporary at the beginning.
The 1984 Hugo novel nominees, for novels in 1983, when I was 12:
Startide Rising by David Brin [Bantam, 1983]
Tea with the Black Dragon by R. A. MacAvoy [Bantam, 1983]
Millennium by John Varley [Berkley, 1983]
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern by Anne McCaffrey [Ballantine Del Rey, 1983]
The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov [Doubleday, 1983]
I read none of these in 1983 or 1984. It would take me a couple of years to discover Brin, Varley, McCaffrey. It was a long time before I hit on MacAvoy. I was reading Asimov at that point, Asimov was one of my first authors but I was reading used paperbacks, not new ones. So I didn’t get to this one for a while.
Similarly, I hit Cyberpunk and Neuromancer a few years after its Annus mirabilis of 1984. I wanted to “catch up” with all the back history of the field, you see.
Zelazny’s Merlin novels were the first novels I was eagerly trying to read “in real time”. As time went on, I slowly started to shift toward new or recently published SF. It was the mid to late 90’s when I started reading Hugo and Nebula nominees in the year they came out, as a way of staying abreast of the field.
When I started reviewing seriously enough to have publishers start sending me books was when I started managing to read books *before* official release, but that wasn’t until about 5 or 6 years ago.