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Over the summer, NPR solicited the input of its listeners to rank the top science fiction and fantasy books of all time. Over 60,000 people voted for the top picks which were then compiled into a list by their panel of experts. The result? This list of 100 books with a wide range of styles, little context, and absolutely no pithy commentary to help readers actually choose something to read from it. SF Signal comes to the rescue with this handy flowchart.
posted by Artw (166 comments total) 121 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not a bad list, but they seemed a little inconsistent about when they would group multiple entries in a series together as one entity for the list.

That flowchart is an impressive piece of work.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:22 PM on September 27, 2011


Want some time-travel too? No. Cat's Cradle.
posted by Cerulean at 4:22 PM on September 27, 2011


That the "Fantasy/SciFi" fork has 4 "No" answers hanging off of it is probably my favourite bit.
posted by Artw at 4:27 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


The path leading to Hyperion dislodged a memory of the time when I checked it out of the library at the same time as Bujold's The Sharing Knife. I decided I would choose which one to read first on the basis of which had the better first sentence. The Sharing Knife begins
Fawn came to the well-house a little before noon.
The opening sentence of Hyperion is
The Hegemony Consul sat on the balcony of his ebony spaceship and played Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp Minor on an ancient but well-maintained Steinway while great, green saurian things surged and bellowed in the swamps below.
It wasn't what I would call a close decision.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:29 PM on September 27, 2011 [23 favorites]


I Am Legend is not about zombies.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:31 PM on September 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


Previously.

Glad to see the results!
posted by mokin at 4:31 PM on September 27, 2011


I'm surprised how angry I am about that mistake.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:32 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would just like to point out to everyone that The Book of the New Sun finished 75 places behind The Wheel of Time. Not wanting to get all "Your Top 100 list sucks..." about this but the only redeeming feature of that list is that it spawned such a nice flowchart.
posted by N-stoff at 4:33 PM on September 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I Am Legend originated all the modern Romero style zombies.
posted by Artw at 4:33 PM on September 27, 2011


Well, I guess I know what I am doing this winter!
posted by joe_monk at 4:33 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes... I, too, love that Billy Idol album.

Welcome to the future. Cyberpunk.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 4:35 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


May I start the bragging? I may, since 33.5 isn't really enough to be proud of. On the other hand I didn't count movie treatments.
posted by TreeRooster at 4:35 PM on September 27, 2011


My favorite bit is how a "no" answer to "interested in Dystopian fiction?" leads directly to Animal Farm.
posted by vorfeed at 4:37 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I Am Legend originated all the modern Romero style zombies.

Well, yes, but still, the flowchart asks if you want vampires and then when you say "no" it gives you I Am Legend. "Vampires" doesn't really mean vampires anymore, does it? It's not a creature, it's a genre.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:37 PM on September 27, 2011


I'm delighted to see so many recent books on this list.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:37 PM on September 27, 2011


Check out the flowchart on a mobile (ideally 3-inch or smaller) phone.

I thought the first question for me was, "How about hentai?"
posted by mrgrimm at 4:38 PM on September 27, 2011


They seem to have included The Lord of the Rings twice, right up at the top sensibly enough and then again at #67 for some reason.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:38 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, 93.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:38 PM on September 27, 2011


I think it's a pretty good list; the Gaimen fans seem to have some out in force, which isn't a bad thing, and I was happy to see some personal favorites on it (Bujold, Caves of Steel, The Crystal Cave, etc).

But I think that this list isn't really a list of the "best" SF&F, but really the most famous/influential -- like the Xanth series, which makes up what it might lack in quality in sheer popularity (and acts as a gateway for many people into more sophisticated fantasy). It's very hard to rate "best" - I certainly wouldn't try, because I haven't read more obscure literary SF&F.

Of course, if we were going to make a list of the "best" SF&F - we have to start with Zamyatin's We.
posted by jb at 4:56 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


With stuff like Zahn's Star Wars books, even if they're not great, they've been consistently popular enough for me to nod and kind of give them credit for that long-lasting popularity. But Sanderson's Mistborn series AND The Way of Kings? Kushiel's Legacy? The Crystal Cave, "the first of a five part series"? Routhfuss's "series," of which two books have been published so far? FFS.

I feel like there is some ridiculously successful guerrilla marketing at play here.
posted by Amanojaku at 4:56 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I take back The Crystal Cave; I didn't recognize that cover, and thought it was something recent. Still.
posted by Amanojaku at 4:58 PM on September 27, 2011


It is not even vaguely attempting to represent itself as a "100 best" list; it's very up-front about being a "top 100 things that people were willing to vote for" list.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:59 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


After Reamde, can we retcon Stephenson out of existence? IIRC he had a couple books listed right? That proves the list is invalid.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:00 PM on September 27, 2011


I want to piss and moan about the absence of Le Guin's Earthsea books. Now I have done that, though I would be gladdened if someone else agreed with me.

And if they did, I might even share my true name with them.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:02 PM on September 27, 2011 [18 favorites]


What was the fifth part of the Crystal Cave series? (Really, I think of them as a trilogy with sequels, and not just because my mom had the first three in a box set with the fourth as an odd different edition - the narrator also changes). It certainly is one of the best of a genre (Arthurian re-tells) - best that I've read, though I have a soft spot for the feminist and well-wrtten but really ahistorican Mists of Avalon.
posted by jb at 5:03 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


No Delaney? This list doesn't matter.
posted by hippybear at 5:03 PM on September 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


That would be ahistoricaL.
posted by jb at 5:04 PM on September 27, 2011


Also, I should note that the flowchart is being blocked from my work internet as porn.

(Which I guess it is - geek fan porn).
posted by jb at 5:04 PM on September 27, 2011


Routhfuss's "series," of which two books have been published so far? FFS.

Two INCREDIBLY readable books, for what it's worth. Probably my fave newly discovered author of the last few years.

As for the list? I was just happy to have read 8 of the top 10. Ok, I'm still a couple books short on the Song of Ice and Fire series, so let's say 7.6 of the top 10. :)
posted by antifuse at 5:05 PM on September 27, 2011


Why would you need a panel of experts to compile this list? Couldn't they just have asked fishlike to write a query to do it?
posted by cjorgensen at 5:11 PM on September 27, 2011


Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? isn't even in the top 20? Gravity's Rainbow* is nowhere to be found? Shame on you, voters!


*This might not typically be classified as sci-fi.
posted by clorox at 5:12 PM on September 27, 2011


No, it's not. Slipstream very maybe.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:14 PM on September 27, 2011


Not enough Wolfe. Too much Heinlein. No Farmer. No Vance.

Bah.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:16 PM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


After Reamde, can we retcon Stephenson out of existence?

Is that that guy who wrote that cool cyberpunky book in the early 90s and never wrote another book again? Because that was a great book, I wish he'd write another one.
posted by aspo at 5:16 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


No CJ Cherryh, either.

Very underrated, is Ms C.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:17 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just found my guide for borrowing eBooks from the library. Cheers.

(Also, 43, so I have more than half of that list to fill my days reading on the bus.. awesome)
posted by linux at 5:17 PM on September 27, 2011


So at one point, depending on what you choose, you get either Erikson or Zelazny. I was too old to read one at 14 and am still too young at 41 for the other. Those two should not be on the same line. This comes from someone that loves both.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:18 PM on September 27, 2011


Every time one of these lists comes out I'm a little excited to read it and see how everybody else ranks these things, and a little disappointed because I've read most of them and I'm running out of generally-regarded-as-foundational-or-acclaimed sci-fi. It's like I keep hoping one day I'm going to click a link and there's going to be a list of 75 awesome books that everybody loves that I've never heard of.
posted by penduluum at 5:18 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd consider the original list deeply flawed :

H.P. Lovecraft obliterates half the authors listed. Hello? D&D? Video games? All modern horror? Exactly where do you think all their ideas originate? Alright, yes Tolkien of course, but also very much Lovecraft.

Also, Pullman's His Dark Materials destroys that asshat Card's work.

Btw, the Lovecraft tag currently beats out the Tolkien tag on MetaFilter, with the victory margin widening considerably if you add initials.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:19 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love the flowchart, but am not at all convinced by the list. I would love to see the same flowcharty goodness applied to other best-of lists, or to something like the Criterion Collection films.
posted by Forktine at 5:21 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


His Dark Materials was excluded because it's classified as young adult. Don't get me started...
posted by diogenes at 5:32 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, Pullman's His Dark Materials destroys that asshat Card's work.

Absolute truth you speak. I'm not widely read in SF/Fantasy (pretty much stopped when I became self-consciously "literary" in my late teens and am now trying to work my way back in using recommendations from those whose taste I trust), but I have endured Ender's Game. It's garbage. Its esteem amongst fans of SF/Fantasy is really disappointing.

AND WHERE THE FUCK IS THE EARTHSEA TRILOGY?
posted by Roachbeard at 5:39 PM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Love the flowchart, and kudos to NPR for putting all 100 on one page.
posted by marxchivist at 5:41 PM on September 27, 2011


Btw, the Lovecraft tag currently beats out the Tolkien tag on MetaFilter, with the victory margin widening considerably if you add initials.

Tolkien may be undertagged though - check out
Lotr.
posted by Artw at 5:48 PM on September 27, 2011


Interesting gaps with the Hugo List:

No Robert Charles Wilson (Spin is excellent), no Robert Sawyer, only one Connie Willis (at 97, and she has won 3 Hugos), no David Brin (I guess he sorta faded away, but dominated the Hard SF Renaissance), no Philip Jose Farmer (just as well, I guess).

And the World Fantasy Awards seem to be totally off from the popular list:

No Guy Gavriel Kay, No Tim Powers (seriously, read Declare), no Jeffery Ford, no Jack Vance.

Incidentally, Jack Vance, along with Tolkein, is probably the most responsible for D&D as we know it...

tl;dr: You should read Tim Powers. And this list totally ignores most 1980s-early 1990s SF.
posted by blahblahblah at 5:53 PM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Interesting stuff--I'll give it a go for my next book.

Secret nerd confession: other than some "classics" that crossover (more or less) into the mainstream canon--1984, Brave New World, LOTR, Vonnegut, etc.--I would be hard pressed to name a science fiction fiction or fantasy book I enjoyed. I do lurve Lovecraft, though. But Gibson, say? I donated Neuromancer to Goodwill within 50 pages. Just reading the Wikipedia synopsis for the Song of Ice and Fire gives me hives. But I always think there's some entree for me to get into this stuff, so I keep trying.

While I'm getting nerd confessional, if I never saw any Star Wars movie again in my life (I'm talking originals, not Lucas's revisions), I would not mind.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:03 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


No Delaney? This list doesn't matter.

Delaney isn't prominent on the popular radar. A decent film adaptation of Empire Star would fix that.
posted by ovvl at 6:05 PM on September 27, 2011


This flowchart has a huge spoiler for one of my favorite books. I don't think I can get more specific without exacerbating the problem, though.
posted by roystgnr at 6:07 PM on September 27, 2011


what's your ideal pet? -> bunny. -> "Watership Down".

Assholes. Magnificent assholes.
posted by stavrogin at 6:19 PM on September 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


As I pointed out previously, that there is not a single work by Brunner on this list is an outrage.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:20 PM on September 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Goodkind and Jordan are on it, ob1, it's just a popularity contest.
posted by stavrogin at 6:24 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Admiral Haddock,

I'm definitely not authoritative on this stuff, but you should try Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy. For my money, it's analogous to Le Carré in being at once truly genre fiction and very handsomely written.

Yeah, William Gibson is not going down in literary history as the natural heir of Henry James or Nabokov. His writing is pretty hacky. But his more recent novels are endowed with a level of description that is almost OCD and totally quotidian (and dispensed in serviceable prose,) which I find really interesting. It's almost like reading a graphic novel in that the scenes are so tailored visually, and I find that a nice break once in a while. I do agree that the cyberpunk stuff is pretty lame. The Bigend ones are also lame (fetishistic descriptions of laptops and boutique hotel rooms - I think he's ripping off Murakami at points) but something about them soothes the geek within.
posted by Roachbeard at 6:26 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


His Dark Materials was excluded because it's classified as young adult.

RA Salvatore is for toddlers, and the Drizzt books are still there.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 6:30 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


How good is "Belgariad"? It's one of the only books in this list I hadn't heard of and it sounds like something I'd enjoy.

Also: no "Mars" trilogy?
posted by eugenen at 6:33 PM on September 27, 2011


Interesting, blahblahblah. I know nothing about Jack Vance. Is he the first author to use the "magic reasserts itself in a post-apocalyptic future" thing? Is that a major anime thing now? Did Shadowrun popularize that?

I've heard claims that Gary Gygax also credited Lovecraft heavily, although maybe simply to avoid lawsuits from Tolkien's estate. Tolkien had two-ish intense dungeon crawls. Lovecraft revealed his subterranean worlds frequently. Is there a detailed subterranean world in Vance's fiction? I'd imagine that Tolkien and Lovecraft were both major influences on Vance, of course.

Also, I've always felt that Lovecraft's dreamlands were more liberating than Tolkien's middle earth as well. I haven't read much besides Lovecraft from the Weird Tales era though.

I should favorite every comment complaining about a good author not being listed here.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:34 PM on September 27, 2011


@eugenen: Look again. It's there. Are these worth reading?
posted by word_virus at 6:36 PM on September 27, 2011


D&D's entire magic system is ported whole cloth from Vance's Dying Earth series.
posted by word_virus at 6:37 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


At least two Le Guins are on the list; Earthsea was probably excluded as Young Adult.

Admiral Haddock: are you someone into prose style or character story more? For strong characters, I would recommend Lois McMaster Bujold - her style is a bit awkward for the first Vorkosigan books, but polished by the time she wrote her epic fantasy The Curse of Chalion. For excellent styling, check out Geoff Ryman (The warrior who carried life or The Child Garden) or Elisabeth Vonarburg (Maerlande Chronicles, also called In the Mother's land - translated from French, but well done).
posted by jb at 6:37 PM on September 27, 2011


As an aside, I've found a fun game to play with Harry Potter fans, they name a creature, and you tell them it's name in the D&D Monster manual. Voldemort is a Lich, for example.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:40 PM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


For those who want to read character-driven fantasy in a series that is actually FINISHED, look no further than Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet. Bonus points for not being placed in a knockoff medieval Europe.
posted by Ber at 6:41 PM on September 27, 2011


My god. I could actually read some sci-fi if I follow this.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:42 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


@word_virus Ack! Scrolled past it somehow.

Very much worth reading, though sometimes rough going.
posted by eugenen at 6:43 PM on September 27, 2011


Actually, my current favorite SF is 20th Century Boys - but manga really wasn't on the radar for this one. Ōoku is pretty good too.

and while I'm linking
Geoff Ryman
Elisabeth Vonarburg
posted by jb at 6:44 PM on September 27, 2011


It looks close, Artw. Tolkien + LoTR and Lovecraft + HPLovecraft each have 86 tags, excluding the overlaps, assuming that's what the parentheses indicate.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:46 PM on September 27, 2011


Only one real peeve...

LeGuin's "Dispossessed" describes an anarcho-syndicalist world, not a communist one (and while Urras has a communist superpower, it exists more to allow comparisons between the (former) US/USSR tension from the real world, against the no-less-flawed "utopia" of Anarres.
posted by pla at 6:46 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Admiral Haddock,

I am a long time SF addict, made special efforts to check off. well find. every work by Heinlen, Asimov, Van Vogt, every volume of the Lensman series. But since that golden childhood, er, entrenched curled up in bedroom childhood, I've 'gone off' SF a number of times. SF and fantasy just is not some folks cup of tea. It is worthwhile to work through works like LOTR or Strange in a Strange land but enjoy your preferred beverage.

The list seems to be significant more about the current fan culture than the specific works. Enders at third demonstrates significant skew.
posted by sammyo at 6:50 PM on September 27, 2011


I've found Song of Ice and Fire quite palatable, Admiral Haddock. All those books are fairly episodic like some TV show, making them very light and fast reading. All the outright fantasy elements like magic are kept well under control and elusive, giving them slightly more mystery. I dislike sloppier magic heavy fantasy like Erikson. Martin ain't Tolkien, but worth reading, imho.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:54 PM on September 27, 2011


Ahh, I doubt I'd enjoy Jack Vance much if he invented the D&D magic system. It works for playing games, but I've never seen it work for storytelling.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:57 PM on September 27, 2011


jeffburdges : I know nothing about Jack Vance. Is he the first author to use the "magic reasserts itself in a post-apocalyptic future" thing?

Magic, but not magic... More of a technomage so evolved beyond what we would call "tech" as to make the magic appear, well, just like plain ol' magic.

The ending of the last book makes that clear, with the way he gets rid of the "ghost". Pure Sci-Fi.



I've heard claims that Gary Gygax also credited Lovecraft heavily, although maybe simply to avoid lawsuits from Tolkien's estate.

Gygax actually ripped spell-names off wholesale from Vance, leaving absolutely no question about their origin. As for HPL/Tolkien, I really don't see more than the vaguest hints of Lovecraftian influence on D&D, while only a blind cave-dwelling centipede could miss the Tolkienian references.
posted by pla at 6:57 PM on September 27, 2011


jeffburdges : Ahh, I doubt I'd enjoy Jack Vance much if he invented the D&D magic system. It works for playing games, but I've never seen it work for storytelling.

Dying Earth reads nothing like the far-too-voluminous body of derivative D&D "official fanfic". Quite good, IMO, and I loathe almost the entirety of the latter.
posted by pla at 6:59 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nerds!
posted by mikelieman at 7:01 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


@pla: Seconded. Tales Of The Dying Earth should really be on this list.
posted by word_virus at 7:05 PM on September 27, 2011


No Tim Powers (seriously, read Declare)

Doing so right now! I haven't been this engrossed by a novel since, well, Last Call.

How good is "Belgariad"?

Don't do it, dude.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:05 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Vance is a sly writer, not much like D&D at all. And he wrote in the 1950s. I think of him as a less literary version of Gene Wolfe, with all that entails - love of language, "exotic" place names, picaresque wanderings through fallen worlds, some humor. One representative passage:

Mounting the north bank of the Scaum, he saw ahead the Porphiron Scar, the dark poplars and white columns of Kaiin, the dull gleam of Sanreale Bay.

Wandering the crumbled streets, he put the languid inhabitants such a spate of questions that one in wry jocularity commended him to a professional augur.

This one dwelled in a booth painted with the Signs of the Aumoklopelastianic Cabal. He was a lank brownman with red-rimmed eyes and a stained white beard.

“What are your fees?” inquired Guyal cautiously.

“I respond to three questions,” stated the augur. “For twenty terces I phrase the answer in clear and actionable language; for ten I use the language of cant, which occasionally admits of ambiguity; for five, I speak a parable which you must interpret as you will; and for one terce, I babble in an unknown tongue.”

posted by blahblahblah at 7:09 PM on September 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Also, no Cyberiad! (Which features the best translating outside of whoever did 100 Years of Solitude), to whit:

"Have it compose a poem--a poem about a haircut! But lofty, noble, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism and in the face of certain doom! Six lines, cleverly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter s!!"

"And why not throw in a full exposition of the general theory of nonlinear automata while you're at it?" growled Trurl. "You can't give it such idiotic--"

But he didn't finish. A melodious voice filled the hall with the following:

Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed.
Silently scheming,
Sightlessly seeking
Some savage, spectacular suicide.

posted by blahblahblah at 7:11 PM on September 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


How good is "Belgariad"?

Belgariad was moderately pleasing fantasy fiction (which all my friends were telling me was the BEST FUCKING SET OF CHARACTERS EVER and which I was disagreeing with because they all felt like cardboard cutouts to me)...

And then I read the beginning of the Mallorean, which starts out "well, all the prophesies were fulfilled, but for reasons unknown they much all be fulfilled again!!!", and then the author spends five books retelling the story of the five books he just finished...

And at that point I stopped giving even the tiniest shit about the Belgariad.
posted by hippybear at 7:11 PM on September 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


Also: no "Mars" trilogy?

I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!?!

fuuuuuuuuuuuck this list

Rothfuss? Fucking... really?! AUGH.
posted by pts at 7:19 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I Am Legend originated all the modern Romero style zombies.

Well, yes, but still, the flowchart asks if you want vampires and then when you say "no" it gives you I Am Legend. "Vampires" doesn't really mean vampires anymore, does it? It's not a creature, it's a genre.


Yeah, but it is zombies.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:20 PM on September 27, 2011


Kinda. that flowchart confuses me
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:20 PM on September 27, 2011


Not enough Wolfe. Too much Heinlein. No Farmer. No Vance.

In my view, having Wolfe and leaving out Vance is like including Spider Robinson and omitting Heinlein.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:20 PM on September 27, 2011


Fan of Westerns???? You don't have to be a fan of westerns to love watching a better-faster-stronger Clint Eastwood send some mutant, robot, wizard asshats to the their respective makers.

"First comes smiles, then comes lies. Last is gunfire."
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:23 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this link and post btw, you've put me over the top with regards to reading several of these.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:29 PM on September 27, 2011


Couldn't just be SF huh? But then I suppose ole L Ron would have made the list.

This list is a apt condemnation of popular taste. That many people swoon over Ender's Game?
posted by Max Power at 7:31 PM on September 27, 2011


How good is "Belgariad"? It's one of the only books in this list I hadn't heard of and it sounds like something I'd enjoy.

Superb if you're an alienated 13 year old boy with omnivorous tastes and little regard for prose style. Not so superb otherwise.

I'm surprised how angry I am about that mistake.

You, sir, are a man of unquestionable discernment. I like the cut of your jib.

May I start the bragging? I may, since 33.5 isn't really enough to be proud of. On the other hand I didn't count movie treatments.

Out of a possible 100 (ie "The Culture Series" only counts as 1), I get around 70. Give or take. Because there are a few I can't remember if I read when I was really young or if I just remember reading about them and TV or movie adaptations (frex The Once and Future King, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) so I didn't count them. On the other hand, I gave myself a point for Robert Jordan even though I read 3 of the books and threw the rest in the trash. And so on. So a soft 70.
posted by Justinian at 7:36 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have heard.... bad things... about the far reaches of the Xanth books.
posted by Artw at 7:40 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have heard.... bad things... about the far reaches of the Xanth books.

There is a novel entitled The Color of Her Panties. Presented without comment.
posted by Justinian at 7:42 PM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have heard.... bad things... about the far reaches of the Xanth books.

Xanth -- read the first trilogy. After that, it's all just shit.
posted by hippybear at 7:53 PM on September 27, 2011


The absence of Guy Gavriel Kay on this list is appalling. "Tigana" is excellent, as are "The Lions of Al-Rassan" and "The Sarantine Mosaic."
posted by dnash at 7:56 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, thanks, NPR, for putting all of these on one page.
posted by word_virus at 8:02 PM on September 27, 2011


I've read a very large majority of these books. A soft 80, perhaps. I was happy to see Jim Butcher in the list and while I haven't actually read that one, his Dresden Files is all kinds of awesome. And apparently a TV series.

It was good to see China Mieville in there at the bottom. Perdido Street Station was fascinating, stunning in scope and imagination and a wonderful love/adventure/fantasy/freakymultigenre story.

Alas, no Jeff Vandermeer. If Mieville can make it to the list, Vandermeer should too.

The list is definitely not a "best of" but rather of "most popular". Fortunately that doesn't mean that they are mutually exclusive, and popular usually doesn't mean bad.
posted by ashbury at 8:02 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unless it's beer. Then popular usually does mean bad.
posted by mollweide at 8:21 PM on September 27, 2011


In my view, having Wolfe and leaving out Vance is like including Spider Robinson and omitting Heinlein.

I can't tell if you're saying Vance is better than Wolfe or just came before him. If the former, there are not words strong enough for our disagreement (and I really liked Tales of the Dying Earth).
posted by adamdschneider at 8:36 PM on September 27, 2011


Umm, "unless" it's beer? Have you ever drunk a Heineken, Stella Artois, etc.? Forget the beers so bad their names must never be spoken, virtually all the most popular theoretically-upscale beers like these are atrocious. I donno if I've ever seen an even drinkable beer in an American airport aside from Sam Adams. It's kinda rare you find a bar with Stone or Great Divide or something.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:38 PM on September 27, 2011


I find that list surprisingly gratifying for what it is.
posted by Phire at 8:56 PM on September 27, 2011


I feel like there is some ridiculously successful guerrilla marketing at play here.

Yes, with the Ice and Fire series front and centre.
posted by the noob at 9:02 PM on September 27, 2011


and - one Atwood book? I would have thought Blind Assassin.
posted by the noob at 9:04 PM on September 27, 2011


Aww come on American fucking Gods?
posted by DLWM at 9:11 PM on September 27, 2011


No "Belgariad," then. Got it.
posted by eugenen at 9:23 PM on September 27, 2011


What kind of aliens would you like>peaceful>Childhood's End

Whoa! Spoiler!
posted by CarlRossi at 9:39 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well I guess I should just read the 5 or so I haven't read yet and skip the flowchart. Decent list; I'd have voted for some Patricia Anthony, but she's not exactly a crowd pleaser.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:46 PM on September 27, 2011


Are you kidding me? How did [insert title here] make the list? [insert popular author here] is a hack and repetitive!

The list is useless since it doesn't include [insert obscure author here] or [insert more obscure author here]!

Damn, can't you see that my esoteric taste in science fiction and fantasy is the only correct one!
posted by Argyle at 10:00 PM on September 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Now we need some resourceful and generous soul to mine the MeFi comments in this thread and the previous one to create our own (better) flowchart.

Any volunteers? Seriously I would buy you a beverage of your choice to see that.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:07 PM on September 27, 2011


OK, but Ender’s Game at #3, ignoring the fact that it sucks, is only there because 30,000 people have only read one SF book and that was it.

Seriously, that kind of thing happens all the time. I don’t know why people vote in polls on subjects they have no interest in.
posted by bongo_x at 10:37 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, but Ender’s Game at #3, ignoring the fact that it sucks, is only there because 30,000 people have only read one SF book and that was it.

Even true sci-fi fans enjoy it, because they read it at a time in their life where geek revenge fantasies and immersion into videogames were appealing.

Er, so I heard.

Plus, the 'bloggers take over the world' subplot is great in a post-Julian Assange world.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:52 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bloggers? BLOGGERS? How dare you, sir. They were commenters on something more analogous to Usenet. Bloggers! Really!
posted by Justinian at 11:22 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bloggers? BLOGGERS? How dare you, sir. They were commenters on something more analogous to Usenet. Bloggers! Really!

That's like steampunk Twitter, right?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:42 PM on September 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Demosthenes is not amused.
posted by Justinian at 11:44 PM on September 27, 2011


I'm a bit surprised there is no Kurt Vonnegut.
posted by evil_esto at 2:16 AM on September 28, 2011


Ahh, I doubt I'd enjoy Jack Vance much if he invented the D&D magic system. It works for playing games, but I've never seen it work for storytelling.

Gygax's magic system was borrowed from Vance but changed the core a lot. Vancian wizards normally have up to half a dozen big spells they can cast once per story, and it would take them weeks of research to either recover one. And this works in the same way that James Bond carries up to half a dozen gadgets he will use once per story, and it would take a trip to Q to recover one once destroyed. D&D wizards can memorize that many spells per day and can change them every day. Which, no, doesn't work well for storytelling.
posted by Francis at 2:23 AM on September 28, 2011


I strongly recommend accompanying your reading of this list with the blog entry written about it by (full disclosure) my dear friend Glen Weldon, who is both a genius and a hoot.

Parsing The Results

In it, he talks about how to get your book near the top of this list (first piece of advice: "Write it a long time ago"), discusses its popularity-contest-osity, and lots more.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 3:23 AM on September 28, 2011


For those who are new to SciFi and looking at this list for entry points - do yourself a favor and put off Asimov's Foundation series. It was very influential and full of big ideas, but it's not well-written. I read it as a teenager, but every time I try re-reading it, I give up. If you want to try Asimov, go with I, Robot.

And the fact that much of D&D was borrowed from The Dying Earth does not mean that they are similar experiences. There are people who don't like Vance, but it's a mystery why that is. Also, he was still writing very good stuff into the '2000s; he's not just an author from the '50s and'60s. His Wikipedia page.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:51 AM on September 28, 2011


The summary for The Mote In God's Eye could not possibly be more wrong. Not only are the very facts reversed, the facts mentioned aren't even the relevant ones!
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:55 AM on September 28, 2011


The flowchart is impressive, but more importantly it has pointed out a I problem I have to myself - apparently my memories of Cat's Cradle and Slaughter House V are so intertwined with each other that I remember time travel in both of them? Oh no, I guess I'll just have to reread the selected best works of Vonnegut. Whatever shall I do.
posted by Mizu at 4:22 AM on September 28, 2011


Well. That was a bit of fun.
posted by valkane at 4:33 AM on September 28, 2011


Argyle : The list is useless since it doesn't include [insert obscure author here] or [insert more obscure author here]!

Bah! [insert obscure author here] has gone downhill ever since he found God, nothing but thinly-veiled Christ parables that would make CS Lewis blush at the obviousness.

Though I'll admit his [insert obscure author's impenetrable defining work] makes good light bedtime reading, for those willing to take the time to learn Greek, Assyrian, and Klingon so as to fully appreciate his masterful language-play.
posted by pla at 4:42 AM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Roachbeard, JB, Sammyo and Jeffburdges--thanks for the recommendations!

Here's my two main complaints with science fiction and fantasy:

1) I don't like flowery prose--I like straight, direct writing (in all genres). Think Hemingway rather than Faulkner (though I do love Faulkner). I was reading a yarn last year and the author actually busted out with "The rocks jutted out around the island like jagged, broken teeth." Really? That is terrible. Tell me how something is, and I'll decide what it's like.

2) I don't like alternative worlds/universes cut from whole cloth. I have no interest in the arid plains of Stenryl, where the elder Groms of Trong weave music out of the sand using the Whisper Arts developed under the barbarous reign of King Fril. I like Earth and I like humans--Philip K. Dick (Ubik, Do Androids...) rather than Asimov's Foundation. I don't think I'd like Dune or the Banks books (though I liked the Wasp Factory and Walking on Glass). I probably wouldn't like any fantasy, now that I think about it (other than LOTR).

Any advice for matter-of-fact prose in human based scifi? Herbert, maybe?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:00 AM on September 28, 2011


I feel like there is some ridiculously successful guerrilla marketing at play here.

>Yes, with the Ice and Fire series front and centre.


Not necessarily. Riding on the coattails of the HBO series and the release of the new book after six years, it's no wonder it'd be high on the nerd conscience. I mean, there is a strategy game that comes out tomorrow and apparently they've given out no copies to be reviewed yet. I bet it will still sell more than they can handle.

Btw, the Lovecraft tag currently beats out the Tolkien tag on MetaFilter, with the victory margin widening considerably if you add initials.

That is just silly.

Lovecraft
Tolkien

H. P. Lovecraft
J. R. R. Tolkien

QED.
posted by ersatz at 5:12 AM on September 28, 2011


There is always the option of simply selecting your stories based upon the author's 'importance', Admiral Haddock. Asimov, Clarke, and Stanisław Lem are each very important. Larry Niven is nice for hard scifi too, even if he isn't as good a writer. Yes, Herbert is important, of course. Heinlein not nearly so much, way overrated ihmo, silly escapist plot devices. Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut are important as a humorists, but they use scifi liberally. Tolkien, Lovecraft, and apparently Vance are all important. I should read some Silverberg, and Le Guin, and more Philip K. Dick myself, now that you have me thinking about it.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:47 AM on September 28, 2011


MetaFilter's own John Scalzi is on the list at number 74; in the flowchart, pick SciFi, no to Cyber Punk, yes Blast into Space, yes War Buff, and in answer to "Who shall we fight?" pick EVERYBODY.
posted by Fat Charlie the Archangel at 5:48 AM on September 28, 2011


I think a more useful list would be something like:

20 best sci-fi books of the 1960s; 20 best of the 1970s, etc.

I think it's very hard to compare literature over periods longer than a decade or so.
posted by jet_manifesto at 6:02 AM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Any advice for matter-of-fact prose in human based scifi? Herbert, maybe?

Heh, no. Try Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, maybe? Perhaps William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and Daniel Suarez.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:14 AM on September 28, 2011


Actually, come to think of it, neither Gibson nor Stephenson will fit, as both do heavy traffic in similes. Suarez still works, though.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:15 AM on September 28, 2011


Ah, if you like straight-forward prose, then I would change my recommendations completely (I was thinking you might be a fan of imagistic literary fiction). You may not like Ryman as much (writes heavily in metaphor), but you will like Bujold more. She has both very human-oriented SF (about families, disability, politics, war) and human oriented fantasy with a small amount of divine intervention. I like her style, and I find that even in her fantasy she tends to just call a spade a spade. I would actually throw you into the middle of her Vorkosigan series and say that you should read her novella "The Borders of Infinity" (published in a book of the same name). It stands on its own as a story, and was where she really began to find her footing (the earlier books can be a bit pulpy in style, storyline).

But more than that, I would recommend Asimov's Caves of Steel. It's often over-shadowed by the Foundation series, but I think it's one of his best. One the surface, it's a mystery novel, but really it's a novel about the future of working people in a world that doesn't need their labour.

Neither Bujold nor Asimov are as polished as Hemmingway, where every word is thought about - but both have very straight-forward, simile and metaphor-light prose with very grounded, human oriented stories.
posted by jb at 7:18 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I could be wrong, but I think Ender's Game would get trashed far less often if Card hadn't revealed his political views to be slightly to the right of Darth Vader.
posted by brain_drain at 7:26 AM on September 28, 2011


ctrl F "dhalg"
close tab
posted by Meatbomb at 7:27 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh - and there is a lot of fantasy which is more grounded and human-oriented (rather than magic) than LOTR.

The predictor on whether you will love LOTR for me is: how do you feel about Anglo-Saxon. and other epic poems? Big on names, epic battles, low on character development, slice of life (those last two are my number one requirements for a story - but my friend with the PhD in Anglo-Saxon literature loved not having all that boring mushy stuff).

Whereas Bujold's fantasy - or something like Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana has a lot more about the characters, their interactions and development as people. I like my fantasy to have solid world creation - less about making up magic, more about how the economy works, who farms what, where they go to the bathroom - and good character development and change over the course of the book.
posted by jb at 7:30 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


brain_drain: I read Ender's Game as an adult, and I couldn't figure out what all the fuss is about. It wasn't even memorable. Whereas I recently read his Alvin Maker series and found it to utterly brilliant.

Of course, I should point out that I am an adult who has never enjoyed video games, and who is a historian with an interest in pre-modern race relations.
posted by jb at 7:37 AM on September 28, 2011


brain_drain: Agreed. And to be fair, most people who love Ender's Game (myself included) first read it some time in their early-mid teens, if not earlier, and while I still love revisiting it from time to time, I can definitely see how people would be less inclined to like it if they first read it as an adult. On the other hand, the follow-ups to Ender's Game (not the Bean series, which I quite enjoy as well, but Speaker For The Dead et al) I absolutely HATED when I first read them as a teenager, but I quite enjoyed them when I picked them up again in my mid-20's. Haven't read them since though, so I dunno what I'll think about them if I tried to read them as I approach my mid-30's. Too much other stuff to read any way. I can't put down Ready Player One, for example.
posted by antifuse at 7:43 AM on September 28, 2011


The predictor on whether you will love LOTR for me is: how do you feel about Anglo-Saxon. and other epic poems? Big on names, epic battles, low on character development, slice of life (those last two are my number one requirements for a story - but my friend with the PhD in Anglo-Saxon literature loved not having all that boring mushy stuff).

If someone describes a movie as "slice of life," my desire to see it immediately goes to zero. I like solid world creation, too, but I have decided that post-Apocalypse I am going to try to establish a new religion with LotR as the bible.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:53 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


While I'm thrilled to see Stephenson and Asimov well represented, as well as so many authors I respect and enjoy, how the hell is Pratchett only listed twice, and how the hell is his first book more than halfway down the list?!

That seems all sorts of wrong to me.

And come to think of it, where is Cook's Black Company?
posted by quin at 8:38 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If someone describes a movie as "slice of life," my desire to see it immediately goes to zero.

Meanwhile, one of my favorite Sci Fi novels is China Mountain Zhang, which I affectionately refer to as 'the one about self discovery and goathearding on Mars'.

I love the Earthsea books, but if I had to choose between having Earthsea on there or having the Dispossessed, I'd choose the Dispossessed every time.

This list needs more Octavia Butler, though.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:40 AM on September 28, 2011


No Delaney? This list doesn't matter.

Delaney isn't prominent on the popular radar. A decent film adaptation of Empire Star would fix that.


His name is Samuel R. DELANY. No second "e" in the last name. And Nova and Dhalgren should be on any list of the 100 best science fiction novels.
posted by aught at 9:08 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Larry Niven is nice for hard scifi too

The entirely spurious connection between Niven and "hard" SF makes me pig-biting mad.

Known space includes:

Hyperspace FTL travel
Different hyperspace FTL travel
Psionics
Force fields
Genetically inherited luck
General Products hulls, scrith, and various other ludicrous unobtainiums and goofy devices

If there were such a thing as a purely objective hard-sf-ness-ometer, Known Space would rank only just barely above Star Trek. Utterly, utterly squishy science-fantasy with just the thinnest, barest gloss of attention to the real universe actually being paid.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:30 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


>Any advice for matter-of-fact prose in human based scifi?<

I tend to have the same criteria for writing that you described (with the exception that I didn’t like "As I Lay Dying" or "Wasp Factory") but I’ve also been a life long SF fan.

I can’t say whether these things fit your criteria (I don’t have that kind of memory), and certainly not an all time greats list, but I’ve recently (in the last decade) liked;

Paolo Bacigalupi - Pump Six
Neal Stephenson - The Diamond Age
Max Barry - Jennifer Government
Octavia E. Butler - Parable of the Sower
Connie Willis - To Say Nothing of the Dog
Walter M. Miller Jr. - A Canticle for Leibowitz
Neil Gaiman - Neverwhere
Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Greg Egan - Distress
KW Jeter - Noir
Gordon Dahlquist - The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters
Michael Moorcock - An Alien Heat (a favorite from when I was a kid that I just re-read last year, my "Ender’s Game")
posted by bongo_x at 10:11 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also: no "Mars" trilogy?

Red Mars is on the list. Not bad, I guess, but I couldn't make it through the second book, whichever color that was. I really should have learned my lesson and stopped there, but no, I had to attempt the "Science in the Capitol" trilogy.

I now harbor a deep and seething hatred for all things KSR.
posted by malocchio at 10:16 AM on September 28, 2011


-Haddock-
If you place great importance on straight forward writing, for God sakes don’t go anywhere near Samuel R. Delany. Of course I did put Jeter on my list, which isn’t that much better...
posted by bongo_x at 10:17 AM on September 28, 2011


That list is so all over the place that it offers at least something that anyone would absolutely hate. (The flowchart's cool, though, and makes the best of a bad situation.)
posted by Zed at 10:24 AM on September 28, 2011


Are you kidding me? How did [insert title here] make the list? [insert popular author here] is a hack and repetitive!

The list is useless since it doesn't include [insert obscure author here] or [insert more obscure author here]!


This should be the default comment template for replies to any and all FPPs that in some way resemble a list.
posted by Artw at 10:30 AM on September 28, 2011


Ender's game as #3, and above Dune no less! Why not just replace it with Twilight?
posted by Blasdelb at 10:38 AM on September 28, 2011


Artw: Are you kidding? How did that comment become the template? It's hacky and repetitive!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:50 AM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


The absence of Guy Gavriel Kay on this list is appalling. "Tigana" is excellent, as are "The Lions of Al-Rassan" and "The Sarantine Mosaic."

I'm baffled by his absence as well. Tigana is one of the best pieces of fantasy lit I've ever read.

I'm glad Rothfuss made the list, though I'm also surprised that they allowed people to vote for a series that's incomplete, though I couldn't really explain why that surprises me.

Also happy to see that Susanna Clarke made the list. And Robin McKinley. While simultaneously crying about Terry Brooks' and Robert Jordan's presence. Sigh.
posted by clavier at 11:22 AM on September 28, 2011


I'm baffled by his absence as well. Tigana is one of the best pieces of fantasy lit I've ever read.

I'm glad Rothfuss made the list, though I'm also surprised that they allowed people to vote for a series that's incomplete, though I couldn't really explain why that surprises me.


Tigana was amazing. I still dig out the Fionavar Tapestry every couple years to give it a re-read too, love those books.

And the Song of Ice and Fire series is there, as is Wheel of Time, and neither of those series is complete either.

I don't understand the Rothfuss hate in this thread though. But I guess everybody's gotta hate something. I was only able to make it about 1/4 of the way through the second Mars trilogy book, and gave the books away I was so sick of trying to get through them.
posted by antifuse at 11:49 AM on September 28, 2011


Yes, Herbert is important, of course. Heinlein not nearly so much

You're putting forward the proposition that Herbert is more important than Heinlein? I think almost anyone with a solid grasp of the history of the genre would find that hard to support. Heinlein is the single most important figure in the genre of science fiction. He is a monumental figure. That's completely separate from the question of the literary worth of his writing, of course.

I don't understand the Rothfuss hate in this thread though.

Rothfuss is brilliant and his books reward careful reading to damn near Gene Wolfe levels. Jo Walton is currently writing a chapter by chapter analysis of his work. I fail at reading because it's amazing how much I missed which seems obvious once she points it out.
posted by Justinian at 12:53 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heinlein is the single most important figure in the genre of science fiction.

Ew. I have a feeling his reputation will continue to decline through the years.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:00 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I'm a bit surprised there is no Kurt Vonnegut.

There is plenty of Kurt Vonnegut, both Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse 5 (follow post modern commentary, with/without time travel)
posted by mrzarquon at 2:05 PM on September 28, 2011


And I mean 'plenty of kurt vonnegut' since may people have a hard time labeling him as a SF/Fantasy author. I don't immediately think of his work when I think of SFF stuff.

It's like calling A Connecticut Yankee a SciFi novel because it features elements of time travel.
posted by mrzarquon at 2:08 PM on September 28, 2011


Ew. I have a feeling his reputation will continue to decline through the years.

But that's not really relevant. Importance and quality aren't the same thing. Terry Brooks was hugely important to modern fantasy but his reputation in terms of literary quality is not great to put it mildly.
posted by Justinian at 2:30 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fantasy -> Modern-Day setting -> Cities -> choices are Neverwhere and American Gods

What, Neil Gaiman is the only one who does urban fantasy?
posted by Gordafarin at 2:42 PM on September 28, 2011


The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is much better than Dune - and Herbert really only had the one very popular novel (and I like Dune). Heinlein was extremely influential to the genre, and had a few gems, like Moon.
posted by jb at 2:43 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's like calling A Connecticut Yankee a SciFi novel because it features elements of time travel.

As it happens, I'm in the middle of re-reading Connecticut Yankee, and I thought of saying it should be on the list. It's not just the time-travel, but there's the wholesale introduction of late-19th-century technology to the Arthurian world. Plus all the delicious social commentary. It's a terrific book. Besides, there are Arthur books by TH White, M Stewart, and MZ Bradley already on that list.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:44 PM on September 28, 2011


A Connecticut Yankee is a brilliant book. Absolutely and utterly brilliant.

Whereas Bujold's fantasy - or something like Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana has a lot more about the characters, their interactions and development as people. I like my fantasy to have solid world creation - less about making up magic, more about how the economy works, who farms what, where they go to the bathroom - and good character development and change over the course of the book.

That's reasonable as G.G. Kay's books are often based on historical settings. Imagine my surprise when I first came upon the historical priest-king at the fane of Nemi.
posted by ersatz at 3:09 PM on September 28, 2011


To be clear, I think of Connecticut Yankee as "Mark Twain" fiction, because he's an author who so defined a category, that calling it just Science Fiction could be considered understating it's style/quality.

I guess on the flipside, calling it Science Fiction lends weight to the argument that SciFi/Fantasy can be "serious literature." (Which I believe it is).
posted by mrzarquon at 3:35 PM on September 28, 2011


After 150+ comments, I'm SHOCKED that no one mentioned Ted Sturgeon. "More Than Human" is one of my all time favorite SF books, primarily because the characters are wonderful and the ideas are intoxicating.
I'm a bit of a curmugeon regarding "Hitchhiker's Guide" though, as it is such a blatant ripoff of "Dimensions of Miracles" by Robert Scheckley. It just ain't right...
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 5:01 PM on September 28, 2011


After 150+ comments, I'm SHOCKED that no one mentioned Ted Sturgeon.

Eh, 90% of what he did was crap.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:15 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Carmody'sPrize: such a blatant ripoff of "Dimensions of Miracles" by Robert Scheckley

Ha! Eponysterical! (But I've read Dimensions of Miracles, like most of the rest of Sheckley, and never felt that Hitchhiker's was derivative. But it's been a while since I've read either.)

I definitely agree that Sturgeon is massively under-read today. All y'all go read his Selected Stories, which is available used for cheap. (But you have my permission/encouragement to skip "Killdozer" which is well-known but I don't feel it does Sturgeon or a reader much good to have it in a best of volume.)
posted by Zed at 5:20 PM on September 28, 2011


And then there's Piers Anthony, Trent bless him.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:24 PM on September 28, 2011


>It's like calling A Connecticut Yankee a SciFi novel because it features elements of time travel.<
-mrzarquon-

I would call it that. Here’s a problem I have; A lot of people, and I’m not at all saying you’re one of them, make distinctions in genre based on whether they think they like that genre or not. As in; "I don’t like Country music, but I do like Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard, and Patsy Cline, and Dwight Yoakum, and Steve Earle, etc. but I don’t really think of them as Country music." When in fact, those people are the epitome of Country music.

Country music and Science Fiction seem to bear the brunt of this treatment. If it’s good, it’s not really Science Fiction.
posted by bongo_x at 8:25 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would call it that. Here’s a problem I have; A lot of people, and I’m not at all saying you’re one of them, make distinctions in genre based on whether they think they like that genre or not.

Hah! From J.G. Ballard's obituary in the New York Times:
"His fabulistic style led people to review his work as science fiction,” said Robert Weil, Mr. Ballard’s American editor at Norton. “But that’s like calling Brave New World science fiction, or 1984."
This isn't a new phenomenon.
posted by Justinian at 9:02 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of it comes from the fact that exceptionally good works tend to be genre defying instead of genre defining.

Johnny Cash is more than just Country Music, even if a lot of his songs and covers are based entirely on established folk songs and stories. It appeals to a much wider audience than people who would consider themselves fans of country music.

Some people who would never read any other fantasy have read American Gods, or never read SciFi have read 1984 or Slaughterhouse Five.

When you are discussing great music, or great literature, all of the good kind of rises to the top, its the horizontal assessment of a field of mountains. This peak of SciFi has amazing books all above the cloud line, this peak of Country Music has amazing music, etc. But then when you deal with the mountain of genre that is SciFi as a whole, it is kind of full of crap, just like every other genre.

I don't think it is wrong to say that A Connecticut Yankee is SciFi, but I would say it would be inconsiderate to call it Just SciFi.

Genres can be a blessing and a curse: it helps you find other things in areas that you enjoy, but it also aids in the creation of rote scripts and formulas that allow for utter crap to be generated because if you follow the formula, you (or the publisher) can optimize their press run for that month and make some money. See: never ending trilogies.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:53 PM on September 28, 2011


Right, so A Song Of Fire And Ice and Sandman are both series, but the Discworld books get split apart?

Lack of consistency there.
posted by MattWPBS at 2:24 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"His fabulistic style led people to review his work as science fiction,...”

And the packaging of his books, as well as his stories being published in SciFi magazines oddly led to the same thing. Robert Weil, Mr. Ballard’s American editor, seems to be an elitist of that particular stripe.



...if you follow the formula, you (or the publisher) can optimize their press run for that month and make some money. See: never ending trilogies.

The recently-mentioned Piers Anthony, for instance. I was collecting lots of his books, because I found the first book in some of his series interesting. Then it hit me that the rest of the series were the same book, over and over. I took all my Anthony to the used book store, except for Battle Circle, which I still like (and I see that he couldn't resist turning that into a series, either.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:18 AM on September 29, 2011


(For anyone who just likes to check things off, good old Rinkworks Book-a-Minute could help you out with this list. The Xanth Trilogy is a particular time- and mental health-saver.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:51 AM on September 29, 2011


The Book-A-Minute version of Xanth is incorrectly free from obsessing about little girls' panties.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:38 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hence the mental health bonus.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:40 AM on September 29, 2011


It's quite simple - "Science Fiction" is whatever you point at and call Science Fiction, "not Science Fiction" is the subset of that which people will claim isn't Science Fiction.

It's an interesting subgenre that contains a few gems.
posted by Artw at 7:27 AM on September 29, 2011


I took a science fiction literature course in university... I can't remember all of the books we covered, but it certainly wasn't all typical sci-fi: Brave New World, sure. Frankenstein... Ok, yeah. J.G. Ballard's Crash? I couldn't really buy my prof's justification on that one. HATED the book, too. But really, people are going to classify books into whatever genres they want, or whatever makes them comfortable.
posted by antifuse at 11:08 AM on September 29, 2011


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