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22549Re: [mythsoc] NPR top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy titles poll

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  • John Davis
    Aug 4, 2011
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      I wonder, as a general point, whether sci-fi, more than most genres, ages badly?
      A fantasy novel may show itself as dated in its style, but the secondary world created remains believable (or at least, as believable as it ever did), whilst then-contemporary fiction can be enjoyed as now-period pieces. But an early sci-fi novel, set in what was then the future but is now the past, and which displays - as is usually the case! - less than accurate predictive powers, can still of course be enjoyed on various levels (as allegory, or reflecting fears of the time it was written, for example), but not on its simplest level, which is to say a book about what the future may hold.
      One cannot, for example, read a novel set in the 1990s where people travel by jet-pack as a sci-fi novel plain and simple, because in that case it is just plain wrong; one has to read it as a novel about a secondary reality in an alternate universe where, by the 1990s, people do indeed travel by jet-pack. Which is not, for the most part, presumably what the author intended.
      Given which, it is probably reasonable to expect a 'best of' list to be skewed more than usual towards modern authors when it comes to sci-fi.
      Which is not to say your suspicions regarding this particular list are in any way wrong!
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Thursday, August 04, 2011 12:45 PM
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] NPR top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy titles poll


      I think that there's something strange about the list.  It's not the fact that I don't like some of the books or that some of my favorite books aren't there.  After all, who cares, even me?  In any list compiled by polling many people, any one person's personal tastes won't be satisfied.  For years I have been collected lists of favorite films.  The interesting thing about the lists, especially when they are one person's favorites and not the results of voting among a large group of people, is that there will be a few movies on them that aren't on anyone else's list of favorites.  My problem is also not whether I disagree with their definition of science fiction or fantasy.  Again, who cares?  Every book about science fiction that I read has a slightly different definition of the genre.  Something that's noticeable is that the list is skewed toward recent books.  This really isn't that surprising, I suppose.  This always happens with lists compiled by voting when the voters include lots of people who only recently got into appreciating the subject.  A radio station will solicit votes by phone for the greatest rock and roll of all time and then find that the resulting list contains an awful lot of music from the past five years.
      My problem is that there is stuff on the list that I never heard of by authors I never heard of.  I think I've read and, more important, heard of an enormous amount of science fiction and fantasy over the years.  When I see a list like this that's compiled by voting among a lot of people (as opposed to a list of a single person's favorites) which contains a lot of things that I'm pretty sure are neither critical, popular, nor cult favorites, my assumption is that the ballot box was stuffed.  I suspect that there were some campaigns to put certain books on the lists either by a publisher or an author persuading a lot of people to vote who had no interest in the field in general but were fans of a single author or else just by figuring out some way to vote multiple times.  Consider the following books:
      The Acts Of Caine Series, by Matthew Woodring Stover
      Armor, by John Steakley
      The Black Jewels Series, by Anne Bishop
      The Eisenhorn Omnibus, by Dan Abnett
      The First Law Trilogy, by Joe Abercrombie
      The Gone-Away World, by Nick Harkaway
      The Hollows Series, by Kim Harrison
      House Of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski
      The Inheritance Trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin
      The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
      The Lies Of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
      The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
      The Newsflesh Triology, by Mira Grant
      The Passage, by Justin Cronin
      The Prince Of Nothing Trilogy, by R. Scott Bakker
      The Saga Of Recluce, by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
      I was actually fairly conservative in compiling the list above.  I didn't include some books and authors who I had heard of but who I suspected weren't actually that popular.  The list of books above make me want to say, "What are these books?  Who are these authors?"  Are these books really critical, popular, or cult favorites, or does this look like ballot stuffing?
      Wendell Wagner

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