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

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  • David Bratman
    Darrell asks why Narnia isn t on the list and 1984 is. To answer the first question, I believe there s something somewhere in the fine print excluding YA and
    Message 1 of 31 , Aug 3, 2011
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      Darrell asks why Narnia isn't on the list and 1984 is. To answer the first
      question, I believe there's something somewhere in the fine print excluding
      YA and children's fiction. Harry Potter isn't on the list either, I
      believe.

      As for "1984", Darrell is entitled to his own idiosyncratic definition of
      science fiction, but he shouldn't wax surprised when other people disagree
      with him, for he ought to be aware that his defnition is extremely narrow
      compared to those held by the generality of SF readers. Frankenstein not
      SF? By general consensus it is the _first_ SF novel. Darrell can tilt at
      that windmill all he wants, but he can't say that it's wrong: he can just
      say that he'd prefer that it were otherwise.

      It's unfair to Damon Knight to portray him as the guy who said "SF is what
      I'm pointing at when I say SF." What he really is, is the guy who tried to
      figure out what makes the stuff that people point at be SF. He used
      Darrell's method: he compiled a list of characteristics the intersections of
      which define SF. He found that a work is generally considered SF if it has
      three or more of the characteristics, and borderline if it has two. Here is
      his list (from his book "Turning Points", Harper 1977, p. 63), which is
      rather more inclusive than Darrell's:

      1. Science
      2. Technology and invention
      3. The future and the remote past, including all time travel stories
      4. Extrapolation
      5. Scientific method
      6. Other places: planets, dimensions, etc., including visitors from the
      above
      7. Catastrophes, natural or manmade

      "1984" was one of his test cases, and had items 2-4 from the list.

      Whatever "1984" may be, it is emphatically not an alternate history or
      historical fiction. It can't be: it was published in 1949. Of course it's
      based on current events of the time: that's what a lot of the best SF is,
      extrapolation (see item 4 on Damon Knight's list) of current trends and
      events. What it is is an "if this goes on" dystopia, one of the most
      distinguished and worthy branches of SF. To call that not-SF is to mangle
      the definition of SF beyond recognizability.

      In any case, the "top 100" list isn't just SF, but SF and fantasy, and if
      "1984" and "Frankenstein" aren't SF, then they're surely fantasy.

      I'd also question some of Darrell's assignments in his own test cases.
      "Flowers for Algernon" (also one of Damon Knight's test cases: he said it
      has his items 1, 3, and 5) does not have "a dream state, or other variations
      of the 'all in someone's mind' theme," and I can't imagine how much
      misreading of the story would be necessary to think that it did. Charlie's
      brain is the location of the scientific experiment, but he is not imagining
      or hallucinating his mental advance: it has objective reality to the other
      characters, who exist outside his mind.
    • Alana Joli Abbott
      On Thu, Aug 4, 2011 at 7:31 PM, Lisa Harrigan
      Message 31 of 31 , Aug 4, 2011
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        On Thu, Aug 4, 2011 at 7:31 PM, Lisa Harrigan <auntie_m_groups@...> wrote:
        Most of these should not be on a Best of All Time list, because they are
        Brand New, some trilogies have not even had book 3 printed yet, Series.
        How do they get on a Best of All Times List?

        This is a fair point. I do think it's valid to want to include things that are new, so you get the full range of classic to contemporary. But series that aren't completed yet really shouldn't qualify.

        -Alana 


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