So I Went And Did It

Late last night I was looking for something to prevaricate about rather than start a new work item. So around 10:00pm I started looking at the Locus All Centuries Poll. I got to bed around 1:00am and finally got to sleep around 2:00pm. Part of that was due to the cold, but a lot of it was due to the blasted 20th Century short fiction. I shall explain.

Picking 10 novels in each of SF & F in the 20th Century was hard, but the lists seemed quite comprehensive and in the end the only one I added was Waking the Moon. On another day I might pick entirely different lists, and before you all start yelling please note that I went from reading very little to reading an awful lot of new stuff when I started Emerald City, so there are a lot of pre-1995 books I haven’t read.

Note also that there are a bunch of personal favorites in here. This is a popular vote award, right? And while my favorites might not be very popular, I’m still going to ignore anyone who tries to argue on the basis of an absolute standard of quality.

20th Century SF Novels

Brunner, John : The Sheep Look Up
Carter, Angela : The Passion of New Eve
Carter, Raphael : The Fortunate Fall
Dick, Philip K. : The Man in the High Castle
Haldeman, Joe : The Forever War
Le Guin, Ursula K. : The Dispossessed
May, Julian : The Many-Colored Land
Noon, Jeff : Vurt
Roberts, Keith : Pavane
Wolfe, Gene : The Book of the New Sun

20th Century Fantasy Novels

Danielewski, Mark Z. : House of Leaves
Hand, Elizabeth : Waking the Moon
Harrison, M. John : The Course of the Heart
Holdstock, Robert : Mythago Wood
Kushner, Ellen : Thomas the Rhymer
Miéville, China : Perdido Street Station
Newman, Kim : Anno Dracula
Powers, Tim : The Anubis Gates
Ryman, Geoff : Was
Wolfe, Gene : Soldier of the Mist

I was disappointed in the lack of women writers in there, but then we are talking 20th Century, and for much of it SF&F was heavily male-dominated.

Let’s stick with novels for a while, and move on to the 21st Century. I felt much better read here, and consequently choosing 5 in each category was just as hard as choosing 10 in the 20C. A lot of well-loved books got left out.

21st Century SF Novels

Courtenay Grimwood, Jon : Effendi: The Second Arabesk (2002)
Harrison, M. John Light (2002)
McDonald, Ian : The Dervish House (2010)
Morris, Jan : Hav (2006)
Sullivan, Tricia : Maul (2003)

I’m a bit confused as to why JCG’s Arabesk books were listed separately rather than a series, but Effendi is the best of them, which is rare for a middle book of a trilogy. I might well have had Kathy Goonan’s Flower Cities series in there had they not also been listed individually due to the series crossing the century boundary.

21st Century Fantasy Novels

Clarke, Susanna : Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004)
Kay, Guy Gavriel : Ysabel (2007)
Miéville, China : The City & the City (2009)
Sinisalo, Johanna : Not Before Sundown (Troll)
Valente, Catherynne M. : Palimpsest (2009)

I note in passing that had the poll gone up to the present day I would have picked Under Heaven and Deathless instead of Ysabel and Palimsest, and room would have to have been made for The Drowning Girl.

I’m going to do 21st Century short fiction next because I at least had a fighting chance here. I don’t read a lot of short fiction, but I do read Hugo nominees. I should have known a bunch of stories. I had to restrain myself from saying, “I’ll just have everything by Ted Chiang and Kij Johnson”. Even so I clearly have favorites. Liz Hand is really good at the novella length, and Joe Hill’s wonderful debut collection is still fresh in my mind.

I think Tainaron is the only one not on the Locus lists.

21st Century Novellas

Hand, Elizabeth : Cleopatra Brimstone (nva, 2001)
Hand, Elizabeth : The Least Trumps (nva, 2002)
Swirsky, Rachel : The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window (nva, 2010)
Zivkovic, Zoran : The Library (nva, 2002)
Krohn, Lena : Tainaron: Mail From Another City (nva, 2004)

21st Century Novelettes

Ford, Jeffrey : The Empire of Ice Cream (nvt, 2003)
Gaiman, Neil : A Study in Emerald (nvt, 2003)
Hill, Joe : 20th Century Ghost (nvt, 2002)
Hill, Joe : Pop Art (nvt, 2001)
Link, Kelly : The Faery Handbag (nvt, 2004)

21st Century Short Stories

Chiang, Ted : Exhalation (ss, 2008)
Duncan, Andy : Senator Bilbo (ss, 2001)
Fowler, Karen Joy : What I Didn’t See (ss, 2002)
Johnson, Kij : 26 Monkeys, also the Abyss (ss, 2008)
Lanagan, Margo : Singing My Sister Down (ss, 2004)

And now the hard part. I know I did read short fiction in the 20th Century. Heck, I can remember reading Dangerous Visions back in the 70s. But can I remember any of the stories in it now? No. The task was further complicated by the fact that there are some stories in the lists that are so famous that I can’t remember whether they are familiar because I have read them, or simply because I have heard so much about them. Finally my list is colored by what I was reading a lot of when I was younger, which means Howard and Lovecraft. I did role-playing: D&D, Call of Cthulhu. Of course I read that stuff.

However, I was having real trouble coming up with stories from the lists that I knew I had read and liked. This was the point at which I started leafing through anthologies, especially The Weird, and looking up favorite writers on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. There are several stories here that I have added to the lists.

20th Century Novellas

Chiang, Ted : Seventy-two Letters (nva, 2000)
Le Guin, Ursula K. : The Word for World Is Forest (nva, 1972)
McCaffrey, Anne : Weyr Search (nva, 1967)
Hand, Elizabeth : Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol (nva, 2000)
Lovecraft, H. P. : The Shadow Over Innsmouth (nva, 1942)
Stableford, Brian : Les Fleurs du Mal (nva, 1994)
Tiptree, James, Jr. : Houston, Houston, Do You Read? (nva, 1976)
VanderMeer, Jeff : The Transformation of Martin Lake (nva, 1999)
Vinge, Vernor : True Names (nva, 1981)
Wyndham, John : Consider Her Ways (nva, 1956)

20th Century Novelettes

Chiang, Ted : Tower of Babylon (nvt, 1990)
Hand, Elizabeth : The Boy in the Tree (nvt, 1981)
Harrison, M. John : Egnaro (nvt, 1981)
Harrison, M. John : The Luck In The Head (nvt, 1984)
Howard, Robert E. : Worms of the Earth (nvt, 1932)
Keyes, Daniel : Flowers for Algernon (nvt, 1959)
Le Guin, Ursula K. : Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight (nvt, 1987)
Lovecraft, H. P. : The Call of Cthulhu (nvt, 1928)
Tiptree, James, Jr. : The Women Men Don’t See (nvt, 1973)
Wells, H. G. : The Land Ironclads (nvt, 1903)

20th Century Short Stories

Bisson, Terry : Bears Discover Fire (ss, 1990)
Bisson, Terry : They’re Made Out Of Meat (ss, 1991)
Carter, Raphael : Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation by K.N. Sirsi and Sandra Botkin (ss, 1998)
Charnas, Suzy McKee : Boobs (ss, 1990)
Clarke, Arthur C. : The Nine Billion Names of God (ss, 1953)
Gaiman, Neil & Vess, Charles : A Midsummer Night’s Dream (ss, 1990)
Howard, Robert E. : Queen of the Black Coast (ss, 1934)
Le Guin, Ursula K. : The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (ss, 1973)
Russ, Joanna : When It Changed (ss, 1972)
Zoline, Pamela A. : The Heat Death of the Universe (ss, 1967)

I have added a credit to Charles Vess for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Neil insisted on it when the story won the World Fantasy Award, and he was right to do so. It may seem to outsiders that in comic creation the writer does the words and the artist the pictures, but in practice the artist often has a considerable input to how the tale is told, and has a considerable effect on how the tale is read. (Conversely, writers often suggest the scenes that the artist should draw in their scripts).

Anyway, there are my lists. They are undoubtedly WRONG!!! And I doubt that they will have much overlap with the final results. But it was an interesting exercise building them.

Update: Aaargh! I’d forgotten they want us to rank them. This may prevent me from actually voting.

12 thoughts on “So I Went And Did It

    1. The 20C SF will be all Heinlein, Clarke & Asimov, won’t it?

      Goodness only knows for 21C Fantasy. Martin, Abercrombie. I’d have included Abraham but for the series problems.

      1. Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov are going to win that voting, I predict, yeah. Even if there is plenty of other stuff that stands alongside ’em.

        21st Century? Abercrombie and Martin will win the voting–its a popularity contest and they are hawt now.

  1. It took me hours to do this! And the ranking drove me nuts. You and I only had 8 in common, but you are doubtless more well-read than I am. It was an interesting exercise.

      1. Can’t you just approximate it? Even knowing that tomorrow your vote would probably be different you’d still have favorites towards the top. I say go for it!

  2. Guy G. Kay’s “Under Heaven” was 2010 so it’s eligible and it’s going on my ballot. The poll is still open here on California time. If you’re up in what must be the middle of the night you can still vote.

  3. YES to “The Dispossessed.” Lots of these lists have been including “The Word for World is Forest” or (better) “The Left Hand of Darkness” but for me it’s absolutely “The Dispossessed” that I would grab if I had only space for 10 sf books from the 20th c.

    And another absolute YES to “The Drowning Girl”, though I think it’s a good thing that 2011-2012 were excluded — these books are very fresh in the mind and having at least a few years to breathe is a good thing. I’ve been thinking lately that while “The Drowning Girl” is my favorite new novel of 2012, if I could only grab one novel from 2012 in this mythical suitcase to the future, it might be KSR’s 2312, which while not being quite as good a novel (I still loved it, and it’s my favorite sf novel of 2012) more perfectly (almost perfectly) captures the “now” of 2012 than any other book this year.

    1. Of course I meant “The Word for World is Forest”. Ah, the fat-fingering. Though with my stuttering I could have made the same mistake when speaking.

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