Wednesday, April 04, 2007

50 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy - er, 42

A while back I published a list of 50 sci-fi and fantasy books that's been going around, and I criticized the choices quite severely.

After a great deal of deep thought I came up with my own list of the 50 most important sci-fi and fantasy books, only I only came up with 42 (quite by accident!), and I am much humbled now that I've actually tried to create a list myself. For one thing, it's hard to remember them all. (For example, I vaguely recall reading a series of at least a dozen books about ten years ago and being completely engrossed, but have forgotten everything about them.)

The biggest problem with my list is that I am so hopelessly out of date... there is very little that was published within the last ten, or even twenty, years. (That may say something about the state of the genre too.)

So, for what it's worth, here's my 42. Some guidelines: I did not include children's literature (defined as books that have children as characters and that children might like), horror, or Arthurian or other legend. I only include one book per author, and they're in alphabetical order by author. I don't include books I don't like, with the exception of the Fionovar Tapestry, which I think is important enough to make the list. No short stories.

I would appreciate hearing what you think I've missed.

(Thanks to my mother, Helen Ellis, who taught the first sci-fi course at the University of Waterloo, and my brother, Larry Haworth, who's had the second-biggest influence on my reading. They both helped me compile this list.)

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
4. The Last Coin, James P. Blaylock
5. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
6. The Sheep Look Up, John Brunner
7. To Reign in Hell, Steven Brust
8. War for the Oaks, Emma Bull
9. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
10. Little, Big, John Crowley
11. Babel-17, Samuel R. Delany
12. Time Out of Joint, Philip K. Dick
13. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
14. Red Shift, Alan Garner
15. The Rose, Charles Harness
16. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
17. Dune, Frank Herbert
18. Brave New World, Aldus Huxley
19. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
20. Conjure Wife, Fritz Leiber
21. The Fionovar Tapestry, Guy Gavriel Kay
22. Star Fraction, Ken MacLeod
23. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
24. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller
25. The Condition of Muzak, Michael Moorcock
26. Ringworld, Larry Niven
27. Witchworld, Andre Norton
28. 1984, George Orwell
29. The Coming of the Quantum Cats, Frederick Pohl
30. The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers
31. Mort, Terry Pratchett
32. Pavane, Keith Roberts
33. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
34. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
35. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
36. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne
37. Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
38. The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells
39. Where Late the Sweet Bird Sang, Kate Wilhelm
40. Passages, Connie Willis
41. The Chrysalids, John Wyndham
42. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny



Psychols said...

Congratulation on the list -

Here are some suggestions, for what they are worth.

Frederick Pohl's - Any of Gateway books instead of the Quantum Cats (although that was a good read).

Joe Haldeman - The Forever War

Robert Sawyer's - Illegal Alien

Mike Resnick - Birthright, the book of Man.

Jack L Chalker - The Well of Souls series (maybe???)

S.K. said...

Yes your biggest problem is this list is very old. I suggest reading the excerts from the Hugo and Nebula awards that come out every year and and are available at your local Library. I would say this list is about thirty years out of date not ten, which isn't great for Science fiction, whichis of course based on Science. Making a 50 best list for a category you are not that up on seems a little strange don't you think and some of your selections aka "The Lord of the Rings" are not Science Ficiton they are fantasy which is another genre. Again, why bother if you are not exactly up on this reading list????????

Yappa said...

Ah Shoshana is back, with her usual style of comment. (Sometimes I don't publish comments from s.b. but this one was mild enough to let through.)

I should have mentioned when I said the list was out of date that I have read a lot of newer sci-fi and fantasy that I didn't think was good enough to be on the list... or with newer stuff by an old author, I often stuck with my favorites.

I wrote this post in part to get recommendations of other good sci-fi and fantasy, new or old. So thanks, psychols!


Anonymous said...

Lots I haven't read there, so thanks.
I'd add these three:
Beggars in Spain (trilogy) - Nancy Kress
Neuromancer - William Gibson (include because, however, flawed, it did change a whole lot of science fiction
Xenogenesis Trilogy (Lilith's Brood) - Octavia Butler. The best attempt I've read to imagine what a really different culture might be like.

Anonymous said...

oh yes, and "Last and First Men"
by Olaf Stapledon.