All-Time Novel Results, 2012

You can find more details on the results and the procedure here; but feel free to comment here.

20th Century SF Novel:

Rank Author : Title (Year) Points Votes
1 Herbert, Frank : Dune (1965) 3930 256
2 Card, Orson Scott : Ender’s Game (1985) 2235 154
3 Asimov, Isaac : The Foundation Trilogy (1953) 2054 143
4 Simmons, Dan : Hyperion (1989) 1836 131
5 Le Guin, Ursula K. : The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) 1750 120
6 Adams, Douglas : The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) 1631 113
7 Orwell, George : Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) 1493 105
8 Gibson, William : Neuromancer (1984) 1384 100
9 Bester, Alfred : The Stars My Destination (1957) 1311 91
10 Bradbury, Ray : Fahrenheit 451 (1953) 1275 91
11 Heinlein, Robert A. : Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) 1121 75
12 Heinlein, Robert A. : The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966) 1107 76
13 Haldeman, Joe : The Forever War (1974) 1090 82
14 Clarke, Arthur C. : Childhood’s End (1953) 987 70
15 Niven, Larry : Ringworld (1970) 955 74
20th Century Fantasy Novel:
Rank Author : Title (Year) Points Votes
1 Tolkien, J. R. R. : The Lord of the Rings (1955) 5675 340
2 Martin, George R. R. : A Game of Thrones (1996) 2182 149
3 Tolkien, J. R. R. : The Hobbit (1937) 2040 138
4 Le Guin, Ursula K. : A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) 1613 113
5 Zelazny, Roger : Nine Princes in Amber (1970) 971 70
6 Lewis, C. S. : The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) 821 58
7 Mieville, China : Perdido Street Station (2000) 757 54
8 Rowling, J. K. : Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997) 657 49
9 Crowley, John : Little, Big (1981) 645 41
10 Adams, Richard : Watership Down (1972) 632 46
11 Goldman, William : The Princess Bride (1973) 604 46
12 Martin, George R. R. : A Storm of Swords (2000) 602 43
13 Beagle, Peter S. : The Last Unicorn (1968) 597 45
14 White, T. H. : The Once and Future King (1958) 589 46
15 Pratchett, Terry (& Gaiman, Neil) : Good Omens (1990) 523 38
21st Century SF Novel:
Rank Author : Title (Year) Points Votes
1 Scalzi, John : Old Man’s War (2005) 674 101
2 Stephenson, Neal : Anathem (2008) 432 63
3 Bacigalupi, Paolo : The Windup Girl (2009) 367 58
4 Wilson, Robert Charles : Spin (2005) 305 49
5 Watts, Peter : Blindsight (2006) 251 37
6 Morgan, Richard : Altered Carbon (2002) 238 37
7 Collins, Suzanne : The Hunger Games (2008) 199 32
8 Gibson, William : Pattern Recognition (2003) 197 30
9 Mieville, China : The City & the City (2009) 193 29
10 Stross, Charles : Accelerando (2005) 187 31
11 Mitchell, David : Cloud Atlas (2004) 185 30
12 McDonald, Ian : River of Gods (2004) 181 29
13 McCarthy, Cormac : The Road (2006) 151 23
14 Harrison, M. John : Light (2002) 147 22
15* Willis, Connie : Black Out/All Clear (2010) 142 20
15* Chabon, Michael : The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (2007) 142 23
21st Century Fantasy Novel:
Rank Author : Title (Year) Points Votes
1 Gaiman, Neil : American Gods (2001) 721 109
2 Clarke, Susanna : Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004) 609 94
3 Rothfuss, Patrick : The Name of the Wind (2007) 422 64
4 Mieville, China : The Scar (2002) 221 33
5 Martin, George R. R. : A Feast for Crows (2005) 213 34
6 Rowling, J. K. : Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007) 211 33
7 Bujold, Lois McMaster : The Curse of Chalion (2001) 177 27
8 Mieville, China : The City & the City (2009) 170 28
9 Fforde, Jasper : The Eyre Affair (2001) 160 27
10* Bujold, Lois McMaster : Paladin of Souls (2003) 150 22
10* Pratchett, Terry : Night Watch (2002) 150 26
12 Gaiman, Neil : Coraline (2002) 144 24
13 Wolfe, Gene : The Wizard Knight (2004) 141 23
14 Pratchett, Terry : Going Postal (2004) 137 23
15* Gaiman, Neil : The Graveyard Book (2008) 136 22
15* Lynch, Scott : The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006) 136 23

56 thoughts on “All-Time Novel Results, 2012

  • December 22, 2012 at 3:27 am

    I will say that my #1 SF novel of the 20th century, Stapledon’s Last and First Men, came in 71st in the final tally (I was apparently the only one who put him first). My #1 20th century fantasy, Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, was 18th (6 people agreed with me). My #1 21st century sf novel was Brasyl by McDonald, that was #83 (three other people put him first). And my #1 21st century fantasy was American Gods by Gaimain, so I’m in agreement with at least 109 people on that one.

  • December 22, 2012 at 5:49 am

    Well … THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN was my #1 20th Century SF novel, not Fantasy … I certainly think of it as SF … not sure how much that affected the results.

    My list had lots of top 50 or so … the ones I want to promote are the ones I listed that had only a few votes: ENGINE SUMMER, SARAH CANARY, ROGUE MOON (!), THE SKY SO BIG AND BLACK, ARES EXPRESS. Read those novels!

  • December 22, 2012 at 6:31 am

    I notice you’ve got the Foundation trilogy in 3rd place but Foundation itself in 42nd place. This seems a little odd.

  • Pingback:The Novel Poll results are in « It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

  • December 22, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Interesting how The City & The City made both lists. Were the points combined, it’d be in the top five.

  • December 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Martin: Mark explains that a bit at the top of the total results page: “These results do not incorporate any “corrections”, e.g. to combine votes for particular titles that are split across categories (or centuries), or to group individual titles with series titles. (We specifically suggested that voters not vote for series, except in some specific cases, leaving that to a future poll.) […] In a very few cases corrections for individual titles vs. series would affect top results, e.g. combining votes for Foundation with votes for The Foundation Trilogy would put that latter into second place, rather than third place, for 20th century SF novel.”

  • December 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    It is hard to believe that The Book of the New Sun isn’t more highly regarded as an SF novel (not fantasy), and yet it was only my #2 pick. First was Stapledon’s Star Maker. Only three of my 20th C. SF picks made the Top 15, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Stars My Destination & The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. For fantasy only one of my picks made the top list (LotR). Since I haven’t read as many 21st C. books (yet)I was surprised my percentage was higher in those categories. I had The Road, Altered Carbon, & Blackout/All Clear for SF and The City and the City, American Gods and The Name of the Wind for fantasy.

  • December 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    *Very* impressive…much to think about…have to look for my favorites later…but, did somebody really vote for Heinlein’s Starship Troopers as Best *Fantasy*?

  • December 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    20th Century SF Novel: 7% books by women
    20th Century Fantasy Novel: 13% books by women
    21st Century SF Novel: 14% books by women
    21st Century Fantasy Novel: 25% books by women
    Overall: 15% books by women

    I am in awe, Locus readers.

  • December 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Without doing the math, I assume that less than 10% of all authors listed are POC. These lists are celebrations of white males by white males. Ugh.

  • December 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    At a glance, I think the person of the most colour on that list would be Asimov, a Russian-born Jew; being Jewish was enough to keep him out of medical school because back then many universities had a cap on the number of Jews and other minorities who were allowed to attend them. To quote one dean of Yale “Never admit more than five Jews, take only two Italian Catholics, and take no blacks at all.” Actually, is this list doing much better than that?

    (The Jewish Quota is also why Feynman ended up at MIT and not Columbia College and why Salk was at NYU and not somewhere like Cornell or Yale)

  • December 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Neil Gaiman’s ancestry is also Eastern European Jewish, although since his family left Eastern Europe at around the same time as Asimov’s, he’s rather further removed.

  • December 22, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    So…should we also discount complaints by white males?

  • December 22, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Interesting. Very few of my favorites but some. Mark, I think you should combine all votes for the same work (or part of a work such as the Foundation trilogy and Foundation) in Fantasy and SF and see what the top 15 of both genres are. I believe Book of the New Sun by Wolfe would be 5 or 6!

  • December 23, 2012 at 4:11 am

    Thanks so much for doing this. I’m sure it’s been a bit of a pain.

    As for the commentary re diversity: Hard to know what to say. I certainly voted for some (pardon the expression) “authors of color,” and numerous women (all of whom showed well, but only Le Guin *very* well).

    But is it really any surprise, given that white males have dominated the field for most of its existence? Seems an odd discussion for that reason.

  • December 23, 2012 at 6:05 am

    It makes me sad that this list is so white, so male.

  • December 23, 2012 at 6:29 am

    The 20th Century results are predictable and disappointing. Haven’t Dune and Lord of the Rings won every best All -Time poll Locus has ever run?

    I didn’t vote for any of the four books above that finished in first place. My four first place votes were:
    20th Century SF: The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
    20th Century Fantasy: Little, Big by John Crowley
    21st Century SF: Light by M. John Harrison
    21st Century Fantasy: Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

    Curiously, The Books of the New Sun had 19 first place votes for best 20th Century SF novel. If first place votes were the only votes that were counted, it would look like this:

    1 Herbert, Frank : Dune (1965), 89 first place votes
    2 Card, Orson Scott : Ender’s Game (1985), 25
    3 Asimov, Isaac : The Foundation Trilogy (1953), 20
    4* Bester, Alfred : The Stars My Destination (1957), 19
    4* Wolfe, Gene : The Book of the New Sun (1983), 19
    6* Le Guin, Ursula K. : The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), 18
    6* Adams, Douglas : The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), 18
    8 Orwell, George : Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), 16
    9* Heinlein, Robert A. : Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), 15
    9* Zelazny, Roger : Lord of Light (1967), 15

    The Book of the New Sun is the primary beneficiary here, moving up 20 places. It also had six more first place votes for best 20th Century Fantasy novel. If those were combined it would have tied for second on this list.

  • December 23, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Rankings from polls like this simply represent the average of what the set of people who voted in them think is meant by ‘best’. They are fascinating to pore over and discuss, but we shouldn’t attach too much weight to them. Only 625 valid ballots were received, representing a tiny and highly non-random sample of all readers. Also, what does ‘best’ mean? Essential ingredients for one person’s idea of a great novel (or shorter work) may have no overlap with another person’s.

    I don’t get a lot of time for reading (and I’m a slow reader to boot) so there are always far more books that I’d like to read than I will ever have time to do so. I’d really enjoy seeing the shortlists of well-known critics/experts/reviewers because I know something about their tastes. Thus, if I have generally agreed with reviewer X in the past, I could be reasonably confident that I’d enjoy the works listed by him or her. Or if I generally disagreed with X then I would know which works to probably avoid.

  • December 23, 2012 at 8:02 am

    What I find interesting is the difference in the number of votes for 20th Century works compared to 21st Century works. If you look at the number of points received for the 21st C winners, those points would place them around 6 or 7th in the 20th C list.

    I think that is quite sad but also quite interesting as it suggests that Locus’s readership is really not all that interested in contemporary science fiction. Which is really interesting as Locus (unlike say is a magazine whose coverage is very much of the Now and Three-Months-Down-The-Line variety. Locus has no re-reads and while it did have Graham Sleight’s column about older works of SF, Sleight was coming to a lot of those works with comparatively fresh eyes.

    I think giving the Best SF Novel of the 21st Century to Scalzi for Old Man’s War is absolutely grotesque but I think it gives a nice image of a Locus reader: an elderly person, slowly preparing for death and reading genre largely as a means of escaping to the days of their youth.

    Given that Locus is an important institution in the field of SF, I think that there’s something deeply deeply sad about that. Either young people are not reading Locus or the editorial staff of Locus have not convinced their audience that today’s writers have something important to offer them… very sad indeed.

  • December 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    This poll, people should note, represents not precisely “the readership of Locus”, but rather those who found the poll here on Locus Online … a good many of whom many not necessarily read Locus at all. Some of whom, in fact, were pointed to the poll by a mention in John Scalzi’s blog. So, really, drawing conclusions from this poll about “the readership of Locus” is rather misguided.

    And any honest thought about what the best known works of SF from the 20th Century were will note that they were written predominantly by white males. This is changing, happily enough, but to act surprised that a list of the best SF from the 20th Century is so heavily skewed towards white males is, well, disingenuous. Mind you, there were great female writers (and Le Guin, at least, as noted, does appear on the lists), and great black writers (and, yes, it is disappointing that a novel like NOVA (which I had in my top 10) doesn’t show up higher), but for all that we can wish that women and POC were better represented in 20th C. SF, it was not so, by and large.

    As for OLD MAN’S WAR winning “Best 21st Century SF novel”, yes, that’s rather sad (not that I didn’t enjoy reading it, but it would never have occurred to me to vote it anywhere near first, or even tenth), but again, where did the voters really come from?

    And finally, I’m not sure a comparison of the points received for 21st Century vs. 20th Century items works either — the scoring was different, I think, because you could only vote for 5 items from the 21st Century vs 10 from the 20th.

  • December 23, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Geez, the comments are almost as interesting as the poll results…which leads me to make a couple of comments

    First, I can admit I do not have much interest in reading SF or fantasy of the 21st century so far—I skim through the remaining print mags, don’t pick up that many brand-new novels or books and then generally associational in some way, and don’t explore the Internet in search of it. Popular non-fiction and political commentary seem to be my main reading interests these days.

    Comment on the comment: somehow not wanting to read SF of the 21st century hasn’t diminished my desire to write it…writing goes on…but that’s a contradiction I’ll have to work out all on my own.

    The other thing: there were a couple of comments about the writers of the list having a certain whiteness and maleness to them. When I encountered the works I nominated, and many of the others listed, I couldn’t have cared less about such things. (I had a notion that “Heinlein” was a vaguely German name, but I encountered Heinlein because he was racked next to Marguerite Henry in the school library, not because of his supposed ethnic origins.) It was years before I saw pictures of most of them—and for many of them, I don’t think I ever have seen pictures.

  • December 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I am reminded once more why I find “best” lists to be exercises in futility, unless they are understood to be conversation (or argument) starters rather than very approximate indicators of popularity or familiarity in a given population. The preliminary lists and this comment thread reveal mixed motives, mixed taxonomic models, and mixed political and aesthetic agendas, all dominated by Taste, For Which, &c. It might help to label such a poll “My Favorite N Books With Y Labels,” which would at least remove one set of reasons for wrangling.

    But since wrangling seems to be one of the inevitable outcomes, I might as well join in. Mark Short and Rich Horton have offered useful and civil responses to some of the complaints, to which I will add a mildly-annoyed response to Jonathan M’s post: For the demographics of the Locus readership, see the age breakdown in the latest Locus Survey results (August 2012 issue, p. 28), where the average is calculated to be 45. Not exactly folk whose every third thought is of the grave. And while the Locus *review staff* includes a number of of nominally elderly folk (I believe that at 67 I am senior, but only by a year or two), I challenge anyone to find any sign that, say, the my fellow geezer Gary Wolfe is consumed by nostalgia for his youth–in fact, he continues to exhibit considerable enthusiasm for and understanding of the new and adventurous. (And for those grumbling about gender balance, I note that Locus-survey responders are currently at a 55-45 percent men-to-women balance.)

  • December 23, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Looking at the complete results page, I found some puzzling entries.

    In the 20th Century Fantasy Novels list, #174 is shared by three works, Sheepfarmer’s Daughter by Elizabeth Moon, The High King by “Alexander” (lloyd Alexander?), and one title spelled like so:


    That’s right, a string of asterisks. This one had five votes, so it must be noteworthy. I wish I knew what the title is in Latin alphabet spelling. None of the other novels lists have such an unconventionally spelled entry outside of the zeroes. All of the titles that had only one vote are ranked #0. By zeroes, I mean them. Other unconventionally spelled zeroes I found are:

    ?. ?? ????. ?ß????????

    ?????? ???????? ??±??? ? ?????????

    ??????÷??? ??????? ? ????± : ?????? ß??? ß???? (1964)

    This last one, having a recognizable year, is tantalizing. I wonder what it could be. Then there are the entries that are spelled more conventionally, but still puzzling:




    ?? : Wills

    ? : Interplanetary

    Johnson – Trekmaster

    ?, L’?chiquier du mal

    ?, The Forbidden Forest

    Lin : Dean, Tam Lin

    Another tantalizing title is in the zeroes of 21st Century Novels, listed between Night Train to Rigel by Timothy Zahn (which has 8 points and 1 vote in 1st place) and Sanity and the Lady by Brian W. Aldiss (7 points, 1 vote in 2nd place). This entry is a complete blank with only a few numbers as a clue to its existence — 8 points for 0 vote in 0 place.

    Further down is this entry spelled in full:


    Just one semicolon. It has 6 points for 1 vote in 3rd place. What could it be? Then there are:

    ? : Conqueror

    ? : Corporation

    ? : Genghis Khan

    Weber, David : Of

    In the 21st Century Fantasy Novels, the first zero entry is spelled in full:

    A lone hyphen with 8 points for 1 vote in 1st place.

  • December 23, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Of course the results aren’t “perfect,” but what exactly does that mean besides “they don’t precisely tally with MY picks?” And as for the absence of “people of color” in the 20th century results, that should be as surprising and dismaying as their absence from anthologies of Elizabethean verse drama. On the whole, these results are valuable and interesting; if you really think they’re such a disaster, just compare them to the NPR polls from several months back.

  • December 23, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Where’s Samuel R. Delany, or Lisa Goldstein, or Joan Slonczewski, or Kathleen Ann Goonan, or Patricia Wrede, or Kim Stanley Robinson? As others have said, what a limited set of lists. Seems to me that only a few of these books actually have much to say to 21st century readers.

  • December 24, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Delany’s DHALGREN was 49th, NOVA 59th, BABEL-17 and STARS IN MY POCKETS LIKE GRAINS OF SAND tied at 96th, and TRITON, the NEVERYON books, and THE EINSTEIN INTERSECTION also got votes. Too low? Yes, but he wasn’t ignored, and indeed taken as a whole that’s a pretty good showing.

    Robinson’s RED MARS was 35th, and THE YEARS OF RICE AND SALT was 24th among 21st Century novels.

    The others all appear on the extended lists, though quite low. I confess, it never would have occurred to me that any of Patricia Wrede’s novels — entertaining as she is — would be a candidate for anywhere close to the best of either century. The others, in my opinion, have stronger arguments, but aren’t slam dunks to my mind.

  • December 25, 2012 at 12:04 am

    In the extended list, Mistborn and Mistborn: The Final Empire are listed separately. They are the same novel.

  • December 25, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I enjoy these lists, and the unnecessary cynicism about them is disheartening. Anything that is thrown open to a public vote is always going to be a popularity or brand name recognition contest, even if the word “best” is used. Any halfway astute observer knew that going in.

    My friends and I have had great fun ticking off the number of top 50 works we’ve read.

  • December 25, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Hi there,
    For six years now I moderate a similar list including the best sci-fi novels of all times, as part of the Greek Forum for Science Fiction activity. So far we have almost 60 participants (“voters”), who have contributed about 1,100 votes on couple of hundreds of books. The approach is different: Every member of the forum sends a vote about the book he/she just read, ranging from 0 (crap) to 10 (excellent) and the list is compiled by the mean value of the votes (but for a book to appear, it should surpass five votes). This method (using the mean value instead of adding grades) is I believe better and helps make less known books “weight” more in the final result.

    Anyway, the ten best novels so far, according to my (Greek) fellow readers:
    1 Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic (mean grade:) 9,67
    2 Joe Haldeman, The Forever War, 9,50
    3 Dan Simmons, Hyperion 9,32
    4 George Orwell, 1984, 9,11
    5 Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light, 9,00
    5 Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five, 9,00
    7 Αlfred Bester, The stars my destination (Tiger Tiger), 8,95
    8 Richard Matheson, I am legend 8,75
    9 Philip K. Dick, Ubik, 8,68
    10 Michael Moorcock, Behold the Man 8,67

    So results are not very different, with certain differences (for example, Greek readers regard books like Roadside Picnic and Slaughterhouse Five much higher than the readers of Locus Online, who, as I see, ignore altogether the excellent Behold the Man).

    Hope this was of interest.


  • December 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Interesting list indeed, Nikos. Thanks for posting it!

    Behold the Man actually shows up at #211, with four down ballot votes. But I suspect its novella version might end up somewhat higher on that list.

  • December 26, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Some of the entries are not in keeping with the poll rules. The 20th Century, for the purpose of the poll, is 1901-2000. Entries predating this period include:

    Abbott : Flatland (1884)

    Baum, L. Frank : The Wizard of Oz (1900)

    Shelley, Mary : Frankenstein (1818)

    Wells, H. G. : The Time Machine (1895)

    Wells, H. G. : The Invisible Man (1897)

    Wells, H. G. : The War of the Worlds (1898)

    Entries postdating the 20th Century they were voted into:

    Abraham, Daniel, et al : Hunter’s Run (2007)

    Barker, Clive : Abarat (2002)

    Bujold, Lois McMaster : The Curse of Chalion (2001)

    Flynn, Michael F. : Eifelheim (2006)

    Gaiman, Neil : American Gods (2001)

    Gaiman, Neil : Coraline (2002)

    Hobb, Robin : Shaman’s Crossing (2005)

    Lynch, Scott : The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006)

    McDonald, Ian : River of Gods (2004)

    Morgan, Richard : Broken Angels (2003)

    Morgan, Richard : Woken Furies (2005)

    Pratchett, Terry : Going Postal (2004)

    Scalzi, John : Old Man’s War (2005)

    Scalzi, John : The Last Colony (2007)

    Simmons, Dan : Ilium (2003)

  • December 26, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    I am just now skimming these comments.

    First, I just now posted corrected rankings, incorporating some edited votes that did not previously combine, notably for GOOD OMENS (by Pratchett/Gaiman or Gaiman/Pratchett).

    Second, I advised readers not to vote for series, except in those rare cases where a ‘series’ (like THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY) could be construed as a single work. Still, some voters voted for FOUNDATION [itself, apparently], and some only for THE SHADOW OF THE TORTURER rather than for THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN. So be it; I left votes as they were.

    Similarly, there were votes for books in the wrong century. I did not ‘fix’ such votes.

    I find it notable that THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN and THE CITY & THE CITY rank fairly high on both the SF and fantasy lists. Had I proceeded with my initial notion of ‘seeding’ the ballot, I would have chosen one or the other, and the combined votes would have ranked these titles much higher. As it is, it’s interesting that these titles have no consensus genre identity.

    Jonathan M: the difference in votes (or points) between 20th and 21st century works can partly be attributed to the ballot options, which allowed 10 votes in each 20th century category, and only 5 in each 21st century category. And the point weightings were higher for 20th century than for 21st, as described in the earlier thread about this poll before it went up.

    Space27: Yes there were random garbage votes, and cryptic votes I could not decipher. Everything got dumped into the same database, and I exported everything onto these pages, partly just so everyone could see what kind of votes come in.

    Overall, I was agree with the disappointment that the usual suspects (for 20th century categories at least) won, again. Nothing has dethroned DUNE? Well, the voters have spoken.

  • December 26, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    And I am now beginning to edit short fiction votes. There are 5789 distinct vote strings…

  • December 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    It would have been incredibly interesting to see what the Locus staff and contributors would have come up with (the names at the top right of this page), had they alone voted. Ah, well. I did my bit, leaving Dune out of my top 10. 🙂

  • December 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I second the notion of having a poll voted on only by Locus contributors, or perhaps notable writers and editors of the field. Back in the ’80s, J. N. Williamson had a book called HOW TO WRITE TALES OF FANTASY, HORROR AND SCIENCE FICTION which contained individual writers’ top ten lists in the back. By and large, those lists were far more interesting than this poll. However, Mark, I do appreciate you taking the time to compile it — I know it must have been a pain in the ass.

  • December 26, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I will get in touch with our contributors and see if they’re willing. No guarantees!

  • December 27, 2012 at 2:00 am

    I always find it interesting when the opinions of the great unwashed are deemed somehow unimaginative or, dare I say, wrong. Thus we’re assured that if we got the opinions of “real” SF types in Locus’s stable, we’d get a more worthy list.

    OK. Maybe. But it could be – the horror! – that readers continue to choose “Dune” and “The Lord of the Rings” because, I don’t know, they like them, they’re pretty accomplished, do a great job of creating another textured reality, are fun to read … I know, I know, such *terribly* unhip reasons to enjoy certain books.

    Among my 20th Century SF novel picks, all but one made rank, the lowest at 87 (and to my dismay, when I called up the screenshots of my votes, I neglected to vote for Delany’s “Nova”). For 20th Century Fantasy, all made rank (but three were lower than 200th place).

    So I suppose this makes me an unwashed and drooling plebe who has the audacity to have listed books he – along with so many other cretins – enjoys.

    One of the fun aspects of SF/F to me has always been its lack of presumption and openness to almost anything. This whiff of snobbery is offputting.

    So again I say: Thank you for the poll. No final verdict, but great fun to pore over. I’m sorry that’s not enough for some.

  • December 27, 2012 at 6:30 am

    I agree. Great fun. The point about an “expert” vote is not that it would be “better” or “more official” – simply that it would be different, probably less predictable, and therefore also interesting.

  • December 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I wouldn’t want to pitch a “contributors” vote as especially privileged. It would, I think, show more variation, just because smaller sample sizes generally will. And, I suppose, many of us have read MORE SF, so in that sense the vote might be interesting.

    Doing so now, after this discussion, might also alter results, partly simply because people have brought up worthwhile books that some have forgotten, but also because the posted lists will work both similarly to “seeded” lists — as memory prompts, and as “validation” — but also differently to them — as sort of pressure on us supposed “experts” to come up with something different.

    (I’ve publically posted my ballot already, though, so I guess I’m stuck!)

  • December 27, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Interesting results. I took the directions to mean I should list books that are personally important and admirable to me, not necessarily what I would put on a canonical list (as fluxuating as such a beast might be).

    Still, it feels a bit odd that mine was the only vote for Waking The Moon.

  • December 28, 2012 at 5:41 am

    To Karen Burnham: I would be very interested in seeing the lists of Locus contributors—as individual lists, though, not combined. I’m particularly salivating over the prospect of seeing the short fiction lists of the “year’s best” anthologists, e.g. Dozois, Horton, Strahan. As Rich Horton mentioned in his last post here, these lists couldn’t and shouldn’t be considered superior in any way to the list that the poll produced, but many of the contributors have read a vast quantity of SF and/or fantasy and therefore could be very interesting.

    However, could I suggest a few rules.

    1. Listers don’t have to rank their choices. Apart from being really hard, it is also rather arbitrary and likely to change from one day to another. For example, the requirement to rank was so overwhelming for Cheryl Morgan that she didn’t submit a list at all, even though she did have an unranked top ten (

    2. Listers should be allowed to change their list. This allows for the very common situation of person A seeing person B’s list and exclaiming “Oh damn, I forgot about book X! I would have included it in my top ten if I’d remembered it.”

    3. Ten works over a whole century is pretty stingy! How about 15 or 20? Or keep it at 10 but allow a “nearly made it” list of indefinite length where the lister can place works that it really pained them to have to omit (and which, on another day, might have made it).

    4. Finally, judging a best novel (or movie, painting, etc.) is totally subjective—I can’t think of a single element for which one could lay down an objective criterion for measurement. Nevertheless, I wonder whether each lister could indicate what “best” generally means for them. Did they have in mind “most important/influential works”, “most innovative ideas”, “most sparkling writing”, “sheer fun to read (and any further analysis can piss off)”, “great character development”, etc.—there are so many dimensions on which one could rate a novel. (And I think it would be far too onerous to ask each lister to assign a score out of ten for each work on their list for each dimension—if an agreed set of dimensions could be arrived at.) I think it would also be interesting to see whether anybody would produce two different lists depending on whether they were voting on personal favourites that didn’t have to be explained or defended (which could be done in an anonymous poll) versus a list that is intended to be a bit more authoritative. (As Rich Horton said in his last post, the lister might feel a bit of pressure as a supposed expert.) Anyway, I would appreciate seeing any list—with or without qualifiers (e.g. “these are my personal favourites”, “these are the ones I’d recommend to students”).

  • December 28, 2012 at 6:27 am

    As Rich Horton points out, he has published his ballot. Jonathan Strahan said on his blog that he didn’t do a ballot – various reasons, but he’s basically too busy to do it justice. I don’t know about the other well known editors.

  • December 28, 2012 at 6:28 am

    Correction: Jonathan Strahan said so on his podcast. Gary K. Wolfe, Jonathan’s ramble partner on the podcast, did participate, but he said he was sorry he did! 🙂

  • December 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I apparently was the dodo-head who didn’t know these lists were ranked. Thanks Mark R. Kelly for the compiling of the votes — and if absolutely nothing else, I’ve enjoyed reading individually posted lists (John H. Stephens, Rich Horton, etc.) and finding books that made me go, “Hm, really, I haven’t read that, have I?”

    In the vein of Rich’s “the ones I want to promote are the ones I listed that had only a few votes: ENGINE SUMMER, SARAH CANARY, ROGUE MOON (!), THE SKY SO BIG AND BLACK, ARES EXPRESS. Read those novels!” some of my picks I’d like to promote are:

    * Last Dragon by JM McDermott (down in the unranked 21st c. fantasy)
    * Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (#84 in 21st c. fantasy)
    * Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (#101 !!! in 20th c. sf)
    * On the Beach by Nevil Shute (#383 in 20th c. sf)
    * A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski (#151 in 20th c. sf)
    * Hal Duncan’s Vellum (#82 in 21st c. fantasy)
    * Tim Powers’ The Stress of Her Regard (#339 in 20th c. fantasy)

  • December 30, 2012 at 3:10 am

    To Mark R. Kelly:

    What happened with votes in the short fiction categories that were placed in the “wrong” category? For example, what happened if someone placed, say, “Flowers for Algernon” in the Short Story category? I see no evidence of popular stories being placed in multiple categories on your lists, but surely it must have happened. Did you lump the votes from multiple categories into the “proper” category, or ignore the votes in the “wrong” category?

  • December 30, 2012 at 4:33 am

    To Mark R. Kelly:

    Never mind my previous post. I see you’ve provided an explanation. I think you made the right call.

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  • January 20, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    anyone knows some real masterpieces? like: (SF) City, by C.Simak; Dreaming Jewels by T. Sturgeon, A mirrror for Observers by E. Pangborn, Sirens of Titan by K.Vonnegut, etc etc. (F) A worm of Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison, The Broken Sword by P. Anderson etc etc…

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