Roundtable on All-Centuries Novel Polling

Karen Burnham

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Now that the Locus All-Centuries Poll results have been posted for the Novel categories, there have been several requests for the membership of this list to produce a similar list. The thought is that it might be quite a bit different from the more popularly-voted one.

So, for anyone who would be willing, could you perhaps list 5 best/most important/most influential/favorite books in each of the following categories: 20th century SF, 20th century Fantasy, 21st century SF, 21st century fantasy. For these purposes, the 20th century is 1901-2000, and the 21st century is 2001 – 2010. Mark weighted the votes such that a first place vote counts more than a fifth place vote, and I will do the same.

BTW, if any of you (ahem Rich Horton ahem) voted in the open poll, feel free to simply cut-n-paste your votes here; no need to reduplicate your efforts.

Discussion and grumbling are also welcome.

I’ll kick things off with my votes via the above-mentioned cut-n-paste:

20th C SF:
Last and First Men, Stapledon
Red Mars, Robinson
The Sparrow, Russell
Forever War, Haldeman
Remnant Population, Moon

20th C Fantasy
Book of the New Sun, Wolfe
Lord of the Rings, Tolkein
Swords of Lankmar, Leiber
Neverending Story, Ende
Once and Future King, White

21st C SF
Brasyl, McDonald
Schild’s Ladder, Egan
Warchild, Lowachee
Forty Signs of Rain, Robinson
Speed of Dark, Moon

21st C Fantasy
American Gods, Gaiman
The Scar, Mieville
Vellum, Duncan
City of Saints and Madmen, VanderMeer
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Clarke

Cecelia Holland

I’m not in the mainstream of this so I can’t really say much, but for my money, the best fantasy in the 20th century was Watership Down.

Rich Horton

OK, here’s mine, faithfully cut-and-pasted without change …

20th Century SF Novel:
1: The Book of the new Sun, Gene Wolfe
2: Nova, Samuel R. Delanny
3: The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
4: The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
5: A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge
6: Engine Summer, John Crowley
7: Sarah Canary, Karen Joy Fowler
8: Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
9: Use of Weapons, Iain M. Banks
10: Pavane, Keith Roberts

20th Century Fantasy Novel:
1: The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
2: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
3: The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers
4: The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien
5: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
6: The Lost Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle
7: The Princess Bride, William Goldman
8: Winter Rose, Patricia McKillip
9: Peace, Gene Wolfe
10: Lud-in-the-Mist, Hope Mirrlees

21st Century SF Novel:
1: Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
2: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon
3: The Sky So Big and Black, John Barnes
4: Spin, Robert Charles Wilson
5: Ares Express, Ian McDonald

21st Century Fantasy Novel:
1: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Susannah Clarke
2: Lavinia, Ursula K. Le Guin
3: The Light Ages, Ian R. MacLeod
4: The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
5: The City and the City, China Mieville

9 thoughts on “Roundtable on All-Centuries Novel Polling

  • January 11, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Ellen – sorry, but you don’t get to cite “Alice”, published in 1865, as a 20th century book. (Otherwise I would have put it top of my list as well!) In fact, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz barely qualifies, published in 1900, but the Oz series extended well into the 20th century so that should be allowed.

    But you panelists are bending the rules like Gumby so I guess you can cite whatever books you want! Certainly the “Alice”‘ books could be considered as the most widely known and influential fantasy in English literature.

  • January 11, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Dan -going over my list (before seeing your comment) I suddenly realized-oh sh-t! wrong century. It was me being bad.

  • January 13, 2013 at 1:28 am

    A Horror/Dark Fantasy category? Where are those lists of novels and stories?

  • January 13, 2013 at 3:16 am

    Space27–Ellen Datlow and Jeff Ford sort of created that category on their own. The overlap (two votes) between the two of them are:

    The Wasp Factory (1984) Iain M. Banks 2
    The Haunting of Hill House (1959) Shirley Jackson 2

    It’s nestled between 20th C Fantasy and 21st C SF.

  • January 13, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Oh, that list. Just two items? I’m a little bit disappointed. But I did vote for The Wasp Factory.

  • January 13, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    Speaking of the wrong century, I know two novels from the 1800’s that I could have put in the 20th Cent. vote and got away with it:

    Star, C.I. Defontenay (1854, in french)
    Two Planets, Kurd Lasswitz (1897, in german)

    They were first published in english in the 1970’s.

  • January 15, 2013 at 3:21 am

    Great lists and remarks from everyone, but the focus on the almighty novel slights so many superb writers, from Cyril Kornbluth to Willam Tenn. to Fredric Brown to Harlan Ellison. One of my top ten SF books of all time is Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr/Alice Sheldon. I can’t think of a single SF novel, however fine, that I would be willing to give it up for. It’s as essential as Dune or Neuromancer or any other that I can think of. So Tiptree wasn’t comfortable with the novel form – so what?

  • January 18, 2013 at 3:52 am

    Thomas – I think Karen felt it would be hard enough herding the cats on the panel to make their picks for novels, without trying for all the short fiction categories. You make a good point that there are short form masters like Ellison and Tiptree, and some of those masters are reflected in the short fiction lists: Ellison with 6 entries, Tiptree with 5. Both of them ranked as high as #3 in a category for the whole 20th century – not too shabby. (Harlan had both #3 and #4 in the 20th Century Short Story category.)

    My favorite example of a short form master is, of course, Ted Chiang, who seems to have no interest in publishing a novel but knocked down the top spot in three different short fiction categories. Nobody would consider him slighted because he can’t show up on the novel list.

  • February 5, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    How can you not put REH on the list if not at the top? Best story teller ever. No Michael Morcook? YOU PEOPLE ARE INSANE.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *