Roundtable on All-Centuries Novel Polling

Theodora Goss

20th century fantasy:

The Lord of the Rings
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Wizard of Oz and the rest of the series
The Earthsea Trilogy (and sequels)
The Once and Future King

I would put in books like One Hundred Years of Solitude, but that feels a bit like constructing a list of apples and oranges. I’ve focused on what we might call “genre” fantasy.

20th century science fiction:

Farenheit 451
The Left Hand of Darkness
Brave New World
A Clockwork Orange

Honestly, I don’t see the point of making a similar list for the 21st century? There’s still a whole lot of it to live, so that seems like a very different endeavor . . . I mean, if we make that list, we should call it something like “best novels since 2000” without including “21st century” in the title.

Karen Burnham

We could call it “The 21st Century So Far…”

Theodora Goss

We could and probably should. ūüôā It just seems strange to put it in the same category as a list on the 20th century. “The best novels of 1/10th of the 21st century”?

Michael Dirda

Fifteen Template Novels of 20th-century Fantastika– and by dead writers only, who wrote in English, and in rough chronological order:

Five Children and It
The Lost World
A Princess of Mars
Tarzan of the Apes
The Wind in the Willows
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Sword in the Stone
Last and First Men
The White Goddess (it’s a kind of fantasy, no?)
At Swim Two-Birds
The Lord of the Rings
The Titus Groan novels
The Haunting of Hill House
Riddley Walker

Cecelia Holland

Really glad to see The Haunting of Hill House on there.

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.


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