Roundtable on All-Centuries Novel Polling

Karen Lord

Trying this with reservations.

20th century SF,

1) Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
2) The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
3) A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M Miller Jr.
4) Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
5) 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke

20th century Fantasy,

1) The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien
2) Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis
3) A Wizard of Earthsea/The Earthsea Quartet, Ursula Le Guin
4) The Dark is Rising Sequence, Susan Cooper
5) The Princess Bride, William Goldman

Numbers 1-4 on both lists show my bias clearly – I admire novels that are good at big questions and complex answers. The numbers 5 are important to me because of their impact in film as well as literature.

I have a lot more reading to do before I can comment on the 21st Century of any genre!

Ellen Datlow

I guess I’ll take a crack at the 20th century stuff—a totally biased POV (what’s been influential on me).

Science Fiction:

1) Brave New World Aldous Huxley
2) The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. LeGuin
3) Dhalgren Samuel R. Delany
4) The Man in the High Castle Philip K. Dick
5) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

1) The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings trilogy J. R.R. Tolkien
2) The Man Who Was Thursday G.K. Chesterton
3) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass Lewis Carroll [Realized–too late–that this is from the wrong century…]
4) Little, Big John Crowley
5) Land of Laughs Jonathan Carroll

Dark Fantasy Horror (mostly short fiction but in the long form)

1) Quin’s Shanghai Circus Edward Whittemore
1) Falling Angel William Hjortsborg
2) The Magus John Fowles
3) The Wasp Factory Iain Banks
4) The Shining Stephen King

Paul Witcover

I’ll play, too. No claim to anything here beyond my own personal taste on this particular morning. And with no thought whatsoever of the most “important” or influential works in either genre — a very different list. I’ll leave the 2st cent. to others.

20th Cent. SF:

1. Dune, Frank Herbert
2. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
3. Neuromancer, William Gibson
4. A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick
5. The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Gene Wolfe

20th Cent. Fantasy:

1. Hobbit/LOTR, Tolkien
2. Little, Big, John Crowley
3. Lud in the Mist, Hope Mirlees
4. Mother London, Michael Moorcock
5. The Dying Earth, Jack Vance

Cecelia Holland

What about Reindeer Moon? This is a book I almost never see discussed among sf and fantasy writers but it’s astonishing, kind of sui generis as many such books are.

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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