Stole this from BinaryKitten... I'm a sucker for a book meme.

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club. Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

* 1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
* 2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
* 3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
* 5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
* 6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
*16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
*18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison (warning: don't read these stories all at once. They exceed the RDA for depression.)
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester (wasn't that the PsyCorps guy in Babylon 5?)
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
* 21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey (loved it when I was 10 or so... haven't re-read it since)
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson (I really, really hated this book. The writing was all right but the characters were repellant and the plot was uninteresting.)
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
* 27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
* 29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice (don't you judge me!)
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
* 41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
* 43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
* 47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock (loved it when I was 14 or so, haven't read it since)
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks(Hated this book. Powerful weak writing and absolutely no original ideas)
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

Huh. There's a stretch in the 30's that I'd never even heard of, and I'm quite the fangirl. I do wonder about the criteria for inclusion in this list, and I also wonder why it's so heavy on the SF and light on the fantasy ("Lord of Light" instead of the Amber series for the Zelazny pick?!?). Xaq said on BinaryKitten's blog that maybe the compilers considered most fantasy to instead be "children's books" instead of "novels" but that doesn't explain how the Anne McCaffrey, J.K. Rowling and Ursula LeGuin books made this list since all of those are traditionally considered "Young Adult" fare.

There's also the old question of how to define fantasy... what about "The Handmaid's Tale"? "Brave New World"? I'd consider them and all their dystopian ilk pretty "significant."

Oh, and some things that I kept reminding myself to include at their proper times and then completely forgot...

1) A link for Halloween: Best Non-human Costume Contest Winner

2) Another Halloween link: Handbags of Horror!

3) A quote for November 5: “Guy Fawkes. The last man to go into parliament with either an honest motive or a workable plan for carrying it out.”


  1. Anonymous said...

    oh wow . . . I need to work "vomitous fringe, leprous appliqu├ęs, and macabre pom-poms" into a short story! I want those words on a t-shirt or something. So many t-shirt ideas and so little time.

    And thanks to you I have now spent two hours looking a cute creatures instead of doing a paper. J acuse!  

  2. Carl Norum said...

    Childhood's End is the best.  

  3. Christopher said...

    I've read one more of these books than Amy has. I had to say that because I never saw myself putting read, more, and Amy into a sentence quite like that.  

  4. Amy said...

    Which one, Chris? I have to say, I *think* I did read "Rendezvous With Rama" (I can remember the cover) but I cannot remember a thing about it so I didn't count it.  

  5. Christopher said...

    There are some pluses and minuses. I've never read A Canticle for Leibowitz, but I own The Caves of Steel, and while I used to be an avid Nevil Shute reader, I never did get bit by the Harry Potter Bug. The overall score is +1, but I'm willing to call it a draw. I'd be suprised if you've read Childhood's End and not Rendezvous with Rama.  

  6. Anonymous said...


    I remember giving you Snow Crash. I didn't like it but you embraced the hero, Hiro. :-P

    I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of Thomas Covenant. I found the lead character repulsive although I've heard there is no middle ground with that series. You either completely hate it or can't live without it.

    The inclusion of Brooks is a total mystery. It was a cheap rip-off of Tolkien and after reading the first one I had no more desire to read such cribbed drivel.

    I support your praise of Interview With A Vampire. When the book first came out, it was one of the best vampire stories I had ever read. However, she seemed to have used all her energy on that first one. Her subsequent efforts have sunk to the realms of Brooks' Shanara stuff, (as criticised in the original BinaryKitten post). Perhaps the nine year gap between Interview and Lestat, and only two more years until Queen Of The Damned, is telling. The series' books just seemed to come faster after that and the quality decreased.

    The list may be made up from book club sales or, perhaps, a certain book is in the list because it was the first, best, trendsetter, of a type. I don't know. The cynic in me says that the list is designed to spur sales of current book club titles. It's too bad SFBC didn't justify their list.

    There has been a lot of debate in the letters to the editor at the SFBC about what is SF and what is Fantasy and what is both. The debate seems to boil down to 'a matter of taste'; much like the list itself. I agree that there are some fine books and authors not on the list, and it is unclear to me why some author's minor works are also included along with their most famous book.

    A few authors I would have included would be H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Burroughs, Robert Howard, Harry Harrison, etc. I agree that Larry Niven's Ringworld should be on the list because that mythos has spawned numerous stories by many other authors. Hmm, perhaps not Lovecraft because he is most known as a short story writer...

    And lastly, I too would question the exclusion of Atwood, Burgess, Orwell, et al, but I think they have not been included because they are not hard-core, respected SF&F authors. Sure some of thier books fit the genre but it was not their bread and butter. They are classed satirists. Which doesn't make a lot of sense to me since the best SF&F is chock full of satire. Or, is it because they are not on SFBC's list of titles?


  7. Amy said...

    Derek!!!! Hi!!!!

    I believe that the exclusion of Howard and Lovecraft (and possibly Orwell) was due to the time period specified... I think most of Orwell's stuff was published before 1953 and I'm pretty sure Lovecraft's and Howard's were. Otherwise, saying that the creator of Conan was "not significant" would prove the whole thing a sham and a travesty.

    (and thank you for bringing up Burgess... I *knew* there was another famous book like that and I really wanted three examples, but "A Clockwork Orange" never came off the tip of my tongue.)

    (and an especial thank you for summing up Brooks as "cribbed drivel." I will cherish that phrase.)

    I also realized last night (during a re-reading of "Taller Tales") that not including Neil Gaiman for the Sandman series is a sin and a shame. And anyone who says a graphic novel isn't a novel can bite me.

    Oh, and Chris, you should read "A Canticle for Leibowitz." I think you'd like it.  

  8. Anonymous said...

    Yo Amy:

    It's true. I am one of the much maligned "blog lurkers". However, you have struck a nerve for me. SF&F is my main source of fiction reading enjoyment.

    Specifically, once again the mouth has spoken bofore the brain. A typical problem with me. I didn't realise the fine print of the era. Most of the authors and stories I listed were before 1953, except Harrison.

    The problem for me is that I have been ordering books from SFBC that are 'pulps' from before that time. Very fine stories indeed. That is, before reality covered up our closest neighbours.

    Now you have spurred me to order 'Canticle'. Perhaps they, SFBC, have achieved their goal afterall. :-)


  9. xenophile said...

    Yeah, this list was obviously pretty arbitrary... the more I think about it, the more I think that it was created in the same fashion as MANY "top lists" out there: A group of experts (probably book publishers, editors, etc in this case) are assembled in a room and just asked to name the top 50, meaning that the list is essentially just whatever occurred to them at the time. That means that the top 5 or so might be pretty accurate, being the first things to occur to them... but everything afterwards is a case of "Oh, hey, and what about so-and-so? Let's add that one too."

    The Rolling Stones list of the top 100 guitar players of all time always makes me scratch my head in much the same fashion... the fact that Frank Zappa ranks above Pete Townshend and Lou Reed, or that Kurt Cobain ranks #12, well above the likes of even Carlos Santana and Mark Knopfler, just blows my mind. Lists like these really should take extended deliberation and have specific criteria, and those criteria should be posted along with the list.

    Side note: Stephen R. Donaldson writes very good short stories, but MAN is the Thomas Covenant series dry and boring!! He should be forbidden to write anything longer than 200 pages, ever.  

  10. Drang said...

    I'm interested by your characterization of Ursula Le Guin as a young adult writer. I can see the strong coming of age theme in the "Earthsea" books, but I first read "The Left Hand of Darkness" about five years ago, and I thought that it was a pretty grownup investigation of gender and society.

    If you read Rama and forgot, I'd understand. It's fascinating but leaves one unsatisfied.

    I think it's interesting that I have no idea if I've read those particular Asimov, Blish, and Farmer books, as I generally find that those authors blend together in my memory.

    I think that "Lord of Light" gets the Zelazny credit because it was earlier than the Amber series, and really set the stage for the pattern that he was to follow for his future heroes.

    Finally (I could go on more, but I won't), I really think that if Le Guin gets two mentions, then Brunner's 1965 "The Repairmen of Cyclops" ought to also get a mention, as it defines (for me) the socially-focussed interstellar society. I really ought to do more research on timelines for that claim, though.  

  11. Zreekee said...

    You HAVE to read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. The other 2 books right after it are pretty ok, but Ender's Game is SO awesome.

    I like The Covenent series, but I wouldn't say I love it.

    And if you haven't read the Foriegner series by CJ Cherryh, well.... it's just awesome as well.

    Elizabeth Moon is good too, and didn't make the list but it was only 50 authors long. :)



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