Watts (chipotle) wrote,

50 SF/Fantasy Book Meme

This was too amusing a meme, from aureth, not to try and do: a list of fifty science fiction/fantasy novels, marked with bold for books I’ve read, italic for books I haven’t read but plan to, and left plain for ones I haven’t read and have no immediate plans to get to.

Most of these are classic by one definition or another: a few are here primarily by dint of commercial success, I think, but many of them are highly acclaimed and some are pretty influential in the field.

  • The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
  • Dune, Frank Herbert
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
  • A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Neuromancer, William Gibson
  • Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
  • The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  • The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  • The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
  • Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
  • Cities in Flight, James Blish
  • The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
  • Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
  • Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
  • The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
  • Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
  • Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
  • Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
  • The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
  • The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
  • Gateway, Frederik Pohl
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
  • I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
  • Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Little, Big, John Crowley
  • Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
  • The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
  • Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
  • More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
  • The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
  • On the Beach, Nevil Shute
  • Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Ringworld, Larry Niven
  • Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
  • The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
  • Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
  • The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
  • Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
  • Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
  • The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
  • Timescape, Gregory Benford
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

It’s vaguely interesting for me to see what I’ve missed and what I haven’t. A few ones that are genuine classics that I’m just not that interested in, like Caves of Steel and Cities in Flight; I’m up front about being more of a literary snob these days (and also have a pretty short attention span, sadly), and many classic authors were great imaginers but not very good writers. I’ve seen the Harry Potter movies but that’s about as much as I need. The one Anne Rice book is more than I need.

aureth made an observation about authors pissing one off enough that you’re not interested in reading their work, which I can understand to a degree—he mentioned it in the context of Harlan Ellison, and also Orson Card. I suspect haikujaguar would put China Miéville onto that list of “authors whose nonfiction statements annoy me so much I won’t read them”—but she’d probably take Card off. To me, how subjectively annoying an author may be in other contexts doesn’t have direct relevance to the book.1 I’d put Miéville’s Perdido Street Station onto that list of 50 books above, probably quietly removing Brooks’ The Sword of Tolkien Search and Replace in the process.


1. I think an author’s attitudes have indirect relevance, because they’ll affect the book. John Kessel makes an interesting, if somewhat incendiary, argument to this effect in “Creating the Innocent Killer: Ender’s Game, Intention, and Morality,” presenting the thesis that the appeal of Ender is that it offers a fantasy of revenge without guilt: “If you ever feared that at some level you might deserve any abuse you suffered, Ender’s story tells you that you do not. You are specially gifted, and better than anyone else. Your mistreatment is the evidence of your gifts.” (For the record, were that list above definitively a “list of books you must read to be literate in the genre,” I’d probably take Ender’s Game off—but I’d replace it with Speaker for the Dead. Just like Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” and “Jeffty Is Five,” influential is influential.)

Tags: writing

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