Monday, March 12, 2007

The Sci-Fi Meme

A list of the "Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years" has been doing the rounds, and now appears to have evolved into a meme. The idea is that you reproduce the following list with the books you have read in bold-type.

Here's the list. And though I consider myself a SF fan, it appears I'm not as big a fan as I thought:

  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
  19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
  20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
  21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
  22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
  23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
  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
  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
  48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
  49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
  50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer
The consensus seems to be that of sheer mystification regarding the inclusion of The Sword of Shannara on this list, and understandably so. The book is derivative rubbish: not only is it a cheap rip-off (in every sense) of Lord of the Rings, it also reads like the kind of fantasy novel that graces the bargain bins of second-hand bookstores or the rotating bookstands you find at train station newsagencies. But I suppose it could be argued that this is a list of the most significant SF/Fantasy, and The Sword of Shannara merits its selection on the strength of the Shannara series as a whole. (And the series improves greatly post-Sword.)

Still, if you're going to include The Sword of Shannara for the reasons just mentioned, I don't see why Raymond E. Feist's far superior Magician doesn't get a guernsey. Magician wears its Tolkien influences on its sleeve--particularly in the way it represents elves and dwarves--but it still manages to be original and enthralling.

(And where's L. Ron Hubbard? I haven't read any of his stuff--nor do I plan to--but his SF spawned a whole new religion! How many SF/Fantasy authors can say as much?)

Thumbs up to the inclusion of Stephen Donaldson and William Gibson. I would have liked to have seen Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed up there, too.

(Via Pharyngula. And although this is a meme, I won't tag anybody this time. I'm interested to hear your thoughts, however.)