The Canons That Came In From the Cold

Cheryl Morgan has posted the results of the “20 essential science fiction books of the past 20 years” panel from Denvention, in which she, Graham Sleight, Gary Wolfe, Karen Burnham and Charles Brown each drew up a list, and then they discussed. Some observations.

  • Picking entire series of books seems like cheating to me. I can see a case for something like Science in the Capitol, or Book of the Long Sun, which really are long stories split into multiple volumes; but having all the Culture books, or the entire Fall Revolution sequence, is just greedy.
  • I am baffled by the fact that Charles Brown apparently can’t think of enough essential sf books from the last 20 years to fill out a list of 20; that said, given the cheating noting above, and the fact that Karen’s list has 22 items on it anyway, I guess it balances out.
  • Books that I am surprised did not get more mentions: A Fire Upon the Deep; Stories of Your Life and Others; China Mountain Zhang; The Sparrow; Light; The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (particularly given the tendency to pick “emblematic” books rather than strictly “essential” ones; would it be on anyone’s list now that it’s won the Hugo, I wonder?)
  • Books that I am surprised were mentioned as many times as they were: The Course of the Heart (even allowing for a generous definition of “science fiction”); Magic for Beginners (ditto); Diaspora (that’s the most essential Egan from this period? Really?); Against the Day (wishful thinking there, I feel); Antarctica (I love it, and I suppose it is a half-way house between the landscape of the Mars books and the focus of the Capitol books, but it still seems a perverse choice for a representative KSR book).
  • Books mentioned by all five panellists: as Cheryl Morgan notes, only one: River of Gods.
  • Authors mentioned by all five panellists: Ian McDonald; Dan Simmons; Kim Stanley Robinson.
  • Years with the most books mentioned (counting series from the publication of the first volume): 1989; 1992; 1996; 2004 (six each).
  • Years with the fewest books mentioned: 1988; 2001; 2003; 2007; 2008 (one each).
  • A consensus list (being those books that got more than one mention, with authors’ most often-mentioned books chosen in cases where authors have more than one book mentioned, or conflated into series choices where necessary):
    • The Culture Novels, Iain M Banks (starting 1987)
    • The Hyperion Cantos, Dan Simmons (starting 1989)
    • Grass, Sherri S Tepper (1989)
    • The Aleutian Trilogy, Gwyneth Jones (starting 1991)
    • The Mars Trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson (starting 1992)
    • Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson (1992)
    • The Flower Cities sequence, Kathleen Ann Goonan (starting 1994)
    • Fairyland, Paul McAuley (1996)
    • Diaspora, Greg Egan (1997)
    • Revelation Space, Alastair Reynolds (2000)
    • The Arabesks, Jon Courtenay Grimwood (starting 2000)
    • Light, M John Harrison (2002)
    • Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang (2002)
    • Evolution, Stephen Baxter (2003)
    • Pattern Recognition, William Gibson (2003)
    • Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
    • Air, Geoff Ryman (2004)
    • River of Gods, Ian McDonald (2004)
    • Accelerando, Charles Stross (2005)
    • Spin, Robert Charles Wilson (2005)
  • If I could do some kind of fancy sequence analysis, I could work out whose list most agrees or disagrees with this consensus; it’s also my sense, eyeballing the aggregate data, that there is more consensus about the past decade than there is about the nineties, but I’m not sure how to analyze that, either. The larger questions, though, are: which list do you most agree with? And what do you think is missing?
About these ads

54 Responses to “The Canons That Came In From the Cold”

  1. Graham Says:

    So what’s your list, Mr H?

  2. Niall Says:

    Probably something like:

    White Queen, Gwyneth Jones (1991)
    China Mountain Zhang, Maureen McHugh (1992)
    A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge (1992)
    Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson (1992)
    Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson (1993)
    Axiomatic, Greg Egan (1995)
    Fairyland, Paul McAuley (1995)
    The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell (1996)
    Excession, Iain M Banks (1996)
    Vacuum Diagrams, Stephen Baxter (1997)
    Light, M John Harrison (2002)
    Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang (2002)
    Pattern Recognition, William Gibson (2003)
    River of Gods, Ian McDonald (2004)
    Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
    Breathmoss and Other Exhalations, Ian R MacLeod (2004)
    Air, Geoff Ryman (2004)
    Accelerando, Charles Stross (2005)
    The Best of the Best, ed. Gardner Dozois (2005)
    The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon (2007)

    I’m aware that the Dozois probably has a few stories in it that fall outside the period, but I can’t think of another similar retrospective anthology. I would be tempted to switch in Pump Six or Black Man somewhere. I also must go and read more Kathleen Ann Goonan.

  3. Graham Says:

    So I’m 50% consensus and 35% female, and you’re 60% consensus and 15% female.

  4. Nick H. Says:

    “I am baffled by the fact that Charles Brown apparently can’t think of enough essential sf books from the last 20 years to fill out a list of 20″

    I’m even more baffled that, out of the entire Hyperion Cantos, he found the Fall of Hyperion to be the only one of note (clearly if you’re only going to pick one it should be Hyperion).

    I must admit, I’d probably struggle to pick 20 books from the last 20 years myself, given I’ve only relatively recently started reading more contemporary science fiction. After Hyperpion, Black Man, Accelerando, and an Arabesk, I’d start to struggle. I might even be slightly cheeky and put We3 in the list too.

  5. Niall Says:

    Graham: In this instance, yes, I am apparently more conformist and patriarchal than you.

    Nick: I was actually surprised how many of the listed books I have actually read — I think of myself as being relatively under-read in anything published before, ooh, 1998, or anything from the last three years not published in the UK — but there’s a whole bunch I’d want to read before I’d feel comfortable claiming much authority for my list above.

  6. Graham Says:

    Niall: was there a reason for you not choosing the whole of the Mars and Aleutian sequences? I mean, they are more-or-less continuous, certainly more so than the Culture books. And Vacuum Diagrams over Voyage or Evolution?

    I have to say, if there were a 1-volume Best-of-Ian-Macleod, that would have made it on the list in an instant, but Breathmoss isn’t quite it.

    Oh, and other roads not taken: I decided that including retrospectives published within the period but drawing from earlier (The Leiber Chronicles, The Avram Davidson Treasury, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever) was against the spirit, if not the letter of the exercise.

  7. Niall Says:

    was there a reason for you not choosing the whole of the Mars and Aleutian sequences?

    I said I could see the argument for picking multi-volume stories in totality. I didn’t say I agreed with it. You can read Red Mars and get what’s essential about the Mars Trilogy as a whole.

    And Vacuum Diagrams over Voyage or Evolution?

    In the end, yes; it does the cosmic spectacle thing nearly as well as Evolution, but is set in Baxter’s best-developed timeline, and is a short story collection to boot.

    Breathmoss isn’t quite it.

    Breathmoss is certainly the most self-indulgent choice on the list, being mostly based on how very very much I love “Isabel of the Fall”, “The Summer Isles” and “New Light on the Drake Equation”.

  8. Graham Says:

    Oh, and other metrics. I am 40% UK-resident, Niall is 50%, consensus is 55%.

  9. Abigail Says:

    I’m a little surprised by the presence of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union on your list. It’s a good book (though sadly flawed, especially towards its end, and far from Chabon’s best), but how is it essential or even emblematic SF? If you want an example of a mainstream author joyfully and unreservedly using genre tropes, you’ve got Cloud Atlas, and I don’t see what else TYPU does that exemplifies SF over the last 20 years.

  10. Graham Says:

    Authors you might expect to see mentioned, but who aren’t on anyone’s lists: Lois McMaster Bujold, Thomas M Disch*, Colin Greenland, Joe Haldeman, James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel*, Elizabeth Moon, Robert Reed, Adam Roberts, Robert Sawyer, John Scalzi, Ian Watson. Who else are we missing out?

    *made it to my supplementary list.

  11. Niall Says:

    Abigail:

    If you want an example of a mainstream author joyfully and unreservedly using genre tropes, you’ve got Cloud Atlas

    I would draw a fine distinction between using genre tropes, which is what Cloud Atlas does, and embracing them, which I think The Yiddish Policemen’s Union does (for all that I agree with you about its flaws, and think the Mitchell is ultimately better). Chabon’s book is also the only novel-length alternate history on my list, plus emblematic in the sense that it has achieved a level of recognition and acclaim, both inside and outside the genre, that no other book has matched.

    Do we get your list? :)

  12. Paul Kincaid Says:

    Back in 1999? 2000? sometime around then, I was on a panel at a convention in Seattle that did the same thing, each of the panelists produced a list of 20 key books from the last 20 years. The lists were all published in the first Steam Engine Time – it might be interesting to compare them.

  13. Niall Says:

    Thanks for the pointer, Paul; for everyone else the issue is here (pdf), with the lists on pages 8, 12, 27, 35 and 39, although they seem to include fantasy as well as sf. SF books from the period covered by the Worldcon panel, but not mentioned by the panelists, are:

    The City, Not Long After (Pat Murphy, 1989)
    A Woman of the Iron People (Eleanor Arnason, 1991)
    Stations of the Tide (Michael Swanwick, 1991)
    Vurt (Jeff Noon, 1993)
    Mother of Storms (Jonathan Barnes, 1994)
    The Time Ships (Stephen Baxter, 1995)
    The Prestige (Christopher Priest, 1995)
    The Reality Dysfunction (Peter F Hamilton, 1996)
    Black Wine (Candas Jane Dorsey, 1997) [I thought this was fantasy, but this review seem to indicate sf, or hybrid]

  14. Liz Says:

    I tried to line up each critic’s choices with Niall’s consensus list, which leads to the following observations:
    Wolfe and Burnham both pick 13 of the 20 choices, but Karen is cheating :) Graham is the furthest from consensus, with only 8.
    There is a little block of alignment from 2004 onwards – everyone picked between 2 and 4 from the last 5 books on the list, even Graham.
    Fairyland and Diaspora come as a pair or not at all.

    Steam Engine Time 1 is found at efanzines, if you would like to compare with thelists produced in 2000.

  15. Niall Says:

    There is a little block of alignment from 2004 onwards

    This seems a little counter to the received wisdom that we can’t tell what the important books are until decades after the fact. Or is it just that we think we can tell at the moment, but will be proved wrong?

    And there’s another list here.

  16. Alison Says:

    Vurt! It sort of didn’t come to anything, but it was wonderful in its time and its day.

  17. Lal Says:

    Neverness, David Zindell (1988)
    The Player Of Games, Iain M Banks (1988)
    Hyperion, Dan Simmons (1989)
    Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson (1992)
    The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, Michael Swanwick (1994)
    The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell (1996)
    Only Forward, Michael Marshall Smith (1998)
    A Game Of Thrones, George R. R. Martin (1998)
    Heroes Die, Matthew Woodring Stover (1999)
    Perdido Street Station, China Mieville (2001)
    Chasm City, Alastair Reynolds (2001)
    Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang (2002)
    Declare, Tim Powers (2002)
    Galveston, Sean Stewart (2002)
    Mortal Engines, Philip Reeve (2002)
    Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susannah Clarke (2004)
    River of Gods, Ian McDonald (2004)
    Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
    Worldstorm, James Lovegrove (2005)
    Spin, Robert Charles Wilson (2005)

  18. Abigail Says:

    I see your point about TYPU being the only novel-length alternate history, but as for its importance, I can’t help but wonder whether that’s just a thing of the moment, seeing as the Hugo buzz (and the buzz derived from the novel having won both the Hugo and the Nebula) is still fresh. I’m not sure it’ll seem as significant in a few years time, or that that significance won’t be derived primarily from Chabon’s status as a champion of genre within the mainstream.

    Do we get your list? :)

    Curses. I’ll have to think about it. Like you, I’m not well read in pre- and early-90s SF. I’d want, for example, to have a Banks book on the list, but none of the ones I’ve read have felt fully baked.

  19. Karen Burnham Says:

    My cheating is worse than you all suspect: the reason I put “the whole darn Culture series” on my list is because I haven’t read any of them. So I couldn’t pick a specific one, but I knew that they’re important enough to be on there.

    The only other book on my list that I haven’t read is Fairyland. I’ve read other McAuley books (and other Banks books), but not that one.

    I am trying to catch up: I own both Fairyland and Consider Phlebas.

    I’ll be posting my own bit of data mining later today.

  20. Karen Burnham Says:

    Data mining/organizing is up over at Spiral Galaxy now. I rated works and authors by how many folks put them on their lists, plus I shuffled in items from Niall’s list and from the SFSignal comment thread.

  21. Nick Hubble Says:

    The Consensus list doesn’t look too bad does it? I think you need sequences because otherwise it really is artificial to single out certain books over others (and I certainly would have the Fall revolution quartet in my 20) – but then i guess this discriminates against writers whose work cannot be lumped into sequences. Although perhaps we could work Priest in there: The definite article sequence!

  22. Terry Weyna Says:

    I’m not going to put up my own list, because I read much more fantasy than SF, but I will say this: I own most of the books on the consensus list, and am delighted to have the list to guide my reading. Thanks to the panel members and the others who have discussed this issue since then on the interwebs!

  23. Niall Says:

    Lal: And now without the fantasy novels? (We could always try to come up with a separate top 20 for fantasy…)

    Karen: I am shocked! Shocked I say!

    Nick: it doesn’t look too bad, no, but I’m glad the individual lists have a bit more flavour to them.

    Terry: see my reply to Lal! Shall we do fantasy books tomorrow?

  24. Liviu Says:

    I’ve read pretty much everything on the list above except Air – and maybe not all Mars Trilogy since it quickly bored me – and I have no idea why for example Mother of Storms is so highly regarded – ok disaster novel, but essential??

    I completely agree with MJH, Banks, Sterling, Mieville, Reynolds, Stephenson, Gibson, JCG, S. Tepper – though I liked more several other books by her – , Hyperion Cantos, Cloud Atlas, River of Gods, Spin, Accelerando, Chiang short fiction.

    I liked G. Jones novels and some Goonan but I think they are from the essential category – better put Sparrow and LM Bujold there if you need gender balance since the first is a masterpiece, while Ms. Bujold is just a towering figure in the genre

    Baxter and Egan are also masters of hard sf though they have other books I would put there – short fiction of Egan and Time of Baxter, while with all due respect Mr. McAuley is not there – nice sf, but essential, no way – there are tens of writers that write more interesting sf

    The ones I would add are:

    WJ Williams – Aristoi, Metropolitan
    P. Hamilton – THE king of modern space opera – Night’s Dawn and the rest
    A. Roberts – THE king of modern literary sf – Stone, Swiftly..
    K. Macleod – The Fall Revolution sequence
    R. Morgan – Altered Carbon and the reinvention of ultra-noir sff
    – military sf masters – like it or not, mil-sf is a large percentage of recent sf and you can have Bujold, Moon, Weber, Drake – whichever you think represents best the subegenre
    C. Asaro – romantic sf – ditto as above, not putting a representative of this fast growing subgenre makes such a list less relevant

  25. kev mcveigh Says:

    Niall: Fantasy could really open up a debate. Go for it.

    It’s interesting to note what is ‘essential’ for people. I’m not a fan of Vernor Vinge but i would argue that his influence makes him essential whereas books I really like might not be.

    It also seems a fairly ‘mainstream’ core SF list in a way. Apart from Mitchell, there isn’t a hint of slipstream for instance.

  26. Cheryl’s Mewsings » Blog Archive » Essential Books Commentary Says:

    [...] Essential Books panel has garnered a fair amount of interest around the blogosphere. In particular Niall Harrison and Karen Burnham have been busy doing data [...]

  27. Niall Says:

    Mr McCalmont weighs in over here.

    Kev:

    Apart from Mitchell, there isn’t a hint of slipstream for instance.

    Er, Pattern Recognition?

    Liviu:

    C. Asaro – romantic sf – ditto as above, not putting a representative of this fast growing subgenre makes such a list less relevant

    Perhaps, although I have to say I didn’t rate The Quantum Rose much at all; I’d be inclined to go for The Time-Traveler’s Wife if I felt the need to cover that base.

  28. Nick Hubble Says:

    If you did 68-88 would there be more divergence?

    Or to put it another way, if TC is still running in 20 years time – it would be interesting to see if the consensus is different. Or will a canon build up that people can’t query because otherwise they look stupid?

    For example (and apologies) I know a lot of people are very keen on The Sparrow but I find it appalling guff. Can one say that as a critic and be taken seriously. Maybe. But is it possible to say something really negative about Air (not that I want to). Already, probably not. So which of the books in the canons above are already beyond debate? Or, in other words, which get included because people have to include them because otherwise they feel they won’t be taken seriously. And is this a cynical definition of what we mean by ‘essential’? Or are there genuinely essential ‘essential’ books?

    For example, I’d start with Pattern Recognition – is it really that good or is it just on there because it seems to need to be. It’s quite an enjoyable book, fun concepts, but for me it loses it about midway.

  29. Jonathan M Says:

    Good question Nick.

    One of the things that struck me with the similar list from 2000 was that it had the Reality Dysfunction on it. I don’t think anyone would include that now simply because too many bad books have come after it.

    In a way, the same forces that impact the Hugo voting have also impacted our lists as we too are influenced by whole bodies of work.

    For example, there’s little agreement over which Egan should be in there suggesting that most people think that Egan is one of the greats of the last 20 years but we’re a lot less clear on what his best work might be.

  30. Niall Says:

    Nick, I know there a number of people — people reading this, even — who are only too happy to say The Sparrow is guff. (China Mieville’s not a fan either, based on his GoH spot at Orbital.) I also know at least two people who can make convincing arguments for why Air is wildly overrated. So I wouldn’t find someone who disliked either of those books less credible as a critic. On the other hand, I think both of them have staked a claim to being canonical in some form or another, and that they will probably both become part of the body of sf that an informed critic would be expected to be familiar with. They can be “essential” without being universally agreed to be good.

  31. Niall Says:

    Oh, and just thought of a book I’d like to add to my list: Blindness by Jose Saramago (1995/1997).

  32. Terry Weyna Says:

    Matt Staggs has a literary fantasy discussion going already, here: http://entertheoctopus.wordpress.com/2008/08/12/essential-reads-in-literary-fantasy/. It’s not limited to the last 20 years, though. And boy, do you get into some categorization problems then! (Perdido Street Station: SF or fantasy? Neither? Both? Certainly essential.)

    Mischief-making woman that I am, I have a question prompted by your more recent graph-making: what were the ages of the authors of these books at the time they wrote them? I’m fairly certain that few of the books that are named here as “essential” won the Hugo or the Nebula, right?

  33. Blue Tyson Says:

    The Sparrow is guff. There you go. :)

    People’s heads here seem stuck in novel-land, perhaps. I’d agree with Niall that Baxter’s story collections are definitely better than his novels.

    Again as Niall points out, if you are a fancypants critic considering Egan, surely you’d have to consider Axiomatic or Luminous along with the longer work?

    If egregious series grabbing is ok, then Garder Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction would appear to be a no-brainer blindspot for the whole lot of them.

  34. David Moles Says:

    Why Excession over Use of Weapons or Player of Games? It’s fun, but it’s got less going on ethically or emotionally than the earlier Culture books, and you’ve got Vinge, Stross and Stephenson to hold up the “gonzo” end.

  35. Graham Says:

    Terry: see my reply to Lal! Shall we do fantasy books tomorrow?

    Off the top of my head:

    Aegypt sequence (1987-2006), John Crowley*
    Rats and Gargoyles (1990), Mary Gentle
    Moonwise (1991), Greer Gilman
    The Ends of the Earth (1991), Lucius Shepard
    Was (1992), Geoff Ryman
    The Course of the Heart (1992), M John Harrison
    Wise Children (1992), Angela Carter
    Glimpses (1993), Lewis Shiner
    The Iron Dragon’s Daughter (1993), Michael Swanwick
    His Dark Materials sequence (1995-2000), Philip Pullman
    Waking the Moon (1995), Elizabeth Hand
    The Physiognomy (1997), Jeffrey Ford
    Declare (2000), Tim Powers
    Perdido Street Station (2000), China Mieville
    The Other Wind (2001), Ursula Le Guin
    Stranger Things Happen (2001), Kelly Link
    Coraline (2002), Neil Gaiman
    The Salt Roads (2003), Nalo Hopkinson
    Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004), Susanna Clarke
    Map of Dreams (2006), M Rickert

    *Yes, I know it falls slightly outside the period, but just considering the three in-period novels would be silly.

    I’m currently partway through reading Paul Park’s “Roumania” sequence, and I suspect when I’m finished that it may displace one of the above.

  36. Niall Says:

    Graham: don’t pre-empt! There’ll be a separate post at lunchtime.

    David: The big gap in my Banks reading is Use of Weapons, so I can’t speak to that comparison. But for me at least, although the political inflection in Banks’ work is part of his influence, his enthusiasm and expansiveness are in many ways his most distinctive traits, and Excession is the purest expression of those. In part, I wanted it as a contrast to the Vinge.

  37. Graham Says:

    Niall: Just so long as you weren’t slacking…

  38. Chrononautic Log 改 » Blog Archive » Feu de joie Says:

    [...] Niall has a new game: Second-guessing the Denvention 20 Essential Science Fiction Books of the Past 20 Years panel. Here’s my take. If there’s something you can’t believe isn’t on the list, probably I didn’t read it. I know, I’m a terrible person. [...]

  39. Rainer Skupsch Says:

    It looks like I am a bit little and you are probably all typing your fantasy Top-20 lists right now.
    Still, I’d just like to make remarks concerning two of the books mentioned above:
    1: “Vacuum Diagrams”
    I read the first three or four stories in this collection, was shocked by the complete absence of human beings, and, consequently, sold the book to some Baxter fan. Are the stories I did not read much better, or did I expect to find things Baxter simply doesn’t deliver?
    2: “Spin”
    Having read this novel I took a look at the reviews at Amazon.com and found one I could wholeheartedly agree with:
    “If you are looking for great literature, look somewhere else. If you are looking for a great adventure novel, look somewhere else.”
    I do appreciate the fact that Wilson tried to write ‘serious’ literature. It’s just that, in my opinion, he failed.

  40. Tony Keen Says:

    I vote for Excession over other Culture novels (a) because it is tremendous exuberant fun, and (b) because it’s the one where you actually find out how decisions get made in the Culture.

  41. Twenty Epics « Torque Control Says:

    [...] The Canons That Came In From the Cold [...]

  42. Karen Burnham Says:

    I’m thinking now that I should defend the “I didn’t read” X & Y statement. Since I’m quite new to the field, I’ve spent much of the last two years asking people much more knowledgeable than myself what I need to read. The resulting reading list spans the time period from the mid-1800s to today. Two of the later books/authors that I hear recommended over and over again are the two mentioned, and I consistently regret not having gotten to them yet. So despite not having read them, I feel that there is a consensus in the air that they are “essential.”

    It may be awhile before I catch up. My catch-up reading is currently stuck in the pre-1930s era. I’ve got another Jack London book, M. P. Shiel’s “Purple Cloud,” two John Taine books, “The Night Lands” by William Hope Hodgson, and at least a couple Lord Dunsany stories to go before I’ll be out of that era. Whew!

  43. Terry Weyna Says:

    Karen, I’d be plenty surprised if there were anyone here (except maybe Graham, who seems to be a walking encyclopedia) who feels like s/he has read everything s/he needs to have read to really speak knowledgeably about the field. It’s just too damn big anymore.

  44. Nick Hubble Says:

    Niall, Thanks for the clarification on essential – that helps a lot. I’m relieved its not just ‘critical correctness’. On one level, we might all be expected to be familiar with a fair chunk (not necessarily a majority) of all mentioned texts just from the joy of reading. On another, there is the idea of the critic familiar with essential books. As long as the two levels don’t stray too far apart then you don’t get major problems.

    On my point concerning Air and The Sparrow – I still think there is a qualitative difference between the possible responses to them. There is a lot of difference between saying something is wildly overrated and saying it is guff. However, if I had to bet on one or the other still being rated in 30 years time, I’d probably go for The Sparrow precisely because it provokes more passion either way than Air. There are probably better books to illustrate the point but …

    (and in case anyone is counting – Use of Weapons over Excession every time for me)

  45. Liz Says:

    Another vote for Excession from me, on the grounds that I would have Banks in here as an example of awesome space opera, and I find the Minds and the ships to be the best part of that. Use of Weapons would be second choice, though.

    Possibly because I’ve got Banks as an example of that brand of excellent British large-scale space opera stuff, I probably wouldn’t have Reynolds on my list, and I confess to not having read the Fall Revolution. I’m not sure what else would be on there, but I think it would be pretty similar to Niall’s list.

  46. Styx Says:

    One observation I’d make, from afar, I live in Australia, is that the majority of the works in the consensus list appear to be by British or Commonwealth authors. This certainly corresponds to my belief that, over the past ten years or so, the most interesting authors and works were being created outside of the US. Don’t know why this is the case. Any explanations? Or is it just statistical anomaly, a quirk?

  47. Blue Tyson Says:

    Could be just one of those things that the yanks aren’t too flash at the moment. Becoming more insular in general might not help the be new and cool factor.

    Speaking of which, lets add some Canadian – Jo Walton at Tor having jogged the memory:

    Lady Of Mazes – Karl Schroeder
    Overclocked – Cory Doctorow

  48. Niall Says:

    I like Martin’s suggestion of including Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire; from memory, it’s not even that bad.

  49. Niall Says:

    … and Steven Silver’s list, although he’s done sf and fantasy combined.

  50. Martin Says:

    SF books from the period covered by the Worldcon panel, but not mentioned by the panelists, are… Mother of Storms (Jonathan Barnes, 1994)

    This is on Brown’s list, isn’t it? I will have to have a think about my twenty.

  51. Chris Wheaton Says:

    The most interesting aspect of the list to me was its lack of continuity with Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards/ nominees.

    River of Gods had unanimous panel support, but only nomination status for Hugo and Locus. Nebula didn’t offer it a nomination.

    The entire Culture series (6 books 1988-2000) received not a single nomination, yet garnered 3 panelist votes.

    The Revelation Space series (3 votes) was ignored by the Hugo and Nebula voters, as were Evolution, Stories of Your Life & Others, Pattern Recognition, Light, Furious Gulf, Coyote Kings, Glimmering, Antarctica, and The Child Garden.

    Diaspora (3 votes) had only a single Locus nomination to celebrate. Not too much when you consider that more than 500 books were nominated for Locus awards in the past 20 years.

    Looking down the list, the Arabesk Series (2 votes) received nary a single award or nomination. Likewise, the Aleutian Trilogy (2) and Stories of Your Life & Others (2) lacked a single nomination in the annual award process.

    On the other hand, Fairyland (3) received 2 nominations, both from Locus. Light (2) received one Nebula nomination and Grass with 2 votes received nominations from all three awards. Mother of Storms received only one panel vote, but had the consolation of nominations from all three awards. Beggars in Spain and China Mountain Zhang had nomination hat tricks, too.

    Was it the intent of the panel to reject the award process as a function of a longer view? The Hyperion Cantos and Mars Trilogy alone won 7 Best Novel awards, nearly as many as all the rest of the novels identified by the panel. Only Spin, Accelerando, Cryptonomicon, Parable of the Talents, Diamond Age (2 best novel awards), and The Doomsday Book (3 wins) received only one panel vote each.

  52. hoggy Says:

    I’ll note that many of the novels you mention received nods in other awards, the Clarke, Tiptree or BSFA for instance.

    However, Stories of Your Life and Others received the Locus Award for Best Collection. I don’t believe the Nebula or Hugo has an appropriate category for it but the individual stories represent a fair chunk of statues. “Hell is the Absence of God” alone won the Nebula, Locus and Hugo.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 91 other followers

%d bloggers like this: