Vote For the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy in Two Separate Centuries

Through the end of November Locus, the magazine of record for the science fiction and fantasy genre, is doing an online survey for the best science fiction and fantasy of the 20th century (1901 – 2000) and for the 21st (2001 – current). The survey includes best novels in both science fiction and fantasy, and combined ballots for novellas, novelettes and short stories. The 20th century gets ten slots for each category, while the 21st century gets five — which is still a bit of an oversampling, since as of this moment the 21st century is only about an eighth as long as the 20th. But, hey, good for us writing in the 21st century.

If you would like to add your votes, here is a link to the survey. You’ll have to fill in identifying information; anonymous ballots won’t be counted. Note that apparently how you rank the works counts, i.e., putting a work in first position has more weight than placing it fifth in overall scoring. So think about placement.

If you’re thinking of adding any of my works to your ballot, I would note a) all my science fiction has been published in the 21st century, b) “The God Engines” is a novella, c) “The Sagan Diary” is a novelette, d) all my other short fiction are short stories.

Happy voting!

27 Comments on “Vote For the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy in Two Separate Centuries”

  1. Can’t wait to get home and go through my library, research my votes. This sounds considerably more fun than heading out into the cold for my evening’s exercise. Thanks for the link!

  2. Starting with the 20th century, here’s my list. I decided on only one work per author. Also it’s hard to know what “best” means, since there are a lot of different meanings. This was hard.

    Foundation Trilogy
    The Sparrow
    Startide Rising
    Ender’s Game
    Snow Crash
    A Fire Upon the Deep
    Stranger in a Strange Land

    H.M.: Hyperion, Doomsday Book, Slaughterhouse 5, Grass, The Blind Assassin (not really SF but in their list), Use of Weapons, Memory, Cyteen, The Man in the High Castle, Metropolitan

    I haven’t read Gravity’s Rainbow or Dhalgren, both of which are probably contenders.

    Lord of the Rings
    A Wizard of Earthsea
    The Riddle-Master of Hed
    Watership Down
    Game of Thrones
    The Last Unicorn
    The Fires of Heaven (not listed in their list)
    Last Call
    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

    This was hard.

  3. 21st Fantasy:
    – Iron Council
    – A Shadow in Summer
    – Jonathan Strange
    – Devices & Desires (KJ Parker – not on their list)
    – The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern – inexplicably not on their list)

    21st Sci-fi:
    – Altered Carbon
    – Spin State (Chris Moriarty – not on their list)
    – Chasm City
    – Windup Girl
    – Spin

  4. Also, not sure HOW to categorize these novels but both are thought-provoking and worth reading and neither are on the list: 21st cent. Kevin Brockmeier’s The Brief History of the Dead and The Illumination.

  5. Thanks john for posting this because otherwise I wouldn’t have known about it and been able to vote. Unfortunately this is going to take a little time for me. It’s a little confusing for me because although set’s are usually considered as one choice like with LoTHR other’s like McCaffrey’ss DoP or King’s DT series were listed by book. I was a little surprised Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry wasn’t on there, but I’ll just write it in if I can. I figure it will take me a couple of days to work out all my choices. It’s amazing after reviewing the lists just how many books I’ve actually read from them. But it sure was fun.

  6. It seems that Nov 27-30 is far too short a time to think through my over half-century of reading SF.

  7. Matt W: I have never understood why Chris Moriarty is not at least as popular as Reynolds, Morgan or Asher. Same territory (particularly with Morgan), better writing (and I like all of those writers.)

  8. What! Have I got lists? Yeah I got lists!

    20th Century SF Novel

    In some order

    -Simmons, Dan : Hyperion
    -Herbert, Frank : Dune
    -Card, Orson Scott : Speaker for the Dead
    -Pohl, Frederik : Gateway
    -Stephenson, Neal : Snow Crash
    -Haldeman, Joe : The Forever War
    -Egan, Greg : Permutation City
    -Brunner, John : Stand on Zanzibar

    20th Century Fantasy Novel

    -Zelazny, Roger : Lord of Light (Is is Science Fiction? Is it Fantasy? I don’t even know)
    -Danielewski, Mark, The House of Leaves (Worthy of serious consideration)
    -Pratchett, Terry : Small Gods (I suggest Discworld fans coordinate to vote up one of his books as emblematic of the series. I chose this one, though Reaper Man is better)

    Only 3? Am I that Lazy? Yes.

    21st Century SF Novel

    -Peter Watts, Blindsight (it’s the best novel)
    -Dexter Palmer, The Dream of Perpetual Motion (Most criminally underrated piece of genre fiction of the decade)
    -Bacigalupi, Paolo, The Windup Girl (2009)
    -Stross, Charles, Accelerando (2005)
    -Wilson, Robert, Charles Spin (2005)

    21st Century Fantasy Novel

    -Mieville, China, Perdido Street Station (Obviously, what even is an ‘Iron Council’? It’s a less good book is what it is)
    -Yudkowsky, Eliezer, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (What? WHAT?! Is this a fanfic? Why yes, yes it is. I will stand by it as being one of the best works of Fantasy of this or any other century)
    -Clarke, Susanna Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (it was this or American Gods)
    -Grossman, Lev, The Magicians (Almost swapped this out for The Blade Itself, but Abercombie’s magnificent deconstruction only works as a trilogy, otherwise it’s just a mediocrity. This beast stands on its own)
    -Pratchett, Terry Night Watch (A second one!)

    I voted for some short fiction stuff too, the only important vote was for
    21st Century SF/F Novelette

    -Blindsight by Peter Watts.
    Cause it’s the best.

    Also voted for Three Worlds Collide by Yudkowsky because its hilarious and his page was open on my computer at the time (see above).

    Matt W has a good list except for the odd oversight by which it was made to differ from mine. Also, Iron Council? SRSLY?

  9. @Brendan Tastes differ:) PSS is a 2000 release, which disqualifies it for the 21st century list, or I would have used it instead. However, I do like the tone of Iron Council better: lyrical, almost like a fable. Also, too, flesh golems. I mean, flesh. golems. How can that not be a win?

    Oh and The Magicians, yes. I would probably have to switch something out for that.

  10. 20c Best SF Novels:
    1. Book Of The New Sun
    2. Stars My Destination
    3. Dispossessed
    4. Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
    5. Stand on Zanzibar
    6. Man in the High Castle
    6. Way Station (Simak)
    7. Courtship Rite (Donald Kingsbury)
    8. Distraction (Bruce Sterling)
    9. Carve The Sky (Alexander Jablokov)

    20c Best Fantasy Novels:
    1. King Of Elfland’s Daughter (Dunsany)
    2. The Worm Ourobouros (Eddison)
    3. Moonwise (Gilman)
    4. Waking The Moon (Hand)
    5. Warhound And The World’s Pain (Moorcock)
    6. Tigana (Gavriel Kay)
    7. On Stranger Tides (Powers)
    8. Iron Dragon’s Daughter (Swanwick)
    9. Rats and Gargoyles (Gentle)
    10. A Song For The Basilisk (McKillip)

  11. Do you know if I have to lie about my gender to get counted? I’m worried that if I say anything other than “male” or “female” they might delete my vote.

  12. sojournerstrange: I work for the print version of Locus, not the website, so I don’t have anything to do with this poll directly, but I suspect you can put whatever gender you like without fear of deletion. We’re interested in demographics, sure — but we don’t have a strictly binary view of those demographics. (I mean, our headquarters is in the San Francisco Bay Area.)

  13. I voted several weeks ago (I visit the Locus site about once a week and have done so since 2005 although not a writer myself). Any number of responses are accepted; you are free to skip lists or to provide fewer than 10 rank-ordered entries in a given list.

    With all respect to our host and his works, I didn’t provide any entries at all for the 21st-century categories; I found that I could only vote for stories and novels I’d reread over a period of 15 to (gulp!) 43 years, and probably would want to reread again – basically, a desert-island list.

  14. @Tim Pratt: Great :’D I am already marshaling my listiness. Alas that I gave up on that youthful endeavor to record every single book I had ever read; my memory could do with all the promptings in the world, aha.

  15. Sorry John. It took me an hour to read the first two lists. I voted for best novels of the 20th. And gave up. I thought it might be fun, then it turned out to be One HELL of a lot of work.
    Maybe if they organize the categories better next time. Like only putting in SF novels for the SF voting and not all the fantasy with the sf. Just my opinion.

  16. By the way, I decided to put Erikson’s “Mazalan Book Of The Fallen” in the 21st Century Fantasy list, since the first book was published in 1999 and the other 9 books were published in the next century.

  17. 20th SF
    Hyperion: Dan Simmons
    Ringworld: Larry Niven
    The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: Douglas Adams
    Dune:Frank Herbert
    Forge of God: Greg Bear
    Spock’s World: Diane Duane
    Titan:John Varley
    Gateway: Frederick Pohl
    Speaker for the Dead: Orson Scott Card
    The Final Reflection: John M Ford
    20th Fantasy
    The Hobbit: JRR Tolkein
    High Deryni: Katherine Kurtz
    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: JK Rowling
    Nine Princes in Amber: Roger Zelazny
    Lord of the Rings: JRR Tolkien
    Tigana: Guy Gavriel Kay
    Assassin Apprentice: Robin Hobb
    Thieves World: edited by Robert Aspirin
    A Spell for Chameleon: Piers Anthony
    Jhereg: Stephen Brust
    21st Fantasy (I have read next to no SF so far this Century… I can’t honestly say why)
    The Curse of Chalion: Lois McMaster Bujold
    The Briar King: Gregory Keyes
    The Thousandfold Thought: R Scott Bakker
    The Scar: China Meiville
    Issola: Stephen Brust

  18. I spotted this several weeks ago and dived in. It did turn out to be a lot of serious thinking, always the hardest work. I tried to strike a balance between Good, Important, and My Faves, the latter parameter leading to a certain continuity of authors between categories.
    As a dedicated fan of short fiction, I’ll skip my novel choices and the entire 21st C to keep the post merely massive:

    20th C Novellas
    The Persistence Of Vision – Varley
    Logic Of Empire – Heinlein
    The Shadow Over Innsmouth – Lovecraft
    There Beneath The Silky-trees And Whelmed In Deeper Gulphs Than Me – Davidson
    We Print The Truth – Boucher
    Rumfuddle – Vance
    True names – Vinge
    The Night We Buried Road Dog – Cady
    Coventry – Heinlein
    The Last Castle – Vance

    20th C Novelettes
    The Sources Of The Nile – Davidson
    Gonna Roll The Bones – Leiber
    Jackpot – Heinlein
    The Colour Out Of Space – Lovecraft
    In The Bowl – Varley
    Flowers For Algernon – Keyes
    Petra – Bear
    The Little Black Bag – Kornbluth
    Fondly Fahrenheit – Bester
    Spud And Cochise – Lafarge

    20th C Short Stories
    The Open Window – Saki
    Uncle Einar – Bradbury
    Space-time For Springers – Leiber
    The Pink Caterpillar – Boucher
    Narrow Valley – Lafferty
    The House The Blakeneys Built – Davidson
    The Cloud Sculptors Of Coral-D – Ballard
    The Pusher – Varley
    The Game Of Blood And Dust – Zelazny
    Faraway Eyes – Rucker

  19. So, trying to chase down the awesomest short fiction? there was WEEPING and GNASHING OF TEETH. I need to keep track of these things from now on or I will only be able to remember one or two absolute unbeatable favorites per…. like….. decade of readership. Max.

  20. Please vote everyone. A tough (took a couple of hours) but rewarding exercise. It was a matter of honour to fill all the categories. The one that gave the most problems was the short story category for either century, for opposing reasons. For the 20th century it was too easy to come up with 20-25 stories that ‘couldn’t’ be left off the list, reducing them to 10 was painful. On the other hand it was difficult to come up with 5 21st century short stories that were good enough. A couple of my immediate choices turned out to be novelettes, leaving me searching online and my library for candidates. Have writers not been particularly memorable at the shortest lengths this century or am I just not in touch?

    Another reflection on going over the ballot. Only 10 percent of my choices for the 20th century turned out to be written by women (Shirley Jackson, Ursula LeGuin, James Tiptree Jr., Octavia Butler and Connie Willis), while in the 21st century it was much closer to 50-50. An accurate reflection of the history of the field or my own prejudices? I can’t tell.

  21. I only did SF novels, since that’s the bulk of what I read. I based my votes on the books I recommend the most to fellow fans. I am SO pleased to see Blindsight showing up on others’ lists – it needs more promotion! By the way, I had no compunction about including more than one title by an author. If I love more than one book, then in they go!

    Demolished man
    Stars my destination
    Fire upon the deep
    Deepness in the sky
    Foundation trilogy
    Doomsday Book
    Moving Mars
    Uplift war

    City & the City
    Old man’s war
    Little brother

  22. Oh – follow up to my previous post – maybe I should mention that I consider The City & the City to be science fiction rather than fantasy. It just felt conceptually SF to me.

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