A Twitter Thread: OMW and “Best Of”s
From earlier today. Posting here for archival and conversational purposes.
1. I saw someone posting the “Best of 21st Century” Locus Poll from more than a decade ago (on which Old Man’s War topped the SF list) and wondering how the top tier of the books on the list have held up in the time since. I won’t speak to the other books, but I’ll speak on mine.
2. To get it out of the way, Old Man’s War is not the best SF book of the 21st Century to date. To suggest it is so in a world where The Broken Earth trilogy exists is, uhhhh, inaccurate (that trilogy spans both SF/Fantasy and tops both categories). This is not arguable.
3. (Also, it was incorrect even in 2011, when the Locus poll in question was first released, for reasons I explained at the time with regard to OMW topping a different “best of” poll: https://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/03/16/reader-request-week-2011-4-old-mans-war-and-the-best-sff-novel-of-the-decade/ )
4. To be clear: OMW is really good, he said with no bias whatsoever! And one of the best this century at being widely accessible, with a “classic” science fiction feel. It’s why the book has basically sold the same constant numbers, year in and year out, for a decade and a half.
5. When the definitive history of 21st Century SF is written (MUCH further in the future than now), I’m pretty sure OMW will be in there and noted. I and my work will be in the mix, and you know what, for my purposes, that’s going to be fine, to the extent I’ll care when dead.
6. With that said, in SF/F literature, the era we live in now is *vastly* different than the era in which OMW came out, 17 (yikes!) years ago. What’s being published has a wider authorship, a wider readership and a rather wider palette of stories, concerns and interests.
7. There’s not a sharp dividing line (all cultural eras in every creative medium are fuzzy at best) but certainly the *vibe* of SF/F lit, if you want to call it that, is in a far different place than it was even a decade ago. So a 10-year-old “best of” list will feel dated.
8. Which is how it should be! How utterly tragic for the genre if new authors and works weren’t taking it to places it hadn’t been before, recontextualizing the field and what work in it can be. SF/F isn’t meant to be static; it’s meant to change, and to be wild and unexpected.
9. OMW is really good. But other work makes a better claim at being the “best” science fiction novel of the 21st Century. One hopes in another decade, different work by different authors can put a stake in for that claim. And still others, in all the decades through to the year 2100.
10. If in 2100, OMW is still a “Top 100 SF Novel of the 21st Century,” I’m sure my great-grandkids and biographers will be happy about it. But I’m hoping most of what’s on that list will be work that’s still yet to come. And I hope I get to read a lot of it before I go.
11. Thank you for reading. And now, as always, we close this thread on a picture of a cat.