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8-question meme from SF Signal

John DeNardo posts these regularly on SF Signal and I usually have a go at them. This week it’s the following eight questions:

1. The first science fiction, fantasy or horror book I ever read was:
Technically, it would be Doctor Who and the Zarbi by Bill Strutton, a novelisation of the TV series, which my parents gave me as a Christmas present in, I think, 1974. But the first category sf novel I read was Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein, which was lent to me by a classmate in my first year at prep school – so that would be either late 1976 or early 1977.

Doctor_Who_and_the_Zarbi

2. The last science fiction, fantasy or horror book I read that I’d put in my “Top 20″ list is:
I guard my Top 20 jealously and, sadly, it’s mostly not sf, fantasy or horror. No genre book has made it into the list during the last couple of years. However, if I were to run a category genre-only Top 20, then the last book I read which might make the grade would probably be… Extra(Ordinary) People, a 1984 collection by Joanna Russ, if only because it contains a story, ‘The Mystery of the Young Gentleman’, which immediately became a new favourite. I reviewed it on SF Mistressworks here. If I were to restrict myself to novels, the last three genre reads with the most stars from me on GoodReads were, in no particular order: Europe in Autumn, The Violent Century, Rapture and Ancillary Justice.

3. The last science fiction, fantasy or horror book I couldn’t finish was:
That would be Palimpsest by Cathrynne M Valente. I’d heard a lot of positive things about it, and was quite chuffed to stumble across a copy in a charity shop. But the reading didn’t go very well at all. I baled around page 100, unable to put up any longer with the over-writing. I think it was something about a character being able to taste a snail’s foot in his mouth or something.

4. A science fiction, fantasy or horror author whose work I cannot get enough of is:
I have my favourites – who doesn’t? Paul Park has a new novel and a collection coming out this year, which has made me very happy – doubly so, in fact. Sadly, Gwyneth Jones doesn’t seem to have anything due out in the foreseeable future. A couple of years ago, I’d heard a US publisher had contracted for a sequel to Dr Franklin’s Island (as by Ann Halam), but I’ve yet to see it mentioned anywhere online. I’m also eagerly awaiting David Herter’s new sf novels/novellas from PS Publishing.

all-those-vanished-engines-paul-park-base-art-co

5. A science fiction, fantasy or horror author I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read yet is:
But I’ve read everyone! Ahem. Of course, I haven’t really, just rather a lot of them – but many of those I’ve not read have been a matter of choice. I don’t think there’s anyone I’m ashamed I’ve not read – because if I was, I’d have read them; or at the very least I’d have one of their books on my humungous TBR pile. PC Hodgell, for example; or Michael Cisco… I own books by both but have yet to read them. Which reminds me, I really must get around to purchasing a copy of Laurie J Marks’ Fire Logic, as I really want to read it. Um, in fact, now I think about it, there’s a whole bunch of authors I want to read but have yet to buy anything by…

6. A science fiction, fantasy or horror book I would recommend to someone who hasn’t read sf/f/h is:
Easy. The Wall Around Eden by Joan Slonczewski. I reviewed it on SF Mistressworks here, and have been singing its praises ever since. Sadly, it’s currently out of print; but it really needs to be introduced to a new audience.

7. A science fiction, fantasy or horror book that’s terribly underrated is:
Where do I start? Many of my favourite genre novels were highly regarded when they were published, but they’ve never been reprinted since. One or two are now in the SF Masterworks series… so I can hardly claim they’re still under-rated. Instead, I will chose something completely out of my comfort zone – a fantasy novel: The Grail of Hearts by Susan Shwartz (1991). It was never published in the UK, had two reviews on publication (in Locus and amazing Stories), has zero reviews on GoodReads and two on Amazon (including a 5-star one by Katherine Kerr!), Kirkus called it a “formless hodgepodge of a book”, and the first five pages of Google are links to places to buy the book rather than online reviews… I think it qualifies as under-rated.

grailfohearts

8. A science fiction, fantasy or horror book that’s terribly overrated is:
There’s a lot of recent sf I think is horribly over-rated – just look at the Hugo Award and Nebula Award shortlists for the past few years. But many of those books I’ve not actually read myself, so my opinion is chiefly the result of other stuff written by those authors. However, I have read Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey, and it was shortlisted for the Hugo Award for 2012, and made it into the top 5 on the Locus Poll for that year. I thought it was terrible, and I refused to read its sequels. I now hear it’s been optioned for television. Sigh.


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10 question book meme

John DeNardo posted this on SF Signal on Saturday, and I’m a sucker for a book meme. I’ve a feeling I’ve done this one before but, you know, the answers would have been different then.

  1. The last sf/f/h book I read and liked was: A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki. I’ve already nominated it for the BSFA Award, and I’ll be doing the same for the Hugo Award. I’d also be very happy to see it on the Clarke Award shortlist.
  2. The last sf/f/h book I read and wasn’t crazy about was: Palimpsest, Catherynne M Valente. I gave up about 100 pages in. I like lush prose – I collect Lawrence Durrell’s books, ffs. But the prose in this just rubbed me completely up the wrong way.
  3. The sf/f/h book I am reading now is: The Violent Century, Lavie Tidhar. There’s a whole bunch of 2013 novels I need to read before the nominations for the Hugo Award closes on 31 March 2014.
  4. The sf/f/h book(s) I most want to read next is/are: see above.
  5. An underrated sf/f/h book is: Most of the genre novels I rate highly are under-rated by other people, most of the genre novels I rate highly are currently out of print.
  6. An overrated sf/f/h book is: Where do I start? How about… anything by Neil Gaiman, or that regressive space opera series by James SA Corey?
  7. The last sf/f/h book that was recommended to me was: Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie. And it was an excellent call. I take most recommendations with a pinch of salt, but this came from a number of trusted sources and the book’s blurb sounded like it might appeal.
  8. A sf/f/h book I recommended to someone else was: Ancillary Justice again.
  9. A sf/f/h book I have re-read is: My most recent reread, which probably doesn’t count, was John Varley’s Good-Bye, Robinson Crusoe – it’s reprint collection, so while I’d not read the book before, I had read every story in it previously. Otherwise, it was Sovereign by RM Meluch, back in June 2013, which I reviewed for SF Mistressworks here.
  10. A sf/f/h book I want to re-read is: White Queen, Gwyneth Jones. It’s been years since I last read it, and she is my favourite science fiction writer. Or perhaps Acts of Conscience, William Barton, as he was a writer I really liked and it’s been a long time since I last read one of his books.


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10 books that stayed with me

Whenever a book-related meme pops up, I love to jump on board. And apparently there’s one currently doing the rounds: “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be ‘right’ or ‘great’ works, just ones that have touched you”. I saw this on Liz Bourke’s blog here, and decided to have a go.

I’ve done something similar before, I think, but not for quite so many titles… Which made this one a bit harder than expected. But here they are, in the order in which the books occurred to me:

1 Ascent, Jed Mercurio (2007), a novel I hugely admire and which has inspired me in my own writing.
2 The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell (1957 – 1960), because on reading it I fell in love with Durrell’s prose and began collecting everything he had ever written.
3 The Undercover Aliens (AKA The House That Stood Still), AE van Vogt (1950), bonkers California noir meets pulp sf, and the only van Vogt novel I’d ever recommend to anyone.
4 Dune, Frank Herbert (1965), still the premier example of world-building in science fiction.
5 Dhalgren, Samuel R Delany (1974), the sf novel I’ve probably reread more times than any other.
6 Coelestis, Paul Park (1993), one of my top five favourite novels of all time.
7 Dan Dare: The Red Moon Mystery, Frank Hampson (1951 – 1952), the scene where Hank and Pierre first see through the clouds hiding the surface of the Red Moon haunted me for years as a kid.
8 Cotillion, Georgette Heyer (1953), the first of hers I read, and her novels are still my chief comfort reading.
9 The Barbie Murders, John Varley (1980), I fell in love with Varley’s Eight Worlds, and the title novelette still remains a favourite.
10 Guardian Angel, Sara Paretsky (1992), I’ve always preferred crime fiction written by women, and Paretsky is why – this was the first of hers I ever read.

Not such a great showing gender-wise – only two women out of ten. While there are certainly a great number of women writers I admire and whose novels and short stories I love, I spent my formative years reading mostly science fiction, and sadly it was chiefly science fiction by male writers. There were exceptions – in amongst all those books by Heinlein, van Vogt, Simak, EE ‘Doc’ Smith, Harrison, Herbert, Tubb, Vance, etc, I read and became a fan of Cherryh, Le Guin, Van Scyoc, Julian May… Later, I discovered Gwyneth Jones, Mary Gentle, Joanna Russ, Leigh Brackett… and now, of course, I think most of the twentieth-century science fiction I read is by women writers.


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Weekend meme-y thing

… in lieu of intelligent content. This meme appeared earlier today on SF Signal, with instructions to leave answers to the questions in the comments. But I’m doing it here instead because.

The last sf/f book I finished reading:
… was The Maker’s Mask by Ankaret Wells. This was a self-published novel and I forget where I first came across Wells’ name. Anyway, the description made the book seem like it might be fun so I bought a copy. And it is fun. It’s also a bit rough, and the ending somewhat abrupt – it’s the first book of a duology. Looks like I’ll have to get the second one so I can find out what happens.

The last sf/f book I did NOT finish:
I tend to finish books that I start and rarely bale on them. I remember giving up on The Windup Girl about fifty pages in, after finding its racism and its use of the sex slave trope offensive. But that was a while ago. More recently, I gave up on Spitfire Girls by Carol Gould, which is not genre. It was so badly written, with arbitrary head-hopping, inconsistent internal chronology, and frequent references to things and events which were neither described nor foreshadowed.

The last sf/f book(s) I bought:
I bought a bunch of new books by favourite authors recently from a certain online retailer. These were: Marauder, Gary Gibson; Shaman, Kim Stanley Robinson; Proxima, Stephen Baxter; On the Steel Breeze, Alastair Reynolds; and Evening’s Empires, Paul McAuley. On order but yet to arrive are Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie, and Sea of Ghosts, Alan Campbell, which Martin Petto persuaded me is worth reading (even though I don’t like epic fantasy).

The last sf/f book I bought that I already owned:
That would be The The Book of Being by Ian Watson. It’s the third book of a trilogy, and I had all three in paperback. I replaced the first two with first edition hardbacks a while ago, but only recently found a copy of the third book. More recently, I purchased a signed first edition of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Escape from Kathmandu even though I have it in paperback, but that has yet to arrive.

The last sf/f book I shared with someone:
I’m taking this to mean the last book I wrote about on my blog or something… which makes it A Spaceship Built of Stone, an excellent collection by Lisa Tuttle which I reviewed for SF Mistressworks – see here.

The last sf/f book I raved about:
I can’t remember the last time I was really evangelical about a genre book. Back in April, I remember being complimentary about Rosemary Kirstein’s The Steerswoman’s Road, as I’d just read the second part of it (it’s an omnibus), The Outskirter’s Secret, to review on SF Mistressworks – see here. And in January, I was very impressed by Joan Slonczewski’s The Wall Around Eden – see here; so much so that I mentioned it in a Locus Roundtable – see here. But I’ve not really been blown away by a genre novel since Katie Ward’s Girl Reading last year, and that was published as literary fiction anyway…

The last sf/f book I did not enjoy at all:
Hull Zero Three, Greg Bear. Which, astoundingly, was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award. Was not impressed at all. Before that, The Silkie by AE van Vogt, for which I had low expectations but it failed to meet even those. See here for my comments on both.


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Sunday meme

Okay, so SF Signal posted this last Sunday, but I was in Berlin then, with no access to a computer. And yes, I had an excellent time, despite the weekend’s inauspicious start: getting up at 2:30 am, wandering down to the kitchen to make breakfast and stepping on a slug; and then getting to the airport and realising I’d left my credit and debit cards at home (fortunately, I had plenty of cash). Anyway, the meme…

alanya_coverMy favorite alien invasion book or series is…?
Probably the Marq’ssan Cycle by L Timmel Duchamp, although Gwyneth Jones’ Aleutian trilogy runs a close second. Duchamp’s five novels – Alanya to Alanya, Renegade, Tsunami, Blood in the Fruit and Stretto – document the arrival on a near-future Earth of an alien mission which will only talk to women. Supporting character turned chief villain Elizabeth Weatherall is one of the genre’s best creations. Jones’ White Queen, North Wind and Phoenix Café cover similar ground, but from a more global perspective. It also features, like Duchamp’s quintet, an extremely well-drawn antagonist in Braemar Wilson. Both series are intensely political and among the smartest books in science fiction.

ascentMy favorite alternate history book or series is…?
The Apollo Quartet, of course. But seriously: I’d say Ascent by Jed Mercurio, but naming it as alternate history might constitute a spoiler. It could also be argued that the superb Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle is alternate history. I think I’ve read my fair share of Hitler-victorious alternate histories, and I suspect there are very few changes remaining to be rung on that particular trope. Not being American, I’ve little interest in their civil war and how it might have ended differently. Stephen Baxter’s alternate take on the US space programme, Voyage, appeals for obvious reasons. And many sf novels of the past written about exploring Mars and the Moon may not have been written as alternate history, but they pretty much qualify as it now. Unfortunately, most twentieth-century sf novels about twenty-first space travel, such as those by Steele or Bova, suffer from being, well, not very good. Sadly, early and alternate space travel doesn’t seem to be an area of the genre that has attracted writers with much in the way of writing chops. Which is a shame.

My favorite cyberpunk book or series is…?
Metrophage by Richard Kadrey, the book which folded cyberpunk back into science fiction. Everything that came after is just the twitchings of a dead subgenre.

redplentyMy favorite Dystopian book or series is…?
Dystopia is in the eye of the beholder. If you read Francis Spufford’s excellent Red Plenty, you’ll see that not everyone thought the USSR was a dystopia. And for all the UK’s fabled streets of gold, it’s starting to look more and more like a dystopia each day to those of us living here. As for reading about dystopias… I don’t think it’s been done especially well in science fiction – but then Nineteen Eighty-Four casts a long shadow. Some of DG Compton’s works from the 1970s might be considered dystopian, such as The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe; and in Ascendancies, he manages to find a dystopian story in a near-utopian society. JG Ballard wrote plenty of novels and short stories which might qualify, but no specific title springs to mind – it’s probably best to consider his entire oeuvre as dystopian fiction. And you can’t really go wrong by reading them all.

equator3My favorite Golden-Age sf book or series is…?
AE van Vogt’s The House That Stood Still (AKA The Undercover Aliens), which mixes California noir and pulp sf and just about manages to get away with it, is one of my favourite sf novels. It’s completely bonkers, of course; but it’s one of van Vogt’s more coherent works. Which isn’t saying much. Recently, I’ve read some early sf by women writers and found it much better than the so-called classics I read as a kid – these days, I find EE ‘Doc’ Smith, Robert A Heinlein and Isaac Asimov near-unreadable. There’s also an early Brian Aldiss novel, Equator, which I really like, though it’s more like spy fiction with added aliens than science fiction per se. Which may be one reason why I find it so appealing.

My favorite hard sf book or series is…?
The Apollo Quartet, of course. But seriously: it’s probably Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. I don’t read that much hard sf as such. When I need my real science kicks, I read books about space or deep sea exploration. There are very, very few hard sf novels which come even remotely close to emulating the authenticity those books possess.

nature-beast-richard-fawkesMy favorite military sf book or series is…?
I don’t have much time for military science fiction, though in the past I’ve read my fair share – including David Weber, Tanya Huff, Elizabeth Moon, Jack Campbell, David Feintuch, John Steakley, and probably a few others. The only such books left on my book-shelves, and which may well get purged should I ever get around to rereading them, are Richard Fawkes’ Face of the Enemy and Nature of the Beast, which I remember as quite interesting. Also worth a go is Shariann Lewitt’s debut novel, Angel at Apogee, and her two Collegium novels, Cyberstealth and Dancing Vac. And if any of CJ Cherryh’s books qualify, then they’re certainly worth reading.

kairosMy favorite near-future book or series is…?
I don’t think I have one. I’ve always been a fan of John Varley’s Eight Worlds novels and short stories, but do they count as near-future? Gwyneth Jones’ Kairos, a favourite novel, was near-future when it was published, but that was back in 1988 – and these days it reads more like alternate history. The same might well prove true of Ken MacLeod’s excellent Intrusion a decade from now. Another excellent near-future novel is Maureen F McHugh’s China Mountain Zhang, though despite being two decades old it has yet to become alternate history – perhaps because it doesn’t feel like it’s set in a near-future which might well happen.

The_Caryatids_Bruce_SterlingMy favorite post-apocalyptic book or series is…?
To be honest, I’m not interested in how Americans would react should their society collapse, nor do I believe that every single person on the planet would react in that way. Which pretty much discounts ninety-nine percent of post-apocalyptic novels. The only one that springs to mind as different is Bruce Sterling’s The Caryatids, which shows the world – all of it – coping with the aftermath of climate crash and nation-state failures. Perhaps the best of the more traditional post-apocalyptic novels is Joan Slonczewski’s The Wall Around Eden, in which mysterious aliens save isolated pockets of humanity. It reads like a masterclass in sf and deserves to be back in print.

My favorite robot/android book or series is…?
Science fiction’s treatment of robots has always been silly. They’re either human in all but name and yet treated like slaves, or blatant signifiers for slaves. In remarkably few sf stories do they actually resemble real robots.

ceres-storm-david-herter-paperback-cover-artMy favorite space opera book or series is…?
I’ve always enjoyed Iain M Banks’ Culture novels, though I think the individual parts are not as impressive as the sum of them. Colin Greenland’s Take Back Plenty has always been a favourite space opera too, and I remember being impressed by Scott Westerfeld’s The Risen Empire when I read it many years ago. Likewise David Herter’s Ceres Storm, which I read back when it was published in 2000. I really must reread it one of these days…

My favorite steampunk book or series is…?
I don’t read steampunk. There’s nothing in it that appeals to me. Airships? Pfft. Give me supersonic jets every time. Brass? Useless metal. And anyway, steel is more emblematic of the British Empire than brass. Difference engines? NASA didn’t put twelve men on the Moon using clockwork computers, did they?

My favorite superhero book or series is…?
I used to read superhero comics by the likes of Warren Ellis and Alan Moore, but went off the whole genre several years ago. I can no longer think of anything nice to say about the genre.

Millennium(1stEd)My favorite time travel book or series is…?
I’m more likely to read and enjoy an historical novel than I am a time travel one. I can’t off the top of my head think of any time travel novels that I hold in especially high regard. I remember enjoying Peter Delacorte’s Time on My Hands, which is set in 1940s Hollywood. And Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships takes Wells’ The Time Machine and runs with it… and runs… and runs… I’m a big fan of John Varley’s short story ‘Air Raid’, and I still have a soft spot for the film adaptation Millennium, despite its godawful production design… which does mean I really like the novel written by Varley of the film adapted by Varley of the short story written by Varley…

My favorite young adult sf book or series is…?
I don’t read YA books. I am no longer sixteen, and haven’t been for a few decades.

My favorite zombie book or series is…?
I don’t read zombie books. I don’t even like zombie films. Maybe one day somebody will do something interesting with the trope, but I’m not holding my breath.

foss_foundation-coversThe 3 books at the top of my sf/f/h to-be-read pile are…?
Last month, I foolishly agreed to read and blog about half a dozen classic sf novels, so I have The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Foundation to look forward to over the next couple of weeks. Other than that, I have some reading for SF Mistressworks, and I hope to sneak in a few more recent genre novels as well, but I’ve yet to decide which ones. In fact, when you have a TBR of around 700 books, it’s often difficult to pick what to read next and I can sometimes spend ten or twenty minutes feeling really indecisive as I wander from one bookcase to the next…

And now I’ve finished this I’ll no doubt think of books I should have mentioned. Oh well. The more observant among you might also have noticed that all the links on this post go to Foyles using their affiliate scheme (except for the one link to a DVD). I found it relatively easy to use – a little fiddlier than Amazon’s, but not unworkably so. We’ll see how it works out.


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The list: 100 Great Science Fiction Stories by Women

Now let the arguing begin…

The list below contains 100 pieces of short fiction – short stories, novelettes and novellas – by women writers, published between 1927 and 2012. Each author appears only once. The stories are by no means the best by each writer. In most cases, I’m simply not familiar enough with an oeuvre to choose the best; in other cases, I’ve picked a story I’ve read and thought good, and yes, there are a few of my favourite stories in the list too. I’ve not read them all – some came from suggestions on Twitter or on an earlier post on this blog (many thanks to all who contributed), others I took from various award lists or Year’s Best TOCs. One or two fantasy stories might have sneaked through the net, because I couldn’t find copies to read and check. However, the list should all be science fiction – and it should also demonstrate a good spread of styles and themes and approaches across the genre.

The point of the exercise was to demonstrate that women have been writing good science fiction since the beginnings of the genre – a point signally ignored by the table of contents of the 1978 anthology 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories, which contained only five stories by women. The first story on this list, for example, came third in a competition in Amazing Stories during the magazine’s second year of publication.

1 ‘The Fate of the Poseidonia’, Clare Winger Harris (1927, short story) online here
2 ‘The Conquest of Gola,’ Leslie F Stone (1931, short story) available in
3 ‘Water Pirate’, Leigh Brackett (1941, short story) available in
4 ‘Space Episode’, Leslie Perri (1941, short story) available in
5 ‘No Woman Born’, CL Moore (1944, novelette) available in
6 ‘That Only a Mother’, Judith Merril (1948, short story) available in
7 ‘Contagion’, Katherine Maclean (1950, novelette) available in
8 ‘Brightness Falls from the Air’, Margaret St Clair [as Idris Seabright] (1951, short story) available in
9 ‘All Cats are Gray’, Andre Norton (1953, short story) available in
10 ‘The Last Day’, Helen Clarkson (1958, short story) available in
11 ‘Captivity’, Zenna Henderson (1958, novella) available in
12 ‘The New You’, Kit Reed (1962, short story) online here
13 ‘The Putnam Tradition’, Sonya Dorman (1963, short story) online here
14 ‘Lord Moon’, MJ Engh [as Jane Beauclerk] (1965, short story) available in
15 ‘Weyr Search’, Anne McCaffrey (1967, novella) available in
16 ‘The Heat Death of the Universe’, Pamela Zoline (1967, short story) online here
17 ‘The Steiger Effect’, Betsy Curtis (1968, short story) available in
18 ‘The Power of Time’, Josephine Saxton (1971, novelette) available in
19 ‘And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side’, James Tiptree Jr (1972, short story) available in
20 ‘When It Changed’, Joanna Russ (1972, short story) online here
21 ‘Sheltering Dream’, Doris Piserchia (1972, short story) available in
22 ‘Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand’, Vonda N McIntyre (1973, novelette) available in
23 ‘Clone Sister’, Pamela Sargent (1973, novelette) available in
24 ‘The Violet’s Embryo’, Angélica Gorodischer (1973, novelette) online here (excerpt)
25 ‘Stone Circle’, Lisa Tuttle (1976, short story) available in
26 ‘Eyes of Amber’, Joan D Vinge (1977, novelette) available in
27 ‘Cassandra, CJ Cherryh (1978, short story) available in
28 ‘The View from Endless Scarp’, Marta Randall (1978, short story) online here
29 ‘Scorched Supper on New Niger’, Suzy McKee Charnas (1980, novelette) available in
30 ‘Abominable’, Carol Emshwiller (1980, short story) available in
31 ‘Sea Changeling’, Mildred Downey Broxon (1981, novelette) available in
32 ‘In the Western Tradition’, Phyllis Eisenstein (1981, novella) available in
33 ‘Her Furry Face’, Leigh Kennedy (1983, short story) available in
34 ‘Bloodchild’ Octavia E Butler (1984, novelette) available in
35 ‘Symphony for a Lost Traveller’, Lee Killough (1984, short story) available in
36 ‘All My Darling Daughters’, Connie Willis (1985, novelette) available in
37 ‘Webrider’, Jayge Carr (1985, short story) available in
38 ‘Out of All Them Bright Stars’, Nancy Kress (1985, short story) available in
39 ‘The View from Venus: A Case Study’, Karen Joy Fowler (1986, novelette) available in
40 ‘Reichs-Peace’, Sheila Finch (1986, novelette) available in
41 ‘Daily Voices’, Lisa Goldstein (1986, short story) available in
42 ‘Rachel in Love’, Pat Murphy (1987, novelette) available in
43 ‘Forever Yours, Anna’, Kate Wilhelm (1987, short story) available in
44 ‘Stable Strategies for Middle Management’, Eileen Gunn (1988, short story) available in
45 ‘War and Rumours of War’, Candas Jane Dorsey (1988, short story) available in
46 ‘The Mountains of Mourning’, Lois McMaster Bujold (1989, novella) available in
47 ‘Tiny Tango’, Judith Moffett (1989, novella) available in
48 ‘Identifying the Object’, Gwyneth Jones (1990, novelette) available in
49 ‘Loose Cannon’, Susan Shwartz (1990, novelette) available in
50 ‘Dispatches from the Revolution’, Pat Cadigan (1991, novelette) available here
51 ‘The Road to Jerusalem’, Mary Gentle (1991, short story) online here
52 ‘The Missionary’s Child’, Maureen F McHugh (1992, novelette) available in
53 ‘The Story So Far’, Martha Soukup (1993, short story) available in
54 ‘The Good Pup’, Bridget McKenna (1993, short story) available in
55 ‘California Dreamer’, Mary Rosenblum (1994, short story) available in
56 ‘Last Summer at Mars Hill’, Elizabeth Hand (1994, novella) available in
57 ‘Coming of Age in Karhide’, Ursula K Le Guin (1995, novelette) available in
58 ‘De Secretis Mulierum’, L Timmel Duchamp (1995, novella) available in
59 ‘Merlusine’, Lucy Sussex (1997, novelette) available in
60 ‘Noble Mold’, Kage Baker (1997, short story) available in
61 ‘All the Birds of Hell’, Tanith Lee (1998, novelette) available in
62 ‘Rain Season’, Leanne Frahm (1998, short story) available in
63 ‘Echea’, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (1998, novelette) available in
64 ‘Patient Zero’, Tananarive Due (2000, short story) online here
65 ‘Knapsack Poems’, Eleanor Arnason (2002, short story) available in
66 ‘State of Oblivion’, Kaaron Warren (2003, short story) available in
67 ‘Inside Out’, Michaela Roessner (2004, short story) online here
68 ‘Griots of the Galaxy’, Andrea Hairston (2004, novelette) available in
69 ‘Riding the White Bull’, Caitlín R Kiernan (2004, novelette) available in
70 ‘The Avatar of Background Noise’, Toiya Kristen Finley (2006, short story) available in
71 ‘Captive Girl’, Jennifer Pelland (2006, short story) online here
72 ‘The Bride Price’, Cat Sparks (2007, short story) available in
73 ‘Tideline’, Elizabeth Bear (2007, short story) online here
74 ‘Arkfall’, Carolyn Ives Gilman (2008, novella) available in
75 ‘Legolas does the Dishes’, Justina Robson (2008, short story) available in
76 ‘The Ecologist and the Avon Lady’, Tricia Sullivan (2008, novelette) available in
77 ‘Infinities’, Vandana Singh (2008, novelette) available in
78 ‘Chica, Let Me Tell You a Story’, Alex Dally MacFarlane (2008, short story) available in
79 ‘Spider the Artist’, Nnedi Okrafor (2008, short story) online here
80 ‘Cold Words’, Juliette Wade (2009, novelette) available in
81 ‘Eros, Philia, Agape’, Rachel Swirsky (2009, novelette) onine here
82 ‘Non-Zero Probabilities’, NK Jemisin (2009, short story) online here
83 ‘Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast’, Eugie Foster (2009, short story) available in
84 ‘It Takes Two’, Nicola Griffith (2009, novelette) available in
85 ‘Blood, Blood’, Abbey Mei Otis (2010, short story) online here and here
86 ‘The Other Graces’, Alice Sola Kim (2010, short story) available in
87 ‘Agents of Repair’, Rosie Oliver (2010, short story) available in
88 ‘Amaryllis’, Carrie Vaughn (2010, short story) online here
89 ‘I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You in Reno’, Vylar Kaftan (2010, short story) online here
90 ‘Flying in the Face of God’, Nina Allan (2010, short story) available in
91 ‘Six Months, Three Days’, Charlie Jane Anders (2011, short story) online here
92 ‘Nahiku West’, Linda Nagata (2011, novelette) available in
93 ‘The Cartographer Bees and the Anarchist Wasps’, E Lily Yu (2011, short story) online here
94 ‘Silently and Very Fast’, Catherynne M Valente (2011, novella) online here, here and here
95 ‘Jagannath’, Karin Tidbeck (2011, short story) available in
96 ‘A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel’, Yoon Ha Lee (2011, short story) online here
97 ‘Immersion’, Aliette de Bodard (2012, short story) online here
98 ‘The Lady Astronaut of Mars’, Mary Robinette Kowal (2012, novelette) online here
99 ‘The Green’, Lauren Beukes (2012, short story) available in
100 ‘Significant Dust’, Margo Lanagan (2012, novelette) available in

No doubt there are stories and authors I’ve missed off the list, and which/who you feel strongly should be on it. Tell me so in a comment. Also, feel free to disseminate the list as a meme – you know, bold those you’ve read, italicise those on the TBR; or something like that.

For the record, I’ve read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48, 53, 55, 57, 58, 64, 65, 70, 73, 74, 75, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87, 89, 90, 91, 93, 94, 96, 97, 98. Which I make to be sixty-three in total. Not too bad a showing…

ETA
This is a list of short fiction – short stories, novelettes and novels. If you’re interested in novels by women sf writers, then check out SF Mistressworks.

ETA #2: NOTES FOR REDDITORS
This is the easy summary for those on reddit who seem to have trouble understanding the purpose of this list:

  1. It is not novels, it is short stories, novelettes and novellas.
  2. Each writer appears only once.
  3. It is not a list of “best” or “top” sf stories by women. It is “great” because it was inspired by the anthology 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories.
  4. The list demonstrates that women have been writing good science fiction since the genre was created in 1926.
  5. There are many more than 100 excellent women sf writers, but I chose 100 because of the anthology named in point 3.
  6. The gender of the author is not irrelevant. Find me a list of great or top or best sf stories where at least half were written by women. You will fail.
  7. The stories were chosen from a) my own favourites, b) suggestions by other people, c) award shortlists, and d) the tables of contents of Year’s Best anthologies.
  8. I have read 63 of the stories on the list.
  9. There are several authors on the list who have yet to have novels published – ie, new authors.
  10. If there’s someone missing you feel should be on the list, tell me in a comment.
  11. I’m happy to defend all my choices – leave a comment.
  12. Finally, why not click on the links in the list and read those stories which are available online?


56 Comments

Toward 100 Great SF Short Stories by Women

In my review of Women of Wonder, a women-only sf anthology edited by Pamela Sargent, on SF Mistressworks here, I mentioned the anthology 100 Great Science Fiction Short Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov, Joseph D Olander and Martin H Greenberg. It occurred to me it would be a good idea to put together a list, of meme-like properties, of 100 great sf stories by women writers. I can’t do this on my own – I’ve simply not read enough short fiction to pick out enough good stories. So I’m asking for suggestions. There was a bit of a conversation of Twitter today, using the hashtag #100WomenSF. Feel free to suggest there too.

The rules are simple – written by a woman, science fiction only, published in any year up to and including 2012, any length (ie, novelettes and novellas allowed). The list will feature only one piece of fiction per author but don’t let that stop you. Some authors are going to be easier than others, but may well present different problems – everyone can probably name a suitable story by Ursula K Le Guin off the top of their head, but which is her best one?

I had a quick go and managed just over fifty – including some authors appearing more than once (such as Le Guin) because I’ve yet to decide which story belongs in the final list…

Stories I’ve read that I think belong on the list
‘The Conquest of Gola’, Leslie F Stone (1931, short story)
‘No Woman Born’, CL Moore (1944, novelette)
‘That Only a Mother’, Judith Merril (1948, short story)
‘Brightness Falls from the Air’, Margaret St Clair (as Idris Seabright) (1951, short story)
‘The Last Day’, Helen Clarkson (1958, short story)
‘The Heat Death of the Universe’, Pamela Zoline (1967, short story)
‘And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side’, James Tiptree Jr (1972, short story)
‘When It Changed’, Joanna Russ (1972, short story)
‘Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand’, Vonda N Mcintyre (1973, novelette)
‘Scorched Supper on New Niger’, Suzy McKee Charnas (1980, novelette)
‘Bloodchild’, Octavia E Butler (1984, novelette)
‘All My Darling Daughters’, Connie Willis (1985, novelette)
‘Webrider’, Jayge Carr (1985, short story)
‘Out of All Them Bright Stars’, Nancy Kress (1985, short story)
‘The View from Venus: A Case Study’, Karen Joy Fowler (1986, novelette)
‘Reichs-Peace’, Sheila Finch (1986, novelette)
‘Rachel in Love’, Pat Murphy (1987, novelette)
‘Tiny Tango’, Judith Moffett (1989, novella)
‘Identifying the Object’, Gwyneth Jones (1990, novelette)
‘The Road to Jerusalem’, Mary Gentle (1991, short story)
‘Coming of Age in Karhide’, Ursula K Le Guin (1995, novelette)
‘The Avatar of Background Noise’, Toiya Kristen Finley (2006, short story)
‘Arkfall’, Carolyn Ives Gilman (2008, novella)
‘Legolas Does the Dishes’, Justina Robson (2008, short story)
‘Immersion’, Aliette de Bodard (2012, short story)

Stories I’ve read that maybe should be on the list
‘Cassandra’, CJ Cherryh (1978, short story)
‘Abominable’, Carol Emshwiller (1980, short story)
‘Symphony for a Lost Traveller’, Lee Killough (1984, short story)
‘Forever Yours, Anna’, Kate Wilhelm (1987, short story)
‘Stable Strategies for Middle Management’, Eileen Gunn (1988, short story)
‘California Dreamer’, Mary Rosenblum (1994, short story)
‘The Lady Astronaut of Mars’, Mary Robinette Kowal (2012, novelette)

Stories I’ve not read
‘Captivity’, Zenna Henderson (1958, novella)
‘Lord Moon’, MJ Engh (as Jane Beauclerk) (1965, short story)
‘Weyr Search’, Anne McCaffrey (1967, novella)
‘The Steiger Effect’, Betsy Curtis (1968, short story)
‘Nightlife’, Phyllis Eisenstein (1982, novelette)
‘Her Furry Face’, Leigh Kennedy (1983, short story)
‘The Mountains of Mourning’, Lois McMaster Bujold (1989, novella)
‘The Power and the Passion’, Pat Cadigan (1990, short story)
‘Suppose They Gave a Peace…’, Susan Shwartz (1991, novelette)
‘Protection’, Maureen F McHugh (1992, novella)
‘Danny Goes to Mars’, Pamela Sargent (1992, novelette)

Duplicate stories
‘Souls’, Joanna Russ (1982, novella)
‘Over the Long Haul’, Martha Soukup (1990, novelette)
‘Nekropolis’, Maureen F McHugh (1994, novelette)

Are these sf? I don’t know
‘The Warlords Of Saturn’s Moons’, Eleanor Arnason (1975, novelette)
‘Stone Circle’, Lisa Tuttle (1976, short story)
‘Red as Blood’, Tanith Lee (1979, short story)
‘Spidersong’, Susan C Petrey (1980, short story)
‘Sea Changeling’, Mildred Downey Broxon (1981, novelette)
‘Dog’s Life’, Martha Soukup (1991, short story)
‘The Nutcracker Coup’, Janet Kagan (1992, novelette)
‘All Vows’, Esther M Friesner (1992, short story)
‘Alfred’, Lisa Goldstein (1992, short story)
‘The Good Pup’, Bridget McKenna (1993, short story)

New additions
‘The Fate of the Poseidonia’, Clare Winger Harris (1927, short story)
‘Space Episode’, Leslie Perri (1941, short story)
‘The Putnam Tradition’, Sonya Dorman (1963, short story)
‘Automatic Tiger’, Kit Reed (1964, short story)
‘The View from Endless Scarp’, Marta Randall (1978, short story)
‘War and Rumours of War’, Candas Jane Dorsey (1988, short story)
‘Patient Zero’, Tananarive Due (2000, short story)
‘Knapsack Poems’, Eleanor Arnason (2002, short story)
‘State of Oblivion’, Kaaron Warren (2003, short story)
‘Inside Out,’ Michaela Roessner (2004, short story)
‘Griots of the Galaxy’, Andrea Hairston (2004, novelette)
‘The Bride Price’, Cat Sparks (2007, short story)
‘Tideline’, Elizabeth Bear (2007, short story)
‘Infinities’, Vandana Singh (2008, novelette)
‘Spider the Artist’, Nnedi Okorafor (2008, short story)
‘Chica, Let Me Tell You a Story’, Alex Dally MacFarlane (2008, short story)
‘Cold Words’, Juliette Wade (2009, novelette)
‘Eros, Philia, Agape’, Rachel Swirsky (2009, novelette)
‘Non-Zero Probabilities’, NK Jemisin (2009, short story)
‘Blood, Blood’, Abbey Mei Otis (2010, short story)
‘The Other Graces’, Alice Sola Kim (2010, short story)
‘Agents of Repair’, Rosie Oliver (2010, short story)
‘Amaryllis’, Carrie Vaughn (2010, short story)
‘I’m Alive, I love You, I’ll See You in Reno’, Vylar Kaftan (2010, short story)
‘Six Months, Three Days’, Charlie Jane Anders (2011, short story)
‘Nahiku West’, Linda Nagata (2011, novelette)
‘The Cartographer Bees and the Anarchist Wasps’, E Lily Yu (2011, short story)
‘Silently and Very Fast’, Catherynne M Valente (2011, novella)
‘Jagannath’, Karin Tidbeck (2011, short story)
‘The Green’, Lauren Beukes (2012, short story)
‘Significant Dust’, Margo Lanagan (2012, novelette)
‘Black Box’, Jennifer Egan (2012, short story)

More new additions
‘Water Pirate’, Leigh Brackett (1941, short story)
‘Fireship’, Joan D Vinge (1978, novella)
‘The Missionary’s Child’, Maureen F McHugh (1992, novelette)
‘All the Birds of Hell’, Tanith Lee (1998, novelette)
‘Riding the White Bull’, Caitlín R Kiernan (2004, novelette)
‘Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast’, Eugie Foster (2009, short story)
‘Flying in the Face of God’, Nina Allan (2010, short story)
‘A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel’, Yoon Ha Lee (2011, short story)

So, more suggestions needed, please. Especially of twenty-first century sf, but also by authors who are not represented here – what is Margaret St Clair’s best story, for example? And tell me about the stories I’ve not read – how good are they? The stories in the last section, are they sf or fantasy? I can’t tell from the title. I picked them from the shortlists of the Hugo and Nebula awards, neither of which actually differentiates between the genres.

Let’s see if we can do a good representative meme-list of 100 pieces of sf short fiction by women writers. I’ll post the final list here and on both SF Mistressworks and Daughters of Prometheus.

ETA
Have added Leslie F Stone and Margaret St Clair to the first list. Have also settled on ‘Out of All Them Stars’ for Nancy Kress and ‘Coming of Age in Karhide’ for Le Guin. Likewise, ‘And I Awoke And Found Me Here On The Cold Hill’s Side’ has always been a favourite story of mine so I’m going to choose that as Tiptree’s contribution.

ETA #2
Added New additions section, from comments here and on Twitter. Some of them I’ve read. Of the ones I’ve not read, some might not be sf – I need to check that. Also moved a couple of stories to Stories I’ve read that maybe should be on the list since I found copies and read them.

ETA #3
More new additions added. I don’t want the list to be too twenty-first-century heavy, but it is sort of leaning that way. At present, it breaks down by decade as 1920: 1; 1930: 1; 1940: 4; 1950: 3; 1960: 6; 1970: 8; 1980: 20; 1990: 15; 2000: 19; 2010: 17, which adds up to 94 (and still includes more than one entry by a couple of authors). I think the list needs a few more suggestions for the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. And it would be helpful if anyone can confirm if all of the stories actually are science fiction and not fantasy. Nonetheless, a list is starting to come together…


3 Comments

12-question book meme

“For a lazy Saturday”, says SF Signal (see here). It’s Saturday, I’m feeling lazy, so why not? Twelve SF/F/H-related questions on which to do the meme thing:

1. The last sf/f/h book I read and enjoyed was:
I just reread Eric Brown’s four Starship Seasons novellas – Starship Summer, Starship Fall, Starship Winter and Starship Spring – and enjoyed them. The last genre book I read that really impressed me was M John Harrison’s Empty Space.

2. The last sf/f/h book I read and did not enjoy was:
Moonstar Odyssey, David Gerrold. A palimpsest novel in which Gerrold uses various stories and testimonies to build up a picture of the terraformed world of Satlik and its inhabitants, who chose their gender at puberty or “blush”. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way Gerrold forgot about his plot – three-quarters of the book is scene-setting before an actual plot is squeezed in at the end. I now have a copy for sale.

3. A sf/f/h book that I would recommend to new sf/f/h readers is:
Dark Eden, Chris Beckett. Yes, it won the Clarke Award this year, but as sf texts go it’s quite low-level. By that I mean, despite being set on a rogue planet between galaxies, which features an entirely invented ecosystem, the story itself is as old as the Bible and even readers unfamiliar with the genre and its tropes should have little trouble sympathising with the book’s cast.

The same is also true of Joan Slonczewski’s The Wall Around Eden. It’s set in a small community protected from a post-apocalyptic Earth by a mysterious alien forcefield. The characters are beautifully drawn, the plot works like a well-oiled engine, and there’s nothing in the book at which a non-genre reader might balk.

Um, the Eden references in the titles are purely coincidental…

4. A sf/f/h book that I would recommend to seasoned sf/f/h readers is:
Obviously, I would recommend all the sf novels I most admire. But perhaps I should instead recommend a non-genre book that I think genre readers would enjoy – such as Girl Reading by Katie Ward, or The Explorer by James Smythe. Both were marketed as literary fiction but use sf tropes, and both are considerably better-written than is the norm for genre fiction. Girl Reading is, to my mind, the better of the two, but both are certainly worth reading.

For someone looking for fiction in smaller bites, the sf collection that comes to mind is The Universe of Things by Gwyneth Jones.

5. The sf/f/h book I most want to read next is:
I am so bad at deciding what to read that I have to make a list. Some of my reading is dictated by SF Mistressworks – I have to read and review books to keep to its one-a-week schedule – but that’s no real hardship. Genre books on the list to read some time in the near-future include Principles of Angels, Slow Apocalypse, Rapture, Cyclonopedia, Never at Home and Watermind. Plus a lot of non-genre, such as Under the Volcano, Stonemouth, The Cleft, Killer in the Rain and The Sweetheart Season.

6. My favorite sf/f/h book series includes:
Tricky. I love the Dune series, but I don’t think the individual books in it are especially good. And the whole thing has been poisoned by the McDune books churned out by Kevin J Anderson and Brian Herbert. L Timmel Duchamp’s Marq’ssan Cycle is a series I really want to reread; the same is true of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. But there’s no actual series, in which one novel follows directly on from another for more than three, four or five books, that I’d call a favourite. There are series that contain books I like a great deal and/or admire – the Culture, Eight Worlds, Hainish Cycle, Jurisdiction, Alliance-Union, Dumarest saga… But despite the many seemingly endless series currently being published, there’s none that I eagerly buy each installment the moment it is published.

7. I will read anything by this sf/f/h author:
Easy. Gwyneth Jones.

8. The first sf/f/h book I read was:
It was a Dr Who novelisation: Doctor Who and the Zarbi. Then, at school, a classmate introduced me to proper science fiction when he lent me Heinlein’s Starman Jones. After that it was EE ‘Doc’ Smith and I was hooked. Now, I can no longer read those books.

9. The sf/f/h book I’m most surprised that more people don’t like is:
Probably Coelestis by Paul Park, which I feel deserves to be in the SF Masterworks series. In the past, I’ve championed both Take Back Plenty and The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe, and they’re now in the series so I live in hope.

10 .The sf/f/h book I’m surprised so many people do like is:
Basically, anything by Asimov. Especially the Foundation series. More recently, I’ve been baffled by the acclaim given to, among others, Wool, The Windup Girl, Leviathan Wakes, or A Song of Ice and Fire. And while I’ve read and enjoyed books by China Miéville, I still can’t see why he’s the poster boy for British genre fiction.

11. The most expensive sf/f/h book I own is:
A hardback first edition of The Dune Encyclopedia. Paperback copies are rare and not cheap, but I was lucky enough to find a hardback copy. It was very expensive, but it was worth it.

12. The number of sf/f/h books I own and have yet to read is:
Not sure; somewhere around the 300 mark, I expect. I did try reading a book on speed reading once, but it took me ages to finish it… But seriously, I typically read three to four books a week. Even so, it’s going to take me years to whittle down the TBR. Especially given that I continue to buy new books all the time…


2 Comments

essential sf novels – the analysis

So there we go: 50 essential science fiction novels, as chosen by Jared Shurin (here and here), James Smythe (here and here) and myself (here and here). And, of course, there’s the original abebooks.com list.

Only three books appeared on all three lists: Frankenstein, Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Handmaid’s Tale. None, you’ll note, were published as sf novels. Two are by women. Only the one by a man appeared on the abebooks.com list.

There were several books which appeared on two of the three lists: Flatland (Jared and James), The Time Machine (Jared and Ian), The Sword of Rhiannon (Jared and Ian), The Stars My Destination (James and Ian), Solaris (James and Ian), The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (Jared and James), Neuromancer (Jared and James), Watchmen (Jared and James), Mindplayers (Jared and James), Red Mars (James and Ian), The Road (James and Ian) and Zoo City (Jared and James). I myself have read 23 of James’ 50, and 26 of Jared’s 50. There were several titles on both lists I’d not heard of, and I plan to pick up copies.

Across all three lists, there were 34 books out of 150 by women writers (including duplicate choices). We could – should – have done that better. There were nine books by non-Anglophone writers. So, a fail there too. Theme- and subgenre-wise, however, the choices were widespread, with everything from a Choose To Your Own Adventure to a bande dessinée.

Time-wise… both James and Jared liked the 1950s (both with 10 books), and the 1980s (9 for James, 12 for Jared). I preferred the 1970s (12 books) and the 1990s (also 12 books). Which is odd, as I think I’m oldest.  The 1980s was the most popular decade overall, with 28 books chosen by the three of us. Jared like the most 19th century novels (4), and James liked the most 21st century novels (11).

Finally, for the record, here’s the list which sparked off the ones put together by Jared, James and myself. I’ve done the meme thing to it – you know, bold if you’ve read it, italicise if it’s on the TBR. Also, * if it’s on my list, † if it’s on James’, and ‡ if it’s on Jared’s.

1 A Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne (1864)
2 The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells (1898)
3 Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1932)
4 When Worlds Collide, Edwin Balmer & Philip Wylie (1933)
5 Odd John, Olaf Stapledon (1935)
6 Nineteen Eighty-Four†‡*, George Orwell (1949)
7 Earth Abides, George R Stewart (1949)
8 Foundation†, Isaac Asimov (1951)
9 The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury (1951)
10 The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester (1953)
11 Ring Around the Sun, Clifford D Simak (1953)
12 Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement (1954)
13 The Long Tomorrow, Leigh Brackett (1955)
14 The Chrysalids†, John Wyndham (1955)
15 The Death of Grass or No Blade of Grass, John Christopher (1956)
16 Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein (1959)
17 The Sirens of Titan†, Kurt Vonnegut (1959)
18 Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank (1959)
19 A Canticle for Leibowitz†, Walter M Miller (1960)
20 Venus Plus X, Theodore Sturgeon (1960)
21 Solaris†*, Stanislaw Lem (1961)
22 The Drowned World†, JG Ballard (1962)
23 Hothouse, Brian Aldiss (1962)
24 A Wrinkle in Time‡, Madeleine L’Engle (1962)
25 Dune*, Frank Herbert (1965)
26 Make Room! Make Room!, Harry Harrison (1966)
27 Logan’s Run, William F. Nolan & George Clayton Johnson (1967)
28 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K Dick (1968)
29 The Left Hand of Darkness‡, Ursula K Le Guin (1969)
30 Behold the Man, Michael Moorcock (1969)
31 Ringworld, Larry Niven (1970)
32 Rendezvous with Rama*, Arthur C Clarke (1972)
33 Roadside Picnic, Boris & Arkady Strugatsky (1972)
34 The Female Man*, Joanna Russ (1975)
35 Man Plus, Frederik Pohl (1976)
36 The Stand, Stephen King (1978)
37 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy†‡, Douglas Adams (1979)
38 Nor Crystal Tears, Alan Dean Foster (1982)
39 Ender’s Game‡, Orson Scott Card (1985)
40 Consider Phlebas, Iain M Banks (1987)
41 Falling Free, Lois McMaster Bujold (1988)
42 Hyperion†, Dan Simmons (1989)
43 Red Mars†*, Kim Stanley Robinson (1993)
44 Ribofunk, Paul Di Filippo (1996)
45 Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson (1999)
46 Uglies, Scott Westerfeld (2005)
47 Old Man’s War, John Scalzi (2005)
48 Little Brother, Cory Doctorow (2007)
49 Acme Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware (2008)
50 Embassytown†, China Miéville (2011)

I make that 32 read and 3 on the TBR. There are, I must admit, some bizarre choices – Alan Dean Foster? But no more so than the lists James, Jared and myself put together, I suppose. There are a number of traditional choices, books I avoid because I don’t think they’re very good, even though most people claim them as “classics”. Such as, of course, the Asimov. It’s also a very testosterone-heavy list – I make it 5 female authors. I was embarrassed I only managed to list 16 on mine, but that’s three times more than this list. Finally, of those books I’ve not read or are not on the TBR… I’m not bothered about actually reading them. Which I guess means this list fails in one respect.

Overall, it’s been a fun exercise. I’m not sure I’d generate the same list if I were to do this a year from now. I suspect James and Jared would say the same…


7 Comments

I like me some meme

I found this on Larry’s blog here, where he says the following list is the results of a recent online poll on Lit Net. Whatever that might be. Still, a meme. A book meme. Bold those you’ve read, italicise the ones sitting on the TBR…

1 The Bible (I bought a copy of this last year, the first time I’ve ever owned one. It’s for reference, of course. And yes, I have the Qur’an and the Talmud as well)
2 Hamlet by William Shakespeare
3 The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
4 The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
5 The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
6 Ulysses by James Joyce
7 Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
8 Don Quixote by Cervantes
9 War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
10 Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
11 Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
12 The Odyssey by Homer (I have the illustrated version of this somewhere)
13 Paradise Lost by John Milton
14 In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (I really must tackle these one day)
15 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
16 Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire
17 The Illiad by Homer
18 One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez
19 Essays by Montaigne
20 The Stranger by Albert Camus
21 The Oresteia by Aeschylus
22 Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
23 Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
24 The Story of the Stone by Cao Xueqin
25 Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
26 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
27 The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
28 Emma by Jane Austen (the one Austen I haven’t read)
29 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
30 The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
31 Eugene Onegin by Pushkin
32 Watership Down by Richard Adams
33 The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (my copy is one of my father’s Penguin classics)
34 Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
35 Walden by Henry David Thoreau
36 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
37 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
38 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
39 Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
40 The Trial by Franz Kafka
41 Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
42 Shahnameh by Ferdowsi
43 The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
44 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
45 Fictions by JL Borges
46 El Aleph by JL Borges
47 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
48 Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald
49 The Magus by John Fowles
50 Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman
51 Testament by RC Hutchinson
52 Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
53 A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin (WTF? Certainly doesn’t belong on this list. Read the first three, gave up…)
54 Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
55 Oedipus the King by Sophocles
56 The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
57 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
58 Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
59 The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake
60 Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs
61 Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
62 Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
63 Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
64 No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre
65 Othello by William Shakespeare (have seen the BBC adaptation; you don’t read a play, you see it performed)
66 Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
67 Vanity Fair by William Thackerey
68 Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy
69 Voss by Patrick White
70 Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
71 Manfred by Lord Byron
72 A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
73 Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
74 The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
75 Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy
76 Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty
77 1984 by George Orwell
78 Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (an even less deserving entry than GRRM’s)
79 The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose Saramagos
80 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
81 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
82 Tristam Shandy by Laurence Sterne
83 The Tree of Man by Patrick White
84 The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
85 Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
86 2666 by Robert Bolano
87 Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
88 If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
89 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
90 The Arrow of Gold by Joseph Conrad
91 The Recognitions by William Gaddis
92 The Castle by Franz Kafka
93 I Canti by Giacomo Leopardi
94 Man’s Fate by André Malraux
95 Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
96 Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell (have read the first, have a few more on the TBR)
97 Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
98 Confessions by Rousseau
99 The World as Will and Representation by Arthur Schopenhauer
100 Julius Caesar by Shakespeare (have seen the BBC adaptation)

Well, it’s a very traditional list. The odd pre-19th century book can’t disguise all the obvious choices made for 19th and 20th century fiction. Not to mention a couple of frankly bizarre ones: A Song of Ice and Fire? Really? Atlas Shrugged? You think so? As for my “score”… Not so good: fourteen read (mostly), and a further eight on the TBR. I also count a mere  six women (Austen appears twice), which is appalling. This is literature as the province of Dead White Men, and pretty much what the entire field has been fighting against for the past two decades or more. And, of course, it’s woefully US/UK-centric, with a handful of other nationalities. So, not a very good list at all, then.

Lit Net, must do better.

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