Locus Poll Final Results

In November the Locus magazine’s website hosted a poll to find out the best novels and short stories from the 20th and 21st centuries in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. I voted, as did some of you readers. The results of the novels are now in!

I’m fairly pleased by the results. Now, as I expected, my personal choices for the best sci-fi were not well-represented, but that’s in large part because I just haven’t read much sci-fi, and so voted from a very narrow field. But I still managed to get two books on 20th Century Sci-Fi list: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Ringworld by Larry Niven. However, it is sad to see Lewis’ Space/Ransom Trilogy nowhere on the list. It is still so barely known and appreciated. The last book on the list received only 19 votes, so Lewis’ trilogy received even less than that. I also voted for Fahrenheit 451, which makes an appearance, although I voted for it more out of obligation than from any actual admiration I had at the time I read it (back in high school, to be fair).

On the 20th Century Fantasy Novel list, I fared delightfully much better. I shan’t deny my gratification at seeing LOTR at number one. There’s hope for the world yet! Martin’s Game of Thrones snagged a second place, which I suppose I can’t complain about since I haven’t read it. The Hobbit at number three is satisfactory. It’s also nice to see Zelazny’s Nine Princes of Amber get a nod, although it’s a higher nod than I expected. I recently finished his whole Chronicles of Amber and greatly enjoyed it. And I note that A Wrinkle in Timesits comfortably on the fantasy list rather than the sci-fi one. +)

In fact, the only fantasy novels I voted for that didn’t get on the final list were Peter Pan, If on a winter’s night a traveler, and The Black Cauldron. The second one doesn’t surprise me because it’s rather obscure, the third one doesn’t surprise me because it’s the sort of YA fiction that still struggles for literary respect, but the absence of Barrie’s iconic fairy story rankles me a bit. Did people just forget it? Did they assume that because it’s a children’s story it mustn’t be important? WERE TOO MANY SNOBS VOTING? *gasp of indignant rage*

Oh well. Can’t win ’em all.

Also, please take a moment to admire my spectacular new header picture for this season, photographed this very day by yours truly. ‘-)

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Locus Poll for the best sci-fi and fantasy of the past 110 years

The website for Locus magazine — which I admit an unfamiliarity with — is hosting an open poll, which closes tomorrow on November 30th, asking readers to vote for the best novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories in the genres of fantasy and science fiction from the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century. Fortunately, they allow for multiple votes, and have conveniently broken down the categories.

Since my reading of the shorter literary forms, and of science fiction, is extremely limited, I didn’t vote for any short stories, novellas, or novelettes, and only a few sci-fi novels. For the fantasy novel ballot I filled all ten slots.

My Short List of Great Sci-fi Novels from the 20th Century

  1. Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
  2. That Hideous Strengthby C.S. Lewis
  3. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
  4. Ringworldby Larry Niven
  5. Fahrenheit 451by Ray Bradbury
  6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxyby Douglas Adams (which I actually forgot to include on the ballot! Oops.)

Again, I haven’t read much science fiction, and fewer still that has really impressed me.

My Short List of Great Fantasy Novels from the 20th Century

  1. The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobeby Lewis
  3. The Hobbitby Tolkien
  4. Watership Downby Richard Adams
  5. A Wrinkle in Timeby Madeleine L’Engle
  6. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
  7. The Last Unicornby Peter Beagle
  8. The Neverending Storyby Michael Ende
  9. If on a winter’s night a travelerby Italo Calvino
  10. The Black Cauldronby Lloyd Alexander

I’ve read a fair bit of fantasy novels.

It was painful to leave certain books and authors out, and I admit that my list is very close to my list of personal favorites. I just couldn’t fit in Neil Gaiman nor Patricia McKillip, nor Lawhead, nor even Rosemary Sutcliff (though on a longer list I might put her Tristan and Iseult).

But Tolkien and Lewis are givens, of course. I doubt many would argue against A Wrinkle in Time and The Last Unicorn, although the former is frequently categorized as science fiction; I personally find it to be solidly fantasy inspired by some scientific ideas. A very neat blending, certainly.

I finished Peter Pan not too long ago and became convinced it is one of the most important fairy tales that English literature has produced, as well as one of the most beautiful.

It has been many years since I read Michael Ende, but The Neverending Story was a powerful reading experience, and the 80’s movie was formative for my childhood. I look forward to reading it again with adult eyes, but I’m fairly confident in its position here.

I’m using The Black Cauldron to stand in for the entire Chronicles of Prydain. I couldn’t bear to leave out Lloyd Alexander’s prolific, always entertaining and often moving work.

Italo Calvino is a tricky writer, and If on a winter’s night a devilishly tricky novel. I’m not even sure it’s fantasy, but it feels safer to put it here rather than in science fiction or realism. It’s the most wildly original, experimental novel I’ve ever read. Parts of it I hated, most of it I loved. It must have been a torture to conceive and write, but it was certainly a pleasure to read. Even if no one else reads it, it deserves a place on a list like this.

In the comment section, I recommended that there should be a poll for the best pre-1900 fantasy and science fiction; the real foundational stuff. Everything from Homer to Edmund Spenser to Jules Verne and George MacDonald and Hans Christian Andersen. Generally my favorite stuff. +)

You’ve all got until tomorrow to vote, so go to it! Which fantasy and sci-fi books do you consider the most important and the best?