Monday, November 5, 2007


The List (For Discussion, Not Official)

This is the list, thus far. Books that are included here may be permanent additions, or they may not. The goal is to suggest a large number of books and then slowly work it down to the appropriate 50 book length. Feel free to argue about any book here because all books here are simply nominated by me or by others and are up for discussion! Give your reasons why you don't like a book on the list, etc. I can start new discussions on the books at any time.
So here it is:

Science Fiction
Dune by Frank Herbert (haven't read)
War of the World by H. G. Wells (haven't read)
1984 by George Orwell
Neuromancer by William Gibson
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (haven't read)
Doomsday Book - Connie Willis (haven't read)
The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester (haven't read)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (read part of)
Ringworld by Larry Niven
More Than Human by Theodor Sturgeon
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Odyssey by Homer
A Midsummer Nights Dream by William Shakespeare
The Rings of the Nibelung by Richard Wagner
Beowulf by Unknown
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Gilgamesh by Unknown
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

There it is for the time being. This is NOT the official list. This is JUST the list as it stands right now. Anything that gets mentioned will end up here.


Anonymous said...

Is that ring thing that ... thing with the ... thing? Yeah, clear as mud. Umm ... the one with the belt-of-strength woman?

S.M.D. said...

I should have put next to it that I haven't read it. Sorry about that. All I know about it is that it was turned into an Opera that is supposed to be exceptional and also so incredibly epic that it has to be staged in multiple showings because it would be some ten ours in one sitting to go through the whole ring cycle. It also supposedly serves as the inspiration and basis by which LOTR was created, at least according to speculation. It does have similarities.

Anonymous said...

Are y'all still talking about this, or am I trying to bring a dead conversation back to life?

I would like to suggest Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human.

I'm not sure how much influence it has had in the SF & F world, but it is a Del Rey Gold Seal Selection, published in 1953, winner of the International Fantasy Award, and one of my favorites.
According to the back of the book:
"Del Rey Gold Seal Selections are major works of imaginative fiction that have become modern literary classics. More importantly, they are great stories in which first-rate writers take on timeless questions of human destiny."

This book may also have a significant influence on my own writing, which will only be important/notable if my writing manages to withstand the test of time. Just thought I'd mention that I'm biased.

While I'm at it, I'd also like to nominate James Tiptree, Jr.
Any of Tiptree's stories would make a valuable addition to the canon. My favorite is "Love Is The Plan The Plan Is Death," but "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" is also a fantastic piece. Materialism and gender identification are major themes in all her stories.

Couple of questions...
I am curious why you have included the Odyssey in the Fantasy list. I have always read Homer as Mythology (a genre in its own right). I think his writing has had greater effect on epic poetry than science fiction and fantasy, and I'm wondering if we really need the power of his name to validate the SF&F canon.
Also, Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream... I can understand why you might consider it for the Fantasy canon; however, I think there is more to High Fantasy than faries and pixies and imps getting themselves and gullible humans into trouble.
Props to Shakespeare for getting Western Literature started, but I don't think he belongs in a canon of speculative fiction literature. I think Midsummer Night's Dream would be more comfortable in folklore, or comedic drama (where it is traditionally slotted).

In the interests of full disclosure, I am against tradition, form, and any other expectations a board of "scholars" might have for a piece of writing under consideration for admission to the literary canon.
Have I enabled a reader to escape from the ordinary?
Then I am happy.
Have I allowed my audience to grow beyond the expectations and limitations of their world?
Then I am happy.

Perhaps building a canon will result in a philosophical discussion of what science fiction and fantasy is, but I wonder if it would be more useful first to define what we mean when we say "science fiction" or "fantasy" so that we recognize what we're looking for when it passes us on the street.

Just thoughts, of course.

~Anonymous...for now.
Fuck your opinion. I have my own.

S.M.D. said...

I'm writing a response post to everything you said, because I think it deserves further discussion.

S.M.D. said...

Added Sturgeon's book to the list.

I'll make note of the stories you suggested too for when we get down to the short story canon.