Like moths to the flame, tribbles to the quadrotriticale, or sandworms to a Fremen thumper, we science fiction and fantasy fans are irresistibly drawn to “best of” lists. So NPR’s list of the “Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books” (as chosen from 237 finalists by over 60,000 listeners) will surely generate much agreement and argument in fan circles.
How many of these books have you read? (Am I reduced two steps in geek rank for confessing I’ve only read 28? Maybe I can get partial credit for having read the first three novels of the #4 entry, or the original short story version of #38.)
Is there anything on the list you think shouldn’t be? Each of these books seems squarely in the sf or fantasy genre (though calling #13 a fantasy seems something like calling Moby-Dick “a sea thriller” and leaving it at that).
What’s missing? Well, the 137 other finalists that didn’t make NPR’s cut, sure. But which of your genre favorites would you argue, with your dying breath, deserves to be enshrined among these hallowed hundred?
Should multi-volume series really have been allowed to count as single entries? Perhaps NPR has actually given us a list of their top 100 sf or fantasy stories.
And what (if anything) does this list of books say about us, their readers? Do you see any trends that make you think? Why, for instance, are three of the top ten vote-getters dystopias? Are we losing hope in a bright, shiny, jetpack- and flying car-filled future? Or should we instead regard Tolkien’s list-topping triumph as a positive sign that we still respond to heroic values and the victory of good over evil?
Like NPR’s list or loathe it, it’s nice to know so many people have opinions of literary sf and fantasy to share. People are still reading—meaning the future envisioned in the #7 entry remains, for the time being, safely shelved in the “fiction” aisle.