Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Extended Whining About NPR's Best 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy List


I kinda don't like trying to list best sci-fi and fantasy at the same time, but it obviously tells you something that separate lists don't.

But look:  No Earthsea triology????????

Even if we could stand by and watch stuff like The Name of the Wind and American Gods (which I hated so much I didn't even finish it) rated above genuinely exceptional books like Watership Down and The Once and Future King--two books that, to my mind, at least flirt with genuine, transcendent greatness--I just can't take something like this seriously if it doesn't list the Earthsea trilogy anywhere.

I'm just not buying it.

Like so many such lists, recent, trendy stuff is simply overrepresented and overrated. LotR will still be at the top of this list in 100 years. Lots of these other books won't be there any more.

Like, IMHO, The Sword of Shannara, about which the less said the better.

Incidentally, I know f*ck all about literature, and I have found so little sci-fi/fantasy that I've even been able to finish for years that I'm not even up on the genre anymore.

So this is blowhardery at it's worst, to be honest about it...


Blogger Random Michelle K said...

American Gods (which I hated so much I didn't even finish it)

Up until this point, I thought you were a wise, sober individual.

Now? Now I think you're just plain batty.

Hated American Gods?

(wails) (rends garments)

How is this even possible? The mythology... the folklore... the gods large and small... I mean, Anansi the Spider AND Loki AND Bastet in a single story?

Now, I'll agree with you about Shannara and Terry Brooks. I'd even argue about Anne McCaffery, except that I think she's there for the same reason as Ender's Game--appeal to those who don't normally read genre fiction.

I remember the voting at the time--some of my favorites made the list, a lot didn't (I think the lack of Guy Gavriel Kay & Sean Russell is a crime). But you're right it WILL be interesting in 25 years to see what makes a Best 100 list.

And if you're looking for recommendations for fantasy, I can make lots of recommendations, since this overwhelming majority of my reading is genre fiction.

And I totally love to make recommendations and push my favorite books off on other people. :)

7:31 PM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

FWIW, here's what I said at the time, along with what I had and had not read from the list:


7:33 PM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

Also, can you tell I'm home sick from work? ;)

(Conjunctivitis: clean your keyboard with alcohol after reading what I post!)

7:33 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Oh hell, pink eye. Had it when I was a kid. Lucky I didn't get it more being on the farm... Unpleasant...

Hope you feel better man.

Alright, alright, alright! I'll give American Gods another chance...

I basically quit after the balls song.

There's like a monkey or a tiger or a spider or something that sings a song like "hey, I've got big balls! Look at my balls! Balls, balls, balls!" (pardon my French.) And this goes on for like a page, and I was already not liking it much--though there were definitely things about it that I did like--and then I was like "ok, that's it. Enough with the balls..."

I'm not a huge Gaiman fan, actually in general...

7:48 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Thanks for you list. Two things:

1. I say don't bother with Snow Crash. The first chapter is (IMO) great (The Deliverator!). After that, it has it's moments, but...meh.

2. I loved the Chronicles of Amber!

7:53 PM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

See, that's Anansi the spider, and that's pretty true to form for how his folktales went.

I have two complete bookshelves of myths and legends and folktales, which is why I love Neil Gaiman so much, because he brings so much of these things I already loved into his stories.

Because, folk and fair tales and myths were really quite bawdy and naughty. I mean, consider Sleipnir, Odin's horse and Loki's offspring. Mind you, Sleipnir's father was a mighty stallion...

I think the closest parallel to Anansi tales, would be perhaps Coyote takes of Native American mythology. Coyote thinks with his nether regions, and is always getting into trouble--and often getting himself killed, but he never learns.

And... I could really go on for hours and hours about folk tales and mythology. In fact, I just started re-reading my copy or Norse myths, because I read something that brought up Sleipnir, and I wanted to remember if the tale was as I remembered it. (It was.)

But if you don't have that love of mythology and folk tales, I'd recommend picking up something by Guy Gavriel Kay instead. He doesn't write romps or adventures but--for lack of a better term--masterpieces of world building. He'll take years to write a single book, because he spends so much time researching the history upon which his story will be paralleled.

Does that sound boring? I hope not, because it isn't. It's marvelous and epic and entrancing and wonderful. Just not a quick romp--something instead to be savored.

I also highly recommend Charles de Lint. He also leans a lot on folk and fairy tales, but not at all in the same way as Neil Gaiman.

If you do want a quick romp, my current favorite series is Rob Thurman's Cal Leandros series. It's (I'm not kidding) a love story between two brothers. Except Cal is a foul mouthed half-monster who likes guns and it's not mushy or anything like that. But it's definitely my favorite series going right now.

Oh. I was going to end this several paragraphs ago. Oops!

(And the pink eye is annoying, but on the bright side, I'm not at work.)

8:14 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home