Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I'm Obviously a Sucker for a List Meme

Via SFSignal and Andrew Wheeler, (bold means I've read it, italic means it's on my to-read list, etc.):

Paul McAuley's List of Essential SF Titles

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus MARY SHELLEY 1818
Journey to the Centre of the Earth JULES VERNE 1863
After London RICHARD JEFFRIES 1885
The Time Machine HG WELLS 1895
The House on the Borderland WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON 1912
Brave New World ALDOUS HUXLEY 1932
Star Maker OLAF STAPLEDON 1937
I, Robot, ISAAC ASIMOV 1950
The Martian Chronicles RAY BRADBURY 1950
The Dying Earth JACK VANCE 1950
Childhood's End ARTHUR C CLARKE 1953
The Space Merchants CM KORNBLUTH & FREDERIK POHL 1953
Tiger! Tiger! ALFRED BESTER 1956
The Death of Grass JOHN CHRISTOPHER 1956
The Seedling Stars JAMES BLISH 1957
The Midwich Cuckoos JOHN WYNDHAM 1957
Starship Troopers ROBERT A HEINLEIN 1959
A Canticle for Liebowitz WALTER M MILLER JR 1959
Solaris STANSLAW LEM 1961
Hothouse BRIAN ALDISS 1962
A Clockwork Orange ANTONY BURGESS 1962
Cat's Cradle KURT VONNEGUT JR 1963
Martian Time-Slip PHILIP K DICK 1964
The Crystal World JG BALLARD 1966
Flowers For Algernon DANIEL KEYES 1966
Lord of Light ROGER ZELAZNY 1967
The Left Hand of Darkness URSULA K LE GUIN 1969
The Fifth Head of Cerberus GENE WOLFE 1972
Ten Thousand Light Years From Home JAMES TIPTREE JR 1973
The Forever War JOE HALDEMAN 1974
Inverted World CHRISTOPHER PRIEST 1974
The Female Man JOANNA RUSS 1975
Arslan MJ ENGH 1976
The Ophiuchi Hotline JOHN VARLEY 1977
The Final Programme MICHAEL MOORCOCK 1968
Engine Summer JOHN CROWLEY 1979
Timescape GREGORY BENFORD 1980
Neuromancer WILLIAM GIBSON 1984
Divine Endurance GWYNETH JONES 1984

Pretty good list. I might have made some substitutions (perhaps Helliconia instead of Hothouse for Aldiss?), and I'm not sure there's *nothing* essential after 1984. But certainly the quality of works and authors is very high. I'm also happy to see that my program of reading the classics means I can fill in more of the first half of this list than I could've before.


Tim Walters said...

I've read 42, braggity braggity.

perhaps Helliconia instead of Hothouse for Aldiss?

I realize that I must be wrong about this--critical opinion is completely against me, and Aldiss is on record as saying it's his finest work--but Helliconia just seems like James Michener IN SPAAAAAACE to me. There are some enjoyable bits like the underground city in the first volume, but they're set in a vast landscape of bestselleroid dullness. Even my sneaking fondness for Michener didn't help.

I'm a big Aldiss fan, and I'd love someone to clue me in as to what I'm not getting...

My favorite of his is The Malacia Tapestry, but that's not really SF. I think Hothouse is a reasonable choice, although Non-Stop would also work (or, more controversially, Report On Probability A or Barefoot In The Head).

I'm not sure there's *nothing* essential after 1984

I'm sure there is, but having some sort of age cutoff for the sake of perspective makes a certain amount of sense. I'm not sure 25 years is necessary, though.

I would consider both Dhalgren and Triton to be more essential than Nova. But I'm impressed that the only missing author of the correct vintage that I might try to make a case for is Cordwainer Smith (I'd probably put him in place of Blish or Christopher, not that I don't like those guys).

Karen Burnham said...

Tim- Wow, 42! Both awesome and even geekier than 43 would have been!

Yes, any list like this is going to be mighty subjective. I agree with you that leaving Cordwainer Smith out seems criminal, but then again his strongest stuff is all short fiction.

As for Aldiss, I'm not really qualified to say one way or the other. My comment was partly because you see Helliconia on most of the lists like this, and I'd never heard to Hothouse before. Also, I already own Helliconia, whereas I'd have to track down and buy Hothouse.

Of such fickle concerns are lists sometimes made!

Jose said...

My favourite Aldiss book is "Greybeard". A quiet and understated post-holocaust novel that echoes Jefferies "After London".

Tim Walters said...

I just went to Paul McCauley's original post, and commenter Bob Blough has a good list of additions; I wouldn't consider them all essential, but they're all defensible, and some fine reading.

Re Aldiss: he's such a restless writer that there's probably no single best place to start. Might as well try Helliconia, bearing in mind that it's more normal than his usual work (not a bad thing in and of itself, but I love him for his mad streak).

Jose: good call. Greybeard is excellent.

Karen Burnham said...

Hmmm, this has been an excellent week for adding things to my "track down & read someday" list. I'll certainly add "Greybeard," thanks for the tip!

The other thing that's been extending my to-read list is the "Forgotten Classics" topic from the latest SFSignal Mind Meld. If you guys haven't seen it already, you may want to check it out.

Tim Walters said...

That John Boyd novel sounds right up my alley, and I'd never heard of it before.

Things from that page I can enthusiastically second: the Disch anthologies (as good as SF gets), Riddley Walker, Islandia (although some might find it dry), The Futurological Congress, The Long Tomorrow, Roadside Picnic, and, most emphatically, Little, Big, which I think is the best fantasy novel ever written.

Ones I didn't like: Goat Without Horns (although Swann is worth checking out), Merlin's Ring (pulp writer tries modern fantasy and gets stuck in the middle).