With all the rushing about I completely missed the Hugo Awards ceremony. Looking at the news and follow-ups it seems a case of slate voting being deployed as a means of beating back slate voting. More on that after I recover from the trauma of this year's award season.
I've been thinking a bit about top ten lists. I have my own top ten list of science fiction novels, of course, though I tend to keep it inside my head unless asked. But, after listening to reviewer and critic Renay's interview on The Coode Street Podcast (which I highly recommend - it's a fascinating discussion) I decided to lay out my personal top ten list. Straight from the shoulder, and true as I can make it. No fudging to make it seen erudite, respectable or diverse. Just my all-time favorites. My only rule was that I couldn't use the same author twice.
So here's my list, in no particular order. My comments on it follow.
1 - A Storm Over Warlock by Andre Norton
2 -Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
3) - Downbelow Station by C J Cherryh
4) A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
5) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
6) A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller Jr.
7) Dune by Frank Herbert
8) Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
9) Neuromancer by William Gibson
10) Snowcrash by Neil Stephenson
Now, you'll note that my list includes no books earlier than 1960, or later than 1996.
None of that is for want of reading older books or more recent books. For example, I'm perfectly comfortable reading prose by Romantic and Edwardian writers and enjoyed reading both Shelly's Frankenstein and Wells' The Time Machine. But neither made my top ten because, while I believe they are essential reading for someone who wishes to be well grounded in the genre, I find the prose from that period uses a lot of literary conventions that tend to keep the reader at arms length.
Moving into the early to mid twentieth century, I like reading writers like Asimov and Simak. I find their books well constructed and their underpinning ideas rich and complex. But their characters tend to be weak, almost a secondary consideration, and fail to engage me as a reader. Once again, they are on many 'must read' lists (including mine) for people who want to grok science fiction, but for my personal top-ten they don't make the grade.
While I've been reading a lot of more recent works, there's not much out there that's really grabbed me. That's not to say I don't enjoy works published post-1996. However, much of the science fiction published of late are near-future dystopias or straight-up military science fiction. That's literary ground that has been so overworked that little of note grows there anymore.
Still, there are a number of newer writers such as Leckie, de Bodard and Weir who have side-stepped the mire of zombies and space marines and are turning out quite good work. None of them, however, have struck lightning with me so far. A number of my pre-1996 favorites, like Gibson, Stephenson and Cherryh are still publishing, but they seem to have lost some of their early zeitgeist. It's good writing; mature, solid and polished, as I'd expect with a master of the craft. But I no longer close their books wishing there were more.
However, it's all about the journey. The search continues. I'll keep you posted.