Friday, 28 December 2012

Locus Online's 2012 All Centuries Poll is Very Confusing

Courtesy of Black Gate, I came across Lotus' latest write-in poll for The Best Fantasy/Science Fiction works of the 20th and 21st centuries. I say works, because although they say it's "a poll for the best novels and short fiction of the 20th and 21st centuries, with five categories in each century: SF novel, fantasy novel, novella, novelette, and short story," I can't find much distinction between novel, novella, novelette or short story - not to mention a few other confusing elements.

Read on for the results.

Since it's by definition a popularity contest, I won't quibble with the ranking: the top 20 or so are largely predictable, but it's nice to see the Strugatskys so high up.

20th Century SF Novel:
RankAuthor : Title (Year)PointsVotes
1Herbert, Frank : Dune (1965)3930256
2Card, Orson Scott : Ender's Game (1985)2235154
3Asimov, Isaac : The Foundation Trilogy (1953)2054143
4Simmons, Dan : Hyperion (1989)1836131
5Le Guin, Ursula K. : The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)1750120
6Adams, Douglas : The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)1631113
7Orwell, George : Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)1493105
8Gibson, William : Neuromancer (1984)1384100
9Bester, Alfred : The Stars My Destination (1957)131191
10Bradbury, Ray : Fahrenheit 451 (1953)127591
11Heinlein, Robert A. : Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)112175
12Heinlein, Robert A. : The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966)110776
13Haldeman, Joe : The Forever War (1974)109082
14Clarke, Arthur C. : Childhood's End (1953)98770
15Niven, Larry : Ringworld (1970)95574
16Le Guin, Ursula K. : The Dispossessed (1974)90762
17Bradbury, Ray : The Martian Chronicles (1950)90263
18Stephenson, Neal : Snow Crash (1992)77960
19Miller, Walter M. , Jr. : A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959)77656
20Pohl, Frederik : Gateway (1977)75958
21Heinlein, Robert A. : Starship Troopers (1959)74453
22Dick, Philip K. : The Man in the High Castle (1962)72854
23Zelazny, Roger : Lord of Light (1967)72750
24Wolfe, Gene : The Book of the New Sun (1983)70343
25Lem, Stanislaw : Solaris (1970)63847
26Dick, Philip K. : Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)63247
27Vinge, Vernor : A Fire Upon The Deep (1992)62048
28Clarke, Arthur C. : Rendezvous with Rama (1973)58844
29Huxley, Aldous : Brave New World (1932)58142
30Clarke, Arthur C. : 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)56939
31Vonnegut, Kurt : Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)54339
32Strugatsky, Arkady & Boris : Roadside Picnic (1972)51836
33Card, Orson Scott : Speaker for the Dead (1986)44831
34Brunner, John : Stand on Zanzibar (1968)44333
35Robinson, Kim Stanley : Red Mars (1992)44135
36Niven, Larry (& Pournelle, Jerry) : The Mote in God's Eye (1974)43732
37Willis, Connie : Doomsday Book (1992)43333
38Atwood, Margaret : The Handmaid's Tale (1985)42232
39Sturgeon, Theodore : More Than Human (1953)40829
40Simak, Clifford D. : City (1952)40128
41Brin, David : Startide Rising (1983)39329
42Asimov, Isaac : Foundation (1950)36024
43Farmer, Philip Jose : To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971)35625
44Dick, Philip K. : Ubik (1969)35525
45Vonnegut, Kurt : Cat's Cradle (1963)31824
46Vinge, Vernor : A Deepness in the Sky (1999)31522
47Simak, Clifford D. : Way Station (1963)30824
48Wyndham, John : The Day of the Triffids (1951)30224
49*Keyes, Daniel : Flowers for Algernon (1966)29723
49*Delany, Samuel R. : Dhalgren (1975)29719
20th Century Fantasy Novel:
RankAuthor : Title (Year)PointsVotes
1Tolkien, J. R. R. : The Lord of the Rings (1955)5675340
2Martin, George R. R. : A Game of Thrones (1996)2182149
3Tolkien, J. R. R. : The Hobbit (1937)2040138
4Le Guin, Ursula K. : A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)1613113
5Zelazny, Roger : Nine Princes in Amber (1970)97170
6Lewis, C. S. : The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)82158
7Mieville, China : Perdido Street Station (2000)75754
8Gaiman/Pratchett : Good Omens (1990)69350
9Rowling, J. K. : Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997)65749
10Crowley, John : Little, Big (1981)64541
11Adams, Richard : Watership Down (1972)63246
12Goldman, William : The Princess Bride (1973)60446
13Martin, George R. R. : A Storm of Swords (2000)60243
14Beagle, Peter S. : The Last Unicorn (1968)59745
15White, T. H. : The Once and Future King (1958)58946
16Kay, Guy Gavriel : Tigana (1990)52238
17Gaiman, Neil : Neverwhere (1996)50938
18Wolfe, Gene : The Book of the New Sun (1983)49435
19Vance, Jack : The Dying Earth (1950)45731
20Bulgakov, Mikhail : The Master and Margarita (1967)44229
21Rowling, J. K. : Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000)44033
22Tolkien, J. R. R. : The Silmarillion (1977)43332
23Leiber, Fritz : The Swords of Lankhmar (1968)42530
24Jordan, Robert : The Eye of the World (1990)42329
25Donaldson, Stephen R. : Lord Foul's Bane (1977)41632
26Bradbury, Ray : Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962)41130
27Peake, Mervyn : Gormenghast (1950)41029
28Rowling, J. K. : Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999)40632
29Powers, Tim : The Anubis Gates (1983)40329
30Martin, George R. R. : A Clash of Kings (1998)38126
31Bradley, Marion Zimmer : The Mists of Avalon (1983)36828
32Hobb, Robin : Assassin's Apprentice (1995)36727
33Pratchett, Terry : The Colour of Magic (1983)35927
34Holdstock, Robert : Mythago Wood (1984)32625
35King, Stephen : The Stand (1978)31622
36*L'Engle, Madeleine : A Wrinkle in Time (1962)31023
36*Pratchett, Terry : Small Gods (1992)31023
38Howard, Robert E. : Conan the Barbarian (1950)29721
39Ende, Michael : The Neverending Story (1983)29123
40Peake, Mervyn : Titus Groan (1946)28720
41McCaffrey, Anne : Dragonflight (1968)28122
42Orwell : George : Animal Farm (1945)27920
43Feist, Raymond E. : Magician (1982)27421
44Silverberg, Robert : Lord Valentine's Castle (1980)26120
45Lovecraft, H. P. : At the Mountains of Madness (1936)24920
46Swanwick, Michael : The Iron Dragon's Daughter (1993)24718
47King, Stephen : The Shining (1977)23818
48Garcia Marquez, Gabriel : One Hundred Years of Solitude (1970)22316
49Saint-Exupery, Antoine de : The Little Prince (1943)21716
50Hughart, Barry : Bridge of Birds (1984)21316
21st Century SF Novel:
RankAuthor : Title (Year)PointsVotes
1Scalzi, John : Old Man's War (2005)674101
2Stephenson, Neal : Anathem (2008)43263
3Bacigalupi, Paolo : The Windup Girl (2009)36758
4Wilson, Robert Charles : Spin (2005)30549
5Watts, Peter : Blindsight (2006)25137
6Morgan, Richard : Altered Carbon (2002)23837
7Collins, Suzanne : The Hunger Games (2008)19932
8Gibson, William : Pattern Recognition (2003)19730
9Mieville, China : The City & the City (2009)19329
10Stross, Charles : Accelerando (2005)18731
11Mitchell, David : Cloud Atlas (2004)18530
12McDonald, Ian : River of Gods (2004)18129
13McCarthy, Cormac The Road (2006)15123
14Harrison, M. John : Light (2002)14722
15*Willis, Connie : Black Out/All Clear (2010)14220
15*Chabon, Michael : The Yiddish Policemen's Union (2007)14223
17*Simmons, Dan : Ilium (2003)13723
17*Niffenegger, Audrey : The Time Traveler's Wife (2003)13723
19*Doctorow, Cory : Little Brother (200812522
19*Ishiguro, Kazuo : Never Let Me Go (2005)12520
21st Century Fantasy Novel:
RankAuthor : Title (Year)PointsVotes
1Gaiman, Neil : American Gods (2001)721109
2Clarke, Susanna : Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004)60994
3Rothfuss, Patrick : The Name of the Wind (2007)42264
4Mieville, China : The Scar (2002)22133
5Martin, George R. R. : A Feast for Crows (2005)21334
6Rowling, J. K. : Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)21133
7Bujold, Lois McMaster : The Curse of Chalion (2001)17727
8Mieville, China : The City & the City (2009)17028
9Fforde, Jasper : The Eyre Affair (2001)16027
10*Bujold, Lois McMaster : Paladin of Souls (2003)15022
10*Pratchett, Terry : Night Watch (2002)15026
12Gaiman, Neil : Coraline (2002)14424
13*Wolfe, Gene : The Wizard Knight (2004)14123
13*Abercrombie, Joe : The Blade Itself (2006)14124
15Pratchett, Terry : Going Postal (2004)13723
16*Gaiman, Neil : The Graveyard Book (2008)13622
16*Lynch, Scott : The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006)13623
18Jemisin, N. K. : The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (2010)12421
19Le Guin, Ursula K. : Lavinia (2008)12318
20Sanderson, Brandon : Mistborn (2006)12218
The site promises a list of complete results, sorted into the categories seen above. While it claims to be "complete results, by category/rank and alphabetically by author," I can't find anything that sorts it by the five categories (fantasy novel, SF novel, novella, novellette, short story) anywhere. I may have overlooked it, or it could be in the process of being made, but I do think when you say there are five categories for a poll, it would be nice to see the results of those categories without having to go through each one individually.
The problem is, you can't do that either, because a number of the winning entries are not novels or novellas, novellettes, or short stories, but anthologies, collections or other publications not defined in the original poll. Cases in point:

20th Century SF Novels
Asimov, Isaac : The Foundation Trilogy (1953)
Bradbury, Ray : The Martian Chronicles (1950)
Wolfe, Gene : The Book of the New Sun (1983)
Sturgeon, Theodore : More Than Human (1953) 
20th Century Fantasy Novels
Vance, Jack : The Dying Earth (1950)
Tolkien, J. R. R. : The Silmarillion (1977)
Howard, Robert E. : Conan the Barbarian (1950)

These are all collections, not individual novels or stories, and furthermore, they aren't clear as to which publication they're even talking about. "The Foundation Trilogy" obviously refers to the three Asimov books, but are they referring to the 1963 (not 1953) collection, or the fact that the third entry in the trilogy was released in 1953? If that's the case, then that's three "novels" (strictly speaking, they're short story collections) as opposed to one, unless they're talking about the 1963 publication, in which case they've got the date wrong. What's more, Asimov's Foundation is listed separately from "The Foundation Trilogy," and comes in at 42, effectively being listed twice. What.

 The Martian Chronicles is more straightforward, being explicitly a collection of short stories. By "The Book of the New Sun," I'm guessing they're referring to The Book of the New Sun, Vols. I & II - that last part "Vols. I & II" highlighting that this is a collection of two volumes. Perplexingly, TBotNS is listed in both the SF and Fantasy novel sections, at 24 and 18 respectively. Again, What.

Onto the fantasy novels, Vance's The Dying Earth is - again - a collection of short stories. The Silmarillion is a tricky one, since you could consider it a novel and a collection, though the nature of the work has me leaning towards the latter. And much as I'm ecstatic to see Howard represented, the entry is just baffling, and is presumably meant to be one of the following, neither of which is satisfactory:

  • Gnome Press's Conan the Conqueror (1950) - in which case they got the name of the 38th greatest fantasy novel of the 20th Century wrong (in addition to ignoring the original date of publication in Weird Tales, presumably because they were going with the first time it was published in novel form, which is needlessly confusing and imprecise)
  • Gnome Press's Conan the Barbarian (1955) - in which case they got the publication date of the 38th greatest fantasy novel of the 20th Century wrong (in addition to it being a collection of short stories, not a novel)

Since Locus lists Conan the Conqueror 110th in the "complete results," I can only assume it's the second. Either that, or Locus is listing an entirely imaginary 1950 novel by the name of Conan the Barbarian as the 38th greatest fantasy novel of the 20th century. Third time's a charm: What.

It's a bit of a confusing list. Are Locus talking about specific book publications, or the novels themselves? Why didn't they break it down further into novella, novellette and short story? Heck, why didn't they include anthologies and collections too? And why in blazes is Perdito Street Station counted as a 20th Century fantasy novel?

Or maybe I'm just thick, you can't discount that factor.


  1. The More You Know28 December 2012 at 04:08

    "And why in blazes is Perdito Street Station counted as a 20th Century fantasy novel?"

    Because it was published in the year 2000, the last year of the 20th Century. Years in the Gregorian Calendar are marked with counting numbers. There is no year zero. So the 1st Century began with year one, and lasted a hundred years, from 1 to 100. The second century began on year 101, and lasted through year 200. The third century began in 201, and lasted through year 300, etc, until we reach 1901, the start of the 20th Century. That Century lasted 100 years, from 1901 through the year 2000. The 21st Century officially started in 2001, not 2000, as is commonly supposed.

    1. And now I know, though it still doesn't make sense to my thick head. Thanks very much!

    2. Speaking of Perdido Street Station, I was pleasantly surprised at how much China Mieville was represented in this list. Almost none of my friends know of his work, so I always assumed he was somewhat underground.

  2. Hero of the Federation28 December 2012 at 09:50

    All right. SPREAD OUT!