The OF Blog: I guess I'm not a "true" SFF fan now...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I guess I'm not a "true" SFF fan now...

In the name of stirring up thought/controversy/arguments over metaphysics and/or politics, I present you with a throwaway line in a recommendation post made a few days ago over at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. Here is the "offending" quote:

Hence, here is a small list of speculative fiction works -- old and not so old -- that seem to be widely unread. I'm not saying that everyone has to "like" these books, but I feel that one cannot call themselves SFF fans if they haven't given these novels/series a shot.
After which, with two exceptions, only epic fantasies are named.

Umm...

Does this mean that those of us who aren't as enamored with epic fantasies (I like a few, but many on lists such as that of Pat's are dreck in my not-quite-humble opinion) and have never really cared to try anything else that might have the whiff of Tolkien about it (not me personally, but others have stated this in the past) are not SFF fans?

So in a teasing spirit, I present you, dear gentle/arrogant/non-SFF fan reader with a few books that should have been added to a list such as that:

Frank Herbert, Dune - One of the all-time bestselling SF novels got no love over there, so I'll give it some here. I like this book so much that I bought Spanish and Serbian translations of it so I could quote the "Fear is the mindkiller" mantra to natives of those languages. Plus the story is one that has a great many layers to it.

China Miéville, Perdido Street Station - It's weird, it's not pastoral/questy, and the prose is a brilliant mess. In other words, it ain't no fuckin' Hobbit trapasing through the liliacs story! Or something like that, for those of you regulars reading this who haven't been under a rock the past decade...

Gene Wolfe, The Book of the New Sun (series) - I've spent a lot of time this past autumn discussing his major works, so just do a search in November and December 2007 for all the reasons why I enjoyed these books and think that they are a must-read for a great many SFF fans.

Ursula Le Guin, Earthsea (series); The Left Hand of Darkness; The Dispossessed - It was a criminal oversight on Pat's list, so if you haven't sampled her work, sample it!

Samuel Delany, Dhalgren - This was the proverbial mindfuck of a novel when it was released around 40 years ago. It still is and well worth the effort spent trying to grasp just what in the fuck was happening.

Roger Zelazny, The Great Book of Amber (omnibus) - Zelazny wrote some terrific stories in these 10 collected Amber novels. It occupies a space that touches the borders between heroic/epic fantasy, SF, and "simple" adventure novels, told in a fashion that makes (at least for the first 5 novels) for a well-paced and thought-out story arc.

Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End - Despite the acclaims he received for the Odyssey series, I found this standalone to be the best of his work. It's a metaphor of sorts for the crisis that our "modern civilizations" face and the conclusions are still disturbing, more than 50 years after it was written.

And there are doubtless countless dozens more that I could add to such a list, but since I'm not really huffed about any of this, I'll let others add works to such a list, keeping in mind that it most certainly shall not approach the size of this. That list alone can occupy any dedicated SFF fan (see, we don't make, even in a joking fashion, claims that those who haven't read X aren't members of Y here!) for years, if not decades. And that being said, time to finish the final 7 cantos of Orlando Furioso before I revise one review and begin writing another.

14 comments:

Jonathan M said...

Yeah... I think if he'd said fantasy fan he might have been on safer ground as I'm undeniably an SF fan and I wouldn't touch a lot of those with a ten foot clown pole.

Larry said...

I'd qualify that further and say epic/heroic fantasy fan, since there is little but that on his list, not even any real urban or "New Weird" fantasies.

Jonathan M said...

This is why all such lists are effectively bollocks :-)

Larry said...

Lists exist only to get others to think of what should be added/included, in my opinion. I use them only as a means of considering what books might be worth reading later.

Terry Weyna said...

Aw, come on, guys, there's some good stuff on that list, really. TIGANA is arguably Guy Gavriel Kay's best book, a very dark fantasy that haunts me even now, years after I read it. I'd be surprised if either of you really wanted to diss Stephenson's Baroque Cycle either. And Bakker's Prince of Nothing series is also not your usual epic fantasy, and really very good.

I'll grant you that a lot of the rest of the list isn't my cup of tea, though I used to enjoy the Deryni novels (that was, um, 30 years ago or so) and Steve Donaldson is such a nice guy that I really want to like his books. But not all epic fantasy sucks.

Terry Weyna said...

That said, of course, I do like Larry's list better.

Larry said...

Oh, I'm not denying that there's some good things on that list, but instead am arguing that it's too limited of a list. Of course, knowing the poster like I do, I'm 99% certain that he was thinking of a list for those who like the latest epic fantasies but who haven't tried the older stuff in that vein.

I liked Stephenson's earlier efforts and will start reading Quicksilver in the next few weeks. Bakker, well I've known the guy personally for about 4 years now and I have little but very positive things to say of what he's written. Kay was hit-or-miss with me, in large part because I didn't really enjoy The Sarentine Mosaic because it aped real historical events a bit too much for me (sometimes, being having a MA in History can ruin certain novels for a reader, alas).

So Terry, I do agree that not all epic fantasy sucks (I've read 7 out of the 12 books/series mentioned there and enjoyed about half of them). But that's not why I made my mostly-in-jest post. I was bemused by the distinct lack of almost all the other "flavors" of SFF and by Pat's throwaway comment that I quoted :P

Robert said...

You always like stirring the pot don't you ;) That's the beauty of the blogosphere though... Both lists have titles that I really need to read though :)

Larry said...

It was a slow-moving Sunday, Robert and I needed the money... :P And yes, there are things on quite a few lists, including mine and Pat's, that many ought to consider. I just won't call them "read this if you want to be considered X" lists :P

I'm thinking about writing a tongue-in-cheek post about how to be a better "pretentious blogger", for those who like to toss such terms about indiscriminately ;)

Terry Weyna said...

Ooh, I don't think I'm sufficiently pretentious, so I could probably use that list, Larry.

Is there a science fiction counterpart to Jeff VanderMeer's Big-Ass Fantasy List? Or one such for mysteries or thrillers? I confess I like lists, for reasons unknown to me, but probably having to do with a barely contained obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Jeff C said...

I hope you follow through on that idea of the tongue in cheek "pretentious blogger" post :)

Larry said...

Terry, I only knew of one like Jeff's list and that's one that William Lexner did a couple of years ago, but that one is no longer available on his blog, so I have no clue. Of course, Jeff's list has quite a bit of SF on it as well.

And both of you, I might write something later tonight or tomorrow, depending on I feel. I'm rather sleepy/headachy right now from a lack of sleep last night.

sl-smith said...

Sorry to trouble you, sir, but you mentioned the list "William Lexner did a couple of years ago, but that ... is no longer available on his blog". I'm not sure if this is the same as the one you were referring to, but he posted a lenghty f/sf reading list here a few years ago, too.

If it's not the list you meant, sorry for troubling you.

Take care, and good luck with the blog.

Kristen said...

Thanks for the list. Sadly, I haven't read any of those yet although every one was on my "to get" list other than Dhalgren (which is now on it). I'll have to remedy that soon.

 
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