The OF Blog: Best Author of the Decade?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Best Author of the Decade?

I see people are jumping the gun already on a few forums and trying to gauge which author is "the best of this decade" (I think such things should at least wait until December 31, 2010, when the first decade of the third millennium of the Common Era ends).  Since I guess a few reading this would like to weigh in, why not answer the question in any form you choose to interpret it?

In fact, I dare people to be as creative in answering this question as possible.  It'll be interesting to see what the results would be like, especially when compared to forums dominated by epic fantasy fans.  I'll refrain from sharing my answers until a bit later, since my mind changes with the tides.


Oliver said...

One of so many (Plascencias People of Paper, Diaz' Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, MJ Harrisons Light etc. pp.) - I'll cheat by voting for a tie:

a) David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
b) Viktor Pelewin, Empire V (still no english translation)

I can't actually say why I think these two are the best (of those I've read, of course), as there are many other, that have individualised characters, suspenseful plot, vivid prose, relevant themes etc. Still, these two impressed me most.


Joe said...

Hmm. I'm gonna have to think about this. I supposed it depends if you count the decade as 2000-2009 or 2001-2010.

Isn't this just going to generally devolve into everyone figuring out which of their favorite authors wrote the most books that were good?

I might as well say Elizabeth Bear because she has published 12 full length novels, another co-written with Sarah Monette, 1 short story collection, a collection / mosaic novel, and a chapbook novella, won the Campbell and two Hugos and just about everything is quite outstanding. And that's just in the last HALF decade.

Actually, she'd be in my conversation anyway, but see how I immediately went to one of my favorites and the people on the forums are going to theirs?

Not that this is wrong, just a general observation.

Anonymous said...

If forced to cast one vote, I'd vote for the author of the most creative, engaging, surprising, and vibrant fantasy sequence of the decade: Jeff VanderMeer.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous = Kelly S.

Anonymous said...

My immediate thought was China Mieville. But that's favourite author of the decade. He could probably still contend for best- but that designation requires far more thought than initial feeling.

Also- does best require high output? Granted a large volume of highish quality books would be a point in favour, but can one incredible book outweigh a couple average ones?


Liviu said...

It's very hard to compare apples with oranges so to speak since various genres have various goals and for example a book like Cloud Atlas means one thing when it's judged for the Booker and another when it's judged for the Clarke, so dividing by genre:

- fantasy (genre, those "hoary" epics or adventures) - Jacqueline Carey

- sf (genre, those spaceships, singularities and guns) - Alastair Reynolds

- speculative fiction outside genre
tie between David Mitchell and Margaret Atwood

Adam Whitehead said...

After some going back and forth I think I have to go for China Mieville. He's had quite a high output, all of it of very good quality from his 800-page novels down to his short stories. He's had a big impact in terms of influencing other authors. He's written some interesting articles and been a good spokesperson for the genre on occasion.

Going through the subgenres, I'd have to put Alastair Reynolds up there for science fiction. Epic fantasy is actually a tough one. GRRM's output has not really been high enough to qualify, whilst Erikson's has been spotty. I think I'd have to go with Bakker for that (despite giving reasons for not voting for him overall on the SFFWorld thread), although I might shift to Abraham if his last two LONG PRICE books match the quality of the first two.

I think if we are talking about authors, then a decent output is necessary. For individual books, though, A STORM OF SWORDS, DEADHOUSE GATES, PERDIDO STREET STATION (all questionable because they were released in 2000), MEMORIES OF ICE, THE WARRIOR-PROPHET, BLACK MAN, BRASYL, JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL and CHASM CITY I think are all good qualifiers, but I would probably go for Christopher Priest's THE SEPARATION as the best spec fic book of the decade (also his only book of this decade; he's working on a new book now though).

I haven't read RIVER OF GODS, ANATHEM or any of Wolfe's 2000s output, which I suspect from reading their other works would all be in the running as well.

Anonymous said...

Many of you will scoff, but how about Rowling?

I don't think any single author this decade has sold as many books, created as many readers, or touched as many people as she.

Just sayin'!

Nephtis said...

Alastair Reynolds - his first book, Revelation Space was out in 2000, and he's become one of the major scifi writers, impressive both in output and quality.

China Mieville - even though he's written more than Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and The City and The City, just these 3 are exceptional enough for the title.

Catherynne M. Valente - a genre-transforming talent

Catherine Asaro - although she started writing in the mid 90's (Primary Inversion was published in 1996 and 4 more novels before 2000), she wrote 9 more Skolian novels, 3 scifi books, 4 fantasy novels, and several Nebula-nominated stories and novellas. She has cross-genre appeal (scifi, fantasy, romance).

Elizabeth Bear - another high-quality, prolific author.

Lsrry said...

I find it interesting that most people responding so far nominated books that are marketed as SF/F, mostly ignoring fictions marketed in other genre categories.

Last Anon,

There certainly is some strength to the argument that very influential (and bestselling) authors like Rowling ought to be considered. I read and enjoyed her series, even if the last few entries were lackluster in comparison to the early volumes.

As for the other nominees, I can see the merits in each one mentioned, but I'm going to add a few that aren't usually associated with spec fic: Roberto Bolaño, of course. Alberto Fuguet and Edmundo Paz Soldán have put forth some really good fiction that's hyperrealistic in some regards.

Joe said...


I think we're mostly thinking in terms of genre.

My favorite non-genre authors published their best work earlier than the 2000's.

Louise Erdrich in the 80's and 90's
Don DeLillo in the 80's (plus Underworld in the 90's)
Ann Patchett only published two books in the 2000's (one was the excellent Bel Canto, but still).
Same with Barbara Kingsolver.

The trouble is that I'm not quite as well read in current general lit.

Droidprogrammer said...

Well for science fiction I would like to throw out Richard Morgan, even his fantasy is amazing.

Fantasy, would have to go to Steven Erickson, who else has kept your fires going with a series that long that has never really stalled out (takes out RJ).

Overall JK Rowling is a decent choice, but her first book was 1997. Come to think of it that takes out Erickson! Maybe Stephanie Meyer? She sold a ton and has movie contracts, and every 13-18 yr old girl in the English speaking world has read/heard of it...

Joe, never read Elizabeth Bear, And everyone else, I am picking up Alastair Reynolds tomorrow, seen him around, never read him.

Scott Lynch, Pat Ruthfuss, George rr Martin you guys may have been considered but you took way too long to keep me going.

WhiteHaven said...


Stephanie Meyer? We were talking about the best author. Not about the best morons out there.

Now, if you excuse me, I have to hit

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