The OF Blog: So I suppose I should care about this NPR list of "top 100" SF/F books/series, right?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

So I suppose I should care about this NPR list of "top 100" SF/F books/series, right?

For the past week or so, I'd notice a few posts on a blog here and there or a comment or three on Twitter urging people to nominate X number from X group for consideration for the NPR list of top SF/Fantasies.  I suppose such things are important for some because they can point out that such-and-such reflects what they value most in the field, but all I could think of at the time is "will it be middle-of-the-road with virtually all pasty-white males or MOR with a slight bit more sprinkling of females and PoCs?"

Having looked at the final list, I see it was a slight bit of the latter, but when I see Terry Goodkind's execrable SoT series coming in just ahead of Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series barely making it, all I can do is shake my head and conclude that in aggregates, the selections are going to be baffling and full of shit, with only a few higher-quality yet more demanding reads breaking the monotony of the same old, same old, same old, old same.

It's almost like this was the Gemmell Awards, except the eligibility was extended for all published books available in English.  So now that I've pretty much stated the obvious in noting my disdain for such things, what else is there to do?  Should I develop a list of fictions worthy of entertainment/edification?  That probably would be boring, since who really cares about lists these days?  So I guess I'm just left wondering why I even bother reading such things and even trying to care a bit.


Patrick said...

I weighed in before the "nominees" were ranked. -

Given the rough beginning, it's really no surprise that it turned into the mess it did.

It's also worth considering that many authors who have written truly "classic", time-tested works have since passed away. Today most popular authors have large fanbases that they can (and do) mobilized to boost results in these kinds of polls. The majority of the deceased authors have no one to champion their work in the public eye.

Popular opinion is bad enough for judging the current year. Using it to define the best books of all time is beyond a bad idea.

Least Definitive List Ever.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree. So mind-bogglingly stupid that I can hardly stand looking at it.

Aidan Moher said...

I haven't even looked over the whole list. I read the top 10 and grew bored at yet *another* list.

S.M.D. said...

Hate to say it, but the NPR poll was always a simplistic popularity poll without appropriate data to do much of anything with. They effectively did what anyone with a blog and a few thousand readers could have done, which provides nothing statistically relevant beyond saying "these books are ones lots of people read and liked." It doesn't tell us any of the following:

1) Who voted (age, ethnicity, religion, location, etc. etc. etc.)
2) Why they voted for a particular book (childhood favorite? A book they read that they remember liking a lot, even if they might have read better books since? etc etc etc)
3) Well-read vs. Not-well-read.
4) Favorite kinds of books and the last books read AND
5) Why they read (these last two in order to account for people who read "for fun" vs. read for some other "deeper" reason; we also need to know whether the majority of responding peeps actually read SF/F on a regular basis -- because if they don't...well, then this poll is even more silly).

And so on and so forth. Nothing about this poll should be taken seriously, because nothing about it was serious to begin with. As far as I remember, they didn't ask for anything from responders that might have given us statistically relevant information.

And the result is a poll which reflects an aged readership (not necessarily personal age, but the age of one's SF/F reading) and a painfully obvious selection. I think the sad thing is that this poll shows how few "new" books people are reading or reading & enjoying. Or it shows that this group is not really a part of the SF/F community in any significant way.

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