Friday, August 12, 2011

And The WInner Is . . . (NPR Fantasy List)

So, turns out the winner of the '100 Best' Sci-Fi and Fantasy books is none other than our old friend THE LORD OF THE RINGS -- the very book I'd have picked as the all-time best myself.
And it won by a huge landslide, as had been the case with the millennium polls, the old LOCUS polls (1987, I think it was), &c. -- in this case receiving about half of all votes cast. And there's an odd symmetry to see Tolkien and Lewis as far apart as possible and still be on the same list, holding the top and bottom positions, respectively, with Tolkien's masterpiece coming in #1 (with 29,701 votes) and CSL at #100 (with 1452). Or, to put it another way, twenty people voted for Tolkien for every one who voted for Lewis (with THE SILMARILLION mid-way between them at #46*).

Partly these results may have been skewed by the exclusions the judges put on the contest: no young adult books (which left out THE HOBBIT, Pullman, &c) explicitly so as to exclude Rowling fans, and no horror to keep Steven King out. They've taken down the list of nominees, unfortunately, but here's more about the rules:**

And for the actual votes and some observations about who won and perhaps why,

Overall I have to say that my top ten didn't fare too well. Here's the full list of all 100 winners:

Of the books I voted for, LotR won at #1 (as is right and proper), but only five of my other top-ten even made the final 100.

#29 THE SANDMAN (Gaiman)

This means that the brilliant BRIDGE OF BIRDS, which I'd unhesitatingly put in the top ten fantasy novels ever written, doesn't even make their top 100. LUD-IN-THE-MIST doesn't surprise me as much, and good as the FAFHRD & THE GRAY MOUSER stories are they've never had the audience of lesser writers like Howard (in a sense, Leiber is to Howard as Clark Ashton Smith is to Lovecraft). TIGANA's absence doesn't surprise me, but I'd have at least expected Kay's most famous work, THE FIONAVAR TAPESTRY, to have ranked.

As for the books that won, it's enheartening to see that four of the top ten went to living writers; a good sign that the genre's still going strong. I've read fifty-six of the books listed (counting at least one book out of a series, not necessarily every sequel).*** Interestingly, while I'd read nine of the top ten, I've only read eleven of the bottom thirty. Does this mean there's more shared experience towards the top of the list and less towards the other end, or is my experience atypical?

--John R.

*Itself a pretty good rejoinder to those who still claim that no-one ever reads it (e.g., folks like those who posted comments at npr's site about 'Tolkein', too ill-informed about his work to even know his name).

**If you click on one of the links at that page, you can get the results of an earlier (2009) poll in which interestingly enough THE HOBBIT beat out THE LORD OF THE RINGS, ranking at #14 and #18 respectively.

***Speaking of which, I'm sure Terry Pratchett wd have ranked much higher had they not picked two of his books at random and instead listed THE DISCWORLD SERIES as a single entry.

1 comment:

Jeff Scott said...

Perusing the list clarifies one thing in my mind which I haven't seen discussed much - aynwhere, and that's the difference between older fantasy (Morris, Dunsany, Tolkien himself) and newer, say 1970s on (Sword of Shannara, etc.) While I like some of the later stuff, I much prefer the older. Anyone else out there feel that distinction (whichever way your taste lies)?

Jeff Scott