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Old 04-29-2014, 10:03 AM
Green Bean is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: NJ, Exit #137
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Thanks to all for all the input!

Heavily line-by-line here...

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Originally Posted by Evil Captor View Post
I would dump "Old Man's War" for sure. It's got an interesting setup, but it's basically military SF.
It's also one of the most acclaimed, recommended, and popular of the newer science fiction novels. I agree that it's not terribly original, but according to the scope of the project set out in post 23, it must be included. It's probably the first thing I would say if people asked me for some recommendations of some newer works. (I picked it up because of this thread I made in 2009, by the way.)

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Originally Posted by MrKnowItAll View Post
Clifford Simak - City
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - Cat's Cradle

and as much as I dislike it...

Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged
The first two are on the second list. As far as Atlas Shrugged...I agree with you 100% that it's an important work of science fiction, but having it on this list of 50 wouldn't serve my purposes. It would just be a distraction. I mean, you couldn't even mention it without saying you disliked it. I can't mention it without saying something like "in spite of the philosophy..." I tried splitting out the ones that were considered more as literature than sci fi, but that ended up creating more problems than it solved. Judged as science fiction alone, it wouldn't get near the top 50, IMHO. It will certainly be on the list somewhere, though, along with Anthem. (I can't decide whether The Fountainhead counts.)

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Originally Posted by FoieGrasIsEvil View Post
What about anything by Stephen King? The Stand? The Gunslinger books?
As I said somewhere upthread, I'm treading lightly with King. The Stand is absolutely one of the top books in (post-)apocalyptic sci fi, but I can't put it in the top 50 for some of the same reasons as I cited for The Fountainhead. As far as the Gunslinger, I've put a lot of thought into whether it falls more on the side of sci fi or fantasy (or maybe something else entirely), and whether it can be considered post-apocalyptic. The answer for now is "I dunno," but it will end up on a list somewhere.

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I noticed you knocked Tolkien's books as "not science fiction"...I presume we're eschewing fantasy altogether? Because to me, books like Clockwork Orange are also only vaguely sci-fi...more like "possible near future" type books, if you get what I mean. What about a book like The Road, then?
So people dealing with the aftermath of a nuclear war is somehow more fantastical than a bunch of orcs and hobbits running around looking for a magical ring? "Possible near-future" is science fiction. I know some people do like to define it more narrowly, but I'm going with the broader consensus for this list. That definition excludes most of what we consider "fantasy," but some works have feet in both worlds.

Sagan's Contact is notable but not essential.

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Originally Posted by Gray Ghost View Post
This'll be brief; I'm heading to bed, but FGIE has a point: including books like On the Beach, A Clockwork Orange, The Man in the High Castle, and The Yiddish Policeman's Union, really makes me wonder where the line is that we're drawing between fantasy and SF. If The Road counts, then why not The Stand? If Alt-History is on the table, then why no Turtledove?
See my answer above to some of this. For the purposes of this list, I'm including alternate history in the science fiction category. Turtledove will be included in the larger list, but thanks for reminding me. I'm not sure why you mention On the Beach as it doesn't have any fantastical elementas at all. IIRC, A Clockwork Orange doesn't either. (I haven't read The Man in the High Castle yet)

As for where the line is between fantasy and science fiction - well, to a large extent it just comes down to a judgment call. There's lots of information out there to help me make a decision, and all of these choices are based on broad-based research, but utimately I just have to decide what counts and what doesn't. The presence or absence of magic/supernatural elements is one important factor, but clearly not the only one.


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I'd dump Slaughterhouse Five and World War Z; the first because his short stories are much better at getting to the point---I'd support Welcome to The Monkey House on your list---and WWZ because it's more fantasy than SF.

This is fun; thanks for the OP.
Which point? People will be looking for Slaughterhouse-Five. WWZ is an apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic novel that deals with a global pandemic, so I'm not sure why it would be considered fantasy. Because the virus turns people into zombies?

And you're welcome. This is fun for me too.

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Originally Posted by Dave Hartwick View Post
As for the list, I applaud the decision to omit SiaSL. It's probably not even RAH's best-known novel any more-- Starship Troopers probably has that honor, due to the film and TV adaptations. Science fiction authors who seek to emulate Heinlein no longer, as far as I can tell, emulate SiaSL.
Those reasons all play into my leaving it off in the first place. It has simply faded in importance as time has passed. But I think I have to add it in.

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I'd not mind seeing Heinlein limited to two titles, though, and would suggest that two is a better limit than three, as it adds room for scope but still allows masters to be recognized.
Allowing more from each author better serves the purpose of this particular list. More scope will be found in the expanded list. There are certainly pros and cons to both approaches, and there are some great lists out there that only allow one book per author.

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However, Greenbean's list has a lot of honorable choices-- Wells, Shelley, Verne, and so on, books I don't particularly like but understand appearing on the list. Maybe SiaSL should be on there for similar reasons.
To be clear, there are a lot of books on the list that I don't particularly like! They're on the list because they should be on the list, not because I personally thought they were enjoyable. I'm trying to make it as unbiased as possible.

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Stanislaw Lem strikes me as a noticeable omission, although I'm not really a fan of his work.

Speaking of Varley, I'm partial to his stuff and would suggest Titan, the starting point of his Gaea Trilogy. His Hugo and Nebula wins were for novellas and short stories, though.

Edit: remembered Poul Anderson-- maybe Tau Zero, although it's been a long time since I read it. I'm fond of Brain Wave as well.
Solaris is on the second list. The Cyberiad will be included somewhere as well. Titan is under consideration as is Tau Zero, but I think they'll likely end up on the second list.
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Originally Posted by Robert163 View Post
by whose standards?
Hey Margaret - if you want to argue that "science fiction" is something entirely different than what everybody else thinks it is, please start a new thread about it and stop hijacking this one.