Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Did these books change science fiction and fantasy forever?

On perusing Gizmodo Australia's 21 Books That Changed Science Fiction and Fantasy Forever, I was quite gratified - as no more than a sporadic sci-fi/fantasy reader - to find that I had read 18 out of the 21. I'm not a huge fan of these "X Somethings That Changed History" or "Y Somethings You Should Something Before You Die" websites, but sometimes I can't resist a peek, even if only to see how much I disagree, or to look at the inane comments they generate.
Anyway, for what it's worth, the list includes:
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne
  • Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney
  • Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
  • War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
  • Dangerous Visions Edited by Harlan Ellison
  • Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Ringworld by Larry Niven
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Neuromancer by Wiliam Gibson
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler
  • Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Wind-up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  • Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
Of these, I have had to add Dhalgren, Kindred and The Forever War to my reading list.
I actually thought that this was as good a stab as any at what is essentially an Impossible Task. Several commentators bristled at the inclusion of the likes of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and A Game of Thrones. Yes, these are largely Young Adults books, and not necessarily ground-breaking or even great literature per se, (hell, neither is much of Robert Heinlein or Ray Bradbury for that matter). But if "changing fiction" involves changing reader habits, influencing popular culture, and/or generating copy-cats, then I think they earn their places.
If it were up to me, I might have extended the list to 25 or even 30 and included Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and perhaps something by Olaf Stapledon (Last and First Men or The Star Maker), Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or The Man in the High Castle), Iain M. Banks (Consider Phlebas), John Wyndham, (The Crysalids), Edward Bulwer-Lytton (The Coming Race), or George Orwell (1984), and maybe even Jonathan Swift (Gulliver's Travels) or François Rabelais (Gargantua and Pantagruel).
No list is ever going to satisfy everyone, though. My own list would probably not even satisfy me.

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