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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

from Facebook: the “best” SF/F books are “shockingly offensive“

posted in:
easter eggs
  • Bluejay

    She’s not wrong. Still, of the books on the list, she thinks only A Fire Upon the Deep and Doomsday Book deserve mention as counterexamples? I wonder why she didn’t see fit to point out that readers also voted for The Handmaid’s Tale, the Sandman series, The Left Hand of Darkness, Contact, Stardust, The Last Unicorn, the Vorkosigan saga (Cordelia Naismith!), The Time Traveler’s Wife, Old Man’s War, Kushiel’s Legacy, Wicked, The Eyre Affair, and the Outlander series.

    She seems to want to write off the SFF genre as a whole, but of course there are brilliant SFF books that do a better job of diverse representation that don’t (yet) make it onto those lists. That many of them have only recently been published is something I see as a hopeful sign, that things are finally moving in the right direction.

  • RogerBW

    “Of the books I read, there were more books published before 1960 than after 2000. The vast majority were published in the 1970s and 1980s.” I think you’d probably get many of the same problems with any sample based on that date range.

    (But a list that includes Shannara? And Piers Anthony? Oh dear.)

    But, as well as Bluejay’s point about selectivity, she apparently thinks that Haldeman was approving of the enforced promiscuity in The Forever War, so meh.

  • David C-D

    Seems like her beef is more with NPR’s list than with the genre itself. Given the methodology it was bound to be an exercise in nostalgia. I also wonder how much the exclusion of YA is helping to skew the results – Xanth and Shannara and the Belgariad functioned as the YA of my youth, and those spots would have been better filled by Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and the Hunger Games (for example).

    I hope next time she picks a better list!

  • Bluejay

    I also wonder how much the exclusion of YA is helping to skew the results

    It’s skewing it *a lot,* I’m sure. There are many well-written women protagonists in YA sci-fi and fantasy.

    (Here is another reader-generated list, this one of the “best” feminist sci-fi and fantasy — some of it written decades ago! In the end, of course, no list is definitive.)

    This doesn’t take away from her argument that much of “classic” SFF is sexist, but to broad-brush the genre based on one reader poll at NPR is to miss many works of feminist SFF as well as the fact that the number of those works is increasing.

  • Danielm80
  • Tonio Kruger

    At the risk of sounding like Martin Prince or Sheldon Cooper — or for that matter, echoing Buejay and RogerBW — I suspect that even a conservative male chauvinist science fiction fan would have issues with that NPR list if for no other reason than the fact that so many famous male and female authors have been left off a list that manages to list one book by Piers Anthony (?) and four books by Neil Gaiman. (I like Neil Gaiman as much as the next person but four books on a list like this is a bit much.)

    And don’t get me started on the silliness of putting fantasy and science fiction books on the same list. I know it sounds a bit OCD to mention that but it’s still a valid point.

  • Tonio Kruger

    If that’s so, I can’t help wondering what she thinks of the “do it to Julia” scene in 1984. (“George Orwell approves of torturing women with rats. How sick can a man bet!”)

  • Bluejay

    And don’t get me started on the silliness of putting fantasy and science fiction books on the same list.

    It’s a way to lump together all those silly what-if stories that aren’t “about dysfunctional urban middle-class people written in the present tense” (as Ursula K. Le Guin puts it).

    Of course there are novels that are a little bit of both.

  • RogerBW

    There are books that fit in “fantasy and science fiction” that aren’t easily classified as one or the other.

  • Jurgan

    There’s a spectrum. Clarke is very hard sci-fi that could never be confused with fantasy. Star Wars is soft sci-fi that feels more like fantasy to me. Pern, so I’m told, appears to be fantasy but has subtle scientific explanations for everything if you read carefully.

  • RogerBW

    Yup. And then you get authors who insist that they are writing in, or out of, a particular genre based on what gets respect at the time. Categorisations are hard, let’s go shopping. :-)

  • Bluejay
  • Heh. I just posted a link to the Wired piece.

    A bit of sanity prevails. SJWs for the win!

  • Danielm80

    I’m actually really curious how long the “anti-SJW” movement will last. It seems as though the backlash against the Puppies and GamerGate ought to kill it off really soon, but prejudice tends to take a long time to die.

  • Bluejay

    The Puppies seem to be adopting a strategy where they say “this is what we wanted all along” and declare victory no matter what the outcome is. If their slate had won awards, they’d have declared victory because obviously they won awards. In this case they’ll say “The Hugos voting ‘no award’ over our slates proves our point that they’re all about making political statements rather than about quality,” blah blah blah. Whatever.

    As for how long the “anti-SJW” movement will last: maybe we should remember that “you can’t kill an idea” also refers to ideas we don’t approve of. (I mean, you currently have Republicans arguing against birthright citizenship and the 14th amendment.) It’s all a matter of constant vigilance and argument in the public square, I guess.

    Here’s an interesting analysis of what the Hugo nominees would have been without Puppy manipulation:


    It’s heartening to see how diverse and inclusive the range of works seems to be. Even with a loud minority of voters trying (and failing) to gum up the works, SF/F seems to be heading in the right direction.

  • Danielm80

    I’m always grimly amused when something ultra-benign is considered a menace to society: unions, teachers, health care, feminism.

  • The best thing about this Puppies nonsense is that I’ve found a slew of new books I want to read.

  • Bluejay

    Have you read The Goblin Emperor? You must read The Goblin Emperor.

  • RogerBW


  • I haven’t, but I just sent the sample to my Kindle.

    I have to say, though, that the description of the book on Amazon doesn’t make it sound very unusual.

  • Bluejay

    It’s not what a book is about, it’s how it is about it. :-)

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