An Opinion Withheld

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Posted on : 2/09/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Some time ago, John Scalzi recommended an opinion poll being gathered by the good folks at Locus Magazine concerning the subjective "best" works of science fiction and fantasy from the 20th and 21st centuries.  I had intended to post a link back then, but I had not intended to vote.

The criteria for inclusion in the balloting was that the book/novella/story should have been recognized at some point in the past as being exemplary.  Unfortunately, I cannot locate the original ballot and the results do not provide a more precise definition for inclusion on the ballot.  Further checking suggests that they have pulled the ballot criteria from their website.

However, the results are out.  I may make a project out of listing the results and then indicating how many I have already read.  It might also be useful to begin reading everything on the list that I have not read thus far.

It should be noted that Mr. Scalzi has forthrightly indicated that the results of the poll may be skewed by the fact that he had promoted the poll on his blog in the last few days available for voting.  Apparently, the publishing house Tor promoted that poll as well.  Mr. Scalzi's "Old Mans War" won the 21st century science fiction novels poll.

The reason for my reticence regarding participation in the poll is that there were far too many books that I had not read on the respective lists.  While I have read a fair number of them, it seemed ill advised to offer an opinion when so many were beyond my reading experience.  As an example, I have read and thoroughly enjoyed Michael Moorcock's "Elric" books that were not on the list, but I had not read any of his other works that were included.

Perhaps I should have participated.  Some of the results are most curious from my perspective.  The Dragonlance series did very poorly despite being first class writing.  Philip K. Dick's "Do Android's Dream Of Electric Sheep" did quite a bit better though to my eyes it was a laborious and confusing read.

Stephen King did poorly as well given his commercial success.  The man most certainly can write convincingly about the goblins that inhabit the darker corners of our minds.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. also did poorly given his prowess with the written word.  "The Fires of Paratime" is one of my favorite books.

Another favorite is Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" which came in at the 21st position for 20 century science fiction.  It is modestly satisfying that it came in ahead of "Do Android's Dream Of Electric Sheep".  Barely.  Mr. Heinlein's works did quite well collectively.

In any case, I do not see how I might have avoided this sense of regret.  Either I could have participated and regretted being unable to vote for works with which I was unfamiliar, or I could have declined to participate and end up grousing about the many works that should have done far better than was the case.

Such is the hazard of withholding one's opinion.

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