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Feb 18’s 100 Greatest SF or Fantasy novels

Posted on Thursday, February 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

Over on a post at last month (to which I was drawn by this Nashua Library’s “From the Reference Desk” posting) there’s a list of a “Greatest Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels of all time, along with a few words of commentary about each item. Now, such lists are often fodder for dissent or criticism: one could say, for instance, “Wow, that’s a lot of LeGuin or Vance or Wolfe,” or, “How does The Fountainhead fit this category?,” or, “Where’s Verne or Gibson or etc.,” but more to my point they are fodder for making a blog post. They also get me to thinking about how few books I’ve really read, or even heard of, especially anything SF since 1970 or so.

So without much ado, here’s the list. If the entry is bold it means I’ve read it. If it’s italicized it means I haven’t even heard of it (i.e., italics for ignorance). Others are just others. BTW, this list is just for my markup — do go to the original site and have a look at the list, with its cover photos and brief comments on each entry.

100. The Word For World Is Forest by Ursula K. LeGuin
99. Sorcerer’s Son by Phyllis Eisenstein
98. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
97. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick
96. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
95. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
94. The Company by K.J. Parker
93. An Evil Guest by Gene Wolfe
92. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
91. Danny, The Champion of the World by RoaldDahl
90. Camp Concentration by Thomas Disch
89. Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
88. Song of Kali by Dan Simmons
87. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
86. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller
85. Sphere by Michael Crichton
84. Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin
83. The Alteration by Kingsley Amis
82. The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
81. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
80. Watership Down by Richard Adams
79. Griffin’s Egg by Michael Swanwick
78. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
77. Free Live Free by Gene Wolfe
76. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
75. Ringworld by Larry Niven
74. Schismatrix by Bruce Sterling
73. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
72. Maske: Thaery by Jack Vance
71. The Mists of Avalon by Marion ZimmerBradley
70. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
69. Flow My Tears The Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick
68. The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
67. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
66. The High Crusade by Poul Anderson
65. A Song for Lya by George R.R. Martin
64. At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
63. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
62. Wildlife by James Patrick Kelly
61. The Book of Knights by Yves Maynard
60. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
59. Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
58. Nightwings by Robert Silverberg
57. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
56. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
55. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
54. The Book of the Short Sun by Gene Wolfe
53. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
52. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
51. The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
50. The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe
49. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
48. The Demon Princes by Jack Vance
47. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
46. The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson
45. Alastor by Jack Vance
44. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
43. Flatland by Edwin Abbott
42. Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein
41. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
40. Animal Farm by George Orwell
39. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
38. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
37. Lyonesse by Jack Vance
36. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
35. True Names by Vernor Vinge
34. Ubik by Philip K. Dick
33. The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons
32. Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Heinlein
31. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
30. A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge
29. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
28. More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
27. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
26. 1984 by George Orwell
25. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
24. The Cadwal Chronicles by Jack Vance
23. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
22. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
21. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
20. The Fifth Head of Cerebus by Gene Wolfe
19. A Song of Ice And Fire by George R.R. Martin
18. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
17. The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay
16. The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
15. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
14. All My Sins Remembered by Joe Haldeman
13. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
12. Planet of Adventure by Jack Vance
11. Dune by Frank Herbert
10. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
9. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
8. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
5. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
4. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
3. The Dying Earth by Jack Vance
2. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
1. The Book of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe

So many titles I’ve never even heard of — authors too (Wolfe, for example, who comes it at #1 on this list and appears 7 times in total — somebody must really like him.)

Feb 11

movie log: Gas Food Lodging (1992)

Posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2009 in Uncategorized

Seen February 7, 2009: Gas Food Lodging directed by Allison Anders, starring Brooke Adams, Ione Sky, and Fairuza Balk, and with a bunch of supporting actors including James Brolin, Robert Knepper, Donovan Leitch (the one who is Sky’s brother, not her father), and others.

Skye and Balk play two teenage sisters, Trudi and Shade Morton, who live in a trailer with their mother Nora (Brooke Adams) in a dry, desert, go-nowhere town in the southwestern US. Shade is fascinated by an actress in a series of Mexican soap-opera-ish movies with fancy costumes and highly dramatic dialog. This diversion apparently provides her some escape from her plain reality. The three women are often at odds, with worries about money, about men and boys, and from being cooped up in close quarters, sometimes crossing boundaries in roles of mother or sister or daughter. Outside of their family circle each has to deal with other individuals from the town, from the past, from outside their immediate environment.

I wanted to see this for the main actors: in particular I’m a fan of Fairuza Balk and Ione Sky. In the end, though, that’s all I got out of it. I found it to be a rough collection of events and episodes and characters, none of which seemed to go anywhere or relate to any other element in the film. I don’t have a problem with slice-of-life films where there’s not much point other than looking at the subject characters. There are such movies that are among my favorites. There doesn’t have to be a point, but there has to be something. A theme, some cohesion, some transition. Maybe something else. Maybe something undefinable – but at any rate something that didn’t hit me in this movie. Nothing seems to click, e.g. Shade’s obsession with the Mexican films seems to have no influence on her or on the story. Everyone and every event passes by without really touching anyone except perhaps in physical ways. Nobody seems worth knowing, or helping. There’s occasional wistful voice-over dialog by Shade’s character that seems completely out of touch with the movie; its only affect was to make me wonder if maybe it was useful in the book on which this movie was based. I dunno, maybe it’s something in my genes. Judging by a brief scan over comments in the IMDB, it’s mostly women that like it, and mostly men that, like me, don’t get it. For that matter, I don’t even get the title.

Jan 22

All the mem’s Presidents

Posted on Thursday, January 22, 2009 in Uncategorized

Since there probably aren’t enough blog posts inspired by this week’s inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the US, one is surely needed from me.

I was thinking about the number 43. 43 individuals have taken the oath of office. (The office has been assumed 44 times, but Grover Cleveland did it two non-consecutive times, so Obama is considered the 44th office-holder.) I voted in the elections of 8 of them. Ten of them have been part of my conscious life, by which I mean that I knew about them, had conversations about them, experienced them directly in some way. My earliest memories of there being a President involve the Nixon/Kennedy race.

This means that I, personally, have experienced nearly one fourth of the US Presidents while they were in office. (If I live to see one more, it’ll be exactly one fourth.) I find this somewhat – I dunno, stunning? disturbing? humbling? the opposite? It says something about how young this country is, or how old I am, or both.

I extend that by thinking about the family connections that I have, along the lines of: if your father, who you knew and who was was active in your life, experienced an event (was in a war, say) that happened before your own awareness of the world or existence in it, you nevertheless feel connected to that event. You were touched by an ancestor who touched that event. One could probably feel this through a non-relative that one knows, as well, but the immediate ancestral link is my idiom here. In the same way that I have experienced Presidents since 1961, my father provides another 28 years in this other way. This assumes that he became aware of Presidents at the same age as I did. He’s only 3 up on me, though, since FDR was in office for a great deal of that time. Still, I’m adding those 3 to Presidents that I feel somehow connected to. That’s 13.

(This introduces another tangent that I’ll go off on here. Since 1961, there have been 10 Presidents. By the end of Obama’s first elected term, the average duration per President will have been 5.2 years, despite the fact that five of the ten presidents were re-elected when they ran as incumbents. You could imagine a perfect world and look at this a couple of different ways. 5 dual terms plus 5 single terms could take 60 years and with an average of 6.0 years per President, or 5 dual terms within our 52-year period would leave 3 single terms, giving an average duration of 6.5 years. Either way, the 5.2 year average is awfully short considering the number of re-elections. We all know why that’s so, but I still find it – well, if not fascinating, at least something to write about. In contrast, in the 28 years before this – before 1961- the average duration per President was over 9.3 years.)

There were other ancestors involved in my life. The one born the earliest was my grandfather, who adds another 6 Presidents. I now feel that my personal reach, as given to me in the way I’ve described, extends to 19 Presidents. That’s pretty darned close to half of them.

Even more striking: compared to me, that same grandfather missed only Bush the younger and Obama; at his death he could have claimed this relationship to 17 of the 41 Presidents. His father, in turn, would have given him that reach to another 7 – to 24 of 41. He only had one grandparent that he could have known well as a young adult, and I assume he did. She adds another 4 Presidents – bringing it to 28 of 41. My grandfather, then, who died not long ago, in 1995, could claim that he was raised among ancestors who experienced Abraham Lincoln and NH’s Franklin Pierce, and that there were only 13 US Presidents outside of this kind of his reach.

So where does this leave me? At the end of a blog post, thinking about time, how short and how long it is, what distance we’ve come and how much of that distance we can feel. Connected to the past, connected to the present, and maybe providing somebody’s connection in the future.

Dec 30

Intro to blog site

Posted on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 in Uncategorized

This is my new blog site here on – and this is me creating an initial post so that there will be something to look at and something for the database queries to find when they display the front page.

As to what this is?  Besides the completely obvious thing that this is a blog, I plan to use it for mostly personal chattering. I expect that one fairly stable element here will be a log of movies that I see. There may also be some soapboxing (after all, it’s opinionated information, is it not?) and yelling at the things I see out my window.

And with that, let’s move along…