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Author Topic: Another "best of" list  (Read 767 times)

Online ScarletBea

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Another "best of" list
« on: November 24, 2020, 09:43:03 AM »
@Nighteyes sent me the link to the TIME magazine 100 best fantasy books of all time

At first I was wary, not another list??, but after reading the intro and the method, I feel it's a bit better than others - then again, are the choices of writers we like necessarily what we will like too?

Time recruited a panel of leading fantasy authors — Tomi Adeyemi, Cassandra Clare, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Marlon James, N.K. Jemisin, George R.R. Martin and Sabaa Tahir — , who joined the TIME staff in nominating the top books of the genre (panelists did not nominate their own works). The group then rated 250 nominees on a scale, and using their responses, TIME created a ranking. Finally, TIME editors considered each finalist based on key factors, including originality, ambition, artistry, critical and popular reception, and influence on the fantasy genre and literature more broadly.

I've only read 25, there seems to be a lot of recent titles that I've never heard of... focused on american-publishing?
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Offline Peat

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Re: Another "best of" list
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2020, 02:38:27 PM »
I hate that list. I could treat it as interesting as a "Our favourites list", but to claim the title "Best of", to use a title claiming some objectivity, it can get in the bin.
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Online Alex Hormann

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Re: Another "best of" list
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2020, 03:29:59 PM »
Quote
panelists did not nominate their own works

But they did nominate each other's.  ;)


I've read 16 of those. Does seem heavily skewed towards modern works, with a few much older ones thrown in too. I'm not sure you can really compare Arabian Nights with Poppy War. I love both stories, but they're hardly on the same level.
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Online ScarletBea

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Re: Another "best of" list
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2020, 03:43:43 PM »
But they did nominate each other's.  ;)
I noticed ;D

And it feels strange that books that have been out 1 or 2 years can go on a "best of all time" list. I understand them in a "best of year X" or even "best of decade Y", but 'all time'? They haven't passed the test of time yet...
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Offline cupiscent

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Re: Another "best of" list
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2020, 10:17:01 PM »
All those first edition covers from the 80s are something else.

I like the variety - across time and across styles. For me, it gives a great sense of the sheer scope of the genre. I'm a bit meh about some of the more recent additions, especially from YA fantasy - there are a good few on there that I have tried and set aside. But part of that sheer scope of fantasy is that it includes all sorts of tastes. Not everything has to appeal to me.

Offline Peat

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Re: Another "best of" list
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2020, 11:53:50 PM »
All those first edition covers from the 80s are something else.

I like the variety - across time and across styles. For me, it gives a great sense of the sheer scope of the genre. I'm a bit meh about some of the more recent additions, especially from YA fantasy - there are a good few on there that I have tried and set aside. But part of that sheer scope of fantasy is that it includes all sorts of tastes. Not everything has to appeal to me.

You say this but the 70s-90s Epic Fantasy I grew up on - Eddings, Feist, Wurts, Brooks, Kerr, Lackey, Jordan, Gemmell etc.etc. - is represented by ... 1 book? That's not a particularly great sense of the scope. I guess it gets up to 3 if you include Martin and Kay's Tigana (which was a sideways step of sorts). No early S&S pulp classics, or any of the other fantasy classics that heavily influenced D&D. None of the creators of grimdark. Very little of the Fae & Vampires & Angels big actiony UF that I recognise too - no War of the Oaks, no Dresden. No Paranormal Romance I think?

I guess the point you're making is it's not just fishing in that well of "trad" fantasy and showing all the many other things that have happened. And it's an impossible task to show the whole genre. But I feel like there's a ton of the more commercially stuff that's been ignored, and as such, I don't get the scope. It feels very heavily weighted to modern stuff, to the USA, to YA, and so on. Which is probably one of the reasons I don't like it.

But they did nominate each other's.  ;)
I noticed ;D

And it feels strange that books that have been out 1 or 2 years can go on a "best of all time" list. I understand them in a "best of year X" or even "best of decade Y", but 'all time'? They haven't passed the test of time yet...

Another big part of why I dislike the list.

And I dislike disliking the list because there's people on there who are all made up about it and don't deserve people quibbling about it. But there we go.
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Offline cupiscent

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Re: Another "best of" list
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2020, 02:59:38 AM »
You say this but the 70s-90s Epic Fantasy I grew up on - Eddings, Feist, Wurts, Brooks, Kerr, Lackey, Jordan, Gemmell etc.etc. - is represented by ... 1 book? That's not a particularly great sense of the scope. I guess it gets up to 3 if you include Martin and Kay's Tigana (which was a sideways step of sorts). No early S&S pulp classics, or any of the other fantasy classics that heavily influenced D&D. None of the creators of grimdark. Very little of the Fae & Vampires & Angels big actiony UF that I recognise too - no War of the Oaks, no Dresden. No Paranormal Romance I think?

Good point - I was surprised not to see any Charles de Lint on there, or at least none that I remember seeing now. (Then again, I'm just recovering from a stomach bug, so my brain is only half here...)

I also cut my teeth on Eddings, Feist, et al, but... would I consider them "best of"s? I just don't know. There's a lot of very samey-samey stuff going on in that 80s flowering of fantasy, and the methodology on that list did note they were looking at originality and impact on the genre. It's a valid point of argument, though.

Quote
It feels very heavily weighted to modern stuff, to the USA, to YA, and so on.
Definitely this! And I guess that makes sense for an American publication, but it still isn't quite representative of my fantasy experience either. (An Australian list, for instance, would definitely have Sara Douglass on it, but that's not necessarily appropriate for anywhere else in the world.)

Offline S. K. Inkslinger

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Re: Another "best of" list
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2020, 05:09:59 AM »
I've read 13, but have heard of most of them. Seemed like an alright list to me, there's a lot of popular and quite good stuffs.

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Re: Another "best of" list
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2020, 06:58:56 AM »
It was a fairly decent mix of old and new. I’d read half of them. I did find it interesting that all 3 books of The Lord of the Rings were nominated separately when even Tolkien maintained that he wrote it and thought of it as a single book. I don’t think Mythago Wood was there and would have been a dead certainty I thought. I also mark it down, because there were no Moomins, either. Martin must have been outvoted over Harry Potter, too. He still holds a grudge about Goblet of Fire beating A Storm of Swords for the Hugo.
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Offline Neveesandeh

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Re: Another "best of" list
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2020, 11:12:31 AM »
Lord of the Rings being listed as three separate books alone is enough to make me not take the list seriously.

Offline Peat

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Re: Another "best of" list
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2020, 11:42:10 AM »
You say this but the 70s-90s Epic Fantasy I grew up on - Eddings, Feist, Wurts, Brooks, Kerr, Lackey, Jordan, Gemmell etc.etc. - is represented by ... 1 book? That's not a particularly great sense of the scope. I guess it gets up to 3 if you include Martin and Kay's Tigana (which was a sideways step of sorts). No early S&S pulp classics, or any of the other fantasy classics that heavily influenced D&D. None of the creators of grimdark. Very little of the Fae & Vampires & Angels big actiony UF that I recognise too - no War of the Oaks, no Dresden. No Paranormal Romance I think?

Good point - I was surprised not to see any Charles de Lint on there, or at least none that I remember seeing now. (Then again, I'm just recovering from a stomach bug, so my brain is only half here...)

I also cut my teeth on Eddings, Feist, et al, but... would I consider them "best of"s? I just don't know. There's a lot of very samey-samey stuff going on in that 80s flowering of fantasy, and the methodology on that list did note they were looking at originality and impact on the genre. It's a valid point of argument, though.

I'm not sure I can take a list going "Oh, we looked at impact" while having a bunch of books that have simply had no time for impact yet all that seriously. I'd also point out that the impact of The Sword of Shannara showing you could make money with new works that borrowed a lot from LotR *huge*, and that the list is riddled with omissions of the original and influential from the beginning of the genre. Apologies if it feels like I'm shooting the messenger! But there's a lack of consistency to any criteria as best I can see that makes it very difficult to see any criteria as a clinching argument.

As for whether they're Best Of? Depends how you define Best Of really. Again, coming back to the consistency thing, I could respect an argument being made for "Keep it literary, keep it timeless", except we've got a bunch of recent YA where likely half of it will cause people to giggle if it's on a Best Of list in 10 years time. They're in the same boat as that 80s/90s crew in terms of popularity vs weight/innovation, so I don't think they're being kept off for that reason.

Quote
It feels very heavily weighted to modern stuff, to the USA, to YA, and so on.
Definitely this! And I guess that makes sense for an American publication, but it still isn't quite representative of my fantasy experience either. (An Australian list, for instance, would definitely have Sara Douglass on it, but that's not necessarily appropriate for anywhere else in the world.)
[/quote]

I'd have probably thrown out Nix and Canavan as my examples of that Australian YA movement, as they're bigger here, but there's definitely a rich vein of fantasy that's been ignored outside of DWJ.

...

I am nitpicking at this point, but in terms of scope, I feel like it erases broad swathes of the genre. To add to what I've already said - That wave of 70s/80s authors doing interesting things to try and establish the genre without heavy use of Tolkien's template - Wolfe, Vance, Crowley, Moorcock, Holdstock, Ford, Powers, Chabon and so on - completely ignored.  Seventy odd years of British Adult fantasy reduced to Neil Gaiman. The female pioneers of adult fantasy reduced to Le Guin. I guess there's always a live question on whether Magical Realism and Horror are included in fantasy, but neither particularly are here, nor is New Weird. Hell - where's the big commercial successes of the adult fantasy market of even just 5 years ago? There's a grand total of two from this list of 2010-15 from BFB - http://bestfantasybooks.com/best-fantasy-books-since-2010 - and there's some great innovative fantasy there.

And no Gormenghast.

About the only thing this list really shows the scope of is Fantasy's history as a genre for the young, and the breadth of non-white authors today and historically. The latter is good - the former feels like a sort of surrender of the idea of Fantasy being a valid, wonderful art form for adults. I know it's actually just a case of YA being where the money is, but there's an uncomfortable implicit truth tucked in behind it.

I guess I really, really don't like that list :P
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Offline JMack

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Re: Another "best of" list
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2020, 12:34:01 PM »
I’ve read 36 of these.
It’s a really interesting list. I think that if we read every one we’d find some wonderful new pleasures.

For me, the problem with it is that it’s not really intended to be the greatest of all time. Not if anyone truly admitted to what’s going on. This seems, really, to be a way of broadening to new voices in terms of ethnicity and other characteristics of the author and setting that until a few years ago were not published or read. It’s a form of historical revisionism.

But, I go back to: what an interesting list of books that look really interesting and which I might not have seen otherwise.

Just give the list a more accurate title.
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Re: Another "best of" list
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2020, 12:37:33 PM »
a way of broadening to new voices in terms of ethnicity and other characteristics of the author and setting that until a few years ago were not published or read. It’s a form of historical revisionism.
That was my initial reaction as well, making less-known authors way more visible (and therefore not really having a place in a "best of" list) - although I didn't think of the "historical revisionism" expression, that's an interesting take.
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