The OF Blog: So there's another round of favorite author polls going around

Thursday, May 22, 2008

So there's another round of favorite author polls going around

Like seasonal allergies or the rutting cycle of warthogs, recently there has been a few "Best Author" threads at some of the larger secondary-world forums. Starting with Westeros' list (since compiled and tabulated) and spreading to the Malazan Empire forums and eventually to wotmania (just for the hell of it, of course), these polls just serve to generate some discussion and/or self-confirmation about the worth of one's favorite authors.

So, because I'm bored and curious, I'm going to give people who read this blog regularly the chance to speak their peace about this entire thing. If you want to give me a Top 5 list (since that's what the other places are doing) of authors that could be squeezed in under some "subgenre" of "speculative fiction," feel free to do so. If you want to rant and rave about how such things are nigh useless, go ahead. If you really want to be subversive and nominate yaoi fanfic, feel free to do so. I suppose one could treat this as a sort of quasi-recommendation thread as well.

With all that spiel spat out, here are the five authors I've mentioned in those threads that I could justify with a SF label:

1. Jorge Luis Borges
2. Umberto Eco
3. Gene Wolfe
4. Gabriel García Márquez
5. Italo Calvino

What's yours?

10 comments:

Mark C Newton said...

M John Harrison
China Miéville
Gene Wolfe
Robert Holdstock
J. G. Ballard

But I haven't read *every* book each has written... I hope that doesn't invalidate me!

Oliver said...

Jorge Luis Borges
James Branch Cabell
Lewis Carroll
Arthur Machen
Haruki Murakami

There are quite a lot of authors that have written stuff I like very much (like Gregory Maguire, Stanislaw Lem or Jeff Noon, just to name a few), but I've read only one or two books by them - so the list could change, if I read more of those.

Oliver

Liviu said...

As mentioned before I tend to appreciate books based on "genre" - whatever this means - rather than some kind of intrinsic quality which only history can bestow. I just do not believe that there is any point in comparing Borges with P. Hamilton or GRRM for example.

Now I would take any day a new P. Hamilton epic vs any Eco book, but that reflects just my enjoyment meter. There is a quite different way in which I read books depending on what I expect from, and usually - since I rarely read pure mysteries or pure romance - I look at books as sf, fantasy, historical fiction, or literary - and appreciate each based on where it fits. So I compare Borges with Bulgakov, C. McCullough with S. Saylor, and P. Hamilton with A. Reynolds, but any comparison in between is irrelevant since I just do not see any criteria to make such


This being said - if you want my top 5 genre authors, they are D. Weber, P.Hamilton, N. Asher, L. Bujold and J. Abercrombie
These and a few others, are the authors that I buy books at almost any reasonable price, bid on Ebay for arcs, beg anyone I know for arcs, read and enjoyed pretty much everything they wrote and their books are blockbuster books for me any time....

If you want the top 5 literary authors that have written novels associated with genre, they would be Bulgakov (just for one book but that is a masterpiece of world literature), Milorad Pavic, Borges, S. Erickson - the US one - and J. Barth

gav (nextread) said...

I'm never good at this kind of thing but if I had to choose five right now it would be:

Terry Pratchett
Mark Chadbourn
Dave Duncan
James Stoddard
Charles Stross

These are based on the fact that they are authors that I loved and would reread to enjoy their worlds and stories again.

Elena said...

My problem with this sort of list is this: where do you put a writer who wrote one book you love and nothing else (either literally or that s/he then proceeded to write books you really dislike), or someone who has only written a book or two and thus hasn't shown you any consistency? Because to me the connotation of favorite writer is someone whose writing you like, almost invariably, not just one or two of several/many works.

And also I am a person who differentiates what I like from what I think is important, so these are just my personal fav's pulled from a scan of my bookshelf that showed whose work I chose to keep in total vs. just a book or two. It is a list that would get spit on by any of those vagina-fearing males, white or otherwise, at such forums...and probably some of the females who don't like romantic fantasy cross-overs, either. These are all amazingly talented writers in a technical sense, very beautiful language, poetic descriptions, and sentences that I don't mentally re-write as I read. Don't know how well some of them would translate to a male audience, however, as--again--they all have a fairly high degree of romance in them.

Sharon Shinn
Paula Volsky
Robin McKinley
Patricia McKillip
Shana Abe (drakon series only... technically it's a romance series, complete with the sexuality romance gets laughed at for, but the way she writes for this series is stunning)

Elena said...

Oh, and even though she is not in any way speculative fiction, I think the most underread and underrated female writer of historical fiction is Dorothy Dunnett. Her books are amazing, her research is mind-boggling, her scope is epic. And yet her name never seems to show up anywhere.

Liviu said...

Regarding D. Dunnett, I have to disagree completely - she is very famous, well known and appreciated - so much that there is even a two volume exegesis of her Nicolo series written with her approval. It's just that she may not be mentioned on spec-lit blogs, but check out any historical fiction blog - eg S. Saylor, and D. Dunnett and Mary Renault are at the top, top, top. Certaianly this is how I heard of her, bought all her books and liked them a lot. And with C. McCullough added to the mix, there are three female writers that dominate historical fiction from any point of view you want to name - quality, sales, name recognition...

Elena said...

Liviu - you make me feel better. Dunnett and McCullough (I don't know the third, will have to check her out now, thanks!) both seem to be conspicuously absent from most lists in spec.fic. forums that are discussing either female writers in general or historical fiction in general. It's perhaps just the (somewhat) limited places I've been that have skewed my perspective on how well-known (currently) they are.

Liviu said...

With apologies for hijacking the comments into hist fiction, I have to say that Mary Renault is one of the most famous of all historical novelists of all time - of R. Graves fame.

Last of the Wine which is her masterpiece in my opinion is one of my all time favorite novels, historical or not - I easily read it 6-10 times. Also it was one of the first novels to deal openly with gay themes in history and Ms. Renault had to flee Britain for S. Africa around 1950 to be able to write it.
I own and read all her novels, they are 7 or 8, a cycle of Greek life from Theseus to Alexander, and they are still timely and relevant and inspiration for newer novels.

And also since we are on this topic, there is a lesser known but still timely and excellent novel written in 1931 by Naomi Mitchison called Corn King and Spring Queen which was far ahead of its time so it may have received less notice than deserved and again it's a wonderful book about the waning of Sparta after Alexander, but also with fantastic elements that it would fit comfortably into a speculative frame.

Larry said...

Fascinating discussion, Liviu and Elena, so don't you two worry about "hijacking" here, as it just provides more for the rest of us to consider :D

 
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