NPR’s list of top 100 Science Fiction of all time

Here’s the list – I’ve read 51 of these. And the #1 and #2 slots are exactly what I’d have picked.

I am glad to see Neil and Neal on the list (though NPR spelled Neal’s name wrongly in one entry). Especially love the fact that The Princess Bride made it on the list!

Inexplicably, A.C. Doyle is missing, which boggles my mind. Not as surprising is the absence of any of the Big B’s (Bear, Baxter, Benford, and Brin) of which the omission of Greg Bear is the most egregious.

I think a top 100 list is less than useful though, what would be better would be a top 20 author list. So, let’s make one! In (first-name) alphabetical order, because a ranking will take more thought:

  1. Arthur C. Clarke
  2. C.S. Lewis
  3. David Brin
  4. Douglas Adams
  5. Frederick Pohl
  6. Fritz Leiber
  7. Greg Bear
  8. Greg Egan
  9. H.G. Wells
  10. Isaac Asimov
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien
  12. Jules Verne
  13. Kurt Vonnegut
  14. Larry Niven
  15. Neal Stephenson
  16. Neil Gaiman
  17. Ray Bradbury
  18. Rene Daumal
  19. Robert Heinlein
  20. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Well, ok that’s only 19. Some of these are for an entire series, others for a single book, but all of them wrote something that really grabbed me, more so than usual.

I’m sure others’ lists would differ – and certainly would be helpful, so leave yours in comments!

And a special mention for writers who I think are odious people personally, though they certainly write well: Dan Simmons and Orson Scott Card.

And I really need to add The Stand to my reading to-do list.

It occurs to me a much harder list would be of short-story authors. A good start woudl be compiling everyone who has ever appeared in the Asimov’s Best Science Fiction series. That’s something for another day…

7 thoughts on “NPR’s list of top 100 Science Fiction of all time”

  1. If I counted correctly, I’ve read 37 of them… Though several are in the book queue, and my focus tends to be more on the SF rather than the Fantasy side of things.

    I don’t think I would really consider A.C. Doyle a SF/F author, though I guess he does sorta fit…

    Other authors not on your list that I’d recommend (in no particular order):

    Lois McMaster Bujold (still making my way through Vorkosigan Saga)
    Vernor Vinge (A Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky)
    John Scalzi (Old Man’s War, The Android’s Dream, Fuzzy Nation)
    Timothy Zahn (Thrawn trilogy, Conquerors trilogy, several others)
    Greg Egan (I’ve only read Diaspora, but he seems to write the hardest SF I’ve ever read)

    Short story authors is definitely more difficult, though I feel like most SF authors have at least some. Of my 5 listed above, I know the first three definitely have short stories, and I’m pretty sure Zahn does too. Not sure about Egan.

  2. Greg Egan! I knew I forgot someone! Added to the list 🙂

    The list is really SF/Fantasy, so I think AC Doyle gets the nod – arguably the realm of “fantastic fiction” predates both of the modern subgenres.

  3. I scored 51 as well, with a few arguable ones where I haven’t read an entire series (Xanth in particular should never be read past about book 5). Nice to see Robin McKinley make the list, although Sunshine wouldn’t have been my first choice, excellent as it is. Wicked is one of several where my response was “read it, wish I hadn’t”, and I have a problem with all of the Drizzt novels making it on the list above Old Man’s War and A Fire Upon the Deep.

    I suspect after about #25, the number of votes dropped off so sharply that the ordering was basically random, even by the standards of web-based popularity contests. 🙂


  4. I also came up with 51. Weird. I read way more SciFi than fantasy, in fact the only fantasy I read is Terry Pratchett (he’s brilliant). And I’m picky about my SF too. Most important is the quality of the writing, second most important is the quality of the story, third most important is the quality of the science/tech. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that order is kind of the reverse of most of the SF demographic, so pickings are slim.

    My favorite writers who also happen to write SF?

    1. Michael Chabon (a bit of a stretch)
    2. Iain M. Banks
    3. Neal Stephenson
    Unordered: Charlie Stross, Cory Doctorow, William Gibson, Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Simmons, Gene Wolfe, Douglas Adams, Haruki Murakami, Alfred Bester, David Mitchell, Jonathan Lethem, Bruce Sterling, Joe Haldeman, Hannu Rajaniemi, Jeff Noon, Suzanne Collins

    That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure there are a few I’ve forgotten.

    Dan Simmons is odious? Interesting, I don’t know anything about him…


  5. Justin – my beef with him is pretty specific, and I guess I shouldn’t have really mentioned it here on my non-political blog haven. If you’re curious, take a look at the links here (originally I’d have posted them in this thread, but “Don’t cross the streams, Ray!”).

    In a nutshell, Simmons’ value as a storyteller is eroding due to his politics, which is especially true of his most recent book according to this review on NPR:

  6. D’oh! I left Philip Pullman out of my list! He might even merit a numerical rank (#4) in my list above.

    And not to “cross the streams” too much, but I read the links you provided about Dan Simmons. I didn’t realize he had a new book, and I’m glad I read that review before buying it; it doesn’t sound like I would have enjoyed it. I’m always surprised when I find out that people whose talents I admire turn out to have personal beliefs with which I vehemently disagree. It definitely influences my opinion of their work going forward.


  7. Man, I’ve read literally hundreds of SF & Fantasy books yet I only read a little over 40 of those, and that’s fudging with some of the “series” since I didn’t read the -complete- series of all of them.

    I can tell I really need to read that Scalzi book.

    I have to wonder what they’re doing lumping some of the fantasy stuff in there though. Lord of the Rings? Really? In some way I guess you can call that science fiction, if you consider “alternate universes” to be SF, but otherwise…

    Well, in fairness as part of my objection may be that I didn’t *like* Lord of the Rings. I read it, but didn’t enjoy it much. I admire Tolkein’s achievement but did not actually enjoy it much. And, no Edgar Rice Burroughs? No Andre Norton? Really?

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