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Great Science-Fiction & Fantasy Works

Science-fiction & fantasy literature: a critical list with discussions.

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Author List


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“I am willing to taste any drink once.”

– Jurgen,
James Branch Cabell

Notes

About This Science-Fiction & Fantasy Author List

Not every work of every listed author is of high quality, but each writer here has produced something I think worthy of inclusion in a select science-fiction and fantasy library. Nor, by any means, is every author who has produced something worthy of inclusion in a such a select library presented here: I’m one mortal reader.

(The most numerous unjust omissions will be relatively recent authors—and “recent” goes back a good number of years. I read somewhere that for a particular year in the mid-1990s, the number of science-fiction and fantasy titles published was about 1,300; do the arithmetic—one would have to read three or four books a day, week in and week out, month in and month out, every single day of the year, just to keep up, much less try to read anything published before that year. And I venture two thoughts: it has been like that for some years, and it will only get worse--or maybe that's better, depending on one's view--as time goes by. Now considering the prices today of even paperback books, I will buy few works—only those of the correspondingly few authors one can trust utterly—without having first tasted them by a leafing-through; but I have for quite some years now lived so that I only occasionally go into a town big enough to have real, live bookstores in which one can pick up and leaf through books. And even one with that privilege still has to wrestle the old enemy: Time.

To see what I’m currently looking forward to, visit the pages here listing further possiblities by authors already listed here and works recommended by credible others by authors not yet listed here.)

If I am spared sufficient time for the task, I will eventually develop critical articles on each of these authors—even on each of their major works—a process still in train but proceeding. Meanwhile, I have provided an External Links page, on which I provide key web-page links for those writers for whom I could find dedicated sites (and, for those too many who do not, what I could find that seemed useful).

About the Rating Scheme

Selecting a method for summarily classifying these authors was a great challenge; I have not met it well, and wonder if that challenge can be met well. In a few cases, the author—great or simply adequately pleasing—can be pigeon-holed with no great difficulty. For most, though, there exist complications--such as great variations in quality from work to work or diverse possible appreciations of particularly idiosyncratic works—that preclude ready selection of a pigeon hole.

I have, for this simple summary listing, adopted the banal convention of using a count of "stars" (asterisks here). You should not accord those star counts immense significance (I doubt you would even absent this note). The “overall quality” of an author—if we can even speak meaningfully of such a thing--is multidimensional and stubbornly resistant to one-dimensional summarizing. Perhaps I should instead say that the stars roughly indicate “noteworthiness”, a safer assertion. In a few instances below, I have appended a short note where the stars alone seemed to me likely to misrepresent the author more heinously than usual.

The stars—which as used here run from five down to one—signify, crudely and approximately, what is said below. It may help your understanding to know that the “stars” I use here are only the visible part of a personal rating scheme that in full runs from -5 to +5. A “zero” book is still a secent read, just not one quite important enough to retain for the future. A -1 book can be read for some modest pleasure despite one or more clear flaws. A -2 book one could pick up to pass time in a dentist's waiting room, but put down when called and never feel a need to go back to for completion. Anything below, from -3 to -5, is impossible even for a few pages (the difference between -3 and -5 lies in the degree and nature of the butchery). So, because I am trying to include only authors of quality, authors accorded even “one-star” rank are well above the norms of the field.

By and large, there is a lot of noise mixed with the signal. Most of these authors (though not all, especially at the high end) could, with little demur from me, be argued to be a star above or below where I have placed them. Especially down at the one-star level, inclusion of this one and omission of that one was and is a dicey business.

(Please note well that because this site is premised on quality, many science-fiction and fantasy authors and books important to the history of the field are absent from the lists because I felt their value to be only historical.)

A sampling of well-known authors whose works have no literary merit but are readable for an innocent pleasure of the sort not long ago called “campy” was included with a ! shown for each instead of stars.

A # after the writer’s name signifies a quite limited output, at least in the fields of science fiction and fantasy (but not necessarily overall); often that output will comprise but a single book.

The authors’ names are each a link to an individual-author page on this site containing a brief discussion of that author and of each of the books by that author listed here. The discussions are not, and are not intended to be, deep analyses of the writer or the books: they are intended to give you enough of an idea of each to help you rank the books on your personal “to read” list.

(For now, as I noted above, many of those pages only repeat the material on the “books by author” pages; I will complete them as time allows, working sequentially down from the five-star authors—now complete, with the four-star authors in progress—to the one-star authors.)

Specialized Sub-Lists

Besides this main complete listing, there are several pages on this site that deal with these authors in more detail or in specialized ways:

The Full Author List

The names below are each a link to a page here wholly about that particular author. Each such page contains the same books list for that author as appears on the Master List page, but also an essay about that author and those books (though that task has a way to go to be completed), plus links to on-line and print resources about that author.




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This page was last modified on Friday, 17 July 2020, at 6:36 pm Pacific Time.