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Great Science-Fiction & Fantasy Works

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

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“Others, going about it in the opposite way, thought the first thing to do was eliminate all worthless books.”

– The Library of Babel,
Jorge Luis Borges

About These Authors

Regrettably, I have been spared little time of late for the development of this site. While I expect that I will now be returning to a heavier commitment to it, in the meantime I thought to augment the site with a list of authors and books that I suspect—from considerable examination of others’ comments on them (and on who those “others” are and how credible they are)—might plausibly end up, once I have read them, being added to the main lists at this site. Let me make it clear that I am not exactly “prejudging” these books, and that in consequence this list is unlike the main lists, in that it is not a list of recommendations but rather just a list of intriguing possibilities. As time (and, in the case of some rarer books, budget) allows, I will read these and either add them to the actual “recommended” lists or just discard them. I set forth this list only to assist those few—if any—who occasionally look to this site for some hints on new realms to explore in their reading.

This list is basically just a prettified and annotated copy of my personal “buy and read” list, but that list has some nuancing worth mention. Although I intend to examine everything on this list, I do not reckon equal probabilities of success for everything on it. Some authors sound—to the extent that we can deduce reliably from existing comment and review—like they are virtual locks; most just sound pretty interesting; and a few I am more or less skeptical about, but will examine owing to the total weight of others’ critical approval. I have used color coding, explained farther below, to mark out each author’s status in this list. While it may seem curious, or even hypocritical, to segregate authors whose works I admittedly have not personally reviewed, the distinction is of value, at least to me, in that it creates a triage order in which to attack the list; and having set up those distinctions, I simply pass them on for what they may, or may not, be worth to others.

I should further note that although I am treating all of these authors as “unread”, in not a few instances I have read some—sometimes much—of their work, but so long ago, many decades ago in a lot of instances, that I can no longer trust either my memory or the status of my critical judgement at the time. Don’t reckon that I am a quasi-illiterate just owing to the appearance of some major names on this “unread” list: been there, done that, at least at some time. But, as someone wisely said, the past is a foreign country; they do things diffferently there.

Finally, I will note that in several instances of authors who work in the vicinity of the border between speculative fiction and mainstream fiction, it has been hard to deduce from the available commentary whether this or that particular book really qualifies for the designation “speculative fiction”. Mainstream books, however meritorious, do not belong in these specialist lists, but I cannot simply omit the uncertain; I have, therefore, included those questionable titles, but have appropriately marked them out, as explained farther below.

(This issue—what sort of work does or does not belong in these lists—nagged at me enough that I eventually set forth some comment on the matter supplementary to what is already in the Apologia elsewhere on this site.)

(Remember also that there is also a page here about other candidate books, pending review, from authors already represented.)

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Other Resources

Since the idea is to point you at authors and books generally consonant with those actually in the main lists on this site, let me also point you at some further resources for identifying such authors and books.

  1. An initial list from M. John Harrison, plus ensuing reader suggestions (from remarkably knowledgeable readers); of immense value in suggesting little-known possibilities (I have yet to check out the several I am unacquainted with, but reckon most will end up here). See also his brief additive follow-up.

  2. The lists maintained by Jeff VanderMeer, which were the original source of many of the selections that appear here. The lists vary somewhat from time to time, but here is his comprehensive list as of 16 May 2006—once at the linked page, scroll down to the blog entry for Tuesday, May 16, 2006. As VanderMeer himself says, "There’s stuff on this list that stinks up the place" (note carefully that the choices are by no means all his), but it’s a valuable starting point for further research.

  3. The Curiosities series at The SF Site.

  4. The Modern Word: the wonderful “Modern Word” site, previously The Libyrinth, went dark in 2015, but is apparently being slowly re-constituted by the folks at the Shipwreck Library site, to which this link takes you. (You can also look over a Wayback Machine archived copy.)

  5. The Complete Review, “A Literary Saloon and Site of Review”, which has a Science Fiction and Fantasy sub-list. Their chief defect is that they are rather too generous in their ratings; for example: a novel of which they write "the writing is amateurish and formulaic, and the characterization often ridiculous" receives a B-grade. But their reviews are revealing, and they include an excellent cross-section of other critical opinions.

Another fine literary resource, not specific to speculative fiction but including many speculative-fiction authors, is the so-called "Authors’ Calendar", a set of well-done short essays and select bibliographies for most of the notable figures of literature.

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The List

In these listings:

The standard marks on this site also apply: a # mark after an author’s name signifies that he or she produced only one or two books in our field (however many might have been produced in other areas), while a * after a book title indicates that it is a collection of tales, not a novel.

Where I know enough about the writer, I have inserted a brief note (note, not evaluation). I have also tried to provide an external link for each author. I think it important to emphasize that the titles listed are not necessarily a complete bibliography of a given author’s speculative-fiction work; in many cases they are, but in others they are only an indicative selection (or even single book). The idea here is to point you (and me) at books with which we can sample the authors; if we like what we taste, we can (and I will) go on to assemble complete lists.

Bioy Casares, Adolfo #

“Bioy” was a good friend of Borges, and collaborated with him on some works. On his own, he was, by general report, a good writer, but nothing like in Borges’ class. His chief work (in modern opinion) is the novel included below, a curiously weird, humorous, sad, and philosophical work. Some—perhaps many—of his short stories also have a fantastical cast. There is an on-line discussion of Morel, The Invention of Morel, Adolfo Bioy Casares [archived]. There is also a good run-down on Casares at the SF Encyclopedia.

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Brockmeier, Kevin

The first novel listed below derives from a short story that appeared in the New Yorker. It has been well received critically, both in the mainstream [archived link] and in speculative-fiction circles [archived link]. Brockmeier has other works, too; those that seem speculative fiction are also listed below.

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Bujold, Lois McMaster

I have sampled her Vorkosigan “franchise”, as David Tate has perceptively referred to it, and found it wanting; I don’t ordinarily comment on what I may have found wanting, but David, and not a few others, insists that Bujold’s output rose dramatically in quality in her later work, especially her fantasy. So, for those inclined to experimentation, here are those later fantasy works.

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Catling, Brian

Catling, an RA sculptor and poet, burst onto the fiction scene at age 61 with a remarkable fantasy trilogy, distinguished by—as are, by report, all his fictions—rich and wonderful language use. That trilogy is apparently quite strange; his later novels, each quite short, are even more notably weird, being often described as surreal, and generally filled with grotesque characters and bizarre plots (his most recent was sumarized by one reviewer as “historic, horrific, and phantasmagoric”).

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Carpentier, Alejo

Carpentier, a Cuban, is one of the very earliest writers whose works would come to be described as “magical realism” (indeed, he may have created the term, lo real maravilloso); he is said to have inspired such successors as Gabriel García Márquez. Listed below are those works of his available in English and said to display “magic realism”. For further information, there is a good deal at this Carpentire page.

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Carrington, Leonora #

Carrington is both a respected painter and an apparently under-recognized author, chiefly in the surrealist mode. Her most-read book (in a relative sense) is The Hearing Trumpet; I have read it, and found it overall not quite up to these lists: but it is a mixed bag—if only it had finished as it started, it would have been at least three and perhaps four stars. The curious thing is the the first phase, which is much of the book, is screamingly funny—dry but wicked humor—but with very little that is fantastic (aside from the characters of the protagonist and supporting cast); then, all of a sudden the fantasy faucet is turned full open, but chiefly to serve a regrettably unsubtle Great Message about feminism. It is that unsubtleness—what I call wielding The Great Hammer of Obviousness—that in the end sinks the book (though I still think it a fine one-time read).

But since that novel shows a real talent that might, with more restraint (which the short-story form often imposes, and much of her work is short stories), be excellent. Thus I present this collection of all her short fiction, a collection widely praised (“This definitive collection of Carrington’s short fiction is a treasure and a gift to the world. A stunning achievement.” – Jeff VanderMeer).

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Christopher, Nicholas

Christopher is a poet turned novelist. The books cited below are each a sort of “magic realism”, though apparently even the non-fantastic elements and characters are just barely on the near side of abnormality.

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Coney, Michael

There is an appreciative obituary of Coney by Christopher Priest. The book list below is only a sampling of his many works (see the ISFDB Michael Coney page for a fuller listing).

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Corley, Donald

His style has been compared with Lord Dunsany and James Branch Cabell; indeed, Cabell wrote nice things about Corley’s work, referring to “these amiable, these very utterly irrational wonder-workings,” and added “hereinafter you encounter magic.” The two story collections listed below comprise all of his fantastic work (he produced one novel, described as “a non-magical fairy tale” set in then-contemporary times.)

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Donohue, Keith

Donohue is a fairly new appearance who is both commercially popular and well-reviewed by such folk as Graham Joyce and Elizabeth Hand.

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Du Maurier, Daphne

Many of her short stories are, more or less, fantasy (or even science fiction). All her collections are shown below; in each, some are fantastic, some not, and the quality is also reportedly variable. Plus there is undoubtedly overlap in their contents.

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Forster, E. M.

Yes, this is that E. M. Forster. While far and away best known for his mainstream fiction, Forster was always an adventurer into speculation, as his classic prescient novella The Machine Stops shows. His short stories are by and large parables, and many are speculative fiction.

(So fas as I can determine, all three of the books listed below have identical contents, being most but not quite all of Forster’s short fiction.)

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Fowler, Karen Joy

A lot of people like this author quite a lot.

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Fuentes, Carlos

One of the last of the diplomat-scholars, Fuentes “uses experimental techniques familiar from the nouveau roman and postmodern fiction” (per the Fuentes page on The Authors’ Calendar) in literate tales that, by and large, focus on power and politics in Latin America. There seems, by report, little doubt that Fuentes is a writer of high quality; what is less certain, to me, is which of his books fairly fall under the rubric “speculative fiction” (“experimental techniques” is not quite the same thing as “speculative fiction”). The listings below seem, from reviews, to be plausibly referred to as speculative fiction, but that is not an iron-clad guarantee..

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Garnett, David

Though Garnett wrote a number of later fictions, he is remembered today—to the extent that he is at all—just for one book, Lady Into Fox. But Garnett was well-thought-of in his day, and among his works are some others also of a distinctly fantastic cast (surprisingly available nowadays at low prices). There is correspondingly little about Garnett on the web; perhaps the best of that little is this little David Garnett bio.

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Garnett, Richard

Garnett was a notable figure in his day; the story collection below is, however, his only venture into fantastic literature. It has been widely praised, then (1888) and now by figures as disparate as T. E. Lawrence and Brian Stableford; Stableford has remarked that the collection is of “deft and delicate fantasies”. (The 1903 re-issue contains substantially more stories than the original 1888 edition: check the text source of any copy you might be considering.)

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Glavinic, Thomas #

“This is Glavinic’s only work (of few) available in English. Mike Harrison liked it.

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Gombrowicz, Witold

Gombrowicz, a Polish author now considered a literary great, wrote novels that were scathing social satires on the world in general and Polish society in particular. All his works tend toward the bizarre—one pre-fame reviewer described his work as “the ravings of a madman”. In the two below, the fantastic element chiefly acts to introduce the setting, but is not an active element beyond that.

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Gün, Güneli #

Gün is a Turk, now resident in the U.S., who writes in English and seems well liked by the literary establishment; here’s an on-line micro-biography of Güneli Gün. (She has also acted as translator for some of Orhan Pamuk’s works.)

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Hand, Elizabeth

This is most of her oueuvre: “tie-ins” and YA works have been omitted. Ms. Hand maintains her own web site, Winterlong.

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Hansen, Brooks

Hansen is a difficult project here. By all reports, he writes very well indeed, but his works (with one exception) are really “Books on the Borderland”. Nonetheless, for now—till I’ve read them—I’ll list them here with that understood. Hansen’s breakout novel, The Chess Garden, stirred some strong positive reactions in competent critics. The following ones look rather promising as well, based on a majority of published criticism from reputable sources. Mr. Hansen now has his own web site, titled simply Brooks Hansen.

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Harpur, Patrick

This came to my attention through a recommendation by M. John Harrison. Most reviews seem to like it. It appears to be an exemplar of the type called a “cult classic”, though “classic” may be a bit of a stretch. Harpur has written at least five other novels, all somewhat fantastical, though I am skeptical of their value; but I’ll wait till I’ve read this one to see. Mr. Harper has his own web site, Patrick Harpur.

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Hetherington, Nydia #

A debut novel, which garnered positive reviews and sounds interesting, if only marginally speculative (some bits of “magic realism”).

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Hollander, John #

Hollander is a top-ranked poet and scholar, and he used his abilities to construct this one fantasy tale, which takes the form of a scholar’s efforts to piece together and interpret a lost medieval epic poem; the resulting book is half an amusing commentary on scholarly research and half an actual epic poem, though in scattered pieces in different hands and different styles. The thing is said to be a delightful hoot.

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Irving, Washington #

I doubt even his staunchest advocates would call Irving more than a minor writer, but rather what a noted magazine used to call “good of kind”. The Headless Horseman is tired and labored, but this little tale, as best I remember it now—which is why it’s in this category—seemed charming and amusing in its way.

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Ishiguro, Kazuo #

When a writer has won the Nobel in literature, one has to notice the works. The first novel linked below severely divided critics, but is now widely accepted; it is, to say the least, quite strange, and may be a “Book on the Borderland” rather than true speculative fiction, but that decision must await an actual reading (some reviewers called it “magic realism”: YMMV). Hre is one review, from Publishers Weekly. The other works listed below are more assuredly speculative.

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Johnson, Denis #

Johnson is mainly a modern mainstream writer. The work below, set in a post-holocaust America, is reportedly atypical of others on the same theme, and is said to be excellent writing.

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Johnson, Kij

Johnson has a series of awards to testify to the quality of her writings: the Theodore A. Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short story of 1994, the International Association for the Fantastic in the Art’s Crawford Award for best new fantasy novelist of the year, finalist for the 2003 James Tiptree, Jr. Award, finalist for the 2004 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, currently a finalist for the World Fantasy Award; she was an author guest of honor for the 2005 SFRA conference in Las Vegas. She has her own web page, Kij Johnson; separate from that, she runs a blog, “Everything is a transition between something and something else”.

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Jones, Gwyneth

A long-time and prolific writer of children’s books (under another name), in 1984 Jones (under her own name) turned to science fiction; since then, she has been the winner of two World Fantasy Awards, the BSFA short story award, the Children of the Night Award from the Dracula Society, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and a co-winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. The work below is a first sampling of her total adult oeuvre (she wrote a lot of YA under a pseudonym, Ann Halam).

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Joseph, M. K. #

The extraordinary novel The Hole in the Zero is one of only two specfic works by the now little-remembered Joseph.

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Kafka, Franz #

There is no least doubt that these classics by this famed author belong here; my only question is at how many stars, so I need to navigate them before adding them in. Kafka material on the web is voluminous, but the Authors’ Calendar Franz Kafka page is a good place to look.

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Kay, Guy Gavriel

Here is another writer a lot of people seem to love, but who brings out, in me, only The Eight Deadly Words. Nothing in his work seems particularly wrong in any way, but the sum of the elements—from the actual prose to the depth of the characters—seems always just that much off deep achievement. But several readers have suggested that perhaps I was reading the wrong works—some being supposedly much better than others, I guess—so I owe it one more fling. The two books listed below are probably as good a place to dive in as anywhere. There is an “authorized” Kay web site, Bright Weavings.

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Kharms, Daniil #

Kharms wrote short absurdist pieces in Stalinist Russia, which facts led, at least in part, to his incarceration, during which he died of starvation in the prison hospital. His works are short, often microscopically so, and quite absurdist, but are reportedly outstanding reading; so far as I can tell, the volume cited below collects most of these pieces. (Whether “absurdist” falls within “speculative fiction” is as yet unknown to me). Kharms also produced a substantial body of books for young children, many of which are also said to be absurdist fantasy, and at least some of which are available in English. The Authors’ Calendar Daniil Kharms page is useful.

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King, Thomas #

The first of the two books listed below is said to be a very funny book; King, a Cherokee Indian, writes of the clash between traditional Indian culture and the modern world, and spares nothing and nobody from his pervasive wit, which is warm-hearted, not scathing. The second is not a humorous book: it gets generally great reviews, but it’s unclear (absent a reading) if it really qualifies as speculative fiction. There is a fair amount of material about King on the web, none particularly deep or insightful; here is a typical King bio, Canadian Writers: Thomas King.

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Kirstein, Rosemary

This series, in which what seems fantasy morphs into science fiction, has not been added to since 2004, and so may be considered done.

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Knox, Elizabeth

The works below are only a sampling of her total oeuvre; if it pans out, the list will end up longer. Ms. Knox has her own web page.

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Koster, R. M.

Koster has written a Latin-America trilogy that sort of flirts with being speculative (reality tinged with but not dominated by—dare I say it?—“magic realism”). Besides that set, which I will try to get to if the work below pans out, there's only one definitely non-speculative novel (curiously, though, distantly tied to that trilogy). The novel listed below sounds like a serio-comic hoot; here is a brief description of it.

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Krausser, Helmut #

Krausser has written a lot more; I gather that little of it, if any, is fantasy, but I suspect none. In the novel nelow, a psychiatrist takes on a patient who claims to be—and may indeed be—Satan; much hilarity (sort of) ensues. There seems no Krausser web page, but here’s a review of The Great Bagarozy.

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La Farge, Tom

La Farge (married to Wendy Walker, see farther below) specializes in adult tales of the Talking Animal variety. He has his own web site, Tom La Farge. The list below is his complete specfic output to date; how much will make the master list remains to be seen.

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Lem, Stanislaw

Lem is a late addition to this page, because I had read some of his work and found it underwhelming. But it seems that a very great deal depends on the translation, with the developing consensus being that most English translations have done Lem’s work great disservice. In the books list below, I have included only those translated into English by Michael Kandel, who appears to be the one universally praised translator for Lem. We’ll see how this goes on the replay. (Note that Solaris, possibly Lem’s best-known work, is not—not yet, anyway—translated by Kandel.) There is a Lem site on the web. Note: a couple of recent translations by Bill Johnston seem to be getting favorable reviews; we shall see.)

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Link, Kelly

Ms. Link works exclusively (so far) in short stories; all of her collections are highly praised. One reviewer described her tales as “elliptical and spooky”. She maintains her own web site, This is her entire oeuvre to date.

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Lord, Karen

Jeff Vandermeer’s review [archived copy] of “Redemption” in The New York Times liked it a lot. The others of her works so far (the list below is complete) have also been well received critically, but perhaps not quite as enthusiastically as “Redemption”.

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Martin, J. P.

John Percival Martin (1880-1966) was a Methodist minister and missionary who liked to tell his children stories about talking animals. The wonderland of Martin’s books is reminiscent of Carroll’s, but far more modern and seedy, with lumps of industrial archaeology lying about the landscape. Its central character, Uncle, is a vastly rich elephant who affects purple dressing-gowns and lives in an improbable edifice called Homeward—half Gormenghast and half Disneyland. Most of Homeward’s inhabitants are alarmingly eccentric, and would pass unnoticed in the Goon Show.

(Most of the above is borrowed from a neat article by David Langford.)

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Masefield, John #

(Yes, the Poet Laureate Masefield.) Many critics seem to quite like these two novels, though the terms in which they speak lead me to believe that there may be an element of nostalgia clouding their critical judgements. Well, in time we shall see. There is a brief Masefield biography available on line.

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Meyrink, Gustave #

More a psychological and social study than a “supernatural” tale, this is one of the definitive renderings of the golem legend. One reader suggests strongly that the 1928 translation by Madge Pemberton (available in a Dover edition of the novel) is somewhat more flowing than that of Mike Mitchell, though the latter has done several Meyrink books of late. There are virtually no pages on the web about Meyrink.

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Michael, Ib #

While Michael, a Danish author, has a large oeuvre, this appears to be the only work so far translated into English. There are several reviews available on line: here is one from The New York Times.

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Miller, Keith

Literature-oriented fantasies told in elegant prose, liked by critics and readers. Miller (not to be confused with the Christian-books writer of the same name) has his own web site, Keith Miller

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Morgenstern, Erin

Morgenstein has two novels (as of 2021). The one listed below, her first, got mixed reviews. Those who liked it really liked it, and those who didn’t, while not vehement, clearly rather did not like it—few or no lukewarms. Her second novel did not do even that well, though it, too, had its fanciers.

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Murakami, Haruki

Murakami is widely hailed as a literary genius. But while many of his works are described as more or less fantastic, that fantastic quality is sometimes front and center and at other times close to what one might call “window dressing”. The list below constitutes what would seem, going by numerous reviews, to comprise the better of his overtly fantastical works. If sampling leads to enthusiasm, there are more beyond these. There is a Haruki Murakami web site.

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Nabokov, Vladimir

Nabokov is an eminently and deservedly well-known “mainstream” novelist (I presently know him only by his autobiographical work Speak, Memory, which is first-class writing). But, as the Encyclopedia of Science-Fiction elegantly puts it on their Nabokov page, “Several of his novels can be read precariously in terms of their fantasy or sf elements”. [emphasis added] The list below would seem to encompass those several, though a couple of others might qualify depending on how far one is willing to bend the definition of “speculative fiction”. There is a useful Authors’ Calendar Vladimir Nabokov page.

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Newbolt, Henry #

This novel, Sir Henry’s only fantastical work, has been described by John Clute as “clearly indebted in style and tone to William Morris, but with a dreamlike chamber-music air of its own.“

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Nye, Robert #

Elsewhere on this site, I have praised Nye’s book Falstaff, but not included it in the main lists because it is not truly a work of speculative fiction (though it reads much like, which is why I mentioned it). I now find that Nye has treated several other literary and historical figures, and if the results are as good as for Falstaff, there’s quite a treat awaiting. I list below only Nye’s books that truly qualify as “speculative”, but recommend to you anything you can find by him. (Incidentally, despite the success of Falstaff and some of his other novels, it seems Nye is most remembered as a poet.) There is an obituary of Nye that amounts to a pretty good biography. (Nye also wrote a few fantasy novels for children, not listed below.)

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O’Leary, Patrick

O’Leary is a popular young writer of speculative fiction. The SFF site has a nice if brief overview of O’Leary’s work.

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Okri, Ben

Okri, a Nigerian, already has a large oeuvre; it is said to be “magical” and “fantastic”, but closer reading of the reviews suggests that some indeed qualifies as speculative fiction, but that a fair bit does not. The list below is an attempt to pick out his truly speculative fictions from the entirety. The ever-helpful Author’s Calendar has a Ben Okri page; Okri also has his own web site.

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Phillpotts, Eden

Jorge Luis Borges was a Phillpotts admirer: Borges mentioned him numerous times, wrote at least two reviews of his novels, and included him in his “Personal Library”, a collection of works selected to reflect his personal literary preferences. Phillpott’s science-fictional and fantastic output was—like his total output—gargantuan. Whether much of it has any literary value is open to discussion, but one has to respect Borges. The one novel listed below is perhaps his best sf work, and can serve as a starting point for his oeuvre.

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Powys, John Cowper

Powys was a strange man who wrote strange books. Much of his work was mainstream, but even those are…weird. His clearly fantastical novels are listed below; he also produced several story collections (not listed below) of a mostly fantastic nature. One thing seems sure: Cowper could write exquisite, clean prose. There are a couple of useful articles on Cowper available on line, one from The Guardian and one (with a deceptive title) from The Atlantic.

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Prantera, Amanda

For a writer who has received kind words from major reviewers, Prantera—an Englishwoman long resident in Italy—seems almost unknown. Her novels apparently divide rather sharply between mainstream and fantastical; the titles below, which may not be of equal quality, seem to constitute her fantastical works. She has her own brief but rather charming web site.

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Ray, Jean

Ray (a pen name) is probably—based on reading reviews—much more of a straight horror writer than a speculative-fiction writer. But for those who want to assay the ore for themselves, there are this novel and this story collection. The Weird Fiction Review site has a good article on Ray.

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Richardson, Maurice #

Said to be side-splittingly funny, what it contains “is a series of extracts from the Surrealist Sportsman’s Club Chronicles, in which the titular boxer, a gentleman of short stature and simian aspect, is pitted against an assortment of foes and obstacles, from villainous octopi to Butlins Redcoats” (from James Marriott). How far wrong can one go in trying this? There is a modest but interesting Maurice Richardson biography available on line [archived]. Note that Rhys Hughes has composed a continuation titled Engelbrecht, Again.

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Rulfo, Juan #

Rulfo is deeply respected in Latin American letters despite having produced only three books: a fantastical novel; a collection of mainstream short stories; and a curious novella plus fragments of unfinished works (still eminently readable, some of which are likely fantastical. Some have compared the novel (in “feel” rather than precise parallel) with Dante’s Inferno. It is widely described as immensely powerful and deep, with large overtones of relevance that interfere not at all with the sheer story-telling. There is an Authors’ Calendar Juan Rulfo page.

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Russell, Mary Doria

Quoting Wikipedia, “Russell has become widely known for her two novels which explore one of science fiction’s oldest concepts: first contact with aliens. In this framework she also explores the even older issue of how one can reconcile the idea of a benevolent deity with pain and evil in the world.” Russell maintains her own web site, Mary Doria Russell.

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Schlegell, Mark von

These books (related but not strictly sequential) are extraordinarily bizarre. Reviewers, both professional and amateur, seem to either love them or hate them. One of the favorable amateurs described them this way: “dense, mind expanding, tongue twisting, mushroom chewing meditations on the limits of the imagination.”

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Schulz, Bruno #

Schulz’s work is described so variously as to make it hard to characterize just from what has been said of it. Two things, though, on which there seems virtually complete agreement are that 1) it is fantastical; and 2) that it is extraordinarily good. Schulz produced only these two books before his untimely (and bizarre) murder by a Nazi officer during World War II. The Authors’ Calendar Bruno Schulz page is, as always, a good one.

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Scliar, Moacyr #

Scliar [pronounced “Mwa-SEAR SKLEER”] is a Latin American Jewish writer (so identified here because his identity overtly powers his writing); while I think that if I read the phrase “magic realism” one more time I’ll puke, his work does fit into that Latin literature that accepts and emphasizes the unusual in everyday settings. Of his several novels, only one seems truly “speculative”, and is listed below. His short fiction is much more inclined to fantastic notes, though of course not all of it. Nonetheless, since one can get “all of it” for a modest enough price, I have listed a complete collected short works as well. There are reviews of various of his books available, but possibly the best source is this dedicated Scliar site.

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Sinclair, Andrew

Though he has written numerous novels, the trilogy below—considered his best work—seems to be all that is speculative fiction. Within the trilogy, the first, Gog seems to be thought the standout work, the second, Magog, the weakest, and the third, King Ludd somewhere in between.

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Smith, Ali #

This has gotten wildly differing reviews, though most are positive. The Complete Review has a nice discussion. It seems to be the only of her works, novel of story collection, that is to some degree fantastic.

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Smith, Michael Marshall

Smith is a British writer whose first published story won the 1991 British Fantasy Award for “Best Short Story” and whose first novel won the 1995 August Derleth Award for Best Novel. Smith writes under multiple variations of his name; the “Michael Marshall Smith” variant seems reserved for his speculative-fiction work (all of the MMS novels are listed below). Smith maintains his own web site, Michael Marshall Smith.

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Spencer, William Browning

Spencer writes weird books, typically featuring possibly insane characters. Some at least are also by report wildly funny (by design, I should note). I don’t know why there are so many fine writers with no web site, but Spencer is yet another—lots of on-line reviews of individual books, but no central critical assessment. This review of Spencer’s short-story collection will have to do for all till he, or someone, gets a site up.

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Stephenson, Neal

A brief digression: this site is about speculative fiction; and here, I define that as stories wherein one or more important rules—of nature or human behavior—work significantly differently than they do in the everyday world we know, and where that difference is essential to the tale. A novel that, say, fictionalizes the romantic life of Albert Einstein is not “speculative fiction”; a novel in which hackers in the contemporary world pull off exploits is not “speculative fiction”. That digression is relevant to Stephenson’s work, because a lot of it, rightly considered, is not the “science fiction” it is so often described as. In particular, his whole “Baroque Cycle” may be historical fiction (just as is The Prisoner of Zenda), but it is not “speculative” in any meaningful way. Nor is Cryptonomicon. Indeed, only a few of his works—those listed below—are (or might be) actual speculative fiction. (I also add that “cyberpunk” tends to give me a pain; if I want to learn about “hi-tech”, I can read non-fiction.) Stephenson has his own web site, Neal Stephenson.

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Stevens, Brooke #

Stevens worked in a circus, and his much-praised tales use that background; but the book listed below, widely praised, appears to be his only speculative work. His personal web site has disappeared—the best page I could find is a short one at Wikipedia.

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Storr, Catherine #

All her works are described as being for children. Whether Marianne Dreams can be read with satisfaction by an adult is unclear from the available reviews, but there are suggestions that it may be. There is even less—almost nothing—about the later sequel. There is an obituary of Catherine Storr that amounts to a biography.

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Tennant, Emma

Tennant is best known for being what The New York Times eloquently described as a “literary ventroliquist”, meaning she has written a hundredweight of sequels to or pastiches of famous works, from Pride and Prejudice to Gone With the Wind. But she also wrote not a few original works, quite a few of the speculative sort (or apparently so). One reviewer, speaking of Hotel de Dreams (a Pringle Top 100 fantasy and surely the best place to start sampling her) said that “While the book is certainly not lacking in the weird humour of her two previous books, and actually abounds in the grotesque, there is a shift away from satirical comedy in favour of psychological fantasy, from a broad perspective to a closed world. Even so, Tennant still provides a tangentially symbolic comment on the ‘condition of England’ issue through her characters and their dream-selves.” All that should give you some idea of her. The list of books below includes what seem to me, from reviews read, to constitute her speculative-fiction books—but no guarantees offered.)

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Tevis, Walter

Probably best known for the big-name movies made from his books—The Hustler, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Color of Money—Tevis wrote several science-fiction books (including the one from which the movie Man Who Fell was made). Whether the others are up to his “big one” is unclear, but I will try them and see. There is a decent appreciation of Tevis and his works available on line.

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Tiptree, James, Jr.

Tiptree was the pseudonym of Dr. Alice Sheldon; regrettably, that fact—long a secret—seems to dominate discussions of the works of “Tiptree”. I have read only one Tiptree story, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”, which story won the Nebula award and tied for the Hugo award, in both cases for best novella published in 1976; all I can say is that those judges’ criteria and mine are very different. I found it obvious to the point of juvenilia, didactic—one might even say whiny. But considering all the critical foofaraw over her work, I suppose that sooner or later I should read this entire collection, which seems to be the cream of her work (her few novels are usually reckoned “forgettable”). There are several pages about Tiptree, of which this one from The New York Times [archived copy] is as good as any.

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Tutuola, Amos

Tutuola is a Nigerian whose works—initially controversial—incorporate Yoruba folk tales; he manages to combine the ideas of old magic and modern hi-tech—seamlessly, the reviewers say. He is well regarded in mainstream literary circles. The two related novels listed below are only an introduction to his larger oeuvre. There is a useful Authors’ Calendar Amos Tutuola page available.

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Twain, Mark

I haven’t read Twain for years now, and for most of these, probably never. I find Twain’s humor usually a little heavy-handed, but he is Mark Twain, so all of these deserve a critical re-reading.

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Unamuno, Miguel de #

Unamuno was a philosopher, but is today better remembered for his fiction. The tale below is his best-known speculative-fiction opus. There is a useful Authors’ Calendar Miguel de Unamuno page available.

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Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr.

Vonnegut is, I fear, another counter-culture cult fave who does little for me. Too often, what seems to mainstream reviewers and readers as strikingly new and bold is, to veteran speculative-fiction readers, strikingly old and humdrum. What I can recall of his prose did not excite me, and based on the summaries of his work, the plots are so thin that the prose has to be what will carry them if anything will. But I’ll give him another go. The book below is probably a fair representation of his middle-period work, so I’ll try it (sooner or later). There are several dedicated Vonnegut web sites, of which that of The Vonnegut Museum and Library is representative.

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Walker, Wendy #

Everyone seems to just swoon over Walker’s fantasy novel The Secret Service, which seems to be both intelligent and beautifully written. Of her other work, the short stories in The Sea-Rabbit are re-workings of classic fairy tales in Walker’s reportedly lambent prose (there: I’ve been just dying for an opportunity to flourish “lambent”, a word apparently beloved of literary critics). One reviewer (Elizabeth Willey) recommends starting with the stories, as an induction to Walker’s prose styling. (Walker has another short-story collection, Stories Out of Omarie, which does not appear to be speculative fiction.) Ms. Walker maintains her own web site, Wendy Walker. (Be aware that there is another writer also named Wendy Walker; that one writes “psychological suspense novels”.)

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Wall, Mervyn

Irishman Wall writes of an unfortunate medieval monk, Brother Fursey, caught up between Irish monks and Lucifer, unable to either abandon or turn to either. The tales are superficially quite comic, but seem to have an underlying seriousness—one source refers to them as tragicomedies. I can determine little about the other work listed here save that it deals with (hang on) an attempted assassination of Santa Claus; one has to assume that Wall’s writerly abilities were up to the task. Wall’s short fiction is—most or all, I don’t know for sure—collected in the collection listed below. There is not much about Wall on the web—this Mervyn Wall micro-biography is as good as anything.

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Wylie, Elinor #

Wylie, who published in the 1920s, is a curious case: as one biographical notes puts it, “she was described by contemporaries as an icon of the age.” The Virginia Quarterly Review remarks that “Wylie may never be known as more than a minor artist of great elegance and skill, but though there were other notable women writers in her life span…there were none with quite her quality.” Yet today, she is scarcely remembered, least of all for her four novels (her forte was poetry).

It is hard now to find much on line about her, especially about her novels; about the most useful (or least useless) is Sanctuary in Porcelain, an essay on Wylie that includes a brief reference tothe book listed below (which is the only one of her works of potential interest here), though there is also Fragile Conceit, a brief review from Time magazine.

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Zoline, Pamela #

Zoline is an artist and a writer, her adult fiction (she has done a children’s book) being, so far as I know, wholly contained in the book listed here. Nonetheless, she is viewed by many leading critics as an outstanding writer, the title story of the collection apparently being her chef d’oeuvre. (See Mary Papke’s essay “A Space of Her Own” for more on Zoline.)

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