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Ian Sales' list of British sf masterworks

Usual procedure for book memes: bold if I've read it, italics if I've started but haven't finished it, struck through if I couldn't stand it. Discussion welcome here but probably better directed to Ian Sales' post here (revised from his original list). Writers are listed from 1 to 55 but there are in fact 77 distinct works. Only six women out of 55, three writers from Northern Ireland, no books post-1995 (I suppose to be a 'masterwork' you need to have demonstrated longevity).

1 – The Time Machine, HG Wells (1895)
2 – Last And First Men, Olaf Stapledon (1930)
3 – Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1932)
4 – Nineteen Eighty-four, George Orwell (1949)
5 – The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham (1951)
6 – The Death of Grass, John Christopher (1956)
7 – No Man Friday, Rex Gordon (1956)
8 – The Space-Born, EC Tubb (1956)
9 – On The Beach, Nevil Shute (1957)
10 – WASP, Eric Frank Russell (1958)
11 – A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (1962)
12 – The Drowned World, JG Ballard (1962)
13 – Memoirs of a Spacewoman, Naomi Mitchison (1962)
14 – A Man of Double Deed, Leonard Daventry (1965)
15 – A Far Sunset, Edmund Cooper (1967)
16 – The Revolt of Aphrodite [Tunc, Nunquam], Lawrence Durrell (1968 – 1970)
17 – Pavane, Keith Roberts (1968)
18 – Stand On Zanzibar, John Brunner (1968)
19 – Behold The Man, Michael Moorcock (1969)
20 – Ninety-eight Point Four, Christopher Hodder-Williams (1969)
21 – Junk Day, Arthur Sellings (1970)
22 – T-City trilogy [Interface, Volteface, Multiface] Mark Adlard (1971 – 1975)
23 – The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe, DG Compton (1973)
24 – Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C Clarke (1973)
25 – Collision with Chronos, Barrington Bayley (1973)
26 – Inverted World, Christopher Priest (1974)
27 – The Centauri Device, M John Harrison (1974)
28 – Hello Summer, Goodbye, Michael G Coney (1975)
29 – Orbitsville [Orbitsville, Orbitsville Departure, Orbitsville Judgement], Bob Shaw (1975 – 1990)
30 – The Alteration, Kingsley Amis (1976)
31 – The White Bird of Kinship [The Road to Corlay, A Dream of Kinship, A Tapestry of Time], Richard Cowper (1978 – 1982)
32 – SS-GB, Len Deighton (1978)
33 – Canopus in Argos: Archives [Shikasta, The Marriages Between Zones 3, 4 and 5, The Sirian Experiments, The Making of the Representative for Planet 8, The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire], Doris Lessing (1979 – 1983)
34 – The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy [The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, Mostly Harmless], Douglas Adams (1979 – 1992)
35 – Where Time Winds Blow, Robert Holdstock (1981)
36 – The Silver Metal Lover, Tanith Lee (1981)
37 – Cageworld [Search for the Sun!, The Lost Worlds of Cronus, The Tyrant of Hades, Star-Search], Colin Kapp (1982 – 1984)
38 – Helliconia [Helliconia Spring, Helliconia Summer, Helliconia Winter], Brian W Aldiss (1982 – 1985)
39 – Orthe, Mary Gentle (1983 – 1987)
40 – Chekhov’s Journey, Ian Watson (1983)
41 – In Limbo, Christopher Evans (1985)
42 – Queen of the States, Josephine Saxton (1986)
43 – Wraeththu Chronicles [The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire], Storm Constantine (1987 – 1989)
44 – Code Blue – Emergency!, James White (1987)
45 – Kairos, Gwyneth Jones (1988)
46 – The Empire of Fear, Brian Stableford (1988)
47 – Desolation Road, Ian McDonald (1988)
48 – The Child Garden, Geoff Ryman (1989)
49 – Take Back Plenty, Colin Greenland (1990)
50 – Wulfsyarn, Phillip Mann (1990)
51 – Use of Weapons, Iain M Banks (1990)
52 – Vurt, Jeff Noon (1993)
53 – The Time Ships, Stephen Baxter (1995)
55 – Fairyland, Paul J Mcauley (1995)



( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 24th, 2010 07:25 am (UTC)
7 or 8 books by women?


I won't be setting this list as a core reading list any time soon.
Sep. 24th, 2010 09:01 am (UTC)
Perhaps you have some suggestions for women writers I could have included?
Sep. 24th, 2010 09:05 am (UTC)
Katherine Burdekin
Liz Williams
Karen Traviss
Justina Robson
Tricia Sullivan
Pat Cadigan

All of the modern ones are award winners.

Arbitrary cut off dates have effects.
Sep. 24th, 2010 09:14 am (UTC)
I wanted to show the breadth of British sf across the decades, so making half the list 1990 writers wouldn't have met that objective. Otherwise I would have included the names you mention.
Sep. 24th, 2010 09:16 am (UTC)
Burdekin is 1930s.

Pat Cadigan
# Mindplayers (1987)
# Synners (1991)
# Fools (1992)
# Tea from an Empty Cup (1998)

Breadth is in the eye of the beholder.
Sep. 24th, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
Isn't Pat Cadigan American? Wikipedia at least thinks so.
Sep. 24th, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
If Pat Cadigan is American, then so is William Gibson (despite having lived in Vancouver for decades).

Pat lives in London and has done so for longer than I've lived in Scotland.
Sep. 24th, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
Again according to Wikipedia, Gibson has dual US-Canadian citizenship.

Living in X a long time can't make you an X-an writer automatically, or we'd have to exclude Arthur C from British lists after 1956 on account of his 50+ year Sri Lankan sojourn. (Personally I like to claim him as a Somerset writer, even though he hasn't lived here in 70 years - partly cos he was born about 30 miles from my father and in the same week in Dec 1917.)
Sep. 24th, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
Cadigan is American. So you were only able to make one suggestion.
Sep. 25th, 2010 10:04 am (UTC)
If Geoff Ryman is in the list, then Tricia Sullivan and Pat Cadigan are eligible as well. Tricia has four children born in the UK as well.
Sep. 24th, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
That also cuts out Nicola Griffith, unfortunately (Ammonite, 1993; Slow River, 1995); IMHO, she would have been a better choice than some of your other early '90s authors.
Sep. 24th, 2010 09:08 am (UTC)
Two early writers: Katherine Burdekin, Cicely Hamilton
Sep. 24th, 2010 09:14 am (UTC)
Thanks. I'll check them out.
Sep. 24th, 2010 09:21 am (UTC)
Katherine Burdekin in particular is a terrifically interesting writer. Sometimes published as 'Murray Constantine'; sometimes her first name is spelled 'Katharine'. Swastika Night is probably her most well-known book and was a Left Book Club choice in 1940. There are marked similarities between it and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The edition edited by Daphne Patai has an excellent introduction by her (Patai).
Sep. 24th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
IRTMO Katherine Burdekin
"Swastika Night is probably her most well-known book and was a Left Book Club choice in 1940. There are marked similarities between it and Nineteen Eighty-Four."

If it was a Left Book Club choice, Orwell probably had at least heard of it - he mentions the LBC in an earlier novel* and was, IIRR, published by Gollancz.

On my mental 'read it' list now. Thank you.

*Coming Up For Air. Thank you, Google.
Sep. 24th, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
Re: IRTMO Katherine Burdekin
Hope you find it interesting (I won't say enjoy as it's very bleak). Two other novels came back into print during the 80s/90s, both with a speculative bent: Proud Man and The End of this Day's Business.

Edited for clarity.

Edited at 2010-09-24 06:57 pm (UTC)
Sep. 24th, 2010 09:38 am (UTC)
Also Zoe Fairbairns, Benefits (1979).

I'm not sure what your criteria are, but perhaps Virginia Woolf, Orlando, and some Jeanette Winterson or Angela Carter might fall within them.
Sep. 24th, 2010 10:01 am (UTC)
I'll stop after this one, but it you don't want to count Frankenstein, you might want to consider Mary Shelley's The Last Man.
Sep. 24th, 2010 10:14 am (UTC)
Monica Hughes.
May. 12th, 2011 12:05 pm (UTC)
I think this is being a little unfair on Ian. Most UK sf writers, especially those who rose to prominence, have been male. Indeed, several that I thought of suggesting here turned out, upon checking Wikipedia, to be American.

I think that the US and Canada and Australia tend to do better for women SF authors. I'm not sure why but I suspect it has something to do with the UK having a disparaging attitude to SF in general (that may be changing now that Dr Who is back, but that's how I remember things being when I was growing up).

All that said though, there is one woman who is shockingly absent from this list. Shouldn't No 1 be Mary Shelley?

Don't be telling me she was American too, I'm sure she's one of ours?!

May. 12th, 2011 08:15 pm (UTC)
She's one of ours.

I don't actually feel it incumbent on me to be fair. "Fair" would mean that Gollancz would have published more women in the first place and then those women would be better known.

Have you seen their selection of 50? They managed six women and intially got the title of one of the books wrong.

Fair is for equal fights. This one ain't equal.
Sep. 24th, 2010 07:27 am (UTC)
Yes, 1995 was a completely arbitrary cut-off date. I'd loved to have included more women in the list, but I didn't want to make the list top-heavy at the 1980 - 1995 end and there were almost no women sf writers in earlier decades.
May. 12th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
Amabel Williams-Ellis


I can't believe I forgot her but I think of her as an editor (of the marvellous Out of this World series) but she was a writer as well.
Sep. 24th, 2010 08:42 am (UTC)
Nice to see the Canopus in Argos series in there. I can remember devouring those as they came out.
Sep. 24th, 2010 09:22 am (UTC)
I've mostly read the same ones you have. Of the ones which I have read and you have not, I would particularly suggest 'Wasp', 'Vurt', and 'The Centauri Device'. Odd that you haven't read 'Rama', (and also odd to choose 'Rama' as the only Clarke).

'Queen of the States', meh.
Sep. 24th, 2010 09:24 am (UTC)
Hmm, I have read Rama - must correct that!
Sep. 24th, 2010 03:26 pm (UTC)
I find Rama a very odd choice for the only Clarke also.

Also the choice of a James White book that late seems strange to me.

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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