Okay, how about a different kind of contest, a retrospective contest —
Which would you vote best of these five past winners:
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, winner of the 1960 Hugo
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, winner in 1961
Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein again, winner in 1962
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick, winner in 1963
Way Station by Clifford Simak, winner in 1964
I must admit I hardly remember Canticle, though I read it. All I recall is that the author shocked me by killing the main character a third of the way through — the first time I’d ever seen such a thing (this was way before GRRM). I’m pretty sure that was Canticle.
I actually re-read Way Station not that long ago and frankly I wasn’t at all impressed.
I know which of these books I like best, which isn’t the same as the one I think had the greatest impact on the genre. Today, well, I’d have to read Canticle again if I were really going to vote to pick one out of those five.
Here’s the next group:
The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber in 1965
Dune by Frank Herbert in 1966
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein in 1967
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny in 1968
Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner in 1969
I never cared much for Leiber and never read The Wanderer.
Once again, though, I have a clear pick for the book I really enjoyed the most versus the book I think was most important (though I liked both).
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K LeGuin in 1970
Ringworld by Larry Niven in 1971
To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer in 1972
The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov in 1973
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clark in 1974
You know, I *really* need to re-read The Left Hand of Darkness, somehow it seems to keep coming up and I just don’t remember it at all. I wonder if it’s possible I never actually read it, considering that I do remember the rest of these, at least enough to have a general impression. I definitely know which one I’d pick to go on to the next round– I mean, which one other than Left Hand.
Okay, next group:
The Dispossessed, LeGuin again, 1975
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman, 1976
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm, 1977
Gateway, Frederick Pohl, 1978
Dreamsnake, Vonda McIntyre 1979
I didn’t remember that Dreamsnake won a Hugo. I really enjoyed the book. I don’t know the others that well. Actually, I’m not sure I read any of the others. First group where I think I only read one of the winners. I wonder if there’s a group of five Hugo winners where I didn’t read any?
I also notice that 1979 is the first year CJ Cherryh was a nominee, with The Faded Sun: Kesrith. She’d written a couple of the Morgaine books by then, and Brothers of Earth and Hunter of Worlds. I do prefer the Faded Sun trilogy to those, I think.
The Fountains of Paradise, Arthur C Clark, 1980
The Snow Queen, Joan D Vinge, 1981
Downbelow Station, CJ Cherryh, 1982
Foundations Edge, Asimov, 1983
Startide Rising, David Brin, 1984
For the first time, we’re passing over a lot of books I just loved that were nominated but didn’t win. McKillip’s Harpist in the Wind, Wizard by John Varley, Pride of Chanur, which I greatly preferred to Downbelow Station. I see Courtship Rite by Donald Kingsbury was up in 1983 — I think it should have won. Well, I was never a big Asimov fan, really. MacAvoy’s Tea with the Black Dragon — I adored that book.
Oh, I just realized, this was the period where I really discovered SFF. And I was a teenager, so this was the formative period for my literary tastes. No wonder so many of the titles from these years leap out at me.
Anyway, I do know which of the five winners I’d put forward — and it wasn’t Downbelow Station, never one of my favorites of Cherryh’s.
Okay, let’s see —
Neuromancer, William Gibson, 1985
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card, 1986
Speaker for the Dead, ditto, 1987
The Uplift War, Brin, 1988
Cyteen, Cherryh, 1989
Oh, major pain making this choice! For the first time two books I know well and love go head to head. Oooh. Really tough.
Hyperion, Dan Simmons, 1990
The Vor Game, Bujold, 1991
Barrayar, ditto, 1992
A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge, 1993, and
Doomsday Book, Connie Willis, also 1993 (they tied, I guess)
Green Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson, 1994
Sorry, six choices, I’d rather keep the years even than the number of contenders. Difficult choices here, too. I never read Hyperion. I heard it was really really really impressive, but also a tragedy. I didn’t really care for Red Mars, but actually Green Mars was my favorite of the trilogy. And I totally admired the Tines from Vinge’s book. And Bujold! Yep, another tough group.
Mirror Dance, Bujold, 1995
The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson, 1996
Blue Mars, KSR, 1997
Forever Peace, Joe Haldeman, 1998
To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis, 1999
Well, another chance to pick Bujold. I admired The Diamond Age, and I suspect I would admire it more today, but I don’t think I really liked it. I might pick it, though. On the other hand, I could say exactly the same of Willis’s book. Not sure what I’d go for here.
A Deepness in the Sky, Vinge, 2000
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2001
American Gods, Neil Gaiman, 2002
Hominids, Robert J Sawyer, 2003
Paladin of Souls, Bujold, 2004
I have Vinge’s book, but I must admit I’ve never actually read it. Wow, that’s kind of embarrassing. 15 years on my TBR pile may be a record. I kinda hope it’s a record. That’s terrible.
I disliked American Gods. Never read Hominids. Pretty sure this would be an easy win for Bujold given that.
Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell, Suzanna Clarke, 2005
Spin, Robert Charles Wilson, 2006
Rainbow’s End, Vernor Vinge again, 2007
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon, 2008
The Graveyard Book, Gaiman, 2009
Okay, I liked this one by Gaiman way, way better. Never read the three in the middle. I was so, so impressed by Clarke’s book. Wow, it was amazing. Not something I can see myself re-reading, though.
And at last! Here we are, caught up to the present:
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi, 2010
The City and the City, China Miéville, also 2010
Blackout/ All Clear, Connie Willis, 2011
Among Others, Jo Walton, 2012
Redshirts, Scalzi, 2013
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie, 2014
Six contenders again, sorry. I’ve read all these except The Windup Girl. It’s another hard choice for me , though I can narrow it down to two pretty easily. Okay, down to three. I guess. Fine, okay, so I really loved one of these, deeply admired one, liked and admired one, and liked both the others quite a bit. Shoot, it’s actually pretty hard to choose.
Okay, vote, please. Which books would you all pick from each groups? Are there any choices you find particularly easy or difficult?