I’m calling this “part i” because any debate about what David Pringle left off his list of the 100 Best Science Fiction Novels will necessarily go on forever. These are just my thoughts tonight, and what I’m about to suggest aren’t necessarily books that I think HAVE to be on a 100 list. Instead, I mean these as suggestions for consideration. In that respect, I have to admit up front that I haven’t read every page of every book that follows. But here’s something to chew on…
First things first, there are clearly several books that could be on a list like this if it had been compiled more recently. Looking that direction seems fairer to me than working backwards (which for fun’s sake would have to include Wells, Olaf Stapledon, and here I’m doing what I said I wouldn’t) because Pringle had a definite starting point in mind when he put his list together. Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash), China Mieville (The Scar), the always-out-of-print-in-the-US Iain M. Banks (The Player of Games?, Excession?), and Greg Bear (though I personally would not vote for Moving Mars) would be there somewhere, yes? Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy or Three Californias series would have to be up for serious consideration. Perhaps Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker missed Pringle’s eye because of publication dates. Dan Simmons’ Hyperion and David Brin’s forget-the-Costner-film-already-and-read-the-book The Postman would have to be given serious thought because of their popularity. And speaking of popularity, it’s seems Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would be included, and I personally think it would be a no brainer to have Ender’s Game on the list.
I think one major difference, if Pringle had written his book now, would be the number of female authors on the list. Octavia Butler is already there, but Kindred is not. And I think Parable of the Sower would be a good candidate, too. Cherryh (Downbelow Station or maybe Cyteen) and Willis (Doomsday Book) are serious candidates for the final cut, and I would be strongly in favor of seeing The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell on the list.
My own personal qualms with Pringle, however, are often not with the writers missing but with what books he’s chosen by the ones that are there. For example, there are six Philip K. Dick novels on the list but no A Scanner Darkly. Thomas Disch is on three times, so I don’t really have reason to bitch, but I really do enjoy (I can see the hate mail now) The Genocides. I love Camp Concentration, 334, and all, but the simplicity and gruesome disaster thrills of TG win me over. Like Pringle, I’m not a huge fan of Asimov, and even if we were all to dismiss the Foundation Trilogy like he does, it seems like there are some better choices for Asimov’s sole representation on the list than The End of Eternity. If The Martian Chronicles and 334 count as novels, maybe I, Robot can as well. And if it doesn’t, perhaps The Gods Themselves might be a nice choice. Which Heinlein books to include can be debated ad nauseam, but I would like to have seen The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger in a Strange Land, or Starship Troopers get its due. As well, Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke is one of my favorite sf novels and created the whole big-ass-strange-thing-flying-in-space subgenre, though it’s nowhere to be found. Delany’s Dhalgren and/or The Einstein Intersection are missing, as is Slaughterhouse-Five, Ringworld by Larry Niven, Lord of Light and Damnation Alley by Zelazny, and Pohl’s Gateway.
Beyond all that, many miss van Vogt. But the one novel I really wished was there is Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, which seems like a David Pringle kind of book to me. And if we threw in non-English titles, a whole new can of worms would be opened. Top of the list for me if that were true: Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. But, yak, yak, yak. Any of the five people I know read this have any thoughts? Or certainly any one else out there. If Pringle wrote the list as 1949-2006, what should be included? Any quibbles with the novels within his timeframe (1949-1985)? Do you think I have any idea what I’m talking about?