Saturday, August 21, 2010
Some time ago I participated in a forum topic that asked people to name their top 5 favourite SFF authors. This is what I came up with at the time.
I tried to limit myself by not including an author who doesn’t have a body of work behind them or whose work has not yet stood the test of time. I also tried not to include authors who are still writing unfinished series, because I may not like the ending of
the series or they may never finish that series. Now having said all that I just know my choices are going to contradict some of it. These are in no particular order, all I had to was name my 5 favourites not choose who was better than someone else:
1) Tad Williams: I haven’t seen this bloke write a bad book. From Tailchaser’s Song to the first volume of the Shadow series. He also writes different things. Tailchaser’s Song was a whimsical little piece about the mythology of cats.
Memory, Sorrow & Thorn was a big LotR style epic, in fact I feel it was William’s homage to Tolkein.
Otherland mixed fantasy and science fiction and had nods to everything from Alice In Wonderland to modern role playing computer games.
Then he blew me away with the dark, but ultimately uplifting The War Of The Flowers.
I’m reserving judgement on the Shadow series. The first book was less gripping than his other work and I’m waiting until he puts out the final book of that before getting the others.
2) Terry Pratchett: you can’t not include him. When A Colour Of Magic came out there were a number of ‘funny’ fantasies along the same lines of hapless, inept wizard (Rincewind) blunders from disaster to disaster, but eventually comes out on top, ACoM was a cut above most, but then when he decided to use totally different characters and examine another part of the world in Equal Rites that elevated him to a new level. He’s demonstrated that he can write across ages (the Bromeliad trilogy and the Johnny Maxwell books) and genres (Good Omens with Neil Gaiman and the new Nation, which is very different, but
still immensely enjoyable).
3) J.K Rowling: the first contradiction. The Harry Potter books, whilst fantastic, are all one genre and about the same characters. She may have other books in her, but following HP is a hard ask. I’ve included her because I loved the HP books, the way the world was presented and how the characters, even the peripheral ones (Neville Longbottom from shy, awkward kid to butt kicking revolutionary hero) grew throughout the 7 books. She also provided many people with their entry into the wonderful world of fantasy and reading in general.
4) Jasper Fforde: he’d get in there just for Thursday Next, a concept which turned amusing fantasy on it’s head. I think the books have been described as silly books for smart people. He’s also done some ‘nursery rhyme’ mysteries, which while not as groundbreaking orbrilliant as the Thursday Next series, are still thoroughly enjoyable and made me laugh out loud on public transport, something which always earns me disapproving glares from the people in dark suits and I love it when that happens. He did a good job with the first book of a completely new series: Shades of Grey, which I reviewed here back in January.
5) JRR Tolkien: had to be there. The Hobbit is one of my all time favourite books, very different from LotR. I’m not a big LotR fan, I liked the book and the films and I can appreciate the achievement and the writing, but mainly the good professor makes this list for what his masterpiece did. It legitimized fantasy writing, it revolutionized the genre. If not for LotR and it’s stunning success many of the authors we have all loved and enjoyed may never have written and certainly would not have been inspired to turn their talents to thetype of work that they have produced.
There were a whole bunch of people who missed out: George RR Martin,I’m a huge Ice and Fire fan, but I haven’t really enjoyed anything else that Martin has done and the last half a book (don’t kid yourself AFfC is half a book, no matter what spin the author or his more enthusiastic fans try to put on it) and the time and obvious struggle that the creator is having with the second half and the delay in producing it leads me to believe that he has lost control of the concept and that it may remain unfinished.
Alan Dean Foster missed out, he’s predominantly a science fiction author, but his Spellsinger series was something I really had a lot of fun with, however the last couple of books in that were written purely for the money and cheapened the whole concept. Clive Barker couldn’t quite get in there, yes I know he’s mostly horror, but Weaveworld and Imajica were pure fantasy.
Parke Godwin, although I see Firelord as fantasy, his other work was largely historical fiction.
Roberta MacAvoy, probably my fault because I’ve only read the Damiano series, but I did try to read The Book of Kells and was unable to get through it.
I would have loved to have included Scott Lynch, but the Gentleman Bastards series is unfinished and has yet to stand the test of time.
Joe Abercrombie was unlucky, because The First Law trilogy almost tops Martin for edgy, hard, epic fantasy, but again we’ve yet to see how well his work will be regarded in 5 or 10 years time.
Dave Duncan was another person I couldn't include. I still think his first Pandemia series: A Man Of HIs Word is one of the best fantasy series I've ever read, but aside from it's sequel series and the two Omar books (Reaver's Road and Hunter's Haunt) Duncan hasn't ever reached those same heights for me.