The Gollancz Masterwork series [list] ranges from famous novels such as Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) to lesser known short story collections such as The Caltraps of Time (1968) by David I. Masson. The Masterwork series has the power to introduce readers to the canonical “best of SF” and works that should be considered classics. Many of the second group have not seen print for decades. Although I have some qualms about certain inclusions, I was genuinely blown away that they recently chose one of my favorite novels The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (variant title: The Unsleeping Eye) (1973) by D. G. Compton—an underread and unjustly forgotten author.
Over the course of the next week or so a handful of my fellow SF bloggers (most of whom have a focus on earlier SF) will release lists on their sites of SF they would like to see featured by Gollancz. I have not given them any guidelines so the lists should be varied and hopefully will generate some discussion. I highly recommend you head over to their sites (I will post the links as they come in) and comment.
Thoughts + comments are always welcome (as well as your own lists!).
More “What to Include in the Gollancz Masterwork Series” Lists (blog friends)
Chris over at Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, and Creased
Megan over at From Couch to Moon
2theD over at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature
Ian Sales over at It Doesn’t Have to be Right…
Jesse over at Speculiction…
2theD over at Tongues of Speculation (his votes regarding translated SF)
Martin over at Martin’s Booklog
My guidelines for inclusion
1. My frequent readers know that I prefer (passionately) SF from the 50s-70s—1972 might be the single best year for my type of SF. Thus, the picks will all be from that range. That is not to say that great SF that deserves to be included does not exist outside of those years! My fellow bloggers will certainly provide some later works.
2. I have only included works by authors who have not yet been featured in the Gollancz masterwork series. Yes, I think Michael Bishop’s Stolen Faces (1976) and A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (1975) deserve a spot but both Transfigurations (1979) (a rather lesser Bishop novel) and No Enemy But Time (1982) have already been included.
3. I have only included one work for each author. As a compulsive consumer of Barry N. Malzberg’s nihilistic fever visions I made the hard choice to include only one of his novels—I have selected the one that might have the widest appeal and serves as a good introduction to his favorite themes. And, it will definitely give people an indication of what he is routinely capable of and whether or not his brand of metafictional Freudian delusions will appeal.
4. In the past my biggest concern about the Gollancz list was the distinct lack of SF by women (this was a bigger deal a while back that prompted SF bloggers/authors such as Ian Sales to put together relevant resources to introduce readers to SF by women such as SF Mistressworks). At one point the disparity was egregious—In the original 1999-2009 sequence of Masterworks published Gollancz included a grand total of five SF works by women, all post 1969: Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974) and The Lathe of Heaven (1971), Sherry S. Tepper’s Grass (1989), Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), and Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1976). Five out of 77 novels….
The Masterworks released since 2010 have shown a serious and welcomed attempt to broaden the range of authors featured: Joanna Russ’ The Female Man (1975), M. J. Engh’s Arslan (1976), Cecelia Holland’s The Floating Worlds (1976), Pat Cardigan’s Synners (1991), among others. But a concern remains, other than Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow (1955), no SF by women is included pre-Le Guin.
There is a persistent myth that SF lacked quality contributions by women before Le Guin’s late masterful 60s novels. I want Gollancz to remedy this imbalance.
My List (with links to my reviews)
(Gene Szafan’s cover for the 1974 edition)
Reason for inclusion: Ice, caused by some manmade disaster, is slowly creeping over the world. The unnamed narrator is torn between two forces: returning to his earlier research on jungle dwelling singing lemurs in the southern regions vs. tracking down a young woman about whom he has the most disturbing, and often violent, hallucinations. Anna Kavan’s vision, often read as a surreal SF manifestation/representation of her heroin usage, is, as Aldiss proclaims, “unique” in “its incantatory powers.” Powerful, surreal, remorseless, literary.
2. What Entropy Means to Me, Geo. Alec Effinger (1972)
(Fernando Fernandez’s cover for the 1973 edition)
Reason for inclusion: Geo. Alec Effinger channels the best the New Wave movement—with its literary aspirations, metafictional explorations, and experimental storytelling—has to offer. The result is a multi-layered/complex homage to the the act of literary creation. What Entropy Means to Me weaves a fantastic web that gloriously subverts the genre of the fantasy/SF quest. The power of myth/history, fabrication, memory…
3. Beyond Apollo, Barry N. Malzberg (1972)
(Charles Moll’s cover for the 1973 edition)
Reason for inclusion: Beyond Apollo is a multi-faceted rumination on repression; a virulent critique of the space program and America’s obsession with space; a metafictional labyrinth that can, at times, be infuriatingly undefined. Malzberg’s fiction is heavily inspired by the rise of postmodernism in the mid to late 1960s that eschewed traditional plots: only a vague outline can be gathered by the ultimately cyclical 67 short chapters recounting memories, events, tellings/re-tellings/and re-tellings of re-tellings of said memories and events. Not for the fainthearted.
4. Memoirs of a Spacewoman, Naomi Mitchison (1962)
(R. S. Lonati’s cover for the 1964 edition)
Reason for inclusion: Naomi Mitchison’s first science fiction novel, Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962), is a brilliant episodic exploration of the nature of non-violent interaction with alien species that challenge (and transform) conceptions of ourselves and others. Radical in its depiction of the transformations the family will undergo due to the pressures of women exploring the reaches of the galaxy away from their lovers and partners + time dilation (“blackout”), Mitchison posits a fantastic range societal transformations as humankind contacts bizarre new lifeforms, attempts radical communication experiments, and interacts with neighboring aliens for prolonged periods of time. Social science fiction at its best…
5. Missing Man, Katherine MacLean (1975)
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1975 edition)
Reason for inclusion: Intellectual disability is a rare SF theme. Fragmentation, both mental and political, dominates this future world. Missing Man is a finely wrought vision of a future post-disaster Balkanized New York City comprised of innumerable communes, often at war with each other, inhabited by a small number of slightly telepathic people who are able to detect the emotions of others. Katherine MacLean’s prose is admirable. Beautiful sentences populate the pages. The result is an vibrant and organic world—replete with dystopic threads— which exudes realism. The original novella version won a Nebula in 1971.
6. The Iron Dream, Norman Spinrad (1972)
(Uncredited cover for the 1972 edition)
Reason for inclusion: Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream (1972) is a fantastic alternate history novel. However, unlike a standard “what if this happened instead and now let’s write a traditional narrative” alternate history, The Iron Dream is organized around a powerful metafictional conceit which explicitly serves to satirize pulp science fiction and fantasy and condemn its lurid nature and Spinrad would argue, racist inclinations. As with Nabokov’s Pale Fire (1962) where both an invented text and commentary on the text comprises the novel, The Iron Dream is composed of a pseudo-scholarly commentary on Hitler’s SF novel. Of course, if Hitler never came to power in Germany and wrote SF in the US instead.
One of many Spinrad novels that deserves inclusion (I suspect Bug Jack Barron (1969) would be their first pick).
7. Level 7, Mordecai Roshwald (1959)
(Uncredited cover for the 1959 edition)
Reason for inclusion: Roshwald’s novel should be considered along with Walter Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959, published 1960) as one of the best nuclear disaster sci-fi novels of the late 50s (and all time). Our protagonists are not explicitly Communist or anti-Communist. All references to government and politics are purposefully general in order to create a more universal message about the dehumanization of nuclear war. In its rigid “realism” the novel, because it is populated by unusual people who could survive underground for such a length of time, enters the realm of the surreal.
8. A collection of short fiction by Judith Merril (1940s/50s) and Miriam Allen deFord (1940s/50s) (reviews here and here)
([left]Richard Powers’ cover for the 1969 edition of Xenogenesis and [right] Robert Fosters’ cover for the 1970 edition of Daughters of Earth)
Reason for inclusion: Judith Merril was not only an important SF author of the 50s/60s but also was instrumental as an editor in popularizing the New Wave. Most of her work was in the short story format and as a result has faded in popularity as the novel took. Her novella “Daughters of the Earth” (1952) remains one of the most radical feminist visions of the future I have encountered from the 50s. It traces humanity’s exploration and colonization of the galaxy over multiple generations through the women of one family. Merril adeptly inverts the Old Testament Biblical trope of tracing generations through the fathers. Miriam Allen deFord was another prolific late 40s/50s/60s short story author whose visions are long forgotten in part because she never made the transition to writing novels. I propose a collection of both deFord and Merril stories (or a reprint of an existing Merril and/or deFord collection).
9. The Hieros Gamos of Sam and An Smith, Josephine Saxton (1969)
(Jack Faragasso’s cover for the 1970 edition)
Reason for inclusion: Josephine Saxton deftly utilizes the coming of age narrative, the quest (more character related than goal oriented), and a fabulist’s eye towards metaphor to weave together a touching and alluring tale. It is set in a world which, at least on the surface, is very much like our own. The buildings remain, food dispensers still dispense food, and undisturbed store shelves are fully stocked. However, the majority of the animals have disappeared and people are almost all gone. Cannibalism is hinted at. A few other individuals flit on the outskirts of the narrative, phantom-like, unsubstantial in their physicality. Are they hallucinations, or external viewers of the spectacle who intrude when needed before vanishing with no evidence of their arrival?
10. Moderan, David R. Bunch (1971) [review forthcoming]
(Norman Adams’ cover for the 1971 edition)
Reason for inclusion: Moderan is comprised of 46 short stories, previously published in a vast number of SF publications (such as Dangerous Visions) and small literary journals. Set in a far future world where men are “made mostly of metal” yet retain strips of human flesh, Bunch satirizes technology with often absurdist strokes. Filled with gorgeous prose, “flesh seemed doomed that years; death’s harpies were riding down” (21), Bunch conjures a vast and profoundly appealing tapestry of daily life, surreal warfare, and philosophical rumination.
83 thoughts on “Updates: My Top 10 SF works (pre-1980) for inclusion in the Gollancz Masterwork series”
Great list! What Entropy Means To Me almost made my list, but since I haven’t read it yet, it didn’t make the final cut. Same with Katherine Maclean and Miriam Allen de Ford, I’ve read a lot of their shorter works and agree that they need to be included, but I haven’t found any of their novels to make any recommendations there. Spinrad’s not in the Masterworks yet? sheesh.
I would wager that Spinrad + Malzberg have seriously angered some members of the SF community for their rather radical critiques of the genre itself…. Spinrad for example is convinced he’s been essentially (perhaps this is too strong of a word) blacklisted. Very few New Wave novels are on the Masterwork list at all.
There’s Dangerous Visions, Delany’s Nova and Dhalgren, Harrison’s The Centauri Device, Masson’s The Caltraps of Time, Sladek’s Roderick, Aldiss’s Greybeard and Moorcock’s Behold the Man so they aren’t averse to New Wave sf.
Ballard’s The Drowned World was also an early release.
I suspect there’d be more Moorcock if Gollancz weren’t already reprinting the rest of his work in a seperate line.
I’d like to see Beyond Apollo, Bug Jack Baron and Thomas Disch’s Camp Concentration. Also, for fun, The Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero.
I’m surprised Aaron Sorkin hasn’t snapped up the film rights to Bug Jack Baron; it would be right up his street.
Well, Harrison’s The Centauri Device + Roderick + Dhalgren are rather at the tail end of the movement… Some argue it ends in 1972.
Most of those are in the post-2009 printings of the series.
Disch’s Camp Concentration was slated for release a while back! But neither it not 334 saw print. No idea why.. Perhaps someone knows?
Any works by women pre-Le Guin you’d like to see included?
As for Moorcock, I am no fan… Albeit, I have not read Behold the Man.
There’s plenty of New Wave in the series. I suspect there’d be more Ballard, but most of his novels are still in print. There probably ought to be more Aldiss, though, and Zoline’s collection would be a good candidate. Disch may have blotted his copybook with his weird rants in the months leading up to his suicide.
I would love a Zoline collection…. Oh, I had no idea about Disch (I know he committed suicide but did not know not about the rants).
I wish I knew more about copyright issues. Because yeah, I suspect works like Neuromancer and something by C. J. Cherryh would have been on the list already if there wasn’t some copyright problem.
The list has few short story collections — but the ones they do have are rather confusing, like The Caltraps of Time (1968) by David I. Masson…
A collection of women writers doing short fiction didn’t cross my mind, but just from the pieces I’ve read, I could see the viability of such a volume—you’ve read more de Ford and Merril than I have, but I could point to some killer work by de Ford, Merril, Mildred Clingerman, Zenna Henderson, Kate Wilhelm… More than enough for a Masterworks volume..
Exactly! I would aim it pre-1960 — a lot of authors simply did not write novels (or were not successful at shifting from short fic) in the 60s and thus have faded away… And, if they were women, we then get some sort of fallacious idea that serious SF by women “started” with Le Guin. I would have included more Wilhelm in my list but she did have Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1976) featured — so, it sort of violated my restrictive (but hopefully well meaning) guidelines.
Definitely agree. The lack of short fiction collections leaves out many authors whose work was primarily in the short form, so I made sure to include several when I came up with my own list. There’s also a lack of non-Anglo-American authors, and while I tried to touch on that issue I’m hoping someone more qualified than myself can come up with more suggestions.
Yes, completely. My range of time sort of excludes a lot of non-White Americans; other than Delany and Marta Randall I can’t think of that many non-White SF authors pre-1980.
Randall’s work is solid (well, Islands) but did not make the cut.
I do plan on reading Randall’s A City in the North (Ian Sales claims it is her best work and he’s read most of her stuff) over Winter Break. Perhaps my assessment will change.
“Women of Wonder: the Classic Years” would be a good one. I’ve only read about 1/2 the stories in it, but all were amazing, I assume the rest are, too: https://www.infosoup.org/record=b1210715~S77
Great piece as usual Joachim, definitely a couple I’d have chosen on your list. I know you’ve been enjoying your Malzburg this year, I’ve picked a fair few up myself but I’d definitely love to see Effinger’s Entropy brought to a wider audience.
Thanks! Have you read Kavan’s Ice? Dislike the Szafran cover — never been a fan of his.
I haven’t read Ice although I have seen it knocking aroung from time to time. Might have to pick it next time.
They have a couple of Strugatsky Bros titles due out next year to compliment Roadside Picnic: Hard to be a God and Monday Begins on Saturday.
Other than Capek’s RUR they haven’t published much translated work.
Solaris deserves a better translation than the one we have (which is translated via French). A paperback based on the superior audiobook is overdue.
I see now that my list pales by comparison;it’s just not as esoteric.
No surprise not many New Wave novels have made the Masterworks cut. Like any experimental art form, it escapes the majority and is therefore deemed “poor”… This is not to say there isn’t some self-indulgent navel gazing in amongst the bunch, but certainly it’s less transparent than good ol’ Dune.
Well, you know me, I do gravitate towards the esoteric. Although, not all my picks are — Spinrad + Roshwald’s Level 7 for example. If you haven’t read Level 7, you must! One of the best of the 50s.
Part of the problem is that some of the New Wave writers were adopted by the mainstream; Ballard ‘a work has never been out of print so a Masterwork edition of The Atrocity Exhibition or Crash would be redundant.
The Friday Project are releasing most of Aldiss’ work at the moment. They don’t distinguish between his sf, fantasy, mainstream fiction, or even non- fiction.
Genre categories are fluid: Penguin Moden Classics have released some genre sf novels alongside their mainstream fiction: The Black Cloud, The Death of Grass and Make Room! Make Room! Any one of them would have fitted in with the Masterworks line.
One thing I’d like to see is Masterworks return the favour by publishing mainstream authors who have written sf but not under the label of sf, like EM Forster, Evelyn Waugh, Lao She or LP Hartley.
Well, my list does include Mitchison and Kavan, both of whom were “mainstream.”
…obviously of a lesser stature than the authors you listed.
I don’t know if “redundancy” is a valid point — Gollancz masterwork is aimed at a particular market. Dune has never been out of print. Neither has most of Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, etc and they constantly get new volumes…
Do love Solaris and virtually everything Lem wrote…. There’s a ton of older French SF that Brian Stableford has been translating over the years. I wonder if any of it is any good (it’s all out of print mostly 19th century and earl 20th century stuff). There is a healthy number of modern/contemporary French SF authors and not much gets translated (I could read it in the original French but, eh, would take longer than I want).
There is a fantastic volume of French author H. Rosne Aine out in the Wesleyan Early Classics of Science Fiction Series – three novellas from 1888-1910. He was much better than Verne.
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Any works by women pre-Le Guin you’d like to see included?
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland. It’s still in print by Penguin but so is Frankenstein. I don’t know if there are copywrite issues but it will be 100 years old next year.
Burdekin’s Swastika Night too (a possible influence on Orwell).
I have almost all the Women’s Press sf books from the Eighties.
Apart from Gilman and Mitcheson they’re mainly post-LeGuin/Russ too.
I haven’t read Swastika Night or Herland yet — I want to!
Frankenstein was picked up by the Masterwork series — along with Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow (pointed it out in the review). But there are none included other than that.
I was thinking about including C. L. More’s Doomsday Morning (1957) — but, not sure it’s a “classic.”
Also, I want to read Judith Merril’s Shadow on The Hearth (1950) as well…
Heh, I liked Doomsday Morning enough to include it, but was on the fence with Shadow on the Hearth—I think you would very much enjoy it if you can find a copy, but I’m not sure it’s a first-round pick. Definitely a good choice though.
There’s a lot more Brackett they could publish. The Long Tomorrow isn’t typical of the sf we associate with her which tended more towards Planetary Romance.
Also Andre Norton was a prolific female sf author for decades.
I’ve read a lot of Norton — but no single volume screams “masterwork.” But rather, the body of work is very indicative of how popular her SF was for younger readers.
There was a Brackett collection, The Sea-Kings of Mars, published in the Fantasy Masterwork series.
Ah, did not know that Ian. *should probably scan the list*
My friend Chris over at Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, and Creased included More’s Doomsday Morning on his list 🙂
EDIT: he just pointed out the same thing above.
What a great list. I’ve never heard of most of these books or writers, but the synopses offered remind me of what an thrilling genre science fiction was and remains to be.
Thanks! I have reviews of most of them linked.
What do you mean by “thrilling genre”? The reason I ask is that some people obviously prefer the adventure in a cool future stuff vs. the more intellectually inclined literary SF I tend to showcase on my site.
And thus are rather disappointed when they read the books I rated highest 😉
Great list and no surprise with some of them! Beyond Apollo and Memoirs of a Spacewoman are already on my TBR thanks to you, and I’ve actually got What Entropy Means to Me knocking about on my ereader and was hoping I might get to it over the holidays. Definitely looking for Ice, now, too.
I’m kind of surprised about the Spinrad inclusion. I remember you talking about The Iron Dream, but I didn’t remember that you loved it so much. I need to go back and read your review.
Yeah, I loved it! 4.75/5
Ice is a hard read. If you like Ballard’s The Drowned World (1962) you might like Ice.
I absolutely adored Memoirs of a Spacewoman; it reminded me that there are just so many great books out there that are not well-known.
Couldn’t agree more. Please Gollancz, pick up Memoirs of a Spacewoman! I’ll buy it! hehe
Ah, Ballard is another one I will be getting around to in the next year or so…
The Drowned World encapsulates everything I like about SF… well, almost everything. It’s missing some metafictional elements! Hahaha.
I thought the novel was seminal in releasing the tensions of inner space felt by the characters,who undergo psychological changes.Ballard was strongly influenced by Surrealism,and this can be powerfully felt here.
Isn’t this metafictional enough?
I am not sure (or do not remember) that at any moment Ballard “alludes to the artificiality or literariness of [the] work.” Which is generally how metafiction is defined.
Of course later Ballard experiments rather radically with metafictional techniques.
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I see.Ballard’s darkly exotic stuff was largely imagistic,alluding to states of mind that interpret the events.I think TDW was at least innovative in doing this,and opened the way for others to experiment with metafiction.
Most definitely. Kornbluth experimented with metafiction with stories such as “Ms. Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie” — a recursive tale with a character named after one of Kornbluth’s pen name. And of course, Frederik Brown’s stuff… I suspect Ballard is inspired profoundly by more mainstream literature at the time as well.
He definitely was,not least by Jorge Luis Borges and Bill Burroughs.I think from what I have read of their unique stuff,they approached something like metafictional themes that was being imitated and reflected by what was being done by the likes of Ballard in the sf genre.
I’ve looked on two of the other blogs,and noticed they chose Ray Bradbury’s,”The Martian Chronicles”.That’s a seminal piece that is an injustice to have been ignored by the classics series I would have thought.
It might be a contractual issue with another press — I suspect a lot of the ultra classic type, why is it not on the list *gasps*, type books (no C. J. Cherryh for example) is due to existing contracts.
Yeah, I do love Borges.
Yes that makes sense.Hope you’ve read and like TMC.
Borges as far as I know,liked sf within the genre in turn.Have you read his “Fumes the Meritorius”?
Yes, I read The Martian Chronicles when I was a kid. I wasn’t into SF at the time but did enjoy them. As for Borges, I have his complete fictions and have read about half of them but not “Funes the Memorious.” Thanks for the rec.
Great list. I’m going to have to head over to the used bookstore after Christmas to find several of these. You always expand my sci-fi education. Merry Christmas my friend.
Thanks! These might be hard to find in used book stores… unless they have obscenely gigantic collections. Abebooks/amazon might be a better venue.
Thanks. I’ll try there and save on gas.
I should just give in and head to Amazon. I have all but the Mitchison, Effinger, and Spinrad, and I’ve been scouring book shops for those for years.
First, please stop adding to my reading list! It is too long already, but since I LOVE the two books on your list that I’ve read (the Effinger & the Mitchison) I’ll just have to add all the others, won’t I? Sigh.
Most of my additions would probably be from *around* the ’80s (of course, rights notwithstanding, and not in any particular order):
1. Dawn by Octavia E. Butler (or maybe the whole Xenogenesis trilogy? though Dawn works fine on its own) Very readable, very unsettling.
2. Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre
Really showcases her world building, along with its other virtues.
3. Desolation Road by Ian McDonald
I saw this on somebody else’s list — big, big second! Magical Martian mystery tour. Just exactly what I like in my speculative fiction.
4. The Wolves of Memory by George Alec Effinger
My favorite of his. Just a wonderful mix of his off-kilter blend of satire, weirdness and wrenching heartbreak.
5. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
I usually find Kress’s style a little cold, but in protag Leisha Camden, she perfectly marries her style to the story. (Though I still say these kids were way too productive — if I didn’t sleep, I would just read more.)
6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I’m just going to assume this one is a rights issue.
7. Waiting for the Galactic Bus by Parke Godwin
Witty satire, a sharp and delightful read.
8. In the Mother’s Land (or The Maerland Chronicles) by Élisabeth Vonarburg
A lushly drawn world transformed by cataclysm. No one immerses me in alien society like Vonarburg.
9. Axiomatic by Greg Egan.
Love Egan’s short stories. His dense mind-bending style works much better for me at shorter lengths than in his novels.
10. The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee
I haven’t read Lee exhaustively; there might be a better representation among her works. But I do love this gothicky fairy tale science fiction-ish stew — which also has something of cult following, I believe. (Or maybe I just want to believe that 🙂
I was happy to see many of the authors I had already thought of on the list: James Morrow’s “This is the Way the World Ends” and Tiptree’s “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever” in particular. Not bad, Gollancz!
Thanks. I love making people buy books!
You know, Dreamsnake is the ONLY 70s Hugo winning novel I have yet to read. I need a copy — but I can never find one when I’m at used bookstores.
I need to read more Effinger…
“Funes the Meritorius” is about a man with perfect memory and the limitations it places on his life.Brian Aldiss talked of it in his sf history,”Trillion Year Spree”,as containing elements to be found within genre sf.
I remember my father telling me years ago to read it. He’s a Borges fanatic.
Borges is remarkable for only writing short pieces,usually in the form of essays or papers.
Another probable inclusion could be Margaret St. Clair’s Agent of the Unknown, published in 1956 in an Ace Double along with Dick’s The World Jones Made.
St. Clair’s novel isn’t perfect, but its subversion of genre tropes has been analyzed by critics like Clute in The SF Encyclopedia. Likewise, there is a subtle erotic subtext in the narrative that is really well crafted and adds layers of symbolism to what is a not very well known and underrated novel.
I have not read that particular St. Clair yet. I read and reviewed The Sign of the Labrys and thought it was really awful — although I enjoyed the setting and tone. I have a collection of her short stories but have found them rather average so far. But, Agent of the Unknown is definitely supposed to be her best novel.
One important 19th C book that should come back into print is Richard Jefferies’ After London (1887), one of the great Victorian post-apocalyptic novels. It’s worth a read for more than its historical interest.
I remember your review! Sounded really cool.
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Great list! I’ll definitely be having a gander
Which one intrigues you the most?
Missing Man seems like my kind of sci-fi
Then snag a copy! I also wrote a review — link is the book title in the list.
Outstanding, thoughtful choices. I was pleased you mentioned LEVEL 7. I’ve seen some reviews that basically read “What’s the big deal?” To me this would be a terrific “double feature” with THE ROAD, if only to show that McCarthy’s stripped-down approach really isn’t all THAT new to SF.
I think “the big deal” relates to how the novel is told, not the plot. The entire idea that a very select group of people were selected who would be able to live in such a world—who are that disconnected from their own surface existence—makes all the surreal realism (yes, that’s how I describe the book — haha) that makes it that darn good.
I read LEVEL 7 for the first time just a few years ago, and as with the other “older book I took forever to get to and then loved” I read that year, LORDS OF THE STARSHIP, I recommended it to anyone who’d listen. Both books are simply-written in terms of not having dozens of characters and subplots or ornate language, and both left be blown away. (And both had quick endings that kicked me in the head.)
I read Lords of Starship and did not care for it. I enjoyed how dark and dreary it was but ultimately it could have been so much more!
The Miriam A. Deford is on the way, thanks for the reminder. These all sound fascinating. (Another boost for LEVEL 7; even my non-SF-reading brother loved it.)
…and do not forget “Kallocain” (1940) by poet Karin Boye (1900-1941).
Umm? This is my list, Kallocain is welcome to be on yours!
Thanks for the comment.
Hello again! Have You read it? 1940 -Then we can talk about “pre le Guin” She was a great poet also, but nearly impossible to translate.
She sadly took her life 1941.
I really like your site! (And the list also; what about Sonya Dorman?)
Thanks for the kind words.
A comment like this — “oh, you didn’t include my favorite author” strikes me as follows. 1) You attempt cast aspersions on the list suggesting it is flawed due to the omission. 2) You haven’t read the books on the list in question. Have you read them?
And no, I have not read Karin Boye’s novel but I plan on doing so eventually. But, that it no way suggests that the 10 I included above are somehow unworthy as I did not include her!
As for Sonya Dorman, yes. I have reviewed a few of her stories in various anthologies. I enjoy her work immensely.
You are welcome to put together your own top 10 works for inclusion in the masterwork series if you wish….
My favorite novel? Well.. it is forty years since i was a teenager, so there are a few to chose among… Try this one; “Memoirs of a Dead Man” Written 1918 by Hjalmar Bergman (1883-1931).
My approach to culture are not that of top lists, but they can be fun to read sometimes. Yours among others. (Am not joking!)
Am am sad of your very aggresive responses to my earlier comments; but perhaps it is only the New American Trumpish era that has begun.
I apologize for my response. People often respond to such lists by suggesting that the lack of their favorite author somehow invalidates the rational behind the purpose and limitations of the list. Suggesting, due to my nationality (I presume?) that it was some feature of the New American Trumpish era makes me sad in many ways… Rather than contemplating the posibility (and in this case the reality) of misunderstanding….
As for the role of lists, I tend to agree with you. But, this isn’t exactly a standard “my top books” list. This is a list of potential additions to an existing, and lengthy, publication series that covers SF from Gollancz press. My suggestions were made with the attempt to be more inclusive by suggesting worthy but (in many cases) less known novels. i.e. works which should be republished and thus read by those who follow the series.