One topic I talked about with Charles Brown the last time I spoke with him (that May weekend trip to the Bay Area I blogged about earlier, and which CNB wrote about in his June issue editorial), was the idea of doing another, or perhaps several, polls of all-time best novels. A reader had written him suggesting an update, since the last all-time novels poll was done by Locus way back in 1998 (my Locus Index to SF Awards has the results posted here), though I’d done a similar poll for short fiction, anthologies, and collections on the website the following year (here).
As I’ve alluded too frequently in this blog, I’ve been compiling such polls and expert-lists and lists of best sf/f/h titles from reference books for some years now with the intention of supplementing the awards data in the SF Awards Index — and some of that additional data will see the light of day in the next update to the Awards Index, currently planned for early November after the World Fantasy Awards winners are announced. One element of this index expansion will be what might be called a ‘meta-list’ of best SF novels (and, separately, fantasy novels, and perhaps horror novels), in the manner of the Top 100 Books Meta-List that Newsweek magazine posted on its website a couple months ago. A definitive top 100 SF novels list, so far as one can be objectively compiled. (I’ve been iterating results of such a list for some time now, as new source lists keep appearing and I keep refining the relative ranking criteria.)
So new reader polls of all-time novels would be a valuable addition to this resource pool. I’m willing to set up such polls on the website and compile the results, and I’m also open to any suggestions about how best to set up such polls — keeping in mind that this might as easily be a series of polls as a single poll. Separate polls by decade? By novels published before 1980 and since? Separately by SF, fantasy, and horror? Should poll forms include seed titles of likely candidates, as the annual online Locus Poll ballots have done (but which some voters object to), or not? I have some ideas along these lines already, but suggestions are welcome — email me privately, or comment to this post.