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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Write in Phase: Best Contemporary Science Fiction Author

Who is the best contemporary science fiction author?

We're still doing something a little different this month than our usual fare.  Instead of books, this poll will be about authors. And instead of doing a whole genre with over a hundred years (at least) of history, and forcing your decision between foundational classics and contemporary brilliance, this entire poll will only be modern authors.  So if you've ever thought an author wrote more than one great book or series, and should be recognized for a stunning career, now's your chance to recognize them.

Also, please go vote in the classic author poll for pre-1970 science fiction writers. Though today is technically the last day, I'll probably tabulate and post the results on the 2nd. 
The rules: 

1- You may nominate only one (1) author as your choice.  (My nomination will be in the comments.) Please nominate them HERE rather than on another social media.  I will accept a FB or G+ nomination, but if there's a tie to break, I'll go with the ones written here.

2- You may second as many authors as you feel deserve it.  You also SHOULD second authors because very often there are too many nominations for a single poll and the way I resolve such issues is to take nominations with the most "seconds."  On our last two polls, no books/authors without at least one second made it to the polls.  So check back periodically to see what other authors people have nominated and give those you think are worthy a second.  

3- Our cut off for contemporary/classic is 1970.  Any authors writing after 1970 are fair game.

3a- (This one gets tricky.) Several authors have written on both sides of the 1970 divide (Clarke, Asimov, LeGuin and more).  In this case, please consider the works you feel were the best of their career.  

For example, if you only ever liked Left Hand of Darkness (late 60's) but not really LeGuin's later stuff, then she shouldn't be on this poll, but if you thought Rendezvous with Rama was much better than Clarke's early stuff, you should put him on this poll.  


I'm sure several authors will be on both polls.  That's okay.

As usual, I will tend to trust your judgement rather than make a lot of picky rules. 

I will put this poll up early in January, so give me all the nominations. If you do two picks, I'll take the first one only.

17 comments:

  1. One? Jeebus, that's like picking my favorite finger...
    I'm going with Larry Niven, for his accurate and accessible hard science, his fantastic characters, the breadth of his Known Space stories and the best analysis of Superman and Lois Lane ever.

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  2. David Weber. Frikking. Epic. Space. Battles.

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  3. I'm going to go with my obvious fandom and put LeGuin here. Though I think Left Hand of Darkness may have been her *best* book, I liked many of the ones written after 1970.

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  4. Seems to me like your poll structure is going to de-emphasize folks who were at their best in the 60s and 70s - that means a lot of new wave authors. I mean, I'd want to nominate Philip K Dick here, but the majority of his work was written before 1970, and the really good stuff is spread out between about 1965 and 1980. So in either poll we're seeing about half a career. Many other important authors (Ballard, Brunner, Delany, Ellison, Silverberg, Zelazny, etc etc) also fall into the same hole.

    In fact, since the New Wave is commonly seen as a turning point in SF history and the end of the Golden Age, why not set your cutoff point at 1964, when New Worlds magazine was first published?

    Or you could just have a New Wave poll and a separate contemporary poll... I mean, much as it feels wrong to mix Phil Dick in with Golden Age luminaries like Clarke and Asimov, putting him on the same list as current authors like Adam Roberts and Charles Stross doesn't seem right either.

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    1. That's why last month was Classic authors--a poll you can still vote in (bottom of the left-side menus) if you hurry.

      The overlap between *People Who Read This Blog* and *People Who Know As Much About The Science Fiction Eras* would be so small as to make such a poll laughable. I made the break off 1970 so that I could contain most of New Age in with classics. Which I know some of us fuddy duddys don't want to believe years we remember as classic, but that was over forty years ago.

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    2. Philip K. Dick is kind of an outlier, though, isn't he? His early stuff doesn't seem to fit here, but then there's the VALIS stuff and the Exegesis, which is maybe important enough for him to be included (that was early 80s, yes? I could google, but...lazy). His work changed so drastically in '74 (that date I'm pretty sure about) when he had his "experience" that he's almost two authors. Just a thought.

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  5. I just finished reading her Lilith's Brood trilogy and she absolutely belongs on this list. If you all haven't read her work, you'll like it. Her first award winning book (Kindred) came out in 1976, and the first book in the Lilith's Brood series, came out in 1987.

    She takes on every theme that marks the possibilities of science fiction and adds layers of attention to issues of "othering" that I think made LeGuin such a great author of what we've all voted as the best classic science fiction. Her characters are complex and the stories go places you won't necessarily anticipate.

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    1. Yikes! I left out her name! Octavia Butler.

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    2. You didn't actually mention the author, but I have read almost all of it, so I know who you meant.

      This nomination is for Octavia Butler, and I whole heartedly second it.

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  6. Ok, I thought this one was really way too hard... ONLY ONE??? You're killing me here, Chris.

    Fine. Terry Prachett... because the man is wickedly and slyly funny.

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  7. William Gibson. And HUGE second for Octavia Butler.

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  8. Contemporary author! OK. . . . I will nominate Lois McMasters Bujold. She's not hard science fiction but that wasn't a stated requirement. :)

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  9. Part of me hasn't contributed because a while back you exposed me to a darker side of an author I thought was brilliant... so he's out of the picture. Another reason is this word best. I confess it daunts me for some reason in relation to contemporary authors, presumably because they are probably still writing and have yet to fully become best. With that all out in the air I will nominate an author I recently came across whose discussion I found interesting. Paolo Bacigalupi, I've only read one of his works but I plan on reading others because Windup Girl surprised me.

    I'll second Terry Pratchett, hilariously funny and PK Dick.

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  10. Really tough only allowed one! I think Peter F Hamilton just pips Asimov and Iain M Banks though, so nominating him.

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  11. Gene Wolfe is absolutely brilliant, although I'm not always sure his brilliance isn't some magic trick that's really just dazzling me into awe.

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  12. Jonathan Lethem, though he does a lot of other stuff besides sci-fi and fantasy.

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