My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

Currently reading...

Personal favorites

Search my library

Library Thing

Victorian Studies


Fine Arts

Buy Books!



« This Week's Acquisitions | Main | Short on Longsword »

March 28, 2011


Rich Puchalsky

I've been writing about the last century or so of fantasy, and what has lasted, in comments over at Acephalous here (NSFW link, I guess, because of the post that it's attached to).

Within SF/fantasy, which is really all I'd venture an opinion on, the technically and stylistically flawed works that tend to last are what I call subgenre creators. People still read the E.E. "Doc" Smith Lensman series. Why? It's really badly written. Because it pretty much created space opera. It wasn't the first space opera, or the best, but it crystalized it somehow. Likewise R. E. Howard and Conan and sword-and-sorcery. Likewise Tolkien (who is quite a step up, in literary terms) and, well, everything with an elf and a dwarf in it. Lovecraft and everything Lovecraftian.

So if I had to guess something of no great literary quality now, I suppose that it would be William Gibson and Neuromancer. Cyberpunk is dead, in the same way that space opera is dead (i.e. every now and then it gets revived). But Neuromancer created cyberpunk in the same sort of way. Maybe the late-20th-cen conditions that created the subgenre will quickly make the work unreadable. Maybe all of SF/fantasy will go, as a distinct marketing category. But maybe not.

Also, PKD is strange and distinct enough to have a chance of survival, despite his lack of subgenre imitators. I have no idea which work, however.

Amateur Reader

I wonder if the possibility of film adaptations changes the longevity calculation. I'm thinking of Frank Baum as much as anyone, but Dick, King, and others seem to be pretty endlessly filmable.

Perhaps stage adaptations had similar effects? I doubt it.

Children's literature has its own canonical path, too. There's a Norton Critical Edition of Anne of Green Gables!


I'd vote for Mary Renault in historical fiction (the next Dumas?). The relationship between her novels and history or myth is really nicely managed, and that sort of thing may become even more popular in a world where, if you don't get a reference, you can look it up in a minute on Wikipedia.

gina c in al

Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series?

Mr Punch

I think King is likely, Gibson's a good guess, Renault (already faded) not so good. I suspect that Harry Potter may make it -- it'll be a period piece, but so is Sherlock Holmes.

The comments to this entry are closed.