A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Friday, August 23, 2013

Who is the Best SF Writer?

TOF's devoted son sent him this screen cap from Cracked-dot-com:

It's nice to see my Fan hard at work spreading the word. 


  1. The Spiral Arm series is a good rollicking space opera, but I have to say your best work to date has been Eifelheim, which I push when the opportunity presents itself. Comparing your more recent work with your first novel, "In the Country of the Blind," you've grown significantly as novelist, and you're probably toward the top of the heap when it comes to contemporary authors. However, I simply have read enough of the genre to make a pronouncement about who is the greatest author writing in that genre today.

    As for "MrTime," I believe his words say more about him than anything about Card. Ender's Game is a serious work of literature, and I can say that as a reader who put the novel down half-way through. It simply wasn't too my tastes. I did the same thing with Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited." A mid-20th century character study in the Modernist mode is not my cup of tea, but Good Lord the man knows how to write. His prose is beautiful and he has a masterful sense of character voice. Too many readers, particularly the geek set, conflate preference with quality.

  2. I think strict rank ordering is impossible, but one can certainly note a top tier.

    I'd put in there:

    * our host
    * Michael Swanwick
    * Gene Wolfe
    * Iain Banks
    * Neal Stephenson

    Oh, shoot.

    I just remembered that Iain Banks no longer qualifies. :-/

  3. To me there is not one best writer.
    It all depends on what the reader wants to read at that point in time.
    Sometimes one wants to read Gravity's Rainbow and sometimes it is The Skylark of Space.
    Now many writers body of work is way above average but they still can write a stinker too.
    And vise versa.

    Making lists like this is like disagreeing about anything with a devoted following.

  4. I love all your books but especially Eifelheim. I tell everyone about your books if they will listen. Alas, my son prefers fantasy.

  5. I love everyone and especially Our Host, but Lois McMaster Bujold is the best living sf writer. And she's pretty darned good on the fantasy side, too.

    Gene Wolfe is probably the best living American writer, but I can't really say as he's kind of a mystery to me. Maybe it's time to assault the wall again.

  6. About Gene Wolfe, it sort of boggles the mind that the same author could have written both "Pandora by Holly Hollander" and "The Urth of the New Sun." An amazing and, I think, rare flexibility of style and characterization is shown in his works.

  7. Card hasn't written much that's really good since Speaker for the Dead. Since then? Duds. Meanwhile, ever since Firestar, our host has had maybe one or two dud novels, (Lodestar and Falling Stars.) Going before then, Even Falling Angels was a fun one, for that matter, and In the Country of the Blind had its moments.

    In the last two weeks I've just re-read the Dancer cycle and the Firestar series: It's funny how many stray observations you've used more than once. I don't know if you realize it, but that fascinating thing about "every plan not surviving the presence of the enemy" is used in both series, as are a few other authorial touches.

    The worldbuilding in the Spiral Arm series cries out for more, even if Donovan buigh doesn't show up again.

    Greatest Flynn novels:
    Best read: Eifelheim
    Most literary: Wreck of the River of Stars
    Most coherent thematically: Rogue Star
    Most like a novel (or least like a threaded together clump of short stories in the same universe): Up Jim River, and In the Lion's Mouth

    The Firestar series ranks up there with Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars --- it's what Red Mars would have been if it had genuine characters --- and the last three of the Dancer cycle have the best storytelling I've ever read this side of something like The Last Unicorn.

    Outside of our hosts, I regard the most serious storytelling accomplishments for SF/Fantasy in the last decade as being: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell; The Hermetic Millenia.

    1. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is wonderful. I am not sure whether to regret or appreciate that it seems to take Susanna Clarke ten years to write a novel, but I am very much looking forward to the next one.

  8. How prompt is Tor about forwarding mail to authors? I've been reading this blog for a couple of years, and I don't think you've mentioned it. I just reread Eifelheim & I think I owe you a bowl of pho. Is writing to you c/o Tor the most immediate way? thank you, and thank you.

    1. That would seem the best course of action, since it also lets the publisher know people are interested.

  9. The hacker scenes in Lodestar haven't aged well, and Falling Stars feels a bit more plotted than every other book in the series (Solomon Dark's actions in particular), but that's hardly enough to make them duds. Adam van Huyten made for the best central question in the series, and Jacinta is tied with Roberta and just trailing Mariesa for the title of Favorite Character.

    But I'll tell you what: if any Witherspoon graduate plans to run for public office in the future, they can expect a lot of harassment from conspiracy theorists.

    1. That's fair. I guess my gripe with them, having just re-read them, is that they're less coherent as novels.

      1. Like a lot of novels in our Host's Early Period, they're suspect to "pieced-together-short-story-itis."
      2. Neither has thematic unity.
      3. With the exception of Jacinta "Barsoom" Rosario, who is the "Flaco" breakout of Lodestar, character development is not handled very artfully.

      Plots are a weak point in the Flynnverse, IMHO, and those two are the "plottiest" books he has, and third and fourth in a series, to boot. I also remember in my first reading being very disappointed by the introduction of the Visitors.

      Having now read the full Dancer cycle, it stings less, but it still seems weird --- as if Roald Dahl wrote a sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with space aliens in it.

      They're still rollicking reads, though, so I guess what I'm trying to say is this:

      Lodestar/Falling Stars : Michael Flynn :: A Bug's Life/Cars : Pixar

  10. I am in agreement with several of the above in placing Eifelheim in the top category. It is the one book that I thrust at all my SF-reading friends.

  11. I agree with those who place Gene Wolfe as the greatest living writer. To be fair, most of my sci-fi reading has been much older works, belonging to authors who have since passed away. After that, it gets a little more tricky. "Eifelheim" and the "Spiral Arm" series are both very good (Eifelheim is easily my favorite "first contact" story, and one of my favorites in the science fiction genre). I'm sorry to say that I haven't read enough of the short stories to really judge there (unless you count Gene Wolfe, whose collections keep appearing at the local used book store), but I have enjoyed most of John C Wright's and L Jagi Lamplighter's books (the latter are more urban fantasy than anything else, though).

  12. The positive of mentioning you is immediately undone by mentioning Scalzi


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