I started my SFF Lit project last year, and decided to make it an ongoing project for the blog.
Here are my criteria for literature that I established last year:
"I look for a distinct and effective writing style that uses language appropriately and creatively, a plot with a distinct structure (beginning, middle, and end, not necessarily in that order but present) that is appropriate to the genre/topic/characters, and characters that feel like real people and who can be understood, identified with and/or emotionally reacted to."
I've also been heavily influenced by Litlove's thoughts on what is literature.
Here's my list of SFF Lit Read in 2012:
1. The Coldest War by Ian Tregellis
Tregellis' writing style is inundated with imagery and wit, and populated with dark but human characters. I'll never forget that opening sentence, "Wizards do not age gracefully," nor the terrifying Borg-Queen-esque Gretel or the well-meaning traitor Will Beauclerk. The themes of corruption and spiritual erosion and the collision of magic and technology really make this book both fascinating and original.
2. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Valente brings my criteria to new levels. Her vocabulary is divine and her clear aims to revolutionize and complicate children's literature make this a fable for the ages.
3. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. valente
While not as successful as the first book, the second book is equally linguistically diverse and similarly concerned with subverting and reinventing fantasy tropes.
4. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
While the plot is very typical, this one squeaks by on the strength of language and the strong development of cultures and characters in relation to their cultures.
5. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
An older book, this was defintely one of my favorites from last year and one I can't stop thinking about. The premise is frighteningly well-constructed and the protagonist is relatable, admirable, and a little unusual in her outlook and the particular obstacles she faces.
6. The Dwarves by Markus Heitz
This is really literature on the strength of its subject matter, but Heitz really digs into the too-long-neglected dwarves (though I suspect that's over in the wake of the new Hobbit movie) and creates a convincing culture for them, plus some pretty cool characters.
7. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I've debated whether or not to include this, even though I liked it so much. I decided Ready Player One is original in its reliance on references and the nerd zeitgeist, though I'm sure that others will soon capitalize on that strategy.
7/20 of the SFF lit books I read in 2012 made it to the SFF Lit list. Let's see how many I can get next year!