The SFF Lit Project

The SFF Lit Project began in 2011, when I decided to "Find 10-20 good quality science fiction/fantasy novels."

The idea grew out of a wide and long standing frustration that science fiction and fantasy are generally not considered "literature." Ironically, works by authors such as Salman Rushdie and Isabel Allende that incorporate fantastical elements are regarded as "literature," --but under the moniker of "magical realism." I aim to be a part of changing this stigma, and I know there are many other bloggers, critics, writers, and readers doing the same.

However, after undertaking this endeavor, I've become more and more aware of how fuzzy the definition of "literature" is. I've found it necessary to specify exactly what I mean, but I am also still trying to figure out why publishers and bookstores designate a book in the literary or genre category (I suspect it may have much to do with marketing). I also wonder why book critics, outside of genre-focused sites, tend not to review SFF. Is it because their definition of literature excludes it?

When I initially set forth to identify what I considered "SFF Lit," I wrote these rough guidelines:

"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."

My opinions on the topic were influenced by Litlove at the Reading Room, who writes:

"In genre fiction, we love characters if they behave the way we want them to; in literature we are invited to understand characters no matter what they have done."

I encourage you to read the rest here.

It took me two years to reach the above 10 mark, but here are the books that I have designated SFF Lit in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014:

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2. The Belgariad by David Eddings
3. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
4. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
5. Gloriana's Torch by Patricia Finney
6. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
7. The Coldest War by Ian Tregellis
8. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
9. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. valente
10. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
11. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
12. The Dwarves by Markus Heitz
13. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
14. Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear
15. Necessary Evil by Ian Tregellis
16. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
17. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
18. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
19. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
20. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
21. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
22. Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn by Daniell Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed
23. "Sultana's Dream" by Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein

Feel free to keep a list on your own blog and comment here with a link. Our standards of literature may be different, but we have a common goal in elevating SFF and introducing each other to fantastic new reads!


Dessa said...

I think it's interesting that you included Year of the Flood and Maddaddam but not Oryx and Crake on this list!

Otherwise a pretty solid stack of SFF you have going here - thanks for sharing!

Dessa @ Bayrock, Bookrock

Space Station Mir said...

@Dessa The list only includes books I've read since I started keeping the list. I read Oryx and Crake before that!

Ed Hoornaert said...

The Man in the High Castle is by far PK Dick's most literary science fiction novel. He aspired to literature, though in practice he wrote schlock with incredibly wonderful premises and dime store plots.