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text 2018-04-10 19:42
Lists!
Horror: The 100 Best Books - Stephen Jones,Kim Newman
The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time - Martin Popoff
The Great Movies - Roger Ebert,Mary Corliss
Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads - David Morrell,Hank Wagner
Fantasy: The 100 Best Books - James Cawthorn,Michael Moorcock,James Cawthorne
Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: an English-language selection, 1949-1984 - David Pringle

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of a geek. Like many geeks, I love lists; reading them, making them, debating them or flat disagreeing with them, I love it all. As such, I have quite a few books that are, basically, "best of" lists. I love these because they point me at good stuff I haven't experienced yet.

It struck me that there are many different ways to compile such a book, each with it's own benefits and drawbacks. So, here are a few different ways of doing it, with examples.

 

1. Utterly Subjective, Single Author

 

Example: The Great Movies - Roger Ebert,Mary Corliss  The Great Movies - Roger Ebert,Mary Corliss  

 

This style is probably the simplest: You list your favorite examples of a thing and explain why. This is the style I employ on this blog, and the style Ebert employed in his Great Movies series.

 

Benefits: Ease of writing, pleasantness of experience, enthusiasm, easy to organize.

 

Drawbacks: No data to fall back on, personal exposure, not authoritative.

 

You don't have to watch, read, or listen to anything you don't want to, but people can attack you for your opinions (risky in the internet era). Still, it's a lot of fun to just gush about the stuff you love.

 

2. Attempted Objective, Single Author

 

Example: Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: an English-language selection, 1949-1984 - David Pringle  Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: an English-language selection, 1949-1984 - David Pringle  

 

Here, the author makes their best stab at an "official" list, compiling examples because of importance, influence, quality, or other criteria based on their own judgement.

 

Benefits: More comprehensive and authoritative, helpful creative/critical exercise.

 

Drawbacks: "Why this one and not...", exposure to works that one finds unpleasant, "important" works that don't hold up.

 

This kind of list is great for the author in two ways: They have to step outside of themselves, and it's a chance to dig into classics they haven't gotten around to (and any purchases are tax-deductible, because it's "research"). Still, they have to slog through some works they don't like, and will still be open to accusations of bias. Hell, they will be biased, no matter how hard they try to avoid it. This will also affect the passion in the writing. And they still don't have concrete data backing them up.

 

3. Subjective Take on Objective Data, Single Author

 

Example: The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time - Martin Popoff   The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time - Martin Popoff  

 

Gather data from various polls, interviews or other outside sources, compile a ranking, and then express your opinion of the various works, their placement, etc.

 

Benefits: Opportunities for snark, exposure to new works, not having to dredge your own brain.

 

Drawbacks: Frustration, works you may find awful/offensive, disappointment when some of your favorites are low on the list or absent altogether.

 

This one is just too much work for me, although it would be interesting to, say, watch and review every Best Picture winner, in order. Watching Crash again would be a chore, though.

 

4. Utterly subjective, Multi-Author

 

Horror: The 100 Best Books - Stephen Jones,Kim Newman   Horror: The 100 Best Books - Stephen Jones,Kim Newman  

 

Get a bunch of people to talk about their favorite works. What could possibly go wrong?

 

Benefits: Less writing, lots of discoveries, high enthusiasm.

 

Drawbacks: Logistical nightmare, missed deadlines, explaining the concept repeatedly.

 

Now I just need to find 100 people in the field who have enough time to write a piece, make sure there are no double-ups (two people picking the same subject), editing each piece, communicate with various agents/publishers, etc. If you prefer organizing to writing, not a bad choice, but keeping your ducks in a row can be a bear. Plus, there will be classics/"essentials" that no one picks, but you can blame your contributors for that.

 

5. Attempted Objective, Multi-Author

 

Fantasy: The 100 Best Books - James Cawthorn,Michael Moorcock,James Cawthorne   Fantasy: The 100 Best Books - James Cawthorn,Michael Moorcock,James Cawthorne  

 

You and a cohort come up with a list of classics, then divide and conquer.

 

Benefits: Lessened workload, interesting conversations, a united front.

 

Drawbacks: Arguments, resentment.

 

Doing an SF list but hate Heinlein? You can have your friend write that piece while you review that Ellison collection. Great, but what happens if one of you has a personal crisis? The other has to step up, leading to a potentially unbalanced workload. And the hashing out of the actual list can be both fun and frustrating, while dealing with each other's criticism of your writing styles just might suck. Just kidding, it'll be fine!

 

6. Subjective Takes on Objective Data, Multi-Author

 

Example: Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads - David Morrell,Hank Wagner   Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads - David Morrell,Hank Wagner  

 

Gather the pertinent data to compile a list, then get other people in the field to discuss their favorites from said list.

 

Benefits: Enthusiasm, less writing, hard data.

 

Drawbacks: Logistical issues, unpicked subjects.

 

Here, you have the same issues as #4, except you're backed up by data. But what if nobody really wants to write about something on the list? That falls to you, and can lead to some entries having all the verve of a high school book report.

 

 

Anyway, thanks for reading this list about books of lists.

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review 2018-04-07 01:09
An old-fashioned pulp adventure in a steampunk setting
The Warlord of the Air - Michael Moorcock,James Cawthorn

Sent out to deal with a troublesome warlord on the imperial frontier, Lieutenant Oswald Bastable, an army officer in 1902 India, unexpectedly finds himself in a 1973 where airships ply the skies and the British Empire continues to thrive.  Feigning amnesia, he adapts quickly to life in a world which seems nothing less than idyllic.  Yet Bastable’s path soon leads to a series of adventures that cause him to reexamine his initial assumptions and lead him to embrace a cause very different from the ones he was trained to defend.

 

The first in “Nomad of Time” trilogy, Michael Moorcock provides readers of this book with an old-fashioned pulp adventure in a steampunk setting.  This combination works thanks in no small part to Moorcock’s skills as a writer, which produce a novel that transcends the works which inspired it.  He keeps the narrative moving along briskly, and adapts both the tropes of the form and the politics which drive the story in the later chapters to produce a highly entertaining read, one that has aged well in comparison to other novels of its type.  This is an excellent starting point for someone wishing to explore the steampunk genre, as well as a fun read for anyone seeking a good book with which to pass the time.

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review 2018-03-07 00:00
Stormbringer
Stormbringer - Michael Moorcock Here ends the saga of Elric of Melnibone.
Chaos begins to tip the balance of the world in its favour, and Elric is tasked with restoring it.
A rather introspective and downbeat way to end the series, but it fits in with sagas of old where the hero has to make sacrifices to achieve the result.

This is still my favourite book cover of all time.
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review 2017-12-24 17:18
The Dark Island - Henry Treece,Michael Moorcock,James Cawthorn

The usual superb blend of fiction and history with gorgeous prose and vivid scene-setting. Great middle chapter of this sage.

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review 2017-12-24 16:59
Red Queen, White Queen - Henry Treece,Jim Cawthorn,Michael Moorcock

With his usual elegance, Treece shows us Boudica's AD 60-61 revolt from the perspective of a pair of Roman soldiers sent to kill her. Suspenseful, informative, emotional, tightly written.

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