Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Neil Gaiman

Moving Along…and Discussion about the Esquire “Best Fantasy” List

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Folks, the last few weeks at Chez Caffrey have been unusual, to say the least.

Somehow, I came down with a middle-ear infection. This has caused me a great deal of trouble with regards to moving around or doing much of anything, unless it’s of a mental nature. (Fortunately, as a writer and editor, most of the work I do is exactly that.)

I had two pressing edits along with several more that are urgent, and I didn’t want to say anything until those two most-pressing edits were done and “in the can.” (An aside: if our work on the computer is made up solely of electrical particles, can we actually say something is in the can anymore?)


Mostly, because I didn’t want my clients to think I was going to bail on them. But partly, I was conserving my strength and stamina to finish up the work I had to do, and to prepare for the next urgent edits. (There are three more on the table, and only one will be knocked out by the end of the weekend. The other two are longer and larger projects that I’ve devoted a good deal of time to in the past, but still require more from me before I can send them on to their authors.)

Anyway, the middle-ear infection has left me feeling weak, shaky, off-balance, and more than a bit nervous. I’ve never had this happen before, as usually I will get sinus infections or have asthma attacks or some sort of weird allergic reaction/response.

Fortunately, I have been able to think and work. And I am on the mend, finally, which is why I’m even talking about it today.

Otherwise, I wanted to mention the Esquire “50 Best Fantasy Books of All Time” list. (If you haven’t seen this yet, take a look after I’ve written the next part, and see if you agree with me.)

That half of them are books that don’t appeal to me or frankly aren’t SF&F at all (including the wonderful book CIRCE; it’s a great book, and I recommend that you read it, but it truly is not SF&F) is part of the problem. That many of these authors are not all-time greats is the rest of the problem.

Anne McCaffrey’s not on this list. Stephen R. Donaldson’s not on this list. David and Leigh Eddings aren’t on this list. Mercedes Lackey isn’t represented, either. Neither is Andre Norton. Nor is Marion Zimmer Bradley, Patricia A. McKillip, Ray Bradbury, Terry Pratchett, or Poul Anderson. (Edited to add: Where are Philip K. Dick, Philip Jose Farmer, and Roger Zelazny? Shouldn’t they all be there?)

And what about Margaret Atwood? Or Connie Willis?

The worst and most egregious contemporary writer missing from this list is Lois McMaster Bujold, who is a grand master of SF&F. (Hint: There are at least five more grand masters above on this list that were not represented at all.)

And if you’re going to mention contemporary SF&F authors, where’s Katherine Addison? Where’s Jacqueline Carey? Or the even heavier hitter, J.K. Rowling?

As for other authors I know and read regularly, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller aren’t on this list. (Arguably, the Liaden Universe books could probably be called fantasy by some, and I’d rather have something much closer to fantasy than Circe.) Rosemary Edghill isn’t on this list. Neither is Katharine Eliska Kimbriel.

So, you may be wondering which books I felt should be on there. Because I believe books should be able to stand the test of time, I have excluded anyone who hasn’t had a twenty- to twenty-five year career in SF&F. (If I went with writers who’ve been active, say, for ten years or thereabouts, I’d have some editorial clients to put on the list. And that isn’t exactly unbiased…)

At any rate, here are the books I’d put in my personal top fifty from the Esquire list linked to above (or at least the author):

Ursula K. LeGuin — their pick is A Wizard of Earthsea; mine is The Lathe of Heaven

Octavia E. Butler — Kindred

C.S. Lewis — their pick is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; mine is The Screwtape Letters

George R.R. Martin — A Game of Thrones

Susanna Clarke — Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

J.R.R. Tolkien — The Fellowship of the Ring

L. Frank Baum — Ozma of Oz (it’s hard to pick just one Oz book)

Robert Jordan — The Shadow Rising

Neil Gaiman — Stardust (I’d put his and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens on this list instead)

Friends of mine would agree with Brandon Sanderson’s selection on this list, and Gene Wolfe’s, and probably a few others. (Kelly Link is another fine choice.) I don’t disagree with these authors and their books as they’re interesting and worthy, but those are not the books I turn to most of the time. That’s why I didn’t add them into the mix.

So, I agree with nine of the authors and six of the choices they made for the self-same authors. I have no trouble with another three of the authors, and agree they should be represented somehow in the “best of” fantasy list.

But I’d personally add these:

Anne McCaffrey — The White Dragon (included in the omnibus The Dragonriders of Pern) and/or the Harper Hall YA trilogy (first book is Dragonsong)

Stephen R. Donaldson — A Man Rides Through (I’d not quibble with any of the novels about Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, either)

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel — Night Calls

Lois McMaster Bujold — Paladin of Souls, The Curse of Chalion, many more

Rosemary Edghill– Paying the Piper at the Gates of Dawn (a short story collection that’s currently out of print, but used copies are available), or anything else she’s ever written. (She has a wonderful new novella available in Dreaming the Goddess that I’m quite keen on.)

Mercedes Lackey– By the Sword, the Vanyel Trilogy, Oathbreakers, or the original Heralds of Valdemar trilogy featuring Talia (or better yet, all of them)

J.K. Rowling — Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (my personal favorite of the HP books)

Patricia C. Wrede — The Enchanted Forest Chronicles and/or Sorcery and Cecilia with Caroline Stevermer

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller — I Dare, Mouse and Dragon, or anything they’ve ever written

Edited to add:

Diana Wynne Jones — The Chronicles of Chrestomanci series (Volume 1 is here), and/or Hexwood (How did I forget her?)

Roger Zelazny — This Immortal

Philip K. Dick — The Man in the High Castle

Philip Jose Farmer — To Your Scattered Bodies Go (available in the omnibus Riverworld)

Andre Norton — Ice Crown (available in the omnibus Ice and Shadow), Forerunner Foray (available in the omnibus Warlock)

Poul Anderson — Brain Wave, Boat of a Million Years

Margaret Atwood — The Handmaid’s Tale

Ray Bradbury — Fahrenheit 451

Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth — The Space Merchants (not currently available in Kindle)

Connie Willis, Doomsday Book

All of the above authors are excellent. You can’t go wrong if you pick up their books. If you’re like me, you’ll read them again and again, too.

What are your favorite fantasy and/or SF&F novels? Did you agree with the Esquire list? Disagree with it? Partially agree but mostly are disgusted? Let me know in the comments!

The Importance of Wills for Writers

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Over the past several weeks, I’ve been trying to get a few projects back up and running.  These projects, some of them years in the making, have become stalled out not for lack of interest, but because of the lack of time I’ve had to spend on them.

This can be frustrating, mostly because I have more stories than I have energy to work with — and partly because I have the sense that I’m running out of time.

Mind you, I’m going to keep working on the various projects.  But the idea of running out of time needs to be discussed . . . and as I’m here, I guess I’m the lucky one who gets to discuss it.

Don’t think that just because you’re not in your dotage that you still have plenty of time.  Because maybe you don’t.

Consider, please, that my husband Michael died before he was able to become known as a fiction writer (though after he and I had sold one story, this a SFWA qualifying sale).  The stories he left behind are ones I’m trying to keep alive, because they’re really good stories and I want them to see the light of day.

Then consider that my best friend Jeff also died before he was able to become known as a fiction writer.  And then further consider that his stories — which were thoughtfully sent to me by his brother — will never be published, or finished either, because he didn’t get time to flesh them out.

And because, unlike my late husband, Jeff did not have an inheritor.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote a post about how important it is for a writer to have a will — no matter how “unimportant” that writer may be, and no matter how unknown his or her work, your literary estate matters.  (Yes, she wrote it last November.  But the advice still applies.)  This is why we all should sit down and make wills if we possibly can.

Bare minimum, we really should start thinking about it.

I’ve already lost two men in their mid-forties who mattered a great deal to me.  I’ve only been able to “save” the output from one writer — my husband — and I’m not even sure where all of his files are.  (I just believe I can reconstruct them if they’re unable to be found, because I knew Michael so well.)  His writing will live on, partly because we’d discussed things and I knew what he wanted done . . . and partly because I’m too damned stubborn to just give up on them.

But my friend Jeff’s writing will not.  And that saddens me greatly.

Please, folks.  For the love of God/dess and little green apples, if you are a writer of any sort (including a musical composer), figure out who you want to be the executor of your literary estate.  Then sit down with your chosen executor, discuss what you will need done after you pass from this earth, and make sure that the person you’ve picked not only understands your wishes, but wants to be your executor . . . then make out your will accordingly.**

That way, whoever ends up being your inheritor will have as good of an idea as possible as to what, exactly, you want done with your literary estate.  Because otherwise, who knows what will happen?

So don’t take the chance.  Figure out what you want done with your words, and make out that will as soon as you possibly can.

If you do that in a timely manner, your words will have a chance to live on.

And a chance beats no chance at all.  Doesn’t it?


I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that  Neil Gaiman blogged about this very issue a few years ago due to the problems that occurred after writer John M. Ford passed away. Gaiman’s post on the subject includes a simple PDF form will that should get you pointed in the right direction.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 29, 2013 at 4:00 am