Locus Online on the Best SF & Fantasy Short Fiction of the 20th and 21st Centuries

Locus Online on the Best SF & Fantasy Short Fiction of the 20th and 21st Centuries

The Nine Billion Names of GodTwo weeks ago, we reported that Locus Online, the web-based offshoot of the newspaper of the science fiction and fantasy field, had announced the results of their ambitious poll to determine the best science fiction and fantasy novels of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The complete poll had three additional categories: novella, novelette, and short story. Since all votes were write-ins, compiling the short fiction results took a while longer, but LO‘s diligent editor Mark R. Kelly finally published them Saturday, January 5th. Here are the Top 10 vote-getters in the short fiction categories:

20th Century Short Story

  1. Clarke, Arthur C.: “The Nine Billion Names of God” (1953)
  2. Le Guin, Ursula K.: “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (1973)
  3. Ellison, Harlan: “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ said the Ticktockman” (1965)
  4. Ellison, Harlan: “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” (1967)
  5. Clarke, Arthur C.: “The Star” (1955)
  6. Bradbury, Ray: “A Sound of Thunder” (1952)
  7. Heinlein, Robert A.: “All You Zombies–” (1959)
  8. Gibson, William: “Johnny Mnemonic” (1981)
  9. Tiptree, James, Jr.: “The Screwfly Solution” (1977)
  10. Jackson, Shirley: “The Lottery” (1948)

20th Century Novelette

  1. Keyes, Daniel: “Flowers for Algernon” (1959)
  2. Asimov, Isaac: “Nightfall” (1941)
  3. Zelazny, Roger: “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” (1963)
  4. Asimov, Isaac: “The Bicentennial Man” (1976)
  5. Martin, George R. R.: “Sandkings” (1979)
  6. Bester, Alfred: “Fondly Fahrenheit” (1954)
  7. Ellison, Harlan: “A Boy and His Dog” (1969)
  8. Bear, Greg: “Blood Music” (1983)
  9. Butler, Octavia E.: “Bloodchild” (1984)
  10. Godwin, Tom: “The Cold Equations” (1954)

20th Century Novella

  1. Chiang, Ted: “Story of Your Life” (1998)
  2. Le Guin, Ursula K.: “The Word for World Is Forest” (1972)
  3. Tiptree, James, Jr.: “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” (1976)
  4. Campbell, John W.: “Who Goes There?” (1938)
  5. Varley, John: “The Persistence of Vision” (1978)
  6. Wolfe, Gene: “The Fifth Head of Cerberus” (1972)
  7. Leiber, Fritz: “Ill Met in Lankhmar” (1970)
  8. Heinlein, Robert A.: “The Man Who Sold the Moon” (1950)
  9. Kress, Nancy: “Beggars in Spain” (1991)
  10. Moore, C. L. (& Henry Kuttner): “Vintage Season” (1946)

21st Century Short Story

1.  Chiang, Ted: “Exhalation” (2008)
2.  Lanagan, Margo: “Singing My Sister Down” (2004)
3.  Gaiman, Neil: “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” (2006)
4.  Watts, Peter: “The Things” (2010)
5.* Swanwick, Michael: “The Dog Said Bow-Wow” (2001) — tie
5.* Le Guin, Ursula K.: “The Bones of the Earth” (2001) — tie
7.  Johnson, Kij: “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss”
8.  Abraham, Daniel: “The Cambist and Lord Iron” (2007)
9.*  Johnson, Kij: “Spar” (2009)
9.*  Reynolds, Alastair: “Zima Blue” (2005)

21st Century Novelette

1.  Chiang, Ted: “Hell Is the Absence of God” (2001)
2.  Chiang, Ted: “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” (2007)
3.  Gaiman, Neil: “A Study in Emerald” (2003)
4.  Bacigalupi, Paolo: “The Calorie Man” (2005)
5.*  Link, Kelly: “The Faery Handbag” (2004) — tie
5.*  Bacigalupi, Paolo: “The People of Sand and Slag” (2004) — tie
7.  Ford, Jeffrey: “The Empire of Ice Cream” (2003)
8.  Stross, Charles: “Lobsters” (2001)
9.*  Mieville, China: “Reports of Certain Events in London” (2004) — tie
9.*  Watts, Peter: “The Island” — tie

21st Century Novella

  1. Link, Kelly: “Magic for Beginners” (2005)
  2. Stross, Charles: “Palimpsest” (2009)
  3. MacLeod, Ian R: “New Light on the Drake Equation” (2001)
  4. Chiang, Ted: “Liking What You See: A Documentary” (2002)
  5. Vinge, Vernor: “Fast Times at Fairmont High”
  6. Reynolds, Alastair: “Diamond Dogs” (2001)
  7. Willis, Connie: “Inside Job”
  8. Stross, Charles: “The Concrete Jungle” (2004)
  9. Baker, Kage: “The Empress of Mars” (2003)
  10. Scalzi, John: “The God Engines” (2009)

The Complete results are here, including the Top 50 selections for most categories.

Congratulations — and thanks — are due to Mark, for what was surely a massive undertaking to organize and execute a poll on this scale.

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Twentieth Century = 100 years
Twenty First Century = 13 years

After following all the updates, corrections, and clarifications for a week,I’m starting to think this is just a bunch of list porn.

Joe H.

Sandkings! I remember reading that many, many years ago, before I even knew who George R.R. Martin was. And nice to see Leiber on there. I would’ve liked to see Howard, Lovecraft and/or Clark Ashton Smith listed, but there’s never room for everything.

The next step will be for some ambitious person to go through and provide sources where all of the stories can actually be found.


It is certainly much too soon to compile a list of the finest work of the 21st Century. I’d rather leave that to the residents of the 22nd Century.

And having just read “Hell is the Absence of God,” I’m not sure I’d put that in a top ten at all, much as I enjoyed and admired it. Where is Karen Joy Fowler’s “What I Didn’t See”?

I am, however, VERY HEARTENED to discover both “The Lottery” and “The Screwfly Solution” on the 20th Century lists. And “Sound of Thunder,” of course, but for anyone who is a regular to Black Gate who has never read “The Lottery” or “Screwfly,” please, hasten to your local library (or possibly just the net). They are BRILLIANT and ESSENTIAL.

Joe H.

>Lovecraft is on the list six times, and Howard twice. But CAS is definitely missing, unless my eyes fail me somehow.

Glad to hear it! My mistake — I was just looking at the top 10, not the full lists.

As far as CAS, my first not-even-thinking-about-it choice would probably be The Dark Eidolon.

Never read “The Screwfly Solution” will remedy that!

Interesting to note the repetition of authors, especially in the 21st Century.

[…] had some wonderful conversations here at Black Gate about best-of lists lately, as we do whenever a high profile best-of list comes […]


People whom know me IRL understand that I care little for awards.

Time and the Gods work havoc on the sanctimonious and ultimately bogus badges of any and all ivory towers.

Locus awards however have a certain charm for me that other awards lack.

Where other awards require $$$ (Hugos) to gain suffrage or membership in some club (Nebula) or are simply handed down straight from the ivory tower.

Locus has a pseudo-democratic charm where as long as a person knows enough English and fills out a ballot by the deadline they have power.

That really gets me going.

At least in the abstract.

I’m thrilled that Wolfe, Leiber, Lovecraft + Vance came out with so many overall placings.

Lovecraft + Leiber + Vance are not fashionable with my generation, and I thought they may not fare so well.

I am shocked that Howard + Eddison even placed. I greatly admire them both but you know how people are about playing Heroic Fantasy straight…

I think Chiang is the ‘overall winner’ with what looked like 9 total placings.
( Either him or LeGuin ).

I am of course concerned for the absence of Dunsany, Saki, Ligotti, CAS, Kubin, Machen, Borges, + VanderMeer…among others….Oh but it’s not my list it’s ‘the peoples’.

So be it.

However, this too shall pass…

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