Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Friday's Poll Follow-Up

Okay, first things first: people. People. I did not think I would have to give you this speech, but: pulling stuff out of an orifice does not make you a science fiction or fantasy writer. No, really. It doesn't. So regardless of what you think of Noam Chomsky's theories, he cannot be your least favorite science fiction or fantasy writer unless he goes off and writes science fiction or fantasy. Which he has not, to the best of my knowledge, done. Bullshit and fantasy are not the same thing. I should know; I've done both.

So. The list of SF or fantasy authors whose work people like least:

Stephen R. Donaldson was the clear winner at 14 people, and that wasn't even combing through the comments to get the people who were saying, "I know! Totally!" Piers Anthony was second with 8 people hating on his work. At five expressions of dislike apiece, we find Terry Goodkind, Laurell K. Hamilton, Robert Heinlein, and John Norman. Four votes each for Orson Scott Card and J. R. R. Tolkien. Three for Jack Chalker and Stephanie Meyer. And two for Catherine Asaro, C. J. Cherryh, Robert Jordan, Mercedes Lackey, Mike Resnick, and Robert J. Sawyer.

The list of people who got one vote each is behind the cut: Daffyd ap Hugh, L. A. Banks, T. A. Barron, Elizabeth Bear, Vanna Bonta, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Michael Burstein, Arthur C. Clarke, Janine Cross, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Philip K. Dick, Hal Duncan, Rosemary Edgehill, Harlan Ellison/Cordwainer Bird (one vote for each, so maybe I should have counted that as two), Raymond Feist, Dan Gallagher, William Gibson, Sharon Green, Neil Hancock, Michelle Hauf, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ursula LeGuin, C. S. Lewis, Kelly Link, Scott Lynch, Dennis McKiernan, Tim Powers, Alistair Reynolds, Anne Rice, Patrick Rothfuss, Mary Doria Russell, Nalini Singh, Wen Spencer.

So what do we learn from this incredibly scientific poll? Well, I think first that some things don't weather very well. Most of the authors who were getting a lot of votes are showing their age pretty strongly in one way or another. Most of them have also sold a great many books, which makes sense: while there are people in the one-vote-each list I haven't heard of (and I read a lot in this genre!), the odds are far better that something that's getting a lot of attention is going to 1) be subject to fairly strenuous analysis of its flaws and 2) get handed to people for whom it's not the right book regardless of objective flaws. I think -- and, of course, you can jump in and tell me how wrong I am any time you like -- that many of the authors listed were people someone's friends raved about, but the work did not impress the poll answerer.

I'm wondering whether my experience of having Stephen R. Donaldson's and Piers Anthony's books absolutely ubiquitous in bookstores and libraries when I was younger and short on books (in my case, in junior high and early high school) is shared by most of the people who answered this poll. An author whose work you don't like is one thing, but I suspect that I personally have a more negative attitude about those two because one couldn't $%$&#@ avoid them, and because so very much space and money (book-buying in the libraries' case, promotion in the bookstores') was being spent on something disliked when there were alternatives out there. I had the "I've read all the SF and fantasy they have except the role-playing tie-ins and that stupid Stephen R. Donaldson" experience more times than I can count, when I was in my early teens.

I also notice that "lush" prose appears to have more risk of being disliked, and so do books with a great deal of sex in them compared to the genre standards for their time. Anybody else picking out trends here? Spotting commonalities I've missed? Want to say why you like or dislike the work of people listed? Me, I like the work of several people listed (in addition to personally liking several people listed), but mostly I can see why people dislike the things and people I like, and this is not really an exception.
Tags: bookses precious, random questions

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