The Speculative Fiction Canons!


I want you!

That’s right, I’m going through with this idea, but I can’t do it alone. I need help from everyone out there. I don’t want this to be a project that I do by myself, because I certainly do not have any sort of authority to do such a thing. So, I’m asking for involvement from the community. That means writers, readers, bloggers, etc. If you like SF and F, then you’re welcome to include your opinion.
Here’s more information:

  • Get involved! Your opinion matters. Suggest books, discuss why you think those books should be in a canon, etc.
  • Talk about this project. Spread the word! The more people that get involved the better!
  • Tell me what you think! Do you think I should move this project to its own page? Should it stay here? What do you think needs to be considered in the criteria? Etc.
  • Remember the criteria (I added some stuff):
  1. Popularity
    This is not what it sounds like. No books should be chosen purely on the fact that everyone out there bought it, read it, and loved. At the same time, though, the book has to have had a mark on the public to even be recognized and have influence. A book that is read by five people has just about no influence on the genre. But popularity should be taken with a grain of salt. There are plenty of books that are popular, but are at the same rather lax in literary merit (perhaps the Da Vinci Code would be an example).
  2. Longevity
    The novel or even novella, since we should not exclude works that today would not be considered novels, should have stood the test of time. It has to have had a lasting influence.
  3. Critical Success
    It has to be recognized in some way for its importance. This could mean it has won awards or simply has been analyzed or referenced. There may be many novels, particularly older novels, that would not have won awards but still have influence.
  4. Influence
    Pretty obvious since I’ve mentioned it already. It has to influence other writing. That influence has to be genre defining, powerful. Not simply that it made people buy books in that genre, but that it actually changed the direction of SF & F literature in some way.
  5. Age
    The novel should be at least ten years old unless you can find a compelling reason to suggest a newer book. In reality we can’t assume that any books that are popular now will have a lasting effect on the genre.
  6. Originality
    The book must present some sense of the original. If you recommend a work of fantasy, then it has to at least feel fresh, rather than purely derivative.
  • Email me, comment, post, etc. Seriously, the more involved you get, the more we discuss, the better it is going to be.

This project could take a long while. Developing a canon isn’t exactly a piece of cake and there may be a lot of criticism of books. But, this is the start of a good thing.!

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

3 thoughts on “The Speculative Fiction Canons!


    This site seems to list a lot of sci-fi and fantasy books, though I haven’t had much time to look at it. Maybe we could it for a starting list and then narrow it down? It also has a long list of criteria that they use to judge what books they put up, so we can use that, too.

    I guess this project is going to require me to read more, huh? 🙂

    Oh! You can also make a facebook group for this. There’s the one we just made, although its purpose isn’t the same. Still, you could advertise.

  2. Yes, you’d be required to read more. This project is something I’m proposing that will take a long time. I don’t want people who haven’t read all the works that will be mentioned to feel like they can’t contribute. Everyone has time to read the works. A canon doesn’t just get made in a day. Hell, even the Western Canon took a while because everyone argued over what should show up on the list.

    I thought about doing a facebook for this. I’m not sure how useful it would be. I do like Facebook a million times more than I do Myspace because it’s not slow and it has a lot more nifty options to it…so perhaps that is an option.

  3. I’m excited about this. Look for me to advertise this on my blog and get some excitement drummed up in a month – right after Thanksgiving. Right now I barely have time to breath.

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