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  1. #31
    When it comes to lists, people have to accept that there will NEVER be a list that they agree with.

    I like that this list includes most of my favorite series (though of course not in the same order I would choose). Among my favorite fantasy, all it's missing is Brent Weeks.

  2. #32
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    The term ***-snob usually refers to someone who will trash some items because it doesn't live up to what they view as "quality". And maybe they are in their right to do so, but that doesn't take away from the enjoyment of said item. You are not a food-snob if you like good food. You are a food-snob if you tell everyone pizza is terrible quality food and you guys are silly for liking it, you should only enjoy lobster bisque or anything of that quality. Same with beer, books, cars, anything...
    That seems something of a straw man. Certainly there are critics who will say that this work or that work is bad: expressing one's views of works is the basic job of a critic. (Myself, on my site, I just don't list or discuss authors or works I don't care for, as life is too short.) But rare, I think, is the careful, reputable critic who says that it is in any way "wrong" to enjoy works that do not have much merit. I like the occasional bag of greasy potato chips, and I enjoy reading the occasional original Shadow novel; but I would never hold up potato chips as sublime food, nor The Shadow as sublime literature.

    The divide, I think, is people whose whole reading lists are roughly the equivalent of The Shadow, as would be people whose whole diet is potato chips or Big Macs with extra ketchup. It is not the occasional appetite for the crude, it is the lack of appetite for anything (with perhaps the odd rare exception) that is not crude. To advert to the quoted text, no responsible soul ever says the equivalent of "you should only enjoy lobster bisque or anything of that quality"; but occasionally they will say something to the effect that if all you ever eat is pizza (bad example, by the way, as well-made pizza is excellent food--let's say instead Big Macs), well if all you ever eat is Big Macs, and you are happy to eat little or nothing else, then maybe you are simply unable to appreciate better food.

    That is always the base problem with any discussions like this: they invariably end up with some feeling that they are being insulted for their tastes. The route to that end may be long or short, paved or rocky, but in time it always gets there.

    And that is why I find it fruitless, and wish it had not been brought up.

  3. #33
    Some people like plain cheese pizza, some like it topped with everything imaginable. You only become a snob the moment you start berating other people's taste.

    As the website's list is all made out of famous series, I find the list to be acceptable. Of course, it could not possibly hold a candle to my almighty bestest personal list, but it is an acceptable one nonetheless.

  4. #34
    So at the professional critique level, between enjoyment and quality of content, which do you guys think is the better basis for criticizing? I find ASoIaF to be one of the most well written fantasy books in history. The proses are just consistently good and relatively few in term of flaws. Now, how should I compare it to something like Codex Alera, which I am able to easily admit that I thoroughly enjoy it much more than ASoIaF, yet find it at a far inferior literary level? As a piece of work, I easily find ASoIaF to be of higher quality, but I have a much greater desire to reread the Codex Alera series than ASoIaF. In this case, were I to make a ranking, should I be ranking them based on the level of enjoyment or quality?
    Last edited by nuttz96; October 21st, 2012 at 02:45 AM.

  5. #35
    Unreasonable reasoner
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    Quote Originally Posted by nuttz96 View Post
    Some people like plain cheese pizza, some like it topped with everything imaginable. You only become a snob the moment you start berating other people's taste.
    Quality of the pizza and number of ingredients are very different things, at least IMO.

    Still, I think that at least as far as this webpage is concerned, this argument never would have started had everyone simply read the rest of the lists on that site. Given his comments the "Best Of" list is clearly personal preference flavored by popularity among his readers, but he gives lists of "Literary" fantasy, "Most Influencial", and several others.

  6. #36
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    A fair question.

    So at the professional critique level, between enjoyment and quality of content, which do you guys think is the better basis for criticizing?

    First, we need to have a real care about the word "criticize"; it has two quite different senses. From the American Heritage Dictionary:
    1. To find fault with.
    2. To judge the merits and faults of; analyze and evaluate. [emphasis added]
    Too many people confound sense 1 with sense 2. Proper criticism deals with, as it says, analysis and evaluation of both faults and merits.

    That said, regardless of level--professional, serious amateur, random reader--the job of a responsible critic is to assess quality of content. But saying that by itself doesn't say much, because the critic's bases for "quality" need to be made reasonably explicit to the reader of that criticism, else it is no more useful than remarks based on that critic's personal enjoyment.

    First off, most critics will give some weight to what they reckon the author was trying to accomplish. Some writers are obviously trying to offer complex and nuanced insights into The Human Condition; others are just trying to tell A Ripping Yarn. It is pointless to try to assess one by criteria better suited to the other. Even so, though, the critic still has the job of telling the reader why that critic thinks a particular book's content to be good or bad. Different critics have different bases; they are rarely very different--the things that constitute quality in written fiction are only so many, and are pretty well agreed-on for literally centuries now--but different critics can place different degrees of emphasis on those elements. A well-done critique will examine the work at issue by how well each of the elements of sound fiction is accomplished (or not accomplished) by the author, and will give some salient examples of how and why they are or are not met.

    None of that means that enjoyment is somehow unimportant, or that quality must equate to subsequent enjoyment or vice versa. A chap who used to blog under the charming pen name of The Grumpy Old Bookman once wrote:
    According to the professors and opinion-setters of our time, the great novel somehow has a stature all of its own; it remains a great book whether you happen to enjoy it or not. In fact if you, as an individual, happen to consider the great novel excruciatingly dull and boring, then it is you, the moron, who is at fault. The novel in question allegedly remains a great novel, regardless of whether or not you--the individual reader--have the good taste and intellectual equipment to recognise it as such.

    Nonsense, is my view. I know of no argument which constitutes grounds for believing these ideas to be true, and I can put forward a strong case for believing the opposite.
    That pretty well sets out what I might call The Opposition View. I responded to it with a counter-argument, about which The Bookman was nice enough to later write--
    [owlcroft]'s essay is extremely thoughtful and well argued . . . . If you are interested in the Great Novels concept you should certainly go and take a look at it. Be aware, however, that it is not something that you can whizz through in a couple of minutes. It requires time and thought.
    As an example of how I feel a critic should deal with readers, I offer (if the mods will tolerate it) a link to a lengthy essay on my own critical site in which I set forth how and why I think speculative fiction should be evaluated. By and large, the criteria are the same as for any form of literature, save that there is need for some enhanced and special care with "setting". Not every critic has the forum--an entire web site--with the space to include such an essay, but I think you will find that mainstream critics of any note will almost all have published one or more essays devoted chiefly or wholly to what they think are the standards of quality in literature; the point of such essays is not so much to definitively end discussion on what constitutes quality as to orient readers of that critic's work so that the standards being used by that critic are explicit.

    Finally, on the question of content vs enjoyment: there is, in fact, no "question" or dichotomy. The two qualities are not utterly divorced, but neither are they necessarily or closely related. As I have said, many people who enjoy fine cuisine can also really get into the occasional bag of greasy potato chips with gusto, and many people could live on a steady diet of Big Macs with equal gusto and no desire for much more. But those tastes do not mean that it is sound thinking to conflate quality with enjoyment: they mean only that different people, from training or innate character, or any of several reasons, do not have the equipment to fully appreciate the difference between, say, Annie Greensprings and a premier cru Médoc. That is well and good, and no one is justified in disparaging such folk for their tastes; but neither is it justification for arguing that the two things are thereby rendered effectively equal, save in the eyes (or on the palate) on that one person. (The reply to The Bookman, linked above, explores all that at much greater depth.)

    The critic analyzes a tale and says how and why that critic thinks it does or doesn't well carry out the tasks of a well-written tale; it is then up to readers to decide whether it sounds like a book that would suit their tastes. If a particular critic says the writing is deadly wooden and is characteristic of that author, while the reader has read many books by that author and found the prose pleasing, then that is a clue. The point of criticism is not to save God the trouble of reading the book, it is to give potential readers some good idea of whether or not it will fit their tastes. Readers who are fussy about the quality of prose in things they read will avoid books described (by a critic whose standards and qualities they know) as having "wooden prose" (something that there are reasonably objective standards to reckon). It's just that simple.
    Last edited by owlcroft; November 16th, 2012 at 07:36 PM. Reason: fix line spacing, typo

  7. #37
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    A fair question.

    So at the professional critique level, between enjoyment and quality of content, which do you guys think is the better basis for criticizing?
    First, we need to have a real care about the word "criticize"; it has two quite different sense. From the American Heritage Dictionary:
    1. To find fault with.
    2. To judge the merits and faults of; analyze and evaluate. [emphasis added]
    Too many people confound sense 1 with sense 2. Proper criticism deals with, as it says, analysis and evaluation of both faults and merits.

    That said, regardless of level--professional, serious amateur, random reader--the job of a responsible critic is to assess quality of content. But saying that by itself doesn't say much, because the critic's bases for "quality" need to be made reasonably explicit to the reader of that criticism, else it is no more useful than remarks based on that critic's personal enjoyment.

    First off, most critics will give some weight to what they reckon the author was trying to accomplish. Some writers are obviously trying to offer complex and nuanced insights into The Human Condition; others are just trying to tell A Ripping Yarn. It is pointless to try to assess one by criteria better suited to the other. Even so, though, the critic still has the job of telling the reader why that critic thinks a particular book's content to be good or bad. Different critics have different bases; they are rarely very different--the things that constitute quality in written fiction are only so many, and are pretty well agreed-on for literally centuries now--but different critics can place different degrees of emphasis on those elements. A well-done critique will examine the work at issue by how well each of the elements of sound fiction is accomplished (or not accomplished) by the author, and will give some salient examples of how and why they are or are not met.

    None of that means that enjoyment is somehow unimportant, or that quality must equate to subsequent enjoyment or vice versa. A chap who used to blog under the charming pen name of The Grumpy Old Bookman once wrote:
    According to the professors and opinion-setters of our time, the great novel somehow has a stature all of its own; it remains a great book whether you happen to enjoy it or not. In fact if you, as an individual, happen to consider the great novel excruciatingly dull and boring, then it is you, the moron, who is at fault. The novel in question allegedly remains a great novel, regardless of whether or not you--the individual reader--have the good taste and intellectual equipment to recognise it as such.

    Nonsense, is my view. I know of no argument which constitutes grounds for believing these ideas to be true, and I can put forward a strong case for believing the opposite.
    That pretty well sets out what I might call The Opposition View. I responded to it with a counter-argument, about which The Bookman was nice enough to later write--
    [owlcroft]'s essay is extremely thoughtful and well argued . . . . If you are interested in the Great Novels concept you should certainly go and take a look at it. Be aware, however, that it is not something that you can whizz through in a couple of minutes. It requires time and thought.
    As an example of how I feel a critic should deal with readers, I offer (if the mods will tolerate it) a link to a lengthy essay on my own critical site in which I set forth how and why I think speculative fiction should be evaluated. By and large, the criteria are the same as for any form of literature, save that there is need for some enhanced and special care with "setting". Not every critic has the forum--an entire web site--with the space to include such an essay, but I think you will find that mainstream critics of any note will almost all have published one or more essays devoted chiefly or wholly to what they think are the standards of quality in literature; the point of such essays is not so much to definitively end discussion on what constitutes quality as to orient readers of that critic's work so that the standards being used by that critic are explicit.

    Finally, on the question of content vs enjoyment: there is, in fact, no "question" or dichotomy. The two qualities are not utterly divorced, but neither are they necessarily or closely related. As I have said, many people who enjoy fine cuisine can also really get into the occasional bag of greasy potato chips with gusto, and many people could live on a steady diet of Big Macs with equal gusto and no desire for much more. But those tastes do not mean that it is sound thinking to conflate quality with enjoyment: they mean only that different people, from training or innate character, or any of several reasons, do not have the equipment to fully appreciate the difference between, say, Annie Greensprings and a premier cru Médoc. That is well and good, and no one is justified in disparaging such folk for their tastes; but neither is it justification for arguing that the two things are thereby rendered effectively equal, save in the eyes (or palate) on that one person. (The reply to The Bookman, linked above, explores all that at much greater depth.)

  8. #38
    Registered User gljones's Avatar
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    Good list
    Tolkien (obvious)
    Zelazney (Amber series)
    Original Dragonlance series (Weis and Hickman)
    Terry Brooks(The various Sword of Shanara Books)
    Moorcock(Various eternal champions, Elric, Hawkmoon, Corum) Hawkmoon was my favorite
    Stephen R. Donaldson(Thomas Covenant Series) still waiting breathlessly for the last one

  9. #39
    I have bias towards the said website as my foray into fantasy began when about three years back i somehow blundered into this site looking for fiction bestsellers and discovered Game of Thrones. Since then it has been no looking back. I gobbled up everything labeled fantasy.

    I am guilty of enjoying Harry Potter as well as some the exalted names mentioned here. The question comes down to Does Harry Potter deserve to be in best 25 fantasy novels list? I am still a novice in the matters of all things fantasy and I would dare to be impertinent enough to take a shot at an answer.

    We all have our parameters on which may judge a book. Mine are in no specific order:

    Entertainment: I think primary reason we read a novel as opposed to a non fiction is entertainment. So a good novel should be entertaining. But should it be a sole factor at deciding whats a great novel. I think not. If you are asked about a book and you say it was entertaining it might go into good novels list but not great and certainly not best.

    Impact: The book should be able to shake as emotionally, haunt us, make us live the story. Even after the book is over it should stay with us make us wish for certain things and dread others. I think a great novel should always have an impact not withstanding its entertainment quotient. I read Ivanhoe long back as a kid. I found it utterly boring while i was reading it, I had to slog through it as it was a part of my compulsory reading and considering English is not my first language it was an utter chore. But somehow by the time I finished it I was shaken, Although I was aware of the word Knight in the vaguest sense before starting the book, by the end all i wanted was to be teleported through time and space so that i could become a knight. I would say a book is great if it could make me feel those things. I am not just talking wishful fantasy the same applied to Great Expectation and Rebecca which i had as a part of my compulsory reading. These books shook me to the core even though I had no means to identify myself to the place,time or characters as I live in India and the books were based in U.K. it might well have been Asgard.

    Prose: The question is now much emphasis should I lay on prose and artistic style. Should it be all that should decide a great novel. Again as with entertainment my answer is a no. An author might beautiful prose, some people say Salman Rushdie's prose is magical but i could not enjoy his books, could identify with characters even thiough they were Indian and the book certainly did not impact me in any-way though I admit his prose was beautiful but so what?

    Evergreen: A great novel remains a great novel whether i read it when I am 15 or 30

    Coming back to my initial question Does Harry Potter deserve to be in best 25 fantasy novels list? I would ask myself did it entertain me? Yes. Did it impact me? I think just a little bit back when I was a kid but now that I am bordering 25 certainly not. So it might be one of the best young fantasy novels but not one of the best fantasy novels.

  10. #40
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    I admit his prose was beautiful but so what?
    A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
    -- John Keats, Endymion

  11. #41
    dw4rf thrinidir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Lawrence View Post
    http://bestfantasybooks.com/top25-fantasy-books.php

    Good list, bad list? #discuss

    'pologies if this is an old one but it does have new entries from Cook, Sanderson & Abraham!
    Not only is this list favouring fantasy "as is" in the last decade I've also learned to raise an eyebrow everytime I see a best of list...life just doesn't have the same colours for everyone

  12. #42
    Challenge Assumptions Pluvious's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by owlcroft View Post
    Is someone a "food snob" if they prefer food that tastes good? Is someone an "audio snob" if they prefer music to cacaphony? Where does it end?

    A tale is thoughts expressed in words. If the tale-teller's ability to express thought in words is mediocre or poor, then perforce the tale is mediocre or worse; you cannot make pleasant music by whacking rocks together. I have no idea what "expert" prose is supposed to be, but prose that is clear and expressive works well, while prose that is wooden, or contorted, or ungrammatical is painful to read. The title of one of the better-known usage manuals in English says a lot: Simple & Direct (by Jacques Barzun); so do many others (such as Plain Words or The Careful Writer). Perhaps we are so far fallen now that simple, clear, and grammatical prose is "expert".

    I also do not quite grasp what would make any writer's style "amazing". Is it one in which the characters are frequently amazed? Is it one in which the readers are frequently amazed by the plot developments? Or what?

    As some or t'other once remarked, there is nothing whatever in this world that anyone is obliged to like; and that is certainly so. But reasons for classing particular tales as "worthy" or not worthy are not completely arbitrary matters of random, idiosyncratic taste. There are qualities not primarily subjective that typify works of worth; while anyone is free to dislike worthy works, individually or as a class, and to like mediocre or even trashy works, again individually or as a class, and be free of any obligation to justify his or her tastes, what one is not morally entitled to do is to trash works of merit on the sole ground that one does not personally enjoy them.

    But we have been over this ground countless times before.
    Personally I just want a story to enjoy. I don't care about any "beauty of prose". I just don't want the author to get in the way of the story and characters. I don't relate to authors/readers that seem to value the words themselves over or any comparable way to plot/character. "Snobby" may subconsciously for me originate from my perception that a reviewer, reader, or author believes in style over substance. Maybe.

  13. #43
    Registered User TCSimpson's Avatar
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    Lists are just opinions. Nothing to get worked up over and for the most part neither right nor wrong. Simply a person's tastes. No real issues with this list that isn't colored by one opinion or another.

  14. #44
    The New ... MARK LAWRENCE Mark Lawrence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pluvious View Post
    Personally I just want a story to enjoy. I don't care about any "beauty of prose". I just don't want the author to get in the way of the story and characters. I don't relate to authors/readers that seem to value the words themselves over or any comparable way to plot/character. "Snobby" may subconsciously for me originate from my perception that a reviewer, reader, or author believes in style over substance. Maybe.
    Plotster vs Beautician http://mark---lawrence.blogspot.co.u...nd-snails.html

  15. #45
    The New ... MARK LAWRENCE Mark Lawrence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TCSimpson View Post
    Lists are just opinions. Nothing to get worked up over and for the most part neither right nor wrong. Simply a person's tastes. No real issues with this list that isn't colored by one opinion or another.
    If people didn't get worked up over matters of opinion/taste lacking right or wrong ... it would be an echoingly empty forum

    You are of course correct though, Terry.

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