From the Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society, Article 3 -- Hugo Awards:
"Section 3.3.14: Additional Category. Not more than one special category may be created by the current Worldcon committee with nomination and voting to be the same as for the permanent categories. The Worldcon Committee is not required to create any such category; such action by a Worldcon Committee should be under exceptional circumstances only; and the special category created by one Worldcon Committee shall not be binding on following Committees. Awards created under this paragraph shall be considered to be Hugo Awards."
Tricon, the 1966 Worldcon, used that section to create a one-time Hugo category -- "Best All-Time Series." The nominees for that award were:The Foundation Trilogy
by Isaac Asimov
The "Barsoom" series by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The "Future History" series by Robert A. Heinlein
series by Edward E. Smith, Ph.D.The Lord Of The Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkein
The winner was The Foundation Trilogy
Now, I will readily agree that these five series should be ranked among the best that the genre has produced. But are they really THE
best SF/Fantasy series of all time?
I have heard it suggested that the modern science fiction era began in 1926, with the publication of the first issue of Amazing Stories
, the first magazine devoted exclusively to science fiction (or "scientifiction," to use the term Hugo Gernsback coined for the genre). Yes, I know that there is probably someone out there who would try to engage me in a Long And Pointless Argument on the matter, but I will choose to ignore that person. For one thing, while I can engage in Long And Pointless Arguments just as well as the next fan, I'm not interested in doing so on this subject. For another, choosing 1926 as The Beginning Of Science Fiction As We Know It, and the reasoning behind that choice, seems plausible enough and sensible enough to me.
In any case, my point -- and as Ellen DeGeneres once said, I do have one -- is this: There were 40 years between the beginning of modern SF and the selection of The Foundation Trilogy as the Best All-Time Series. Well, make that 39 years, because the 1966 Hugos were presented for works first published the previous year (something that still holds true today), so the Hugo voters of 1966 would have considered series published through the end of 1965. It has now been 41 years since Tricon was held. More time has elapsed between Tricon and the present than between the beginning of modern SF and Tricon.
Can we honestly say that there have been no series published in the intervening 41 years that are at the very least equal to those five series? Were the people involved in running Tricon being just a little presumptuous in thinking that these five series were superior to any other SF or Fantasy series that would ever be published? Haven't there been series published since 1966 that should be at the very least considered the equal of these five series?
In case you haven't figured it out by now, my answer to that question is this: Yes
, there have been a number of series published in the past 41 years that are probably just as good as the five nominated back in 1967. Maybe even better. (Yes, I know that some members of SF fandom are right now accusing me of having committed blasphemy. Deal with it.) But if next year's Worldcon, Denvention 3, announced that they would be administering their own Hugo for Best All-Time Series, I would be willing to bet on at least two things happening. First, there would be some members of fandom who would be outraged, utterly outraged
, and be demanding to know (in the loudest and most strident voices possible) how Denvention would dare
commit such an act of sacrilege. (And it would be likely that just as many fen, if not more, would be wondering what the big deal is, and why these people would be causing such a fuss.) Second, you would not see the same five nominees on the ballot in 2008 that you did in 1966.
I suspect that The Foundation Trilogy
(which Asimov expanded upon in later years) and The Lord Of The Rings
might stand a good chance of making this hypothetical ballot. But what other series would make the cut? At the moment, I can think of several that might be considered.
Important Disclaimer here: Please keep in mind that some of these series I have read, others I have not. I mention some series because I know they have strong followings in fandom, and I know that some of their fans would support their nomination most enthusiastically. Other series I mention because I like them, and they are among the ones I would nominate if this hypothetical situation became real. In no particular order, they are:
series by Frank Herbert -- I read the original Dune
once, a long time ago. To be honest, I found the book drier than Arrakis itself, and I was never tempted to pick up any of the sequels. But there must have been a lot of readers who liked it; it was the first novel to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best novel. (As a matter of fact, the original Dune
won the Best Novel Hugo at Tricon.)The Chronicles Of Narnia
by C.S. Lewis -- I strongly suspect that this series just missed the ballot back in 1966. I don't know if the Hugo administrators of that era were required to publish a list of nominees that just failed to make the ballot, as they are today. If they were, I would be interested in learning what series just missed being in the top five.
The Time Quintet by Madeleine L'Engle -- A Wrinkle In Time
was the first SF novel I can remember reading, and based on some of the things I read after her recent death, she was the introduction to SF for a lot of other people as well. L'Engle may have been thought of as a "children's writer," but she never wrote down to them. I reread Wrinkle
both when I was in high school and as an adult, and I found the book just as enthralling as I did when I first read it in fifth grade. The Dragonriders Of Pern
by Anne McCaffrey -- Two of the books in this series received Best Novel nominations, and I was rather disappointed when both of them lost. While I haven't read some of the more recent books, I have thoroughly enjoyed the Pern books that I have read. I should also mention that McCaffrey has written a number of other series, and one them could conceivably appear on this hypothetical ballot instead of the Pern books: The Crystal Singer
series, The Rowan
and its sequels, and the Acorna
series (which McCaffrey co-wrote with Margaret Ball).
series by Roger Zelazny -- I have read only a couple of Amber short stories. I remember those stories because Realms Of Fantasy
published them in 1995, just before Zelazny's untimely death. The stories I did read made me want to read more, but as of yet, I haven't done so. (You know the old saying -- so many books, so little time? Applies here.)
The "Ender" series by Orson Scott Card -- Card was the first person to win back-to-back Best Novel Hugos, and both of those winners were in this series. Personally, I have never read any of the "Ender" books (let's face it, it is impossible to read every
thing in SF now), but I'm willing to bet that any series that has won two Best Novel Hugos is going to be given some serious consideration by the people who nominate and vote on the Hugos.
The "Miles Vorkosigan" series by Lois McMaster Bujold -- Bujold is the only other writer to win back-to-back Best Novel Hugos. In fact, Bujold has won four Best Novel Hugos (which puts her in a tie with Robert Heinlein for the most Best Novel Hugos), and three of them were Vorkosigan novels. I've read parts of the series, and what I like most about it is the humor. It isn't the absurd, over-the-top humor that you find in the "Hitchhiker's Guide" books; it's a more subtle humor that has you chuckling before you even realize that you are reading something funny.
The "Darkover" series by Marion Zimmer Bradley -- again, I have not read any of these books (so many books, so little time), but I do know that this series has been more than a little popular. As a matter of fact, about all I know of the series is its name and that Bradley wrote it. That, and I know that the series has some very enthusiastic fans.
The "Honor Harrington" series by David Weber -- This is probably my personal favorite of the series I have listed. E.E. "Doc" Smith may have been the one to create the subgenre we call "space opera" (he even invented the term, as I recall, or at the very least used it in one of his Lensman
books), but Weber has taken the concept and refined it with not only the Honor Harrington books, but also with other books such as March Upcountry
and its sequels (co-written with Eric Flint). I remember a blurb in one of the Honor Harrington books (taken from a Starlog
review from the 1990s) suggested that Weber would enter the new century as the new master of military SF.
The "Tek" series by William Shatner -- Okay, not really. I just threw this one in to see if you were really paying attention. Of course, I wouldn't put it past some people to nominate this series simply as a means of discrediting any hypothetical additional category along these lines.
The "Hitchhiker's Guide" series by Douglas Adams -- Or as the series is now usually described, the five-book "Hitchhiker's Trilogy." Douglas Adams created a thing of exquisite beauty -- a science fiction series that is rip-roaringly hilarious. And he did it in at least a half-dozen different media; all telling the same basic story, but each version having slightly different details. (And each one is unfailingly funny.) Some comedian once said that dying was easy; it was comedy that was hard. Adams has proven that, because I cannot think of another SF writer who has even come close to writing anything as funny as Arthur Dent's (mis)adventures.
The "Skolian Empire" series by Catherine Asaro -- I like Catherine Asaro. First of all, I have had the chance to meet her at a few conventions, and she is a very nice person. Second, she is a damn good editor, which is how I originally became aware of her. And third, she is an amazing writer. She writes novels that garner rave reviews from not only the nuts-and-bolts hard SF lovers, but also from romance readers. And she has won awards in both
genres. That is probably much harder to do than it looks, and Dr. Asaro makes it all look so very easy. Oh, and she is also an honest-to-Goddard rocket scientist. (Did I mention that I think she is a really
I am sure that you have noticed that I have listed considerably more than five series here. There is a reason or two for this. For one thing, I mentioned the series that most quickly came to mind when I started writing this entry. I realize that for every series I mentioned, there are an equal number of series that I haven't mentioned. For another, I didn't want to list only five series and then say that they would be the ones to make the final ballot if there were another Best All-Time Series Hugo, because quite frankly, my track record when it comes to predicting Hugo nominees and winners is woefully abyssmal.
Besides, we all know that Shatner's "Tek" series would be the clear winner, don't we?