Episode 232: On canon formation (again)

This week we return, without guests, to a topic with which we have annoyed listeners in podcasts for years—the idea of SF canon formation: who gets dropped from the canon, who gets added, and whether such things as Hugo nominations make any difference at all.

The decade between 1985 and 1995 (20-30 years ago now), saw the deaths of many of the writers who helped establish much of the “classic” SF canon — Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, Frank Herbert, Alfred Bester, Fritz Leiber, John Brunner, Roger Zelazny, James Tiptree Jr, Cliffard Simak, Lester del Rey, Philip K. Dick, C.L. Moore, and more.

Who among them are still being discovered by new readers, and which writers and books in the last 20 years are likely candidates for a future canon? Does it take 50 years or more to determine what is canonical? Are Hugos any sort of reliable guide? And what difference do canons make anyway, beyond collective lists of personal favorites?

We also have decided, as announced in the podcast, to officially support the Helsinki in 2017 and Dublin in 2019 WorldCon bids. Coode St endorses these conventions, will be buying memberships to them, and will attend should they be successful. Both Gary and Jonathan are eager to be part of major international WorldCon events like 2014’s Loncon. We hope you’ll join us in supporting these great bids.

We hope you enjoy this week’s episode. Next week: Paolo Bacigalupi and The Water Knife!


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4 Comments

  1. For the record, Shizuoka is in between Tokyo and Nagoya, an hour or so south of Tokyo and near Mt. Fuji. Also the (former?) home of a life-size Gundam statue. I think.

  2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Definitely cannon, despite being humorous and not yet 50 years old. I DARE you to say it isn’t so!

  3. It’s intereresting. Humour doesn’t get the same respect that ‘serious’ fiction does (note the ironic scare quotes back there), so it often doesn’t get included in the canon. I certainly have no objection to counting Hitchhiker as canon. Not so sure about some the later sequels though (something I’d say equally of Dune).

  4. [I tried to leave this comment weeks ago but got an odd error. So let’s try again.]

    Both Cordwainer Smith and Clifford Simak have stories in both volumes of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, the closest thing the SF field has to an actual declared canon. Smith is also in Hartwell’s canon-approximate Science Fiction Century, and both are in The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction.

    So, the absolutely casual reader might well miss either of them–in large part, I think, because most of their reputation rests on short fiction rather than novels–but anyone diving even slightly into the past of the field is likely to find them.

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