Episode 486: Firing the canon

Flying in the face of both good judgment and common sense, Jonathan and Gary return once again to the question of canons in science fiction and fantasy—a discussion which has widely re-emerged in recent weeks as a result of controversies over the Hugo Awards presentation at ConZealand. Are canons lists of books that people actually need to read, or are they ways of defining and celebrating your own reading communities? Are they useful at all? Are publishing programs such as the Gollancz Masterworks or the Tor Essentials trying to impose a particular idea of canon, or simply to make certain works widely available for those who might be interested? Are there multiple canons for multiple interest groups, or does each reader form their own canon? Would it even be possible to start thinking about works published since 2000 in terms of this discussion? As usual, we have strong opinions without really deciding anything much.