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A collaborative blog by Locus editors, contributors, and other invited guests. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine or Locus Online.

(Earlier posts end here in April 2010)




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Locus Online’s All-Centuries Poll – Updated 8 December

Update 8 December: Editing of votes is going more slowly than I’d hoped; yes I finished first pass of novel names on Tuesday, but second pass is taking longer, so I’m not done with the novel votes yet, and have yet to even begin looking at the short fiction votes (of which I expect there will be more). Possibly I’ll have novel results in the next few days, but can’t promise short fiction results before the end of the month. This is all due to the avalanche of votes that came in during the last few days of the month! Great to have more votes, but the nature of the write-in voting process is that results can’t be compiled as quickly as a results of a seeded ballot where most of the votes are checks to preformatted options.

Update 4 December: Editing votes. Some 6900 distinct vote strings in novel categories. First step: load them all in an Access db table, sort, and prepend each by author’s name where not already present. Every few titles I have to Google. Fun facts: someone voted for Mark S. Geston’s Lords of the Starship! Someone voted for Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast ! Should finish this part tonight.

Update 1 Dec: And there was also a post on io9, thank you very much. 790 email submissions — over 600 in the last four days. After discounting those with no names or emails (you were warned), and the accidental early submissions, 627 are left. Will be editing votes and compiling them in the next few days. Hope to have extremely detailed results by next weekend.

Update 30 Nov: Just about to delink the online ballot, by 10.30pm PST. In contrast to last update, the reminders sent out by Locus, or more likely the post about the poll by John Scalzi, and perhaps other public posts I’m not aware of, have generated a flood of new ballot submissions in the past four days — over 600 email submissions. There seems to have been more of a problem with voters accidentally hitting ‘enter’ and submitting premature ballots than in past years’ annual Locus Polls, so the 600+ may represent somewhat fewer actual voters. Still, glancing through every 10th or 20th email, the quality of the ballots seems high, in that the majority are voting for a diverse range of novels and stories, not just recent popular items, not partisan toward any particular author. So I’m optimistic that the results will reflect the consensus of a wide range of well-read voters.

It will take a week at least to edit and compile the results. Seeing some of the ballots, which list only titles and not authors, especially in short fiction categories, make me wish I had insisted more strongly that voters provide both author and title. I will do the best I can to identify what people have voted for. And…it occurred to me that there’s no reason (compared to Locus Poll results listed in the print magazine), not to post *complete* results, in each category, all the way down to the twosies and onesies. Though this will require trying to identify correct author/title for every vote. Will status progress on this front by mid-next week. –MRK

Update 26 Nov: Just 133 unique ballots received thus far; OK, but not as broad a participation as I’d hoped for. (By the way, don’t worry about hitting ‘enter’ and accidentally submitting a premature ballot; I examine all email submissions in reverse order and keep only the latest from any one voter for tallying.) Most ballots appear well-considered, with only a few seeming partisan in any way. There is one ballot that voted only for novels and stories by Philip Jose Farmer; but that’s ok; as long as you include your name and email — and *don’t vote for the same work twice*, in the same category or across categories, which I’ve seen — your votes will be counted. Four days left.

As promised in the previous post, a ballot for our ‘all-centuries’ poll is now online, open to voting through the end of November. These are not ‘all-time’ polls since the categories are divided by century; five categories for 20th century fiction, 1901 through 2000, and five categories for the first decade of the 21st century, 2001-2010. Also as previously described, we’ve posted several ‘reference lists’ of eligible titles in the four category groups, not to influence voting but to provide ‘memory-jogger’ lists of titles for inspection and inspiration. We’ll see how this goes; if OK, we may well do similar polls in the future.

UPDATE Friday 9 November:

The poll is going well, with about 100 ballots received so far, in 9 days. I’ve read the comments submitted with those ballots, and the comments to the posts here about the poll, and will mention these issues:

Yes, there may be some category indications of stories on the reference lists that don’t match categories that stories were nominated for in awards. Mostly this is because the reference lists rely on categorizations from Bill Contento’s Locus Index, where he presumably eyeballs page counts as he compiles tables of contents from magazines and anthologies, while frankly the awards administrators are probably more exact in determining correct word counts for proper categorization. For reference, the traditional categories are:

short story: up to 7500 words; that’s up to 20 pages in a book with largish type, as few as 14 pages in a ‘zine like Asimov’s with small type and lots of words per page;

novelette: 7500-17500 words; in a book, 20-50 pages, fewer in a magazine;

novella: 17500-40000 words; in a book, 50-100 pages or so. More than that is a novel.

Locus has been relaxing upward the limit for novellas, since everything has gotten longer in recent years; some ‘novellas’ published in book form are nearly 200 pages long. (Since too many novels are 900 pages long.)

Go with what seems appropriate, and as I compile votes, I’ll check out lengths of stories voted across categories and then aggregate them in whatever the correct category is.

For those voters who don’t feel ‘qualified’ somehow, because they haven’t read everything — please go ahead and vote anyway. You’re not a judge; you’re a typical reader, and you can think of this poll as taking the pulse of what typical readers regard as their favorite novels and stories of the past century or so.

And yes, we may well do future polls with different scopes — 19th century, particular decades of the 20th century and so on. The polls are easy enough to set up; the work is compiling votes that are write-ins… this poll, so far, has 3300 votes for particular novels or stories, from the 100 or so ballots….


Comment from Robert Nowall
Time November 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Very good. I must contemplate my possible choices…post-election, probably—first things first.

Comment from Peter Nel
Time November 1, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I love the numerically correct division of the centuries! :)

Comment from Julie
Time November 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Oh, boy. This is going to be tough! Looking through the lists I have realized how little classic SF books I have read. I almost don’t want to vote for the 20th century because I’m afraid it will throw off the vote. In good conscience I will only vote for books I have actually read and I haven’t read many of the classics.

Comment from Rob T.
Time November 6, 2012 at 5:01 am

Looking forward to how this comes out, but I hope you watch out for stories/novels published under more than one name, e.g. stories by Henry Kuttner and/or C. L. Moore, either separately or in collaboration, that might have originally appeared under the bylines “Lewis Padgett” or “Lawrence O’Donnell”. Now that I think of it, much of Barry N. Malzberg’s early work appeared under the name “K. M. O’Donnell”. Some of “James Tiptree Jr.’s” work might get votes as “Raccoona Sheldon”, and some of Robert A. Heinlein’s as by “Anson MacDonald”! Anyway, I just wanted to make sure the counters are mindful of this issue.

Comment from Robert Nowall
Time December 1, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Best of luck with the compiling and counting…I sure hope I didn’t double up on anything…and it was sometimes difficult to figure out which of my “offlist” picks fit in which category…anyway, if you do post it down to the one-vote-getters, I look forward to reading it…

Comment from Michael Walsh
Time December 1, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Looking forward to the final results – and I expect howls of outrage over something.

Pingback from ∂| Blog |uno Strano Attrattore » Blog Archive » Locus Online’s All-Centuries Poll: scheda di voto
Time December 1, 2012 at 6:45 pm

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Comment from Alan Heuer
Time December 3, 2012 at 10:46 pm

I sent my ballot in at 11:18 PM Pacific Time on November 30. I did receive an acknowledgement of my ballot. Will my vote count?

Comment from Space27
Time December 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Since we have a couple of weeks left to wait, why not talk a little about it here? I loved the opportunity to send it my own list of ten best novels of the 20th Century, one for each genre, and ten best lists for short story, novelette and novella. I soon found out I had a surprisingly lot of stuff to choose from. I also found out I had little to recall of novelettes. Some websites were helpful. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database showed me which works are novelettes, short stories or novellas, and listed the contents of various anthology books. Wikipedia helped me find works by year as well as by writer and genre. Still I was not sure about which way to use to put together a century’s best list. I had read a little bit of everything over such a wide range. Then I decided to simply a single best work for each decade of the century. Every category had ten decades to choose from, and each decade had some story I had read that I enjoyed or had an impression made on me. I will not mention any specific works I voted for, but I would not mind discussing their writers, or the novels and stories I came close to putting on my lists.

Comment from Leo Doroschenko
Time December 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm

How many votes did the Hugo winning THEY’D RATHER BE RIGHT get as one of the best sf novels of the 20th century?

Comment from Karen Burnham
Time December 22, 2012 at 3:16 am

Leo – We can now definitively say: Zero votes for “They’d Rather Be Right.” ;-)

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