What Makes This Book So Great
Re-Reading the Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy

About The Book

Announcing Jo Walton's What Makes This Book So Great - Patrick Nielsen Hayden, May 30 2013

What Makes Jo Walton So Great - Patrick Nielsen Hayden, January 21 2014

The Book

1.Introduction
2.Why I Re-Read
3.A Deepness in the Sky, the Tragical History of Pham Nuwen
4.The Singularity Problem and Non-Problem
5.Random Acts of Senseless Violence: Why isn't it a classic of the field?
6.From Herring to Marmalade: the perfect plot of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
7.That's just scenery: what do we mean by “mainstream”?
8.Re-reading long series
9.The Dystopic Earths of Heinlein's Juveniles
10.Happiness, Meaning and Significance: Karl Schroeder's Lady of Mazes
11.The Weirdest Book in the World
12.The Poetry of Deep Time: Arthur C. Clarke's Against the Fall of Night
13.Clarke reimagined in hot pink: Tanith Lee's Biting the Sun
14.Something rich and strange: Candas Jane Dorsey's Black Wine
15.To trace impunity: Greg Egan's Permutation City
16.Black and white and read a million times: Jerry Pournelle, Janissaries
17.College as magic garden: Why Pamela Dean's Tam Lin is a book you'll either love or hate
18.Making the future work: Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang
19.Anathem: what does it gain from not being our world?
20.A happy ending depends on when you stop: Heavy Time, Hellburner and C.J. Cherryh's Alliance-Union universe
21.Knights Who Say “Fuck”: Swearing in Genre Fiction
22.“Earth is one world”: C.J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station
23.Space is wide and good friends are too few: Cherryh's Merchanter novels
24.A need to deal wounds: Rape of men in Cherryh's Union-Alliance novels
25.How to talk to writers
26.“Give me back the Berlin Wall”: Ken MacLeod's The Sky Road
27.What a pity she couldn't have single-handedly invented science fiction! George Eliot's Middlemarch
28.The beauty of lists: Angelica Gorodischer's Kalpa Imperial
29.Like pop rocks for the brain: Samuel R. Delany's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
30.Between Two Worlds: S.P. Somtow's Jasmine Nights
31.Lots of reasons to love these: Daniel Abraham's Long Price books
32.Maori Fantasy: Keri Hulme's The Bone People
33.Better to have loved and lost? Series that go downhill.
34.More questions than answers: Robert A. Heinlein's The Stone Pillow
35.Weeping for her enemies: Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor
36.Forward Momentum: Lois McMaster Bujold's The Warrior's Apprentice
37.Quest for Ovaries: Lois McMaster Bujold's Ethan of Athos
38.Why he must not fail: Lois McMaster Bujold's The Borders of Infinity
39.What have you done with your baby brother? Lois McMaster Bujold's Brothers in Arms
40.Hard on his superiors: Lois McMaster Bujold's The Vor Game
41.One birth, one death, and all the acts of pain and will between: Lois McMaster Bujold's Barrayar
42.All true wealth is biological: Lois McMaster Bujold's Mirror Dance
43.Luck is something you make for yourself: Lois McMaster Bujold's Cetaganda
44.This is my old identity, actually: Lois McMaster Bujold's Memory
45.But I'm Vor: Lois McMaster Bujold's Komarr
46.She's getting away! Lois McMaster Bujold's A Civil Campaign
47.Just my job: Lois McMaster Bujold's Diplomatic Immunity
48.Every day is a gift: Lois McMaster Bujold's Winterfair Gifts
49.Choose again, and change: Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga
50.So, what sort of series do you like?
51.Time travel and slavery: Octavia Butler's Kindred
52.America the Beautiful: Terry Bisson's Fire on the Mountain
53.Susan Palwick's Shelter
54.Scintillations of a sensory syrynx: Samuel Delany's Nova
55.You may not know it, but you want to read this: Francis Spufford's Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin
56.Faster Than Light at any speed
57.Gender and glaciers: Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness
58.Licensed to sell weasels and jade earrings: The short stories of Lord Dunsany
59.The Net of a Million Lies: Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep
60.The worst book I love: Robert Heinlein's Friday
61.India's superheroes: Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children
62.A funny book with a lot of death in it: Iain Banks's The Crow Road
63.More dimensions than you'd expect: Samuel Delany's Babel 17
64.Bad, but good: David Feintuch's Midshipman's Hope
65.Subtly twisted history: John M. Ford's The Dragon Waiting
66.A very long poem: Alan Garner's Red Shift
67.Beautiful, poetic, and experimental: Roger Zelazny's Doorways in the Sand
68.Waking the Dragon: George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire
69.Who reads cosy catastrophes?
70.Stalinism vs Champagne at the opera: Constantine Fitzgibbon's When the Kissing Had To Stop
71.The future of the Commonwealth: Nevil Shute's In the Wet
72.Twists of the Godgame: John Fowles's The Magus
73.Playing the angles on a world: Steven Brust's Dragaera
74.“Jhereg feeds on others' kills”: Steven Brust's Jhereg
75.Yendi coils and strikes unseen: Steven Brust's Yendi
76.A coachman's tale: Steven Brust's Brokedown Palace
77.“Frightened teckla hides in grass”: Steven Brust's Teckla
78.“How can you tell?”: Steven Brust's Taltos
79.“Phoenix rise from ashes grey”: Steven Brust's Phoenix
80.I have been asking for nothing else for an hour: Steven Brust's The Phoenix Guards
81.“Athyra rules minds' interplay”: Steven Brust's Athyra
82.“What, is there more?”: Steven Brust's Five Hundred Years After
83.“Orca circles, hard and lean”: Steven Brust's Orca
84.“Haughty dragon yearns to slay”: Steven Brust's Dragon
85.“Issola strikes from courtly bow”: Steven Brust's Issola
86.What has gone before?
87.“The time about which I have the honor to write”: Steven Brust's The Viscount of Adrilankha
88.“Dzur stalks and blends with night”: Steven Brust's Dzur
89.“Jhegaala shifts as moments pass”: Steven Brust's Jhegaala
90.“Quiet iorich won't forget”: Steven Brust's Iorich
91.Quakers in Space: Molly Gloss's The Dazzle of Day
92.“Locked in our separate skulls”: Raphael Carter's The Fortunate Fall
93.Saving both worlds: Katherine Blake (Dorothy Heydt)'s The Interior Life
94.Yearning for the unattainable: James Tiptree, Jr.'s short stories
95.SF reading protocols
96.Incredibly readable: Robert Heinlein's The Door Into Summer
97.Nasty, but brilliant: John Barnes's Kaleidoscope Century
98.Growing up in a space dystopia: John Barnes's Orbital Resonance
99.The joy of an unfinished series
100.Fantasy and the need to remake our origin stories
101.The mind, the heart, sex, class, feminism, true love, intrigue, not your everyday ho hum detective story: Dorothy Sayers's Gaudy Night
102.Three short Hainish novels: Ursula Le Guin's Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile and City of Illusions
103.On reflection, not very dangerous: Harlan Ellison's The Last Dangerous Visions
104.Why do I re-read things I don't like?
105.“Yakking about who's civilized and who's not”: H. Beam Piper's Space Viking
106.Feast or famine?
107.Bellona, Destroyer of Cities, the play of Samuel Delany's Dhalgren
108.“Not much changes on the street, only the faces.” George Alec Effinger's When Gravity Fails
109.History inside-out: Howard Waldrop's Them Bones
100.I'd love this book if I didn't loathe the protagonist: Harry Turtledove and Judith Tarr's Household Gods
111.Screwball comedy time travel: John Kessel's Corrupting Dr. Nice
112.Academic Time Travel: Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog
113.The Society of Time: John Brunner's Times Without Number
114.Five Short Stories with Useless Time Travel
115.Time Control: Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity
116.Texan Ghost Fantasy: Sean Stewart's Perfect Circle
117.The language of stones: Terry Windling's The Wood Wife
118.A great castle made of sea: Why hasn't Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell been more influential?
119.Gulp or sip: How do you read?
110.Quincentennial: Arthur C. Clarke's Imperial Earth
121.Do you skim?
122.A merrier world: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit
123.Monuments from the future: Robert Charles Wilson's The Chronoliths
124.The Suck Fairy
125.Trains on the moon: John M. Ford's Growing Up Weightless
126.Overloading the senses: Samuel Delany's Nova
127.Aliens and Jesuits: James Blish's A Case of Conscience
128.Swiftly goes the swordplay: Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword
129.The work of disenchantment never ends: Kim Stanley Robinson's Icehenge
130.Literary criticism vs talking about books