The Ten Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels of All Time – White Flannel Trousers Season 1 Episode 11


The Wells brothers critique NPR’s top 100 list, and you can listen to their podcast here.

We’re joined by awesome Ree Linker in this episode, who is the very same that made the Ree-style comments we always ask for. So in the spirit of Ree, please leave a comment with your highlight, lowlight, and who was right this episode.

Also, please click the buttons in the post to share this on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. We’re still trying to get up to 100 listeners, and you can help us get there, because you’re awesome.

Remember to take this week’s poll here.


I enjoy writing fantasy and science fiction, and I'm excited to get some more board game video reviews for you.

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11 comments on “The Ten Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels of All Time – White Flannel Trousers Season 1 Episode 11
  1. Ross says:

    Highlight – The Night’s Watch oath to round out the episode.

    Lowlight – Tom’s unrelenting hatred of the admittedly flawed but ultimately rewarding wheel of time.

    Excepting Wheel of Time, I think Tom is overall the most correct.

    Lord of the Rings deserves its top spot for defining a genre, but it is just so boring to slog through. The action is rewarding when it happens, but it just takes so long to get there. The story is great, even with some holes, and given that it was the first of its kind it gets a pass. I wonder if Tolkien was concerned that readers wouldn’t be interested in his world if he didn’t spend so much time building it, so he sought to immerse them through minute detail.

    There is too much dystopian sci-fi on the list for my liking too. It’s important and a big part of the genre, but not what I would introduce readers with and not what I personally seek out. And I can’t believe that Mistborn is 43, that absolutely deserves a top 10 spot of any one of the classic dystopian novels.

    Star Wars is totally a fantasy story. It’s set in an almost completely different universe with very little mention of the technology involved. It’s complete with a magic system and political struggles on a grand scale, with the technology only used as a secondary device.

    Foundation on the other hand is all about the role of technology in human/societal evolution. I would place it higher on the list myself. The scale of the series, both in size and time spanned, is just immense. It gives me goosebumps thinking about it. And he isn’t good at writing women, but remember that the first book was written between 1942-1950 – that was pretty par for mainstream attitudes.

    One last thought, the Wheel of Time also seems to lift the Bene Gesserit from Dune. The Aes Sedai are also a socio-political-religious group of women who use political subterfuge and magic to influence the world around them while searching for the reborn savior of the world.

    • Abinadi says:

      Goodnight, nurse!

      Ross, you make so much sense, it is near impossible to disagree with you.

      1. Mistborn does deserve to be way higher on the list.
      2. The Wheel of Time totally was inspired by the Bene Gesserit. No question.
      3. Foundation is hugely epic.
      4. Star Wars has lots of fantasy elements.
      5. LOTR does deserve a top spot.

      However, Tom has never been overall the most correct at any podcast.

      Also, I don’t think it is that Tolkein was worried people wouldn’t like his book. In fact, I feel like he cared very little how well received it was. Mostly, he just wanted to build the world itself around his ideas about language development. Given that as the point, the Lord of the Rings is best enjoyed when you revel in the journey itself rather than trying to get to the end of the story arc. So if you are looking and appreciate the world itself, Lord of the Rings is not boring at all. And, like you say, its contribution to the genre cannot be overstated.

  2. Abinadi says:

    I really think that Ree should opine here. Where are you, Ree?!

  3. Ree says:

    * Ross’s comments. The people demand more.
    * Best subject matter yet. Books >>> Christmas movies.
    * Getting to see the magic that is White Flannel Trousers in person. May you all be so lucky.

    * Somebody tell that girl to speak up.
    * Too few disagreements. I want an episode where a fist-fight breaks out. But also, I don’t want to be a guest on that one.
    * Now I feel like I need to read ALL of the books on the list.

    Who is right? Me, of course. And then Abinadi. Lastly, Tom.

  4. Jeanne Corwin says:

    I must say that I thought your guest Ree was especially insightful. You should consider having her on the podcast more often. Sincerely, Ree’s Mom!

  5. Molly says:

    Highlight: The Austin Sci-fi/Fantasy shout out. That we are a “shining ray of wonderfulness!” I love it!

    Lowlight: Guess I didn’t have one.

    Great job, I will post more Sticks Picks soon!

  6. Jesse says:

    Why didn’t anyone tell me you started a podcast?! And, you’re all wrong. But, I’ll leave notes anyway. Here are some thoughts:

    Abinadi’s wrong about the archetype stuff. I refer you to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces

    Tom’s wrong about LOTR. I admit that it has glaring flaws, and a book shouldn’t be held in high esteem just for its novelty (The Matrix has had a profound influence on action sequences in movies, but it’s still not a great film). But, I think it has a lot more nuance to the story than average fantasy novel. In addition to being genre defining, it’s superior writing, even with its flaws.

    On the comments about the novelty of the grittiness in the Song of Fire and Ice books, I agree, and that’s one thing that initially drew me to them. That, and interesting and different role of magic in them – it’s subtle, even mystical, and rarely at the center of the story. Have you guys read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett? It’s not a fantasy novel, but it is set in medieval England, so there’s knights and castles, etc. It also has very RR Martin-like grittiness and political intrigue, but published two years before Game of Thrones. I don’t know enough about it to call it an influence, but it seems that Martin was at least tuned to the same interests/cultural forces. Also, I’ve got a serious beef with the Song of Fire and Ice books. I’ve read them all, and I’m sure I’ll jump on the next one as soon as it comes out. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to hate myself for it. You guys lots of good stuff about them, and I largely agree. But, I am so exhausted by investing thousands of pages in a character and his story line just to have him/her killed unexpectedly with their story – that he spent whole books developing – left unresolved. The first handful of times he did it, I thought it was particularly poignant. Now I just want to throttle him. Also, I think he’s getting a little too big for his britches, and its affecting his writing. Also, I’ve been getting the feeling – through the last book especially – that the series is just turning into a shaggy-dog joke.

    Being such bit Orson Scott Card fans, how do you feel about his taking over writing for the new Superman digital comic? What about the public outcry about it? (for an example, see:

    For the Dune books – you forgot to mention that the first one is the best – by a wide margin.

    I agree about people voting for books they read in English class. It’s my experience that people who don’t read a ton tend to lionize the few ones they’re familiar with (for the Mormon readers, think James E. Talmage). I’d also suggest that some might have voted for them based on perceived literary merit and cultural influence than simple enjoyment of the read (I think it’s fair to say that 1984 is important but can be kindof a grind to get through). I find that with movies, too. I have several in my netflix queue that are important movies that greatly inform my understanding of other movies, but they build up in my list because watching them is a chore sometimes. That said, I still really enjoyed most of those types of books on the list, certainly more than Tom did, anyway. I’m not sure that I agree w/ what you said about Animal Farm and 1984 being the same sort of dystopian story, though. I’d call Animal Farm historical/political allegory.

    I had a lot more thoughts as I listened to the podcast, some of them likely better thoughts than I wrote down here, but didn’t think about writing them down until your comments at the end. I’ll do better next time.

    I love you. And, you. And, you.

  7. Abinadi says:

    I yield a point to Jesse that the hero’s journey as an archetype in literature is quite old and came decades and centuries before Robert Jordan ever put pen to paper.

    However, I would qualify that with two other points:

    1. Fantasy as a genre came to be main stream with works like The Wheel of Time. So although it is not a new story arc, it was fairly new to readers of the genre in popular culture.

    2. The archetype that The Wheel of Time might be credited with beginning is the heroine’s journey. After all, two of the four main characters in the series are women who begin humbly and, through mysterious adventure, rise to power in their own right, independently from the men. That is a journey that is not covered in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

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