MIND MELD: What Is Your Favorite SF/F/H Saga/Series of All Time?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

If there is one thing fantastika has a-plenty, this thing is called the Saga. Unrestrained by the so-called “reality” that plagues mainstream literature, SF, Fantasy, and Horror genres have told us since time immemorial stories that span large swathes of space and time, creating in the best cases new epic legends – or at the very least giving us readers (or spectators, in the case of film or TV series) unforgettable moments of joy and fun. So we asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What Is Your Favorite SF/F/H Saga/Series of All Time?

Here’s what they said…

Charles Tan
Charles Tan‘s fiction has appeared in publications such as The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories and Philippine Speculative Fiction. He has contributed nonfiction to websites such as The Nebula Awards, The Shirley Jackson Awards, SF Crowsnest, SFScope, Fantasy Magazine, Fantasy Literature, BSC Review, The World SF News Blog, and SF Signal. In 2009, he won the Last Drink Bird Head Award for International Activism which is described as “In recognition of those who work to bring writers from other literary traditions and countries to the attention of readers in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia…” He is also a 2011 World Fantasy nominee for the Special Award, Non-Professional category. You can visit his blog, Bibliophile Stalker, the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler, or Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009.

“Of all time” is a difficult qualifier because my tastes are constantly changing.

Still, here’s a brief list of series that I want to mention:

Empire Trilogy by Janny Wurts and Raymond E. Feist: I really consider this Wurts’s writing more than Feist’s, and she subverts the D&D-esque setting the latter established in the Riftwar Saga by fleshing out the details of her non-European culture. The politics is a precursor to many modern epic fantasies like The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire, and reading about a blatantly Asian-influenced culture was more than welcome. (Also, if you’re familiar with the Collectible Card Game and RPG Legend of the Five Rings, these novels immediately capture the flavor of that world.)

Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb: I consider Hobb’s Liveship Traders series to be superior to her Farseer series and she successfully juggles in-depth characterization of various characters. That and you have a seafaring narrative (how many of our epic fantasies take place in landlocked continents?) filled with adventure, economics, and political intrigue.

Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey: This is both subversion and guilty pleasure. Carey creates a fascinating cosmology based on Jewish folklore and convincingly creates a culture whose moral norms are vastly different from our (Western/Christian/Catholic) own. It’s also interesting how Carey’s protagonist solves/eludes danger, a far cry from your stereotypical male hero.

Well-Built City Trilogy by Jeffrey Ford: What’s interesting with Ford is that despite being part of a trilogy, each of these novels accomplishes something different. What starts out in a frontier setting soon takes place in a fantastic dreamscape. It’s atypical fantasy that’s unique and different and carries Ford’s unique writing style.

Ambergris series by Jeff VanderMeer: Much like Ford, VanderMeer’s books are vastly, vastly different from each other and unique works in of themselves. What’s great with Ambergris is that VanderMeer makes the most out of his setting, exploring it in different periods of time and giving various recurring characters various layers of depth. Ambergris can be noir. It can be high fantasy. It depends on the book you’re reading and what frame of mind you’re in. Ambergris is rife with potential and VanderMeer isn’t done mining it.

Discworld by Terry Pratchett: It’s massive. There’s dozens of books. Each sub-series has its own themes, agenda, and cast of characters. You can’t describe Discworld with just one word because it encapsulates so many sub-genres depending on the series or book you’re reading.

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin: Been reading it since the 2000’s. It’s a fantastic epic with a huge cast of characters, a never-ending ability to surprise, and deals with every human problem imaginable (politics, economics, subtle and overt threats, etc.)

Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction, Evolve 2 and other sundry places. She recently won the Carter V. Cooper Memorial Prize sponsored by Canadian literary magazine Exile Quarterly. She is the owner of the micro-press Innsmouth Free Press and co-edited Historical Lovecraft together with Paula R.Stiles..

Tales From the Flath Earth by Tanith Lee. It begins with Night’s Master (1978) and features a series of interconnected stories all set in a fantasy world and clustered around Azhrarn, the Prince of Demons who rules Innerearth. Azhrarn is beautiful, cruel and toys with humans in the way a child might delight himself by squishing ants. But he’s also magnetic, charming and even benevolent. His schemes and games of sorcery – and their impact on humanity – form the core of the narrative. And if you thought Martin’s books were the first to plunge fantasy into the adult and sexy side of the equation, you’re wrong. Lee did it before.

The rest of the books (Death’s Master, Delusions Master, Delirium’s Mistress and Night’s Sorceries) introduce the other Lords of Darkness, who are often in conflict with Azhrarn. There are horses that ride over water, gods, beautiful women with snakes instead of hair, fire elementals, the inhabitants of an undersea kingdom, angels and more.

The books were hard to come by in the past, but have been reissued in the last couple of years by Norilana under its TaLeKa imprint and a sixth volume titled Earth’s Master is forthcoming. Unlike other series, however, the books can all be read as individual volumes.

Tanith Lee also wrote the Paradys books, which, like Flat Earth, consist mainly of interconnected stories centering around a city, an alternate Paris with fantastic, Gothic elements.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Kristine Kathryn Rusch‘s long-anticipated new Retrieval Artist novel, Anniversary Day, will appear in the fall as an Audible exclusive. The print/e-book edition will come out in December, along with a newly packaged version of all of the Retrieval Artist novels. Her next Diving universe novel, Boneyards, will appear in January. The most recent book in that series, City of Ruins, came out in May. Visit her website every Monday for free fiction: kristinekathrynrusch.com.

This is a tough one to answer for me, because my immediate thought was Dune. But that’s not really true. I loved Dune itself, but the subsequent Frank Herbert books left me cold. They just weren’t as rich as the original. I read The Lord of the Rings when I was in high school and home with mono. I had a fever of 104. I’m not sure if I read what was on the page or was in some kind of weird fever dream. I loved The Chronicles of Narnia until the last book, when Lewis hit us over the head with the Christian allegory. At 12, I hated that.

So…I’ll have to go with my fav from that 12th summer, when I was reading everything possible. Tarzan: Lord of the Apes. I read every single Tarzan book Burroughs wrote. Oh, and L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz, and all the follow-ups. Come to think of it, I read those that summer as well. Quite the sf/f summer for me, if a bit old-fashioned, even at the time.

Interesting. I like other sagas/series, but I haven’t enjoyed the newer ones as much as I enjoyed those from my childhood. (Now if we were talking mystery series, boy, would I have a list for you.)

Wojciech Orlin’ski
Wojciech Orlin’ski, born 1969, graduated chemistry but works as a journalist, specializing primarily in science-fiction and popular culture. Since 1997 staff writer at the Gazeta Wyborcza daily. He authored a book on the greatest Polish science fiction writer, Stanislaw Lem.

Don’t read this one, it’s boring banality: Star Wars, the original trilogy. First of all, I was a boy when I watched the first one, later called “Episode IV: A New Hope”. I would not be honest to that boy, who saw this film probably 20 times during the first year of screening, and then a good couple dozen times as he grew to become me. This saga has it all, jungian archetypes and good old swashbuckling, Harrison Ford’s smile and epic battles in space. I even thing it’s a good vehicle to discuss very serious issues of the contemporary world, like: when your government tells you “give up your freedoms for security reasons”, isn’t it exactly the way of thinking that got Palpatine elected?

13 thoughts on “MIND MELD: What Is Your Favorite SF/F/H Saga/Series of All Time?”

  1. The Hobbit/Lord Of the Rings by JRR Tolkein
    Chronicles Of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
    Majipoor Series by Robert Silverberg
    Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson
    Song Of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
    Psalms of Isaak by Ken Scholes
    Star Wars by George Lucas, Timothy Zahn, Kevin J. Anderson, Alan Dean Foster, et al (select books and the original trilogy)

  2. Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold

    Star Wars (at least up until the Legacy stuff)

    Discworld

    Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

    The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

  3. I whole-heartedly agree with the Discworld universe (it’s not just a series anymore!) and the Star Wars trilogy (not the prequels, good lord).  To these I add Stephen King’s Dark Tower saga — it kept me waiting years at a time, yet I could not stop reading.

  4. The Chronicles of Amber (all ten, Corwins stories and Merlins stories), by Roger Zelazny

    The Vlad Taltos / Dragaera stories (and the Khaavren romances), by Steven Brust

    Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold

    John Carter, Warlord of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

    The Ender novels / Ender’s Shadow (Bean), by Orson Scott Card

    Fafhrd & The Grey Mouser, by Fritz Leiber

     

  5. It’s striking to me that all of those polled chose fantasy over sci fi, with the possible exception of KKR with Tarzan (which I know very little about).

     

  6. The Acts of Caine series by Matthew Stover is one of the best Fantasy series ever and it is criminally underread. 

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