The new version 5 of the Classics of Science Fiction is here: https://csfquery.com We will maintain this version for reference.
This site is about identifying the most remembered science fiction novels and stories. We don’t claim which titles or authors are best. We don’t even claim the tales we identify are worthy reads or fun reading. We don’t pick the titles on our lists. What we find fascinating is how novels and stories are discovered, remembered, and forgotten. We believe the only real definition of a classic is what’s remembered.
Most books are first editions. Few ever get a second. Every year thousands of science fiction works get published but few get noticed and read. The first recognition authors want are publication, reviews, and sales. Then they hope their stories will be remembered at the end of the year when lists are compiled about the best stories of the year.
In the second year of a story’s life, awards are the way they are remembered, and for short stories, being collected in best of the year anthologies. A few lucky stories will be chosen to be dramatized for film or television. After that novels and stories are remembered by word of mouth, book clubs, bloggers, and if a story is really lucky, a teacher. The popular stories will be reprinted. They will be translated. They will get new editions periodically. The others will be forgotten.
When most readers think of classics they picture the 19th-century novels they were made to read in school. For many kids trapped in education institutions, classics are something to be endured not enjoyed. However, real classics are those books our culture keeps reading over time. I have no idea how many books were published in the 1800s, but I’d guess less than a hundred titles are easily recalled by the average book lover today. That’s the way of books, most are forgotten.
Our goal here at the Classics of Science Fiction is to find methods to identify the science fiction novels and stories that we as a society remember. Our methods are described in these two introductions: