Visions of Paradise

Saturday, November 27, 2004

f&sf's greatest characters

Bravo television network has spent much of this week announcing their choices for TV’s 100 Greatest Characters. While the list has been interesting, I am not a big television watcher, so I have never seen the majority of their characters, nor even heard of some of them.

But science fiction and fantasy characters are a different matter entirely. I would love to see a ranking of f&sf’s 100 greatest characters (human, alien, or otherwise). Maybe I will suggest such a question to Locus for inclusion in their annual survey sometime. In the meantime, I will consider whether I want to invest sufficient time into compiling a personal list of my favorite all-time sfnal characters for a future Visions of Paradise article. Some characters who come to mind immediately include:

• Danny Boles, from Michael Bishop’s Brittle Innings
• Robinette Broadhead, from Frederik Pohl’s Gateway
• R. Daneel, from Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel
• Corwin, from Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber
• Fritz the biped, from Damon Knight’s The Visitor At the Zoo/The Other Foot
• Isaac and Lin, from China Miéville’s Perdito Street Station
• Gully Foyle, from Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination
• Kirth Gersen, from Jack Vance’s Demon Princes series
• Charley Gordon, from Kaniel Keyes’ Flowers For Algernon
• Cirocco Jones, from John Varley’s Gaea Trilogy
• Mike, from Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
• Sam, from Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light
• Daniel Selig, from Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside
• Severian, from Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun
• Enoch Wallace, from Clifford D. Simak’s Way Station
• the group of pilgrims from Dan Simmons’ Hyperion
• the starship crew of Samuel R. Delany’s Nova

Keep in mind that these are purely personal favorites, so the list does not include such famous characters as Dune's Paul Atreides, E.E. Smith’s Lensmen, Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan and John Carter, or numerous other stars who have dotted the history of science fiction. These are only characters who have stuck in my mind.

I would be interested in hearing other readers’ favorite f&sf characters. If I receive sufficient responses, I’ll do a follow-up listing in a later blog.


  • That's a pretty intersting list - and I really see where you're coming from with characters like Daniel Selig, Gully Foyle, Charley, Isaac and Lin and Severian.

    I also find your choices of Daneel over Elijah Bailey or Kirth Gersen rather than, say, Cugel interesting. Gersen always seemed a rather archetypal chracter to me - as is Cugel in a way, but somehow Cugel won my affection, perhaps because he is so unabashedly underserving of it.

    I'd need to really think about my favourites, but a few quick ideas are:

    Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Grey Mouser

    The narrator of Adam Roberts' Stone (I don't believe this person's name is ever revealed)

    The alien in Poul Anderson's The Avatar

    Gilbert Gosseyn, from AE van Vogt's Null-A novels

    That's all I can think of just now.

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