In one section, she states that some well-regarded people think Middlemarch the best novel in the world, ever. I stopped and looked suspiciously at this, turned the idea around a few times, and cautiously considered that in fact perhaps Middlemarch did deserve to be considered in the same company as Lord of the Rings, Cyteen, A Fire Upon the Deep, The Disposessed and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. (That grinding sound you hear? F.R. Leavis turning in his grave?) But you know, not really. Because it's just an awful lot easier if you get the world ready made for you. That's my main objection to people who say mainstream and fanfic can be as good as original SF. People can juggle two balls awfully well, and Middlemarch and Dark Reflections both do that, in their different ways, about as well as it can be done. But that still can't really compare to people who are juggling four.
Mostly I just wanted to share this because it made me smile, but it did trigger some thoughts:
Seeing A Fire Upon the Deep on this list took me aback a bit because I'd give higher accolades to its prequel, A Deepness in the Sky. But this choice does make better sense here: aDitS is a story of superlatives, and one of these is the blackest irony, that all the brilliance and hopeful plans are lost in the Slow Zone, with no character having the least hint of a clue of this. (Almost.) You need to have read aFutD to get that -- in that sense the book's worldbuilding doesn't stand alone like the books above.
This difference of genre has an analog in the programming world with works written for the mainstream ecosystem, fitting into a gigantic tangle of shared assumptions, versus more self-contained systems like Smalltalk... growing their own tangles. Funny how I lean towards the latter in this world, too; I wonder how much the reasons are the same.
I've wondered how we might take more advantage of allusion in programming -- in 'literate programming' can't the code itself be more literary? Today's new thought: maybe Vernor Vinge was thinking along the same lines with his 'analogical programming' in True Names.
And I really should check out Middlemarch.