Oh, The Brackets We’ll See!

Happy Birthday File 770 THUMBCooling wellsprings of fun scattered throughout the summer of 2015, Kyra’s polls were especially delightful because they were a game we could play with books!

Novels on her community-sourced lists would be paired against each other — how did the dice know which pairings could produce the maximum angst, forcing fans to pick between two favorites? The winners advanced through the brackets, the results of each heat delivered with Kyra’s humorous commentary, until we knew which work had been crowned The Best by File 770 commenters.

Here are the results of her first four polls.

20th-century Science Fiction

A conversation I remember vividly.

I don’t remember the exact age I was, but I know from the circumstances I had to be 12 years old or younger. I was talking about books with a friend of the family who was, I think, in her twenties. The talk turned to Ursula K. Le Guin.

I had discovered Le Guin, as I suspect many did, through the EarthSea books. I had gone on to read a great deal more. By that point, Three Hainish Novels. The Lathe of Heaven. The Compass Rose. The Wind’s Twelve Quarters. The Dispossessed. And The Left Hand of Darkness.

But, I confessed during this conversation, I didn’t think I had really understood The Left Hand of Darkness. I didn’t get it. Something in it was opaque to me.

“Well,” the friend of the family asked me, “Have you ever been in love?”

“What?” I said. “I, um, well. I don’t think so. No.”

“Read it again after you fall in love,” she advised.

So, some years later, I did.



  • WINNER: Ursula K. Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness – 31 votes
  • Mary Shelley: Frankenstein – 15 votes


The winner of the Brackett bracket is The Left Hand of Darkness. The book is awarded this lovely pair of brackets: [ ], suitable for framing or using in its text. The decision was made by the most reliable metric currently known – 31 people on the internet.

(And in my opinion, they have chosen well.)


20th-century Fantasy

[In this poll, Kyra tested her theory that The Lord of the Rings would defeat all challengers.]

Lord of the Rings

  • WINNER: The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien – 38
  • The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin – 36

Tombs of Atuan

  • WINNER: The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien – 36
  • Small Gods, Terry Pratchett – 35


  • WINNER: The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien – 37
  • The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle – 34


  • WINNER: The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien – 44
  • Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny – 27

nine princes in amber

Tolkien is the WINNER, AND STILL CHAMPEEN in all pairings, although in one of them it was by one vote, in one by two votes, and in one by three votes.

(The voting patterns that gave these results suggest to me — although they by no means prove — that the three-way battle of the previous round, in which Small Gods and The Tombs of Atuan tied and The Last Unicorn came in a very close second, was not, in particular, the result of vote-splitting; people here really do seem to favor those works in almost equal numbers.)

And there you have it. Once again, a double digit number of people on the internet has registered its clearly immutable judgment! The Lord of the Rings shall receive this lovely pair of brackets: [ ], suitable for framing or using in its text.


21st-century Fantasy

  • WINNER: The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison – 28 votes
  • Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold – 23 votes

And the winner is Katherine Addison’s tale of victory through kindness, bridge-building both literal and idiomatic, political intrigue, and confusing names. Nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards, winner of the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and now winner of this lovely pair of brackets:

[ ]

suitable for framing or incorporating into its text. We welcome it to the ranks of previous bracket winners, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.


21st-century Science Fiction

And, in an extremely shocking conclusion that no one could have … nah, just kidding, it was totally Ancillary Justice:


  • WINNER: Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie – 32 votes
  • Anathem, Neal Stephenson – 8 votes
  • Diplomatic Immunity, Lois McMaster Bujold – 3 votes

And who is the second place winner? Removing AJ and distributing its votes to the second-place options, we get:

  • 2nd Place: Diplomatic Immunity, Lois McMaster Bujold – 19 votes
  • Anathem, Neal Stephenson – 18 votes

An EXTREMELY close contest, but by the merest of hairs Bujold wins second place in what proved to be an uneven contest of Ancillary Justice Vs. Everyone Else.



Other Filers have followed her model and run polls on other topics. I plan to do a post on theirs next week.

  • The Alternate Universe 2015 Hugo Best Novel Organised by JJ
  • Rory Root Memorial Comics Bracket Curated by David Goldfarb
  • Live-Action TV Tournament/Brackets Curated by Jim Henley
  • Fantasy Movie Bracket Curated by Hampus Eckerman
  • Science Fiction Movie Bracket Curated by Hampus Eckerman

16 thoughts on “Oh, The Brackets We’ll See!

  1. Kyra we owe so much to you for starting and running many brackets. They’ve led to discussion on books, reminiscing on our childhood, showing that voting and awards can be fun even when angsty and swearing at those evil dice, and reminding all of us how much work goes into something seeming so simple. Also very community building.

    @Cally I don’t know what we would have done without your forehead cloths in all there various scents, packaging, and other humorous features.

    @Mike Glyer – thanks for building a community which would do crazy brackets and adding links so we could find them anytime. Lots of TBR suggestions came out of the brackets. It’s nice to be able to go back to look up points made as well as works to check out.

  2. Yay for the brackets! I think they created around 20 new books to the TBR pile for me.

  3. I have never really participated in the brackets, but they’re always interesting to see.

    But I had the thought that we might collect … names, authors and synopses from future works that we either hope or otherwise predict will be published; such that they can then be bracketed against each other; or possibly, works that have been or will be published in suitably near parallel universes?

    I didn’t say it was a particularly good or useful thought! 🙂

  4. Am reminded to update Mt. TBR.

    It’s a wrench: spending time at File770 increases the number of books to read, and at the same time reduces the amount of time in which to read them!

  5. Ah, the memories! Fortunately, my TBR “pile” is both teeming with books yet of manageable size (my e-reader always seems to stay the same size even as I cram it with books). My shelves of dead tree coffins still groan, but there are no more than half a dozen in each stack there.

    Thanks to ebooks, I now find that my dream library is actually possible.

  6. Brackets are one of the best things (and the worst things) about File 770.

    I wasn’t here for the first couple of brackets, but agree with them.

    What would happen if we smothered the dice with forehead cloths?

  7. As I recall, it was more the “Pre-21st Century” brackets, but there were only a few 19th century works on it.

  8. The rule for the first two sets of brackets was “nothing published after 1999”. I think it eventually just got called “20th century” as shorthand to distinguish it from the “21st century brackets” that came after. But the first sci-fi one included Wells, Verne, and of course Shelley, and the first fantasy one included MacDonald, Poe, and Stoker.

    So glad people enjoyed them, and so glad others came along to do their own (which were super-fun.) And of course thanks so much to Mike for hosting them all.

    I’ve contemplated the possibility of others, such as Best Series, Best YA, Best Short Story, and Best Children’s. I feel like I’ve learned some valuable lessons, from my own and others, on how to do them.

  9. A big thank you to Kyra. Whether I participated or not, they were all enjoyable and added a lot of heft to my TBR mountain (actually I believe the pile accrued during the brackets are what changed it from TBR hill to TBR mountain).

  10. Because it must be said…


    Kyra, your brackets helped me shake off the puppigrumps and resulting fannish ennui more than anything else. Thank you for your efforts, Mike’s creation of the perfect home for them, and all the Filers who made it such a fun game!

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