The Internet's Top 100 Science Fiction List FAQ

Last Modified: 20-September-2006

  1. What is the Internet's Top 100 Science Fiction List?
  2. Why the Top 100 Science Fiction List?
  3. When is the Top 100 Science Fiction List published?
  4. Where can I get the Top 100 Science Fiction List?
  5. Is there an extended version of the top 100 list, with even more books?
  6. Do you have a list for short stories as well?
  7. What books/short stories should I vote for?
  8. How do I vote?
  9. How are the books ranked?
  10. What formula do you use to calculate the diffused average?
  11. Can I use the top 100 list in my own publication/WWW site?

1) What is the Internet's Top 100 Science Fiction List?
 
The original "Internet's Top 100 Science Fiction List" was a weekly chart for Science Fiction books, the new list will be updated on a semi-regular basis - probably monthly. The list is compiled from a series of votes that are sent by e-mail and each entry in the chart is ranked according to its adjusted or diffused average (this is explained later). Anyone is eligible to vote.
 
2) Why the Top 100 Science Fiction List?
 
From reading the news groups, there seems to be a lot of interest in `classic' science fiction books, and there are a lot of posts asking for recommended reading. This top 100 list is an attempt to produce a list of the "best" science fiction books, so that the list can be used as an easily accessible source of recommended reading material.
 
3) When is the Top 100 Science Fiction List published?
 
The list is published on a semi-regular basis with the current aim of updating it once a month. If I receive a large number of votes in any particular period I'll update the list sooner.
 
4) Where can I get the Top 100 Science Fiction List?
 
The list is available via the WWW at: SF Top 100 List. I do not currently plan to post this list on any newsgroups but, if I receive a large number of requests to do so, I'll consider it.
 
5) Is there an extended version of the top 100 list, with even more books?
 
The extended list is a list of all of the books voted for with at least 2 voters and will be updated at roughly the same time as the normal list. The extended list is available from the same site as the normal list: SF Top 100 List.
 
NOTE: This list is ranked by diffused average (explained later), so a book that is near the bottom of the list is not necessarily bad. It is just that it has very few voters and so it takes a long time for it to rise to its average score. In short, it is not a good idea to use this list to decide what not to read.
 
6) Do you have a list for short stories as well?
 
Not yet, but I am collecting votes for short stories and, when I've received sufficient votes, I'll post a list on the web site. If you want to find a particular anthology, or short story collection containing a particular story , then I suggest you try: The Internet Speculative Fiction Database.
 
7) What books/short stories should I vote for?
 
You can vote for any science fiction (includes fantasy) books, or short stories that you have read at any time (not necessarily recently). Although this is a list of the "best" science fiction works, you are encouraged to vote for works that you don't like as well as those that you do. After all, every opinion counts.
 
8) How do I vote?
 
Send a plain text e-mail message to "sftop100 AT gmail DOT com" (remove the obvious SPAM blockers) with a subject header that starts with "VOTES:" (please send short story votes in a separate message from novel votes) and a message body containing the votes with one vote for one book/story per line. The first part of the line should be the number of points that you assign to the book/story and should be an integer from 1 to 10 with 10 implying a perfect score and 1 implying that you thought it was extremely bad. The second part of the vote should be the title of the book, and the third part should be the author of the book. The vote, book/story title and author should be separated with either a few spaces (2 or more) or a tab.
 
Here is an example of a typical vote:
  10    Dune                               F.Herbert
1 Lies Inc. Philip K. Dick
9 Galactic Patrol E.E. Doc Smith
10 Something Wicked This Way Comes R. Bradbury
7 War of the Worlds H.G.Wells

You can only vote for a book once (if you accidentally vote for more than one, your second vote is ignored), and your vote will be kept and used for all subsequent charts (it's not necessary to send me the same list each week).
 
NOTE: A lot of the vote processing is done with filters and computer programs so incorrectly formatted votes are unlikely to be counted. If you do not know how to send a plain text message using your email software please check out "Why HTML in E-Mail is a Bad Idea" or "Configuring Mail Clients to Send Plain ASCII Text" for instructions.
 
9) How are the books ranked?
 
The books are ranked according to their diffused averages. After the books have been on the chart for a while, the diffused averages will be very close to the actual average, but the diffused average really only has a great effect on a book that is new to the chart.
The diffused average acts to slow down the rise and falls in the averages of the books. If there are a large number of voters for a particular book, then the average is likely to be fairly accurate, and so the diffused average converges to the actual average fairly quickly. If there are a small number of voters however, the diffused average converges to the actual average rather slowly.
Suppose that Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams is given a score of 10 by its two voters. Then although its average is very high, the score is not likely to accurately show the quality of the book due to the small number of voters. Instead of Mostly Harmless going straight to the top of the list, the diffused average greatly slows down the rise of the book and so it may not even make it onto the list for a couple of weeks.
 
10) What formula do you use to calculate the diffused average?
 
All new books start off with a diffused average of zero. The diffused average for the next update is calculated by the formula:
  NDA = Average - (Average - Old Diffused Average)*(C^NV)
where NDA = New Diffused Average NV = Number of Voters for that book. C = A diffusing constant.
The value for C has been fixed at 0.99875 (This may be changed later).
 
11) Can I use the top 100 list in my own publication/WWW site?
 
I have absolutely no problems with anybody using the list, as long as they use the entire list without any modifications. If you intend to put the list on a web site, I'd also appreciate you to include a link to the official WWW page.