How this list was created
1. The ballot
Each voter was asked for a list of up to twenty of their favourite works. These works were not ranked individually, but were placed into three tiers – of, respectively, 4, 8 and 8 works. Additionally, voters were optionally allowed to select up to two of the works to be nominated as “great” – of a quality above a mere good or favourite book. The precise meaning of ‘great’ was left to the voter, as was the definition of ‘genre’. Voters were not allowed to vote for two different books in the same integral series, although the definition of ‘series’ was left to the voter.
2. The Base Author Ranking
Points were assigned for every vote: 1 point for a third-tier vote, 2 points for a second-tier vote, and 8 points for a first-tier vote. The point total for each author was then aggregated, to create a ranked list of authors.
3. The Greats mini-list
Votes for greatness were tallied, and the ten works with the highest totals made it onto the list (that is, voting was by LV with ten seats and two votes per voter). Originally, the plan was to use Base Author Ranking as a tiebreak; however, as only eleven works received two or more votes, it seemed unnecessarily cruel and arbitrary to exclude a single work from the list, and so the list was expanded from ten to eleven works.
4. The Main List
The main list was populated through the concept of ‘slots’ – authors were given theoretical allowances of books, which allowances could then be passed on if the author was unable to use them. First, the top sixty-five authors in the BAR were assigned one slot each; next, one additional slot was assigned for each work on the Greats List. Then, additional slots were assigned to the top authors: two additional slots for the top five, and one additional slot for the next fifteen. In all of this process, slots were not assigned to authors who work was published entirely in the 21st century.
For each author, individual works were then lined up to take up the assigned slots: first, any book on the Greats List, and then the remaining books in order of decreasing point tallies, with the caveat that where a book was considered part of a series, the points from any book in the series went to the series total, and where the books were considered individually, all undifferentiated votes for the series went toward the tallies for every book in the series.
In the third phase, for each author, beginning with the top of the BAR, the rank of books by that author was assessed for eligibility for the list. To be eligible, there had to be at least one slot available, the book had to have been published in 2000 or before, and the book had to have passed a quota for that slot, which depended upon how many books the author had already got onto the list. For the first slot per author, there was no quota; for the second slot, the quota was seven points; for the third slot, the quota was ten points; slots taken up by books on the Greats list were ignored for the purposes of calculating quotas. Where an author had no books eligible to take a slot, the slot was placed into a ‘pool’.
Once the initial population had been made, the pool slots were re-assigned to new authors. Beginning at the top of the BAR, the slots were offered to each author in turn: to take the slot, an author could not have met their limit (no author was allowed more than three filled slots without a Great, plus one for each Great), and had to have a book able to meet a quota (ten points to fill a first pool slot; theoretically, fifteen to fill a second pool slot, but this did not happen). Those pool slots that were not taken in this method were handed out free to the next authors on the BAR.
As a concrete example: Frank Herbert reached the top five on the BAR, and hence was given three slots, but he had only one work, the Dune series, nominated; as a result, two of his slots were passed to the pool. Ursula Le Guin reached the top twenty, and hence had two slots, both of which she filled; she was then offered a pool slot, and her third-ranking book, The Left Hand of Darkness, was able to meet the quota for pool slots, and hence is on the list.
When the list had been populated, it was seen that the end of the list was in a tie; rather than introduce some arbitrary tiebeak criterion, I chose to simply expand the list by one more book, taking it to 102 works in total.
5. The 21st Century mini-list
To fill this list, I allowed each author no more than one book, and gave a slot to each work, published after 2000, that received two or more Greats vote, and then to one book per author based solely on the votes for their post-2000 work.