Science Fiction vs. Fantasy Round One: Space Opera and Epic Fantasy!

In this year's edition of io9 March Madness, we're on a quest to find the greatest series in all of science fiction and fantasy. On Wednesday, we kicked things off by making eight classics battle it out just to make it into the tourney. Now it's time to start voting on the round of 64!

Top image: RGiskardReventlov, whose name is fantastic.

With so many amazing competitions to work through in this round, we're splitting the fun up over two days. We're doing the top half of the bracket today, and we'll do the remaining regionals on Monday. All the polls are at the bottom of this post and will remain open until midnight Pacific time tonight! So VOTE NOW, and let the madness commence.

For those who missed Wednesday's introductory post, we've taken 68 terrific books, movies, TV shows, and miscellaneous from all corners of science fiction and fantasy and thrown them together in this single-elimination tournament. We've loosely organized all these works into four regionals: Space Opera and Epic Fantasy are today, while Dystopia & Mad Science and Magic & Monsters are being saved for next week. For the complete explanation of the rules and thinking behind the tourney, go here. The updated bracket is below, and you can click here for a really big version of it.

Science Fiction vs. Fantasy Round One: Space Opera and Epic Fantasy!

As for the opening play-in round, three of the four battles were damn close, with the X-Men, Highlander, and The Walking Dead squeaking out narrow victories over the Avengers, Conan the Barbarian, and Night of the Living Dead, respectively. Only the venerable Stargate franchise was able to cruise to a relatively easy win, but Babylon 5 still garnered over 3,000 votes from its passionate supporters. Let that be a reminder that there's still plenty love to go around for all 68 series in this tourney; it's just that this thing is going to end in crushing heartbreak for 67 of them.

Just remember: No matter how brutal this competition gets, it's still meant as a celebration of some incredible works spanning multiple genres and media.

So then, what's on tap for today? In one of the odder instances of March Madness serendipity, the great Ursula K. LeGuin has not one but two book series taking on much-loved humorous takes on their genres, so how will her works fare as the Hainish Cycle faces off against Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Earthsea takes on Terry Prachett's Discworld? How will Isaac Asimov's Foundation series do against the combined might of original and rebooted Battlestar Galactica?

(Indeed, for those who like a little pre-battle trash talk, here's Asimov on the original BSG from a 1979 interview: "I thought Battlestar Galactica was such a close imitation of Star Wars, emphasizing the less attractive portions, that I was a little impatient with it... [It] started off with twenty to thirty minutes of space battles which looked exactly like air battles in World War I. You could swear that the space ships were surrounded by air the way they maneuvered. One felt it was unworthy... It is as if people in the 1880s were writing fantasy stories about airplanes of the future and they had the pilots lean back at the wheel and yell "whoa" and the airplane came to a halt in mid-air." Oh, it's on now!)

Meanwhile, can Highlander keep its run going against John Carter? Can the talking animals of Brian Jacques's Redwall spring the mother of all upsets over J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings? And should a pair of Hugo-winning novels be on upset alert? How will perennial childhood favorite Ender's Game fare against the much-loved Cowboy Bebop? And is the power of the Kwisatz Haderach enough to propel the epic Dune series past Starship Troopers, a work that's lovably bonkers regardless of whether it's filtered through the mind of Robert Heinlein or Paul Verhoeven?

The only ones who can answers these question are YOU, so VOTE NOW! Polls remain open until midnight Pacific time tonight! And be sure to come back on Monday for the rest of the first round (and check out the complete upcoming schedule at the bottom of this post).

The Space Opera Regional

The Epic Fantasy Regional

Upcoming Schedule:

Monday, March 17: Round of 64, part two

Wednesday, March 19: Round of 32

Friday, March 21: Sweet Sixteen

Monday, March 24: Elite Eight

Wednesday, March 26: Final Four

Friday, March 28: Championship