2014 National Book Award Winners

The National Book Award was given last night, and here’s a link to the winners. Phil Klay won the fiction category for his Afghanistan story collection Deployment.

From a SFF perspective, the National Book Award did a couple interesting things this year. First, they gave a lifetime achievement award to Ursula K. Le Guin for her distinguished contribution to American letters. At the ceremony, she gave a defense of speculative fiction. Here’s an NPR article on that, including a video of her speech.

Second, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel was on the short list for the fiction award. The National Book Award has, in the past, generally ignored speculative fiction of all stripes, so it’s interesting to see the award loosening genre restrictions. Mandel’s post-apocalyptic novel has attracted a lot of attention from the literary mainstream, even being crowned Amazon “Best Science Fiction and Fantasy” novel of the year. Mandel’s novel has not gotten much attention from the SFF community, and has little Nebula or Hugo buzz. This highlights the increasing split between “literary” SFF and “genre” SFF: some speculative books all the rage in literary circles (Station Eleven, The Book of Strange New Things) have no impact in genre circles. That’s an odd phenomena of the SFF scene in 2014, and one that I don’t quite know how to process.

Can Mandel can work her way into Nebula contention? Continued honors like these are going to draw more attention and more readers to her book, and more readers definitely increase your award chances. We’ve seen “literary” SFF novels pop up in the Nebulas in recent years, including Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni just last year, so I think there’s a definite chance she could sneak in. We’ll have to wait and see.

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