Best of 2014: io9.com’s List

Happy New Year, everyone! I’ve been off holidaying for the past week or two—the wife and I got down to Santa Fe (we live about an hour away), which is always nice this time of year. I’ll be resuming the Genre study shortly, with more information on the types of fantasy novels that have been nominated. As I organize my thoughts, here’s one of the more reliable “Best of 2014” lists: the io9.com list by Charlie Jane Anders. The list offers a broad 22 works, including one story collection. Here they are, in no particular order:

The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
Broken Monsters, Lauren Buekes
The Book of Strange New things, Michel Faber
The Peripheral, William Gibson
Maplecroft, Cherie Priest
Lock In, John Scalzi
Questionable Practices, Eileen Gunn (short stories)
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu
The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman
The Memory Garden, Mary Rickert
California, Edan Lepucki
Full Fathom Five, Max Gladstone
Rooms, Lauren Oliver
The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey
First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North
The Martian, Andy Weir
My Real Children, Jo Walton
Southern Reach Trilogy, Jeff VanderMeer
Defenders, Will McIntosh
The Bees, Laline Paull
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
The Emperor’s Blades, Brian Staveley

The major snubs: City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett; Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie; The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison

io9.com has been one of the better lists over the last 2-3 years for predicting the Nebulas. In 2013, 5 out of the 8 eventual nominees appeared on the list, including the winner; in 2012, 3 out of the 6 Nebula nominees appeared on their list, including the winner. That’s as good as anyone’s list has been (in terms of correlating to the Nebula) over the past few years.

So, what are our takeaways? We see some of the big books of the year: the VanderMeer, the Weir, etc. Mandel’s placement further shows how “buzzy” her book is right now; this level of noise for Station Eleven is making a Nebula nomination more and more likely. Leckie’s absence shows that people aren’t as excited for her sequel as they were the original; this jibes with my sense (nomination likely, win unlikely). Gibson is picking up some nice traction, and The Peripheral is certainly better liked than his past few novels. I’m glad Liu made it, but this might be a case of “too little, too late” for his novel to catch on with a larger SFF audience.

City of Stairs not making the list is the surprise, but Robert Jackson Bennett’s book might not be mainstream enough for io9.com. I think there’s an argument to be made that the massive sales of Mitchell, VanderMeer, and Mandel place them in a different category than Bennett or Addison in terms of these awards. Grossman has the popularity and critical respect to be a player in this year’s Nebula and Hugo—if the book weren’t #3 in a series. Will the Jordan/Sanderson nomination last year loosen the anti-sequel bias of the awards? Or would any loosening of that bias aid Sanderson and not Grossman?

I’m seeing California pop-up too often on these lists, and I’m going to add it to my Nebula prediction (somewhere down in the #10-#15 range). Otherwise, this list re-enforces what we already know about the awards: our major players are still the major players, with Mandel playing the part of a late-charging challenger.

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