Best of 2014: Strange Horizons

Now that I’ve put up the Mainstream Best of 2014 Meta-List, I can move on to the far more interesting (and predictive) SFF Critics Meta-List. I’m starting today with Strange Horizons, because their “Best of 2014” list causes on immediate methodological crisis. Thanks, Niall!

Like many of these posts from bigger publications, Strange Horizons is a meta-list unto itself, including short paragraphs highlighting the “Best of 2014” from 18 different critics. These critics represent a large range of important voices in the field, including Hugo nominated authors and fan writers. Of course, Strange Horizons was itself a Hugo nominee for semiprozine (whatever that means) in 2013 and 2014, and is thus likely to carry a fair amount of weight with Hugo voters.

All good so far, and this is exactly what I’m looking for in a predictive list. I figure we collate this list against other similar lists, and we’ll have another indicator of likely Hugo/Nebula nominees and winners. I then collate the indicators, and bam!, I have my predictive model.

My processing practice so far has been to read through the lists and every time a critic mentions a book as a “Best of 2014” (honorable mentions don’t count), to give it 1 point. Simple, or so I thought. In my previous SFF Critics Meta-List collation, I let each mention count for one vote. Thus, since 3 critics from Tor.com’s list mentioned The Goblin Emperor, it got 3 votes. This helped Goblin Emperor win the first collation.

That multiple votes per list is becoming a problem. Here’s the Strange Horizon list (absent Adam Robert’s choices, since I already collated them from The Guardian article he wrote, and I didn’t want his choices to count twice):

5 mentions: Annihilation/Southern Reach, VanderMeer, Jeff
2 mentions: J, Jacobson, Howard
2 mentions: The Race, Allan, Nina
2 mentions: Fire in the Unnamable Country, Islam, Ghalib
Everyone else got 1 mention each:
Europe in Autumn, Hutchinson, David
All those Vanished Engines, Park, Paul
Boy, Snow, Bird, Oyeyemi, Helen
Steles of the Sky, Bear, Elizabeth
Ancillary Sword, Leckie, Ann
Broken Monsters, Beukes, Lauren
The Bone Clocks, Mitchell, David
The Wake, Kingsnorth, Paul
Of Things Gone Astray, Matthewson, Janina
The Causal Angel, Rajaniemi, Hannu
Wolf in White Van, Darnielle, John
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Walton, Leslye
The Angel of Losses, Feldman, Stephanie
The Department of Speculation, Offill, Jenny
Tigerman, Harkaway, Nick
The Girl in the Road, Byrne, Monica
Nigerians in Space, Olukotun, Deji Bryce

A good list, broad and deep, with mentions of plenty of the front-runners for the Nebula and Hugo. But can I really give Annihilation 5 points from one list? Clearly, VanderMeer won the Strange Horizons betting pool, but how much influence can I give one publication? If I collate 5 votes, that means Strange Horizons will dominate my meta-list. Not cool. On the other hand, anyone who reads this Best of 2014 is likely to come away with the feeling they better read Annihilation, so is it fair to give it only 1 point? Does that accurately reflect the intent/effect of the article?

Like I said, methodological crisis. Our only option: panic!

Fortunately, Chaos Horizon is just for fun. I’m putting together a list that may or may not predict the Hugos and Nebulas, and, even when I do, we’re only looking at a few hundred data points, not enough to be statistically sound. For the time being, I’m going to give a list like Strange Horizons (and Tor.com, and SF Signal) a maximum of 2 points. Everyone who appears at least once, gets 1 point. That final point will be scaled against the multiple mentions. So the top of the Strange Horizons lists will look like this in the collation:

2 points: Annihilation/Southern Reach, VanderMeer, Jeff
1.25 points: J, Jacobson, Howard
1.25 points: The Race, Allan, Nina
1.25 points: Fire in the Unnamable Country, Islam, Ghalib

So, beyond the initial mentions, VanderMeer got 4 more mentions. 4/4 = 1. Howard got 1 more mention, 1/4 = .25. What do you think? Fair? Unfair?

I’ll be back tomorrow with SF Signal’s list and some more comments on the methodology for the SFF Critics Meta-List, and then I’ll recollate the list. Things are heating up this award season, so it’ll be interesting to see who pulls ahead with my evolving SFF Critics list methodology.

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