Best of 2014: SF Signal

I’m still sorting through the methodology of the SFF Critics meta-list: currently, the idea is to include all “Best of 2014” lists by “major” SFF critics. Now, defining “major” is the awkward issue. Remember, the goal of Chaos Horizon is to build a predictive model for the Hugo and Nebula Awards—not to achieve some impossible goal of determining what is the “best” novel of the year, but rather what lists are likely to influence the Hugo/Nebula—so, as of now, I’m building this from three things:

1. “Best of Lists” by the mainstream SFF websites: LocusMagazine,, io9, basically anything that a ton of possible SFWA or WorldCon voters will see.
2. “Best of Lists” by well-known SFF authors, such as Adam Roberts’ list for The Guardian.
3. “Best of Lists” published by Hugo nominated blogs, fansites, and semiprozines. Given that the Hugo voting audience probably knows these outlets, it makes a certain amount of sense they’d look in that direction. There’s a definite feedback loop in the Hugos, as seen by the sheer number of Repeat nominees.

The collating methodology is a little complicated, since a number of these lists (including today’s SF Signal list) are made up of multiple critics. See my Strange Horizons posts for details on how I’m handling points.

All these various lists will be collated, and we’ll see where we get. Since these’ll be in an Excel file, we can sort them and see which ones actually correlate to the Hugos/Nebulas when the time comes.

Today, I’ll be looking at SF Signal’s “MINDMELD: Best Genre Works of 2014.” SF Signal won the Hugo for Best Fanzine in 2012 and 2013. For their “Best of 2014” post, they invited 14 bloggers, authors, and critics to cover their favorite novels, stories, movies, anime, comics, etc. This kind of broad meta-post gives some great insight into what SFF enthusiasts are thinking about the year in review.

For my list, I went through and noted the novels promoted as the “Best of 2014.” Here’s the list:

3 mentions: The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison
2 mentions: Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
Everyone else was mentioned once:
A Man Lies Dreaming, Lavie Tidhar
Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes
Child of a Hidden Sea, A.M. Dellamonica
Coming Home, Jack McDevitt
Dirty Wings, Sarah McCarry
Dreams of the Golden Age, Carrie Vaughn
Frost Burned, Patricia Briggs
Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor
Murder of Crows, Anne Bishop
Our Lady of the Islands, Shannon Page and Jay Lake
Prince of Shadows, Rachel Caine
Shimmer, Paul Weston
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt
The Burning Room, Michael Connelly
The Clockwork Dagger, Beth Cato
The Fictional Woman, Tara Moss
The Girl in the Road, Monica Byrne
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Genevieve Valentine
The King’s Deryni, Katherine Kurtz
The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman
The Metanatural Adventures of Dr. Black, Brendan Connell
The Secret Place, Tana French
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu
Tigerman, Nick Harkaway
Unwrapped Sky, Rjurik Davidson
Valour and Vanity, Mary Robinette Kowal
Wickedly Dangerous, Deborah Blake

The more fan-oriented these lists have been, the better The Goblin Emperor has done. When they’re more professional critic oriented, Annihilation shines. Does that mean a Nebula for VanderMeer and a Hugo nomination for Addison?

It’s interesting who doesn’t make the list: VanderMeer, Robert Jackson Bennett, David Mitchell. You figure 1 out of 14 critics would have praised those books, given how widely read they were this year. This might indicate that said books are not reaching every part of SFF fandom. However, you can’t overvalue one last, even if it does include 14 different critics.



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