National Book Critics Circle Award Nominees include Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea

As the Hugo and Nebula debates rage, parallel—and equally contentious—debates rage in the literary world. The National Book Critics Circle Award is one of the “Big Four” American literary awards (along with the National Book Award, the Pulitzer, and PEN/Faulkner award). This year’s nominees were just announced, and Chang-rae Lee’s SF novel On Such a Full Sea made the cut:

Rabih Alameddine, “An Unnecessary Woman” (Grove Press)

Marlon James, “A Brief History of Seven Killings” (Riverhead Books)

Lily King, “Euphoria” (Atlantic Monthly Press)

Chang-rae Lee, “On Such a Full Sea” (Riverhead Books)

Marilynne Robinson, “Lila” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The Lee is a post-collapse novel set in a United States struggling to maintain some semblance of civilization and order, and traces a character leaving her commune and exploring a dystopic landscape. It’s interesting to see Lee grab a nomination instead of the literary darling Station Eleven, but Lee does have the more established reputation.

Speculative books have done very well in the past 18 months on the literary awards circuit: a 2014 win in the PEN/Faulkner for Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, a 2014 nomination for the National Book Award for Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and 2014 Booker nominations for Karen Joy Fowler and Howard Jacobson’s J.

That’s a much friendlier stance towards genre fiction than in previous years, although all of these are certainly very “literary.” Trend or exception? If literary SFF starts sneaking into the major literary awards, will it continue to have a place in the Nebula?

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