2015 Nebula Prediction, Version 4.0

Here we are, with my last Nebula Prediction before the Nebula slate comes out in late February! In this post, I’m just going to look at my predicted slate. See my earlier predictions for other texts that might be in the mix.

Here’s what I see happening, based on the Chaos Horizon research into reviews, year-end lists, popularity, and past voting patterns. As always, I try to predict what is most likely to happen, not what should happen.

1. Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer
2. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
3. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
4. City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett
5. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison
6. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell

The Nebula is much harder to predict than the Hugo, due to the smaller voting pool and the fact that the Nebula does not share final voting numbers. I thought about taking the easy way out and putting “Wildcard” in spot 6, but I’d figured I’d at least predict a full slate. I’ll be happy if I get 4 out of the 6 correct, and once the slate comes out, I’ll be able to improve the current Chaos Horizon model. Some thoughts:

1. Annihilation or Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer: VanderMeer’s book was probably the most raved about SFF book of 2014 in critical circles. Weird and strange, divisive and highly debatable, people either loved or hated this trilogy, particularly the first part. We’re talking about a novel that’s grabbed recent features in The Atlantic and The New Yorker. The Nebula is a writer’s award, so while that kind of coverage may not sway SFF fans, expect it to sway SFWA voters. On most of my metrics (sales, reviews, year-end lists), Annihilation is at or near the top. How the SFWA handles VanderMeer is an open question: will they aggregate votes to Area X or nominate only Annihilation?

2. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie: I think this is close to a sure thing. Since Leckie won last year, this means she has a ton of built-in support for this year. The Nebula tends to nominate the same authors over and over again (to the tune of 50% repeat nominees), and I don’t see any reason to expect this not to happen in Leckie’s case. Even if Ancillary Sword wasn’t quite the critical sensation Ancillary Justice was, a lot of SFWA readers will have read her sequel, and each voter can nominate up to 5 books. This is a safe, consensus pick; when people don’t what else to vote for, they’ll vote for Leckie.

3. A literary SFF novel: The Nebula has been relatively friendly towards literary fiction as of late, and I expect it to continue to do so this year. That probably means Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, although The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell could jump in. Mitchell has a prior Nebula nom for Cloud Atlas, a movie based on the book that plenty of people saw, and a huge literary profile. Station Eleven was the buzzier novel in the last part of 2014, and I think that buzz, along with Mandel’s impressive recent sales, makes her a pretty good bet for a Nebula nom. I slotted The Bone Clocks in sixth place, although that’s little more than a place holder: I can’t think of any novel that has a better chance of making the slate.

4. One or two of the progressive/experimental fantasy novels: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, or The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley. I lump these together because they’re sort of the same: fantasy novels from SFF writers that are self-consciously pushing the boundaries of what fantasy is. SFWA voters have liked this kind of novel in the past, and fantasy has been the hot genre for the Nebulas over the past couple years. Hurley has weaker rankings and sales compared to the other two, but she has a real chance based on how well-known she is to voters, including a prior Nebula nom and two 2014 Hugo wins for best fan writer and best related work.

5. A wild card: The Nebula loves reaching down into the broader field and pulling up a slightly more obscure text. Think of the Charles Gannon or Linda Nagata from last year, or Christopher Barzak from a few years ago. I think Girls at the Kingfisher Club has a shot. I think Lagoon (if it’s eligible since no U.S. publicaiton) has an outsider shot. Jack McDevitt always has to be in the mix based on his 10+ prior noms, and William Gibson may have some sentiment behind him. Don’t underestimate the old-school SF voting block of the SFWA. There could also be a novel I’ve never heard of; you just don’t know what will happen at the bottom of the slate.

So, that wraps up my pre-slate Nebula predictions! Click on my 2015 Nebula Prediction tab up top for even more info. I look forward to seeing the eventual slate! Any quibbles? Any other thoughts?

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