Nebula Nominees Out: Some Initial Data
The SFWA announced this year’s Nebula Best Novel Nominees yesterday. As I predicted, they mirrored the SFWA Recommended Reading list exactly. We did get 7 nominees, which means there was a tie somewhere. Here’s the list:
Raising Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu (Saga)
Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen (Tor)
Updraft, Fran Wilde (Tor)
Congrats to all the nominees. Now we can turn our attention to predicting the winner. Winning a Nebula is very different than getting nominated; a small group of passionate fans can drive a nomination, but to win you need to build a broader coalition. Voting takes place between March 1st and March 30th according to the SFWA website:
From March 1, 2016, to March 30, 2016, 11:59pm PDT, SFWA’s Active and Lifetime Active members may vote on the final ballot for the 2015 Nebula Awards (presented in 2016), the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book.
That’s not a lot of time to read 6 books, so I think popularity measures are a good place to start. If lots of SFWA voters have already read a book, it stands to reason more people could vote for it. Let’s take a glance at popularity as measured by Goodreads and Amazon # of rankings:
Table #1: Popularity of Nebula Best Novel Nominees by # of Rankings at Amazon and Goodreads
|Grace of Kings||164||2,541|
|The Fifth Season||78||3,829|
I don’t pay too much attention to fine differences but more order of magnitude (10x) issues. It’s clear that Uprooted is far more popular than any other of the Nebula nominees this year. Barsk, which led the SFWA Recommended Reading List and thus has a kind of fronturunner status right now, hasn’t had much expsoure yet. The book came out in December, and I think the question we face is whether Schoen can pick up enough SFWA readers by the end of March to be competitive with Novik. We’ll have to see how the next month goes.
As a final note, you can see in this chart how differently Amazon and Goodreads track books. Grace of Kings does well on Amazon but poorly on Goodreads, for instance. Amazon and Goodreads track different audiences, and neither of those audiences may be particularly well synced with SFWA voters. In fact, I’ve not found a good correlation between these popularity measures and who wins the Nebula. So you can’t simply say Uprooted is popular and Barsk is not; it matters whether or not you’re popular with the SFWA voting audience.
Over at the Heart of Europe, Nicholas Whyte tracks some slightly different data but equally interesting data (Goodreads owners, Library Thing). Check his post out here.
How about book scores? Those are even less predictive of the Nebula; Annihilation won last year with a very low average ranking on Amazon and Goodreads. Still, here’s the data:
Table #2: Popularity of Nebula Best Novel Nominees by Rating at Amazon and Goodreads
|The Fifth Season||4.7||4.34|
|Grace of Kings||3.9||3.76|
Talk about inconsistent! We’ve got a huge 1 star difference for Barsk and Updraft. Goodreads and Amazon have different suggested scales, so that accounts for some of the difference. What I’d take from this chart is that reader struggled with Grace of Kings, generally liked The Fifth Season, Uprooted, and Ancillary Mercy, and that we don’t have enough rankings on Barsk, Raising Caine, and Updraft to say anything sensible. Like I noted, though, I don’t think these scores have any bearing on the Nebula.
Let’s look at prior Nebula and Hugo history. If you’ve won before, doesn’t that mean you have the fanbase to win again?
|Nebula Noms||Nebula Wins||Hugo Noms||Hugo Wins|
|Liu (Grace of Kings)||8||1||4||3|
|Jemisin (The Fifth Season)||4||0||2||0|
|Gannon (Raising Caine)||2||0||0||0|
|Leckie (Ancillary Mercy)||2||1||2||1|
That’s a lot of prior nominations for Ken Liu. Is he due for another win? It might work the other way—he’s lost 7 Nebulas in a row after his win for “The Paper Menagerie” back in 2012 (that story also won the Hugo and the World Fantasy Award). Do Liu’s fans only have the ability to get nominations but not wins? How about Jemisin (4 losses / 0 wins) or Schoen (3 losses / 0 wins)? Due for a win or just not popular enough with the SFWA voters? Could someone totally fresh to the Nebulas (Novik/Wilde) sneak in? Or will people go with our only prior Best Novel winner with Leckie?
Some other factors to consider: by my reckoning, only Barsk and Uprooted are stand-alone stories, complete in one volume. The other books are part of a series. It’s hard to jump into the middle of a series if you’re unfamiliar with the earlier books, so that’s a strike against Gannon and Leckie. First books in a series do fine in the Nebulas (see Leckie’s win 2 years ago), but there’s also some danger of such a book not feeling “complete.”
In some ways, Wilde’s nomination is a key one. It’s the first time we’ve seen a novel receive both a Nebula Nomination and an Andre Norton nomination (the SFWA YA category). I don’t know what that means for Wilde’s chances in either, but it may signal a loosening of the SFWAs attitude towards YA fiction in the Best Novel category. That could have major implications moving forward.
I’m going to let the Nebula dust settle for a couple weeks before I come back and try to predict the winner of this award.
2016 Nebula Prediction 2.0
Time to finalize my 2016 Nebula Best Novel prediction.
This year, it’s the most boring and conservative prediction I’ve ever come up with. To catch those of you up who aren’t familiar with the prior discussions on Chaos Horizon: the SFWA made their Recommended Reading list available this year. After close analysis, it appears that this Recommended Reading list is closely (to the tune of 80%) aligned with the final Nebula nominations. Since Chaos Horizon tries to be a data-driven site, using past Nebula and Hugo patterns for its future predictions, we’re not going to find any better data than that.
As such, my prediction needs to mirror the top of the SFWA recommended reading list. Like I said, that’s boring and safe, but it is what it is. Here’s the Top 10 from the SFWA Recommended Reading list, as of 2/18/16:
|Barsk: The Elephants’ G…||Schoen, Lawrence M.||Tor Books||Dec-15|
|33||Raising Caine||Gannon, Charles E.||Baen||Jul-15|
|29||Updraft||Wilde, Fran||Tor Books||Sep-15|
|24||Uprooted||Novik, Naomi||Del Rey||May-15|
|22||The Grace of Kings||Liu, Ken||Saga Press||Apr-15|
|21||Ancillary Mercy||Leckie, Ann||Orbit||Oct-15|
|19||The Fifth Season||Jemisin, N. K.||Orbit||Aug-15|
|18||Beasts of Tabat||Rambo, Cat||WordFire Press||Apr-15|
|18||Karen Memory||Bear, Elizabeth||Tor Books||Feb-15|
|The Traitor Baru Cormorant||Dickinson, Seth||Tor Books||Sep-15|
There’s no reason to expect that the Nebula Best Novel nominations will look any different from the top of this list. We may see one novel from lower down like The Fifth Season jump up into the top six; that has happened in the past. The Fifth Season is particularly compelling due to Jemisin’s three prior Best Novel Nebula nominations. I place a lot of stock in former nominations. But who would she replace? Leckie, who won two years ago and whose Ancillary series is one of the most critically acclaimed works of the decade? Ken Liu, who has 7 prior Nebula nominations for his short fiction? Uprooted, one of the most read and talked about fantasy novels of the year? Wilde, Gannon, and Schoen, all of whom have a large vote lead? I wouldn’t be shocked to see Jemisin make it, but I’d be suprirsed to see anyone else leap up.
So, here’s my prediction. These are in the order of who I think is most likely to get nominated, not who I think is most likely to win. Also, I predict who I think will get nominations, not who should get nominations. I’ll grind through my winning prediction after we get the nominees:
1. Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, Lawrence Schoen: The absolute surprise of the SFWA Recommended Reading list, this SF novel about a post-human future came out at the very end of the year, too late too make any of the “year’s best lists.” Schoen does have 3 prior Nebula nominations (0 wins) in the Novella category over the past three years, so that familiarity helped him roar up the list. The Nebula has a history of helping push ignored novels in the past, and this seems to be another example of that. It’s still lightly read, at least according to Amazon and Goodreads; a Nebula nomiation would bring it a lot of attention. If Barsk gets nominated, that will also give us some great data about how much a Nebula nomination impacts the Hugos.
2. Raising Caine, Charles Gannon: Gannon has become a favorite of the Nebulas (the new McDevitt?), with two prior Best Novel nominations for this same series. Raising Caine mixes it up, giving us a contact/strange planet story. It’s length (almost 800 pages) and place in a series (#3) would normally be strikes against getting a Nebula nom, but with such a high placement on the SFWA list, Gannon seems like a safe bet again.
3. Updraft, Fran Wilde: Wilde’s book hovers (I couldn’t resist the bad pun) in the territory between YA and Adult, and may grab a Norton (the Nebula’s YA category) nomination this year as well. If it does, this might signal a shift for the Nebulas, with a willingness to nominate more YA books not by Neil Gaiman. Wilde would be new to the Nebulas, having 0 prior nominations.
4. Uprooted, Naomi Novik: Novik has almost every metric going for her: good sales, good placement on year-end lists, strong fan response. She has no Nebula history (0 nominations), although she did a grab a Hugo best novel nomination back in 2007 for Temeraire. Novik was at the top of the SFWA Recommended Reading list when it debuted, but she hasn’t picked up much steam sense. Still, I think this is a safe bet and a strong contender to win the Nebula.
5. Grace of Kings, Ken Liu: Liu has been a recent Nebula darling : 7 short fiction nominations since 2012. This is his first novel, and since the Nebula audience is already very familiar with his short fiction from prior nominations, that brings a lot of eyeballs to the text. In Chaos Horizon predictions, eyeballs = possible voters. Ken also scored a Best Novel nomination last year for translating Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Problem.
6. Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie: Leckie is coming off of two straight Nebula nominations for this series, including her win for Ancillary Justice in 2014. I don’t expect anything to change this year; the final volume was well-received as a fitting conclusion to this trilogy. Could there be a little Leckie fatigue though: after so many awards over the past 2 years, could Nebula voters want to nominate someone else?
7. The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin: Jemisin has three prior best novel Nebula noms in 2011, 2012, and 2013, which is every year she’s been eligible for the novel category (she’s published 5 novels, but some years she published more than one novel). If anyone can outperform their place on the list, I think it’s Jemisin.
At this point, let me break from the SFWA list and include some possible strong competitors from lower down:
8. Karen Memory, Elizabeth Bear: Bear seems like a possible contender with her unique setting and decent placement on the SFWA list. In the negative column, she has 0 total Nebula nominations ever, and Karen Memory doesn’t perform particularly well in popularity metrics. The 19th century steampunk setting might be a challenge for some voters as well.
9. Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson: Robinson has been a perennial Nebula favorite (12 total nominations, 3 wins, including Best Novel wins for 2312 in 2013 and Red Mars back in 1994). Even though he’s tied #15 on the SFWA list, this is a kind of Hard SF novel that appeals to the SF wing of the Nebulas; that group has always had enough votes to put 1-2 books on every Nebula ballot in recent years. If anyone dramatically outperforms their SFWA list placement, it could be Robinson.
10. The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi: If Aurora doesn’t make it, this book is the other logical choice for a SF novel from a recent winner. Bacigalupi roared to huge Nebula and Hugo success with The Windup Girl back in 2010, and this is his first proper “adult” SF novel since then. 5 years is an eternity in these awards—has his popularity cooled off?
Everyone else seems unlikely. Cixin Liu got a nomination last year, but The Dark Forest is way down the list at #15. Maybe a book like The Traitor Baru Cormorant or The House of Shattered Wings has some buzz I’m not seeing, so those might be possibilities. Cat Rambo could grab support for Beasts of Tabat, but her position as SFWA President would seem to be a significant conflict of interest in taking a nomination. Laura Anne Gilman did get a Nebula Best Novel nomination back in 2010, so Silver on the Road is a possibility. The Nebulas have only ever nominated Stephenson once, back in 1994, so I don’t see Seveneves as having any real chance. It’s probably best never to count McDevitt completely out, but Thunderbird didn’t do well on the list this year.
There’s also an outside possibility that the SFWA Recommended Reading list won’t be predictive this year. Maybe making it public changed the dynamic so much that it’s no longer accurate. We won’t know that until the noms come out, though.
The fun thing about predicting is that we’ll know the answers soon. Nebula nominations should be announced shortly. Then it’s on to the Hugos: controversy ahoy!
Even More SFWA Recommended Reading List Analysis
In a great find on the last Chaos Horizon SFWA thread, one of the commenters noted that you can access earlier years of the SFWA Recommended Reading list by changing the URL. Data goes back to 2011, which gives us three additional years to analyze. Previously, I’d been relying only on the 2014 data to see a correlation between this list and the eventual Nebula nominees.
You can check out the lists by going to this page and changing the year. I’m most interested in whether or not there’s a correlation between the recommendations and the eventual nominees/winners of the Best Novel category, so let’s take a look at the Top 10. Eventual Nebula winners are in red; eventual Nebula nominees are in green. I also included the number of recommendations for each book. Remember, the Nebula nominates 6 works unless there are ties, and then it can nominate more (it nominated 8 in 2014, for instance).
Table #1: The Top 10 From the SFWA Recommended Reading List, 2014-2011
You can always click to make that chart bigger, but I think the colors tell the story. That’s a lot of green at the top of the chart and a lot of red at the very top.
3/4 times, the top vote getter from the Recommended List went on to win the Nebula. Schoen must be dancing right now for Barsk, which topped the 2015 list with 35 votes (Gannon did get 33, and Wilde 29, so Schoen shouldn’t start celebrating yet). The only exception to this rule was Kim Stanley Robinson in 2012. Maybe KSR, who had 11 prior Nebula nominations and 2 prior wins, was just so much better known to the voting audience than his fellow nominees, although that’s just speculation. That KSR win from the #4 spot does stand out as a real outlier to the other years.
The Top 6 recommended works got nominated 19/24 times, for a staggering 79.1% nomination rate. If you’re predicting the Nebulas, are you going to find any better correlation than this? Just pick the top 6, and bask in your 80% success rate. Even in the worst year of the past 4, you’d have gotten 67% right. For the record, 80% is better than Chaos Horizon has ever done, or I ever really hope to do. :(. Maybe the SFWA is trying to put Chaos Horizon out of business.
We’ve got one anomaly in 2012 that I can’t account for. Mary Robinson Kowal’s Glamour in Glass was nominated for a Nebula that year, and yet it appears nowhere (not even 1 vote!) on the 2012 Recommended Reading list. Before you start sharpening your Nebula conspiracy knives, I wonder if Kowal, who was SFWA Vice-President, asked to not appear on this list? This is also the year of John Scalzi’s Redshirts, and, according to him, he turned down a Nebula nomination that year because he was SFWA President. Check this thread, and search for “Redshirts” in the comments. Note that Redshirts doesn’t show up on the 2012 recommendations either. I find it hard to believe Scalzi and Kowal garnered enough support in 2012 to grab nominations without receiving a single recommendation on this list, but what do I know?
Other than the Kowal oddity, all the eventual Nebula nominees have all come from the Top 8 of the Recommended Reading list. There doesn’t see to be much rhyme or reason why works in the #7 or #8 spot overperform their position. We do have a number of SF novels that got elevated (McDevitt, Liu, Mieville), but we also have Caitlin Kiernan’s horror/weird novel The Drowning Girl beating out Elizabeth Bear’s fantasy novel Range of Ghosts. We may only be talking a couple votes when we get to these spots, so it’s probably best not to take too much stock in them. I guess if there’s a toss up between a SF novel and a F or Horror novel, go with the SF if you’re predicting.
Other items of interest: we’ve seen a sharp increase of votes over the past two years, almost doubling the numbers in 2014 and 2015 from 2013, 2012, and 2011. Has the intesnse scrutiny on the Nebula and Hugos kicked the SFWA voters into gear? Are more people aware of this list, and its possible impact on the Nebulas?
Anything else we can learn from this list? For those of you interested in short fiction, you can change the year to access past data for the Short Story, Novelette, and Novella categories. Happy analyzing!
Final 2015 SFWA Recommended Reading List
Nebula voting closed yesterday, and we should get the Nebula nominees sometime soon (around a week or so).
This year, Nebula prediction has been great simplified because the SFWA has included a “Recommended Reading List” for their categories. This list has, in the past, been highly predictive of the Nebulas, to the point that this data overshadows all other predictive data we might find. While we might not have the 6 Nebula nominees = the Top 6 from the recommended list, I’d expect the top 3 or 4 from the list to make it for sure, and then have the final nominees drawn somewhere from recommended items #5-#10.
I’ve been keeping tabs on the list, so let’s check in on the final 2015 numbers:
Table 1: Number of Recommendations on the SFWA 2015 Best Novel Recommended Reading List
Gannon and Schoen have shot up this list like rockets, going from nowhere in November to dominating by the end. Those 34 and 33 numbers are so impressive it’s hard to imagine them not getting Nebula nominations at this point. Overall, there were 728 total recommendations; that has to represent a substantial amount of the final Nebula nomination vote. Gannon and Schoen will raise some eyebrows if they get nominations; these SF books certainly got less press, acclaim, and online discussion than other SF books like Sevenves or Aurora. The Nebula is quirky like this, often favoring smaller authors over the big names. If they get nominated, I think the question is whether or not one of those books can win. Will Gannon follow the McDevitt route—get nominated enough and eventually you’ll win? Will Barsk grab a ton of new readers and take the Nebula? I think there’s a definite advantage to being fresh in your voters’ minds.
Updraft now seems like a very safe bet, having picked up an impressive 19 recommendations from November. This may show up in both the Norton (the Nebula YA category) and the Best Novel category. Could Schoen and Gannon split the SF vote, opening the way for a Wilde win?
I had Uprooted by Naomi Novik pegged as an early Nebula favorite, but I’m surprised at how few votes it’s picked up since November, with only 4. Maybe everyone who was going to read Uprooted had read it by then, while authors like Schoen and Wilde were attracting new readers. That can’t be good for Novik’s chances.
Ken Liu has a number of past Nebula nominations, and should be a strong contender for his first Best Novel nomination. Leckie has great Nebula history, with a win 2 years ago and a nomination last year. Jemisin has 3 prior Best Novel nominations. I expect the three of them to fight it out for two spots. It may be that Leckie is the odd-author out: she’s gotten so much acclaim and so many awards for this series already that voters may want to give a different writer a chance.
Cat Rambo is the current President of the SFWA, and I can’t see her accepting a nomination even if she gets the votes. Karen Memory was an interesting possibility, but it’s only picked up 2 votes in the past 3 months. Where’s the enthusiasm for Bear?
I don’t see any good chance for writers lower down on the list to jump upward. The House of Shattered Wings got a BSFA nomination, so maybe that gives Aliette de Bodard some momentum. The Traitor Baru Cormorant got good buzz a few months ago, and 18 is a solid vote total. I just don’t know who those books would leapfrog to get up into the top 6.
I’ll update my Nebula prediction tomorrow. We look like we’re in for an interesting year; not many people have read Barsk yet, and Schoen/Gannon/Wilde nominations would give the Nebulas a very unique feel in 2016.
BSFA Shortlist Announced
The shortlist for the British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel has been announced:
Dave Hutchinson: Europe at Midnight, Solaris
Chris Beckett: Mother of Eden, Corvus
Aliette de Bodard: The House of Shattered Wings, Gollancz
Ian McDonald: Luna: New Moon, Gollancz
Justina Robson: Glorious Angels, Gollancz
As you’d expect, the BSFA has a much more British/European flavor than the Hugos or Nebulas. It’s an interesting list. Hutchinson has emerged as a major author of the near-European future with this “Fractured Europe” series. Ian McDonald is a favorite of the BSFAs, with 3 prior Best Novel wins and 13 total nominations/5 wins. Bodard’s post-apocalyptic Paris fallen angel novel seems the oddest fit on the list, as its more urban fantasy than SF. She did grab another nomination in the short fiction category:
Aliette de Bodard: “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight”. Clarkesworld 100
Paul Cornell: “The Witches of Lychford”, Tor.com
Jeff Noon: “No Rez”, Interzone 260
Nnedi Okorafor, “Binti”, Tor.com
Gareth L. Powell: “Ride the Blue Horse”, Matter
The big surprise here is that Ann Leckie is missing for Ancillary Mercy. Leckie is coming off back to back wins in the BSFA for Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword. Some of the smaller awards work this way: the voting body decides one author has gotten enough recognition so they move on to something else. I wouldn’t read too much into the Leckie snub.
For those interested, here’s the BSFA’s description of their voting process:
What are the BSFA Awards? The BSFA awards are presented annually by the British Science Fiction Association, based on a vote of BSFA members and – in recent years – members of the British national science fiction convention Eastercon. They are fan awards that not only seek to honour the most worthy examples in each category, but to promote the genre of science fiction, and get people reading, talking about and enjoying all that contemporary science fiction has to offer.
Lastly, I can now start my 2016 Award Meta-List, since we have these nominations and the PKD nominations. No overlap yet, so everyone sits tied at 1 nomination. The Kitschies might be up next, then the Nebulas. I’d be surprised to see any of the BSFA nominees show in the Nebulas or Hugos, but stranger things have happened.
Checking Back in with the SFWA Recommended Reading List
The 2016 Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards circus is heating up. We’re probably about 3 weeks away from having this year’s Nebula nominations announced. Let’s check back in with the SFWA Recommended Reading list to see who’s likely to get a Nebula nomination.
Having access to the SFWA Recommended Reading list has been extremely helpful in predicting the Nebulas this year, so much so that it basically overwhelms all other data that we might have. If we have good data, Chaos Horizon will use it; I’d rather be correct than interesting or edgy.
I’ve been keeping track of the SFWA list to see which books are heating up, and it’s intriguing to see who the breakthroughs are. Let’s take a look at a chart comparing the recommendation totals from the end of November to the first of February. The SFWA list is constantly updating, so my chart may be outdated as soon as I put it up. I pulled the numbers down by cutting and pasting the data myself:
Table 1: Number of Recommendations on the SFWA 2015 Recommended Reading List
What does this tell us? That Lawrence M. Schoen’s Barsk has emerged as a major Nebula contender, despite being lightly read (as of January 30th, this only has 93 ratings on Goodreads, 31 on Amazon, much much lower than other Nebula/Hugo contenders). That’s due in part to Schoen’s late publication date: the novel came out on December 29, 2015. That’s a tough time to come out, as you get lost in the post-Christmas malaise. A Nebula nomination would drive a lot of attention to this book. Schoen now seems like a very good bet for the Nebula, particularly when we factor in that he received Nebula nominations in the Best Novella category in 2013, 2014, and 2015. There’s clearly a subset of Nebula voters that really like Schoen’s work; a Best Novel nomination might be a spark that gets him more read by the rest of us.
I initially thought that Fran Wilde’s Updraft would grab a Norton nomination, the SFWA’s Young Adult category, but not a Nebula, on the logic that voters won’t want to nominate the same book twice on the same ballot. Wilde’s strong showing in the recommended reading list means I’m abandoning that logic; I now think she’ll pull the rare double of receiving both a Nebula and a Norton nomination. Giving the rising interest in YA fiction over the past 10 years, this might be a foreshadowing of things to come.
Lastly, Gannon is leaping up the list impressively. Gannon is coming off 2 straight Nebula nominations for books in this series; if he had enough support in previous years, why wouldn’t he have enough support this year? In 2015, Trial by Fire wound up with 23 recommendations and the #2 spot on the SFWA list on its way to a nomination. 19 is most of the way there. Gannon may be the new McDevitt: expect another nom.
If I were predicting the Nebula today, here’s what I would go with, in order of how confident I am of them getting a nomination:
1. Uprooted, Naomi Novik
2. Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
3. Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen
4. Raising Caine, Charles Gannon
5. Updraft, Fran Wilde
6. The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
with Grace of Kings by Ken Liu at #7 and Karen Memory at #8. I have Jemisin ahead of both Liu and Bear based on her prior history in this category, although an argument that Liu also has a strong Nebula history would be pretty compelling. I’ll probably wait until the Nebula nomination period closes on February 15th to update my official prediction. Best to wait and see if any other books start picking up votes. There’s still 15 days left!
What do you think? Is Barsk now the Nebula favorite?
2015 Locus Recommended Reading Lists Posted
The 2015 Locus Recommended Reading Lists have been posted over on the Locus website.
Locus is one of the most influential SF and Fantasy review magazines/websites. This list, put together by their reviewers, is extremely long (28 SF novels, 21 F novels, plus long lists of YA novels, anthologies, first novels, etc.). It operates as more of a 10,000 foot view of the field than a sharp predictor of who will win the year’s SFF awards. They also have recommendations in many of the other Hugo and Nebula categories such as Novella and Short Story.
From Chaos Horizon’s point of view, it’s probably more noteworthy as to what misses the lists than what makes it. All the expected heavy hitters are here: Uprooted, The Fifth Season, Seveneves, Aurora, The Water Knife, Ancillary Mercy, The Dark Forest.
A couple snubs I noticed: No recommendation for Updraft by Fran Wilde, and no recommendation for Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen. Both are doing very well on the SFWA Recommended Reading list. Schoen came out very late in the year (December 29th), but I don’t know why the Wilde missed both the Fantasy and the YA list. Locus tends to isolate first novels in its “First Novel” category rather than including them in the main category, so that’s why Ken Liu, Zen Cho, and Seth Dickinson show up this there rather than on the main Fantasy list.
If you don’t feel like clicking over, here’s the SF and F lists:
NOVELS – SCIENCE FICTION
The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi (Borzoi; Orbit UK)
Clade, James Bradley (Penguin Australia)
The Darkside War, Zachary Brown (Saga)
Corsair, James L. Cambias (Tor)
Tracker, C.J. Cherryh (DAW)
Nemesis Games, James S.A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Dark Orbit, Carolyn Ives Gilman (Tor)
Weighing Shadows, Lisa Goldstein (Night Shade)
Europe at Midnight, Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Dark Forest, Cixin Liu (Tor)
Luna: New Moon, Ian McDonald (Tor; Gollancz)
Galapagos Regained, James Morrow (St. Martin’s)
Going Dark, Linda Nagata (Saga)
Planetfall, Emma Newman (Roc)
The Book of Phoenix, Nnedi Okorafor (DAW; Hodder & Stoughton)
Where, Kit Reed (Tor)
Poseidon’s Wake, Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz; Ace 2016)
The Thing Itself, Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Glorious Angels, Justina Robson (Gollancz)
Regeneration, Stephanie Saulter (Quercus; Jo Fletcher 2016)
The End of All Things, John Scalzi (Tor)
Seveneves, Neal Stephenson (Morrow)
Chasing the Phoenix, Michael Swanwick (Tor)
Radiance, Catherynne M. Valente (Tor)
Persona, Genevieve Valentine (Saga)
A Borrowed Man, Gene Wolfe (Tor)
NOVELS – FANTASY
Foxglove Summer, Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz 2014; DAW)
A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown; Doubleday UK)
Karen Memory, Elizabeth Bear (Tor)
Steles of the Sky, Elizabeth Bear (Tor)
Nightwise, R.S. Belcher (Tor)
Beneath London, James P. Blaylock (Titan)
The House of Shattered Wings, Aliette de Bodard (Roc; Gollancz)
Prodigies, Angelica Gorodischer (Small Beer)
Wylding Hall, Elizabeth Hand (PS; Open Road)
Empire Ascendant, Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot US; Angry Robot UK)
The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf)
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Killing Pretty, Richard Kadrey (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
Finders Keepers, Stephen King (Scribner)
Archivist Wasp, Nicole Kornher-Stace (Big Mouth House)
Slade House, David Mitchell (Random House; Sceptre UK)
Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
Savages, K.J. Parker (Subterranean)
The Annihilation Score, Charles Stross (Ace)
Pacific Fire, Greg Van Eekhout (Tor)
The Philosopher Kings, Jo Walton (Tor)