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

SFWA Feb 15 2016 Data

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.

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6 responses to “Final 2015 SFWA Recommended Reading List”

  1. NH says :

    If you didn’t have the recommendation list available, what would your prediction be?

    • chaoshorizon says :

      I would have totally missed on Updraft and Barsk. So I would have gone with the conservative: Ancillary Mercy, Uprooted, The Fifth Season, Aurora, Grace of Kings, and probably Raising Caine/Thunderbird in the last spot. I’m surprised Aurora has no traction: KSR is such a Nebula favorite, and I thought Aurora was every bit the equal of his past winners.

      • NH says :

        Thanks. I agree about Aurora. If they published final nomination totals, I suspect we’d see that Aurora outperforms its rec ranking (the novels that outperformed last year were Ancillary Sword, Coming Home, and Three-Body Problem — the hard/core/lit SF area that Aurora occupies) but it does seem to be too far behind right now, and I’m not sure why.

        Also, I note they’ve started a 2016 rec list already!

  2. Laura says :

    Have you noticed you can get previous years of the rec list by adjusting the url?

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