Best of 2016: Publisher’s Weekly, Goodreads Semifinals
That time of year is upon us: year-end lists! A few are beginning to leak out. I keep track of all the Mainstream ones in this spreadsheet—these are from websites, newspapers, etc., that are not “specialty” SFF sites. These selections tend to lean either towards the mainstream and populist (Goodreads) or towards the literary (Publisher’s Weekly). These mainstreams lists aren’t a great predictor of the Hugo or Nebula, but they do at least tend to get us in the neighborhood. If your book isn’t popular enough to make some year-end lists, you’re probably not popular enough to get a Hugo nomination.
On to the lists:
After Atlas, Emma Newman
All Good Children, Dayna Ingram
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Meg Elison
A Green and Ancient Light, Frederic S. Durbin
Kingfisher, Patricia A. McKillip
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife actually came out in June 2014, but was reprinted by a bigger press in 2016. It won the Philip K. Dick Award in 2015. Way to jump on the bandwagon, Publisher’s Weekly! McKillip is a past favorite in the World Fantasy Award, so she might show up in that award. Jemisin is obviously the big name here.
As an aside, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead made their Best Fiction category. This is a novel with enough magic realist elements (an actual underground railroad during pre-Civil War America) that it could get some play for SFF awards. Whitehead has several other genre works to his name, most notably the zombie novel Zone One. Whitehead is probably in line to win some major literary awards this year: the National Book Award, the Pulitzer, etc. Since the speculative elements are not Whitehead’s focus, I’m not expecting a Chabon style literary sweep of the Hugos and Nebulas by The Underground Railroad, but it could happen.
The Goodreads Choice awards have now announced their semifinalists, a broad list of 20 works in both the Fantasy and Science Fiction category. You can click the links to see the full list, but here’s my main contenders from the Fantasy category:
Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (novella length at under 40,000 words)
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin
City of Blades, Robert Jackson Bennett
Works from series like V.E. Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows, Mark Lawrence’s The Wheel of Osheim, Brandon Sanderson’s The Bands of Mourning, and Brent Weeks’ The Blood Mirror also appear. While unlikely to grab Hugo or Nebula nominations based on past trends, could they show up in the new Hugo Best series category?
In the SF list, here are what I see as the main contenders:
Crosstalk, Connie Willis
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Lois McMaster Bujold
Morning Star, Pierce Brown
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee
Death’s End, Cixin Liu
A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers
Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer
The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter and A Night Without Stars by Peter F. Hamilton also appear; both are part of a series, and unlikely to get Best Hugo Novel or Nebula noms. Perhaps they’ll be competitive in the Hugo Best Series. Right now, I have Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel and Dark Matter by Blake Crouch as populist successes that don’t fit the mold of past Hugo or Nebula nominees. If they show up on a lot of year-end lists, I’ll elevate them to contenders.
So, where are we after these first lists? Jemisin has pulled into a lead with 2 recommendations. She’s not likely to relinquish that lead any time soon. Any big snubs so far? Mieville not making it for Last Days of New Paris is a little surprise, but that’s a novella and hard to place in terms of genre (alternative history?). Last year, I tracked 24 “best of” lists, so we still have a long ways to go before clarity.