First Look: 2016 Mainstream Meta-List

I don’t have many lists on my Best of 2016 meta-list yet, but some patterns are beginning to emerge. So far, I’ve collated 8 “Best Of” lists by Library Journal, NY Times, NPR, Guardian, Amazon, Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly, and Goodreads. Rules are simple: I take a look at their “Best SF and F” of the year list, and if you show up on the list, you get one point. I don’t make any judgments about eligibility, publication date, or genre. Lots of comics, short story collections, older books, etc., show up on these lists. If the venue has a dedicated SFF list, I only look at that. If they only have a single Best Of list, like the NY Times, I use that. The point of this list is to get an idea of what the mainstream thinks the best Science Fiction and Fantasy novels of the year are, which is always interesting and often confusing. I’ll complement this with another list of more specialty SFF websites.

You can check out the developing spreadsheet here. If you click on the 2015 tab at the bottom, you can see how things wound up last year.

Here are the early results:

4 All the Birds in the Sky Anders, Charlie Jane
4 The Obelisk Gate Jemisin, N.K.
4 Death’s End Liu, Cixin
3 Every Heart a Doorway McGuire, Seanan
2 City of Blades Bennett, Robert Jackson
2 Morning Star Brown, Pierce
2 Star Nomad Buroker, Lindsay
2 A Closed and Common Orbit Chambers, Becky
2 Dark Matter Crouch, Blake
2 The Book of the Unnamed Midwife Ellison, Meg
2 Ninefox Gambit Lee, Yoon Ha
2 The Paper Menagerie Liu, Ken
2 Too Like the Lightning Palmer, Ada
2 Version Control Palmer, Dexter
2 Age of Myth Sullivan, Michael J.
2 Central Station Tidhar, Lavie
2 Crosstalk Willis, Connie
2 The Invisible Library Cogman, Genvieve
2 Borderline Baker, Mishell

I will note that if I included works from the “Best Fiction” lists many of these sites have, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad would have been the clear winner, as it’s going to appear on basically every list this Holiday season. Whitehead’s novel has only light speculative elements (an actual underground railroad), so I’m betting it won’t make an impact on the Hugo or Nebula, but your mileage may vary. Whitehead didn’t get any nominations for his more obviously speculative Zone One, a clear zombie novel.

This, of course, is the Mainstream list, put together by big newspapers and websites that may have only a passing familiarity with Science Fiction and Fantasy. These tend to be drawn to big bestsellers and big names, and they tend to prefer SF to Fantasy. The trio of works at the top, by Anders, Jemisin, and Liu, all figure to be players in the 2017 awards, particularly Jemisin. The McGuire book is pretty short and, in my opinion, more likely to compete as a Novella than a Novel. It’ll be interesting to see who from that big group of “2” votes separates themselves over the next couple weeks. My guess is the Yoon Ha Lee and the Ada Palmer, but only time will tell.

My big surprise so far is that Mieville is not showing up for Last Days of New Paris, a weird novella where Surrealist paintings come to life. Seeing any other surprises or interesting trends?

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One response to “First Look: 2016 Mainstream Meta-List”

  1. daneekasghost says :

    Ninefox Gambit and Obelisk Gate top my list right now. (Still getting to Death’s End and Wall of Storms by Ken Liu)

    All the Birds in the Sky underwhelmed me, but it seems I’m outvoted on that one.

    Other ones to read before Hugo noms are due:

    Sleeping Giants
    Too Like the Lightning
    Dark Matter or Closed Common Orbit

    Probably too optimistic that I’ll get through all of those, but what else do I have to do?

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