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2016 Locus Recommended Reading List

Locus has put up their recommended reading list:

NOVELS – SCIENCE FICTION
Company Town, Madeline Ashby (Tor)
The Medusa Chronicles, Stephen Baxter & Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz; Saga)
Take Back the Sky, Greg Bear (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Visitor, C.J. Cherryh (DAW)
Babylon’s Ashes, James S.A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Europe in Winter, Dave Hutchinson (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
False Hearts, Laura Lam (Tor; Macmillan)
Death’s End, Cixin Liu (Tor; Head of Zeus)
The Corporation Wars: Dissidence, Ken MacLeod (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Into Everywhere, Paul McAuley (Gollancz)
Faller, Will McIntosh (Tor)
After Atlas, Emma Newman (Roc)
The Core of the Sun, Johanna Sinisalo (Black Cat)
Occupy Me, Tricia Sullivan (Gollancz)
Rosewater, Tade Thompson (Apex)
Central Station, Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon)
Icon, Genevieve Valentine (Saga)
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead (Doubleday; Fleet)
Alien Morning, Rick Wilber (Tor)
Impersonations, Walter Jon Williams (Tor.com Publishing)
Last Year, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
Barren Cove, Ariel S. Winter (Bestler)
Underground Airlines, Ben H. Winters (Mulholland; Century)

NOVELS – FANTASY
The Spider’s War, Daniel Abraham (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
Summerlong, Peter S. Beagle (Tachyon)
City of Blades, Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway)
Masks and Shadows, Stephanie Burgis (Pyr)
Breath of Earth, Beth Cato (Harper Voyager US)
A Shadow All of Light, Fred Chappell (Tor)
Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, Paul Cornell (Pan)
Four Roads Cross, Max Gladstone (Tor)
The Regional Office is Under Attack!, Manuel Gonzales (Riverhead)
Will Do Magic for Small Change, Andrea Hairston (Aqueduct)
Eterna and Omega, Leanna Renee Hieber (Tor)
Roadsouls, Betsy James (Aqueduct)
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Perdition Score, Richard Kadrey (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay (NAL; Viking Canada; Hodder & Stoughton)
The Wall of Storms, Ken Liu (Saga; Head of Zeus)
The Seer, Sonia Orin Lyris (Baen)
Kingfisher, Patricia McKillip (Ace)
An Accident of Stars, Foz Meadows (Angry Robot US; Angry Robot UK)
The Last Days of New Paris, China Miéville (Del Rey; Picador)
Medusa’s Web, Tim Powers (Morrow; Corvus UK)
The Gradual, Christopher Priest (Titan US; Gollancz)
The Winged Histories, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)
The Trees, Ali Shaw (Bloomsbury Circus; Bloomsbury USA)
The Last Mortal Bond, Brian Staveley (Tor; Tor UK)
The Nightmare Stacks, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
The Liberation, Ian Tregillis (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Necessity, Jo Walton (Tor)
Cloudbound, Fran Wilde (Tor)

Interesting that Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead made the SF list—outside of SFF circles, that’s the biggest “literary” novel of 2016, and it’ll be interesting to see how much of an impact it makes on the 2017 awards. Do we have a Chabon situation here, like when The Yiddish Policeman’s Union won the Hugo/Nebula?

They also have a first novel category, which is where something like Ninefox Gambit winds up.

FIRST NOVELS
The Reader, Traci Chee (Putnam)
Waypoint Kangaroo, Curtis Chen (Dunne)
The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s)
The Girl from Everywhere, Heidi Heilig (Greenwillow; Hot Key)
Roses and Rot, Kat Howard (Saga)
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)
A Fierce and Subtle Poison, Samantha Mabry (Algonquin)
Devil and the Bluebird, Jennifer Mason-Black (Amulet)
Infomocracy, Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)
Everfair, Nisi Shawl (Tor)
Vigil, Angela Slatter (Jo Fletcher)
Azanian Bridges, Nick Wood (NewCon)

Most of the eventual Hugo and Nebula nominees show up on these lists. That’s not a great accomplishment, given there’s more than 50+ on the lists, but helpful to narrow things down. So the snub of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning is notable. Note that Connie Willis’s Crosstalk nor Loius McMaster Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen didn’t make the lists either. Those books haven’t been particularly well received, and it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts the Hugo.

On a personal note, I certainly haven’t been posting much; I’ve been too busy at work, and you’ve got to do the job you get paid for first. Still, it’s going to be a very interesting year, because all the rule changes will throw out a lot of what we previously knew about the Hugos. Thinking of this more as a year for sitting back and observing—no one can really know what’ll happen in the awards, but it’ll be intriguing to watch.

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:

Publisher’s Weekly is always an odd list, tending to emphasize more literary Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. They only do one list for all three genres:

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.

Goodreads Choice Award Voting Now Open

The annual Goodreads Choice Awards, one of the open “Best of the Year” votes on the internet, is now open. While this vote has never correlated well to the Hugos and Nebulas, it does give us some initial insight into what the most popular books of the year are, at least with regard to the Goodreads audience. Historically, the Hugo and Nebula winners have appeared on the list of the Goodreads semifinalists, but that isn’t a huge feat because there are 20 semifinalists for each category. If you can’t hit the eventual winners when you’re choosing 40 texts . . . Still, it helps to narrow down the field of contenders.

At this point (Opening Round), Goodreads selects 15 books to let people vote on; voters can also write in their own works. In the SF category, you’ve got heavy hitters like Cixin Liu’s Death’s End, Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, as well as popular texts like Pierce Brown’s Morning Star or Blake Crouch’s (of Wayward Pines fame) Dark Matter. Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter show up with The Long Cosmos, the final volume of the Long Earth series—and a potential Hugo Best Series nominee, given it will be the last time readers can vote for Pratchett. Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning shows up, and that’s a book I have my eye on to see if it grabs momentum. Connie Willis is missing—did Crosstalk come out too late in the year? Remember, voters can write books in, so it has a chance to show up in the semifinals.

Fantasy is more of a genre mish-mash on Goodreads, pulling together epic fantasy, things like J.K. Rowling’s play Harry Potter and the First Child, and a bunch of paranormal romances books. Aside from Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate and Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky, I don’t see a ton of awards contenders on that list. Sanderson might be viable for a Best Hugo Series nomination—would Mistborn be tempting? Or the entire Cosmere? Also, will Harry Potter be nominated for Best Series on the backs of The First Child? The rules would seem to make that acceptable.

Goodreads gives us one of our first glimpses into the avalance of “Best of 2016” lists—we’ll get a bunch more soon. Head on over and vote and let your voices be heard!

Back in Action

I’ve been ridiculously busy over the past few months (one of those good news/bad news promotions at work), but November is upon us. Break the flannel shirts out! It’s time to begin grinding the gears for the 2017 SFF award season!

The dust is beginning to clear from the wreckage of last year, and 2017 is looking to be interesting and unusual. We’ve got the largest changes to the Hugo ruleset in . . . . well, ever. This is going to force Chaos Horizon to totally overhaul our prediction methodologies. Basically, rule changes create more unknowns, which means I’ll have to simplify my prediction systems.

Aside from N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate and Connie Willis’s Crosstalk, there aren’t a ton of obvious Hugo/Nebula books out there. Gentlemen Jole and the Red Queen by Louis McMaster Bujold feels like it was published years ago, but Bujold has always been a Hugo favorite. Will books like Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky, Ada Palmner’s Too Like the Lightning, or Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit begin to pick up momentum? Will Cixin Liu make a Hugo comeback for Death’s End after The Dark Forest missed last year? Will China Mieville’s The Last Days of New Paris or Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway be classified as novels or novellas? How will the Best Series Hugo mix up the Best Novel category?

There’ll be plenty to analyze here. One of the first things I’m going to do is update the 2016 Awards Meta-List. Just this week,  the World Fantasy Award went to the rather obscure Chimes by Anna Smaill. This is a juried award, as per the sfadb, which accounts for some of its interesting winners:

Process
Convention members nominate two entries per category; judges can add three or more nominees per category. The judges select the winners.

The World Fantasy Award marks the end of the 2016 SFF Award Season. By updating the Meta-List, we’ll see where exactly we ended last year, we should give us a nice springboard in the next year.

With that list in place, we’ll begin to take a look at some of the more interesting contenders for 2017. I’ve got my eye on some interesting potential dark horses—it should be a wide open year, and the race is currently anyone’s.

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