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Final 2015 SFF Awards Meta-List

Now that the World Fantasy Award has been given, I’ve updated my Awards Meta-List to reflect the Top 20 SFF novels of the year. My list uses 15 different SFF Awards to see who dominated the year, using this limited methodology of awards. Of course, awards don’t reflect quality; they give us a certain slant on the SFF market, one which provides an interesting but flawed measure. The rules are simple: you get nominated for any of these awards, you get a point. Most points wins. No bonus for winning the award, although I’ll note the winners.

Edit 11/25/15: My 15 awards are the Clarke, the British Fantasy, the British SF, the Campbell Memorial Award (not the Campbell for Best New Author), the Locus Fantasy and SF categories (not the Best First Novel), the Compton, the Crawford, the Gemmell, the Hugo, the Kitschies, the Nebula, the Philip K. Dick, the Prometheus, the Tiptree, and the World Fantasy. You’ll notice that I’m currently not tracking the “Best First Novel” award categories or YA categories. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere. The First Novel categories are valuable, but since such a wide range of novels aren’t eligible as first novels, I felt it distorted the results by over-counting those novels.

In my opinion, this provides a broad overview of the field. 15 different awards mean 15 different sets of rules and voters (some popular and huge, some small, and some by committee). If a book shows up time and time again through all that chaos, those are the consensus books of the year.

So how did 2015 turn out? There wasn’t a single dominant book, as was the case with Ancillary Justice in 2014 (7 nominations, 4 wins, with 2 additional nominations and wins in “First Novel” categories). This year, Cixin Liu did the best with 5 nominations, but he managed only 1 win. I suspect that if The Three-Body Problem came out earlier in the year (it was published in November), it would have done a little better. Leckie won twice for Ancillary Sword, and she was the only author to win two awards. Those wins, depending on how cynical you are, could be chalked up to last year’s success of Ancillary Justice.

Nothing else jumps out as a dominant book. If we can think all the way to 2017, Emmi Itaranta might be someone to keep an eye on. Memory of Water was the debut novel for this Finnish writer, and the 2017 WorldCon is in Helsinki, Finland . . .

Here’s the list. I’m listing everyone who got at least 2 nominations, which is conveniently exactly 20 novels. 64 different novels received at least one nomination. Obviously, there are lots of ties: 1 novel got 5 noms, 3 novels got 4 noms each, 7 novels got 3 noms each, and 9 novels got 2 nominations each.

If I had to describe the 2015 awards season, it would be with the term “divided.” There wasn’t much agreement as to what the major works were; we had lots of competitive novels rather than 2-3 consensus books. It’ll be interesting to see if the 2016 award play the same way. Between Uprooted, Seveneves, and Ancillary Mercy, we could wind up with a much more centralized year.

Here’s the final list, and the accompanying Excel file: 2015 Awards Meta-List.

1. The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu: 5 nominations, 1 wins (Noms: Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, Locus SF, Prometheus; Wins: Hugo)
2. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie: 4 nominations, 2 wins (Noms: Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Locus SF, Wins: BSFA and Locus SF)
2. Annihilation/Area X, Jeff VanderMeer: 4 nominations, 1 win (Noms: Campbell, Nebula, Locus SF, World Fantasy; Win: Nebula)
2. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison: 4 nominations, 1 win (Noms: Hugo, Nebula, Locus Fantasy, World Fantasy; Win: Locus Fantasy)
5. Memory of Water, Emmi Itaranta: 3 nominations, 0 wins (Noms: Clarke, Tiptree, Philip K. Dick)
5. Europe in Autumn, David Hutchinson: 3 nominations, 0 wins (Noms: Clarke, BSFA, Campbell)
5. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North: 3 nominations, 1 win (Noms: Clarke, BSFA, Campbell, Win: Campbell)
5. Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor: 3 nominations, 0 wins (Noms: BSFA, Tiptree, Kitschies)
5. The Peripheral, William Gibson: 3 nominations, 0 wins (Noms: Campbell, Locus SF, Kitschies)
5. The Race, Nina Allan: 3 nominations, 0 wins (Noms: British SF, Campbell, Kitschies)
5. City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett: 3 nominations, 0 wins (Noms: British Fantasy, Locus Fantasy, World Fantasy)
12. Elysium, Jennifer Marie Brissett: 2 nominations, 0 wins (Noms: Dick, Tiptree)
12. Station Eleven, Elizabeth St. John Mandel: 2 nominations, 1 win (Noms: Clarke, Campbell, Win: Clarke)
12. Lock In, John Scalz: 2 nominations, 0 wins (Noms: Locus SF, Campbell)
12. The Bees, Laline Paul: 2 nominations, 0 wins (Noms: Campbell, Compton)
12. A Darkling Sea, James Cambias: 2 nominations, 0 wins (Noms: Campbell, Compton)
12. My Real Children, Jo Walton: 2 nominations, 1 win (Noms: Tiptree, World Fantasy, Win: Tiptree)
12. Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge: 2 nominations, 1 win (Noms: British Fantasy, British SF, Win: British Fantasy)
12. Wolves, Simon Ings: 2 nominations, 0 wins (Noms: British SF, Campbell)
12. The Moon King, Neil Williamson: 2 nominations, 0 wins (Noms: British Fantasy, British SF)

We can close the page on 2015, and get ready for 2016!

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David Mitchell Wins 2015 World Fantasy Award

At long last, the 2015 awards season is over! Here are the World Fantasy Award winners.

The World Fantasy Award is the final award of 2014 . They certainly stretch it out long enough! The World Fantasy is probably the most “literary” of the SFF awards, having gone to books like Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, for instance. This year seems no different, as David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks is a very literary take on the SFF genre.

Here are the other nominees:
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway; Jo Fletcher)
Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy, Jeff VanderMeer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
My Real Children, Jo Walton (Tor; Corsair)

The World Fantasy has a habit of going to a book that hasn’t already won an award. That’s the advantage of being the-last-to-move award; you can see what the rest of the field has done and fill in the gaps.

David Mitchell’s hybrid realistic/fantasy/horror novel was highly acclaimed by literary critics last year. While there is some significant fantasy—and even near-future content—in the novel, it’s only briefly touched on in the first 400-500 pages of into the book. Until then, it reads as literary fiction with light surreal/horror touches. This might make it hard for some SFF fans to read, as well as the fact that Mitchell has taken to writing his books as series of linked novellas, changing characters every 75-100 pages (he did this in Cloud Atlas as well).

I thought The Bone Clocks was an exceptional novel, and my second favorite of last year (after The Three-Body Problem). I also really like Slade House, which just came out and is basically Bone Clocks in miniature. If you haven’t read any Mitchell, I’d suggested checking that book out as a low risk sampler.

With the World Fantasy Award finally given, I can update and finalize my Award Meta-List. Then we can put a bow on 2014 (the most controversial in awards history?) and move on to 2015!

Checking in With the SFF Awards Meta-List

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my master list of 2015 SFF Awards to see who has the most nominations and wins. A couple major awards have been announced in the past month, including the Campbell Memorial (to Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Henry August) and the Locus Awards (SF to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword and Fantasy to Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor). Leckie’s win for Ancillary Sword makes her the only two-time winner this year (she also grabbed the British Science Fiction Award).
The World Fantasy Nominees for 2015 were also recently announced. Here’s the Novel category:

Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor (Tor Books)
Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs (Broadway Books/Jo Fletcher Books)
David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (Random House/Sceptre UK)
Jeff VanderMeer, Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Originals)
Jo Walton, My Real Children (Tor Books US/Corsair UK)

A strong list, even if I’m not quite sure some of these are actually fantasy. The WFA tends to tip over to the Weird fiction side of things, so that accounts for Area X and The Bone Clocks. I suspect Addison is the likely winner here, although this is a juried (not popular vote) award. If Addison wins the Hugo, they might choose to go in a different direction.

So, where does that leave us? You can see my full list here: 2015 Awards Meta-List. I’m tacking 15 major awards. Let’s focus on the Top 8, everyone who received at least 3 different award nominations:

EDIT: A couple clean ups to the list. One of the commentators caught that I’d miscounted Nina Allan’s The Race, and I had VanderMeer down for the Hugo nom instead of the Campbell nom. Thanks everyone for double-checking!

1. The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu: 5 nominations, 0 wins (Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, Locus SF, Prometheus)
2. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie: 4 nominations, 2 wins (Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Locus SF, with wins in the BSFA and Locus SF)
3. Annihilation/Area X, Jeff VanderMeer: 4 nominations, 1 win (Campbell, Nebula, Locus SF, World Fantasy, with a win in the Nebula)
4. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison: 4 nominations, 1 win (Hugo, Nebula, Locus Fantasy, World Fantasy, with a win in the Locus Fantasy)
5. Memory of Water, Emmi Itaranta: 3 nominations, 0 wins (Clarke, Tiptree, Philip K. Dick)
5. Europe in Autumn, David Hutchinson: 3 nominations, 0 wins (Clarke, BSFA, Campbell)
5. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North: 3 nominations, 1 win (Clarke, BSFA, Campbell, with a win in the Campbell)
5. Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor: 3 nominations, 0 wins (BSFA, Tiptree, Kitschies)
5. The Peripheral, William Gibson: 3 nominations, 0 wins (Campbell, Locus SF, Kitschies)
5. The Race, Nina Allan: 3 nominations, 0 wins (British SF, Campbell, Kitschies)

For all the love lavished on Station Eleven by Emily Mandel, it managed only two nominations (for the Clarke and Campbell), although it did win the Clarke. Not a bad haul. City of Stairs has a real shot at a British Fantasy nomination, and could join the group above with 3, adding to its Locus Fantasy and World Fantasy nominations.

A couple observations: it has been a very evenly divided year. No one has really dominated the 15 awards I’m keeping track of. Last year, Ancillary Justice had 8 nominations and 5 wins; Ancillary Sword has only managed half of that. 2015 is a year without a consensus “best novel” in the field; that’s something that has been overlooked in all the furor that’s gone down over this year’s awards. It’s going to be a toss up as to whether Leckie or Addison wins the year. If Leckie wins her second Hugo, that’ll give her the edge, but Addison still has a chance to win the Hugo, and then go on to sweep the British Fantasy and World Fantasy awards.

Of the top 9, we’re seeing an increased influence of European fiction: both Europe in Autumn and Lagoon had their biggest impact and readerships outside the United States. Don’t forget Memory of Water, translated from the Finnish, which joins The Three-Body Problem as highly nominated novels in translation. Fully half this list represents world science fiction and fantasy, an intriguing change from previous years. I haven’t read Memory of Water or Europe in Autumn yet, but this list is tempting me to pick them up.

So, what do you think? Does this collated list better reflect the true state of the SFF field than any individual award?

John W. Campbell Memorial Award Finalists

The Finalists for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award have been announced:

Nina Allan, The Race
James L. Cambias, A Darkling Sea
William Gibson, The Peripheral
Daryl Gregory, Afterparty
Dave Hutchinson, Europe In Autumn
Simon Ings, Wolves
Cixin Liu (Ken Liu, translator), The Three-Body Problem
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
Will McIntosh, Defenders
Claire North, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Laline Paull, The Bees
Adam Roberts, Bête
John Scalzi, Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future
Andy Weir, The Martian
Jeff VanderMeer, Area X (The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance)
Peter Watts, Echopraxia

The Campbell Memorial can be confusing since it has basically the same name as the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (given at the same time as the Hugos). The two awards should fight a duel to see who keeps the name.

The Campbell Memorial is a juried SF only award, thus giving it a very different feel from the Hugo or Nebula. If you peruse their history page, they’ve moved in and out of alignment with the Hugos and Nebulas, often slanting more in a literary direction, such as last year winner Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux.

It’s a very interesting list this year. They hit the major American SF novels (Gibson, Watts, etc.) but also managed to bring in the novels that were buzzed about in Europe (Ings, Allan, Hutchinson). It’s nice to see Andy Weir finally get a nomination, publication date for The Martian be damned. Given the literary slant of this award, is this Station Eleven‘s to lose?

As a side note, Emily St. John Mandel won the Arthur C. Clarke award last week for Station Eleven.

Prometheus Award Nominees Announced

The Prometheus Award, presented by the Libertarian Futurist Society, has announced their finalists:

The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu
Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett
A Better World, Marcus Sakey
Influx, Daniel Suarez

Nice to see the sentimental nod to Pratchett, but it’s The Three-Body Problem that is really picking up steam. It’s a good sign for Liu to get a nomination like this: it shows that The Three-Body Problem is being embraced by the full range of SFF fans.

The Prometheus Award has been handed out since 1979. It’s never been in close alignment with the Hugos or Nebulas (usually less than 1 overlapping nominee per year). I’ll add the data to my 2015 Award Meta-List.

Literary Awards Round-Up: Checking on SFF Representation

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was given yesterday, to Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Doerr’s book is the epitome of prize-bait literary fiction: set in WWII, one protagonist a young blind girl, the other a German orphan, all wrapped up in Doerr’s shimmering/beautiful prose-style. How could it not win? I actually like Doerr; I read “The Shell Collector” a few years ago, about a blind collector of poisonous of cone snail shells. Doerr is a pretty mainstream/safe choice, but if you think the Hugo is controversial . . . check out some of the rage over various Pulitzer choices.

From my Chaos Horizon perspective, I’m very interested in how literary awards treat speculative fiction. That’s usually quite poorly, although a number of “literary” SFF works have garnered nominations in recent years. The Pulitzer marks the end of the 2014-2015 literary award season, so now’s a great time to check in on the what I see as the major literary awards and see how exactly speculative fiction stood in the broader fictional world.

I track 5 yearly “Best Novel” awards: the Pulitzer (the most prestigious American award), the Booker (the most prestigious British/Commonwealth award), the PEN/Faulkner (American), the National Book Award (another American award), and the National Book Critics Circle Award (more Americans!). Since I’m more interested in American literature than British literature (I’m an American lit professor for my day job; shockingly, Chaos Horizon doesn’t pay the bills), that explains the American bias. If there’s another big-time British award I should add to my list, let me know. Let’s look at the nominees (or short lists) and winners of those five awards, and then calculate the SFF %.

Pulitzer:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Winner)
Let Me Be Frank With You by Richard Ford
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami
Lovely, Dark, Deep by Joyce Carol Oates

No speculative novels in that group.

Booker:
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Winner)
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
J by Howard Jacobson
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
How to Be Both by Ali Smith

One clear literary speculative novel here, with J being a dystopic take on England after a series of anti-Jewish pogroms. Jacobson is a well-known realist writer dipping into SF. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is borderline speculative; Fowler is a well-known SF author, and the book grabbed a 2014 Nebula nomination. Content is mostly realistic, about a young girl being raised alongside a chimpanzee. More of a “fiction about science” than “science fiction,” although I’ll count this as speculative based on the Nebula nom and Fowler’s long association with SFF.

PEN/Faulkner:
Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish (Winner)
Song of the Shank by Jeffery Renard Allen
Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic literary SF novel, delving into a sudden world-shattering plague and giving us scenes both before and after the incident. Despite the speculation in the title, no speculative content in Dept. of Speculation.

National Book Award:
Redeployment by Phil Klay (Winner)
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Lila by Marilynne Robinson

Another speculative notch for Mandel.

National Book Critics Circle:
Lila by Marilynne Robinson (Winner)
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddin
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Euphoria by Lily King
On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee

One speculative book in that bunch, Chang-Rae Lee’s post-apocalyptic On Such a Full Sea. Lee is another literary writer dipping briefly into SF; the book takes place in a ruined America with a heavily class-stratified society.

Final 2014-2015 Literary Report: Of the 25 literary nominations, 5 went to speculative novels of some stripe, for a respectable 20% nomination rate. No speculative novels won, for a disappointing 0% win rate.

To be fair, most of the nominations were for post-apocalyptic novels by literary fiction writers; ever since the resounding success of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, this has been a popular sub-genre. I know some SFF fans find this “hit-and-run” use of post-apocalyptic fiction (write one book in the sub-genre for literary acclaim, then never touch science fiction again) to be galling, particularly when such authors ignore or disparage the science fiction field.

Literary fiction writers have had carte-blanche over the past 10 or so years to dip into speculative fiction, whether or not they have much background in the genre. The reverse has been much dicier; rarely do outstanding novels from the speculative world receive literary acclaim. Even Fowler only gets acclaim when she steps away from speculative content. There were even a solid option this year: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer could have easily slid into any of these 5 awards. It wasn’t to be, and we may still be decades away from the mainstream literary awards rewarding a speculative novel by a SFF author.

Still, 20% is better than 0%, and the award are beginning to loosen up. China Mieville for the Booker in 2025? We should start campaigning.

Final Best of 2014 SFF Critics Meta-List

For this collated list, I’ve chosen 10 SFF websites, critics, magazines, etc., that are likely to be predictive of the 2015 Hugo and Nebula awards. This contrasts with my Best of 2014 Mainstream list, which included plenty of outlets that don’t know much about SFF.

I chose my lists using the following criteria:
1. According to my research, the list is by a major website that has been predictive of the Hugo and/or Nebula in the past. (Locus Magazine, io9, Tor.com).
2. The author of the list was a well-known SFF author writing for a publication (i.e. not their blog). (Jeff VanderMeer, Adam Roberts).
3. Lists by fanzines, fan writers, semi-prozines, or podcasts that have recently been nominated for the Hugo award. I figure if they’re that much part of the process, they’re likely to be influential/predictive. (Dribble of Ink, BookSmugglers, Strange Horizons, Coode Street Review, SF Signal).

Remember, the goal of Chaos Horizon is to predict who is most likely to win the Hugo and Nebula based on past voting patterns, not which novel should win the Hugo or Nebula. Don’t let my lists impact your vote: vote for the novels you think are most worthy of the awards.

Methodology: 1 point for showing up on a list. Since some of these lists are in themselves collations of multiple critics, I toyed around with a more complicated methodology: multiple points if there were more than 3 critics, etc. In the end, I was able to discard all of that: the order of the list didn’t change no matter how I counted. That let me go with the simplest methodology: 1 point for appearing on a list. Nice, clean, simple.

So who wins?

1. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie, 8 points
2. Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer, 6 points
3. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison, 5 points
3. The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman, 5 points
3. Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor, 5 points
3. Steles of the Sky, Elizabeth Bear, 5 points
3. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell, 5 points
3. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Genevieve Valentine, 5 points
3. The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, 5 points
10. City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett, 4 points
10. All those Vanished Engines, Paul Park, 4 points
10. Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes, 4 points
10. The Martian, Andy Weir, 4 points
10. The Peripheral, William Gibson, 4 points
15. A Man Lies Dreaming, Lavie Tidhar, 3 points
15. Europe in Autumn, Dave Hutchinson, 3 points
15. Half a King, Joe Abercrombie, 3 points
15. My Real Children, Jo Walton, 3 points
15. The Bees, Laline Paull, 3 points
15. The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber, 3 points
15. The Causal Angel, Hannu Rajaniemi, 3 points
15. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Clair North, 3 points
15. The Girl in the Road, Monica Byrne, 3 points
15. Tigerman, Nick Harkaway, 3 points
15. Wolves, Simon Ings, 3 points

Even though Ancillary Sword wasn’t as hyped or well-received as Ancillary Justice, the math really worked in Leckie’s favor. Leckie has a huge “incumbent” advantage; everyone wanted to see what she did next, and since Sword wasn’t a total let-down (many thought it was the better-written book, even if a less exciting and innovative than Justice), it made an impressive 80% of the lists. I expect Leckie to easily cruise to Hugo + Nebula nominations this year.

VanderMeer places a strong second. Some of those votes were for Annihilation alone, others for the whole Area X/Southern Reach trilogy. I think VanderMeer is a near certainty for a Nebula nomination at this point, and I’ve got him as the favorite to win (voters won’t want to give Leckie two awards in a row). I’ll be interested to see how the Nebulas and Hugos handle this nomination, whether for Annihilation or the whole series.

The Goblin Emperor dominated the fanzine/fan writer lists. I don’t know how much said lists will impact the Nebulas, but I can imagine Addison sneaking into that award. Depending on how crowded and contentious the Hugo becomes, she also has a solid shot there.

The list gets more complicated as you move down. The Magician’s Land and Steles of the Sky are the final volumes of well-received fantasy trilogies. In the past, both the Nebula and the Hugo have shied away from honoring books like this. It does make a certain amount of sense to honor a trilogy by nominating the final work. Will it happen this year?

Lagoon wasn’t published in the United States this year, which really complicates its award chances. The Nebula specifies US publication in its rules: “1. All works first published in English, in the United States, during the calendar year” but that’s tempered with “2. Works first published in English on the Internet or in electronic form during the calendar year shall be treated as though published in the United States.” Is a UK e-book “electronic form?” Or do they mean a form accessible to American readers? Rules technicality aside, the lack of US publication means that most US readers haven’t had a chance to read the book, and thus won’t vote for it. Except for years where the Hugo was in the UK, I don’t think we’ve ever had a non-US published book make the final slate. Can Okorafor defy the trend?

That takes us down to The Bone Clocks, Girls at the Kingfisher Club, The Three-Body Problem, and City of Stairs as the next most likely Nebula noms (the Hugo will push up fan favorites instead of these books). Are Mitchell and Valentine speculative enough for the SFWA? Can a Chinese author edge his way into an English-language award? The “A” at the end of SFWA stands for “America,” and SFWA members haven’t voted for foreign-language books in the past. That leaves City of Stairs as perhaps the most likely candidate from this part of the list.

Who’s missing? Station Eleven roared to prominence in the last few months, after many of these list were put together. Expect Mandel to make a strong showing as more and more people read her book.

Since this is the first year of Chaos Horizon, we don’t know how predictive this list will be. Once the slates came out, I can start further refining this process. It’ll be interesting to see, though, how much the top of this list matches the eventual Nebula slate.

Here’s the raw data. The critics list is under the second tab: Hugo Metrics.

Lists included: Locus Magazine Recommended Reading List 2014, BookSmugglers, Coode Street Podcast, io9, SF Signal, Strange Horizons, Jeff VanderMeer writing for Electric Literature, Adam Roberts writing for The Guardian, Tor.com, and a A Dribble of Ink.

2014 Locus Recommended Reading List

Locus Magazine has put up their very comprehensive (and, at least in the past, very predictive) Recommended Reading List for 2014.

There’s a wealth of information there, including recommendations for categories that I don’t have the time to follow, like YA Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story. In the past, most of the future Hugo and Nebula nominees have shown up on these lists. Part of that is because the lists are so long (20-30 suggestions each), but also because Locus pretty closely mirrors the sentiments of the SFWA and the Nebula.

Here’s there SF and Fantasy lists:

Novels – Science Fiction

•Ultima, Stephen Baxter (Gollancz; Roc 2015)
•War Dogs, Greg Bear (Orbit US; Gollancz)
•Shipstar, Gregory Benford & Larry Niven (Tor; Titan 2015)
•Chimpanzee, Darin Bradley (Underland)
•Cibola Burn, James S.A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
•The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber (Hogarth; Canongate)
•The Peripheral, William Gibson (Putnam; Viking UK)
•Afterparty, Daryl Gregory (Tor; Titan)
•Work Done for Hire, Joe Haldeman (Ace)
•Tigerman, Nick Harkaway (Knopf; Heinemann 2015)
•Europe in Autumn, Dave Hutchinson (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
•Wolves, Simon Ings (Gollancz)
•Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
•Artemis Awakening, Jane Lindskold (Tor)
•The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu (Tor)
•The Causal Angel, Hannu Rajaniemi (Tor; Gollancz)
•The Memory of Sky, Robert Reed (Prime)
•Bête, Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
•Lock In, John Scalzi (Tor; Gollancz)
•The Blood of Angels, Johanna Sinisalo (Peter Owens)
•The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (Random House; Sceptre)
•Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder; Saga 2015)
•All Those Vanished Engines, Paul Park (Tor)
•Annihilation/Authority/Acceptance, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)
•Dark Lightning, John Varley (Ace)
•My Real Children, Jo Walton (Tor; Corsair)
•Echopraxia, Peter Watts (Tor; Head of Zeus 2015)
•World of Trouble, Ben H. Winters (Quirk)

Novels – Fantasy

•The Widow’s House, Daniel Abraham (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
•The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
•Steles of the Sky, Elizabeth Bear (Tor)
•City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway; Jo Fletcher)
•Hawk, Steven Brust (Tor)
•The Boy Who Drew Monsters, Keith Donohue (Picador USA)
•Bathing the Lion, Jonathan Carroll (St. Martin’s)
•Full Fathom Five, Max Gladstone (Tor)
•The Winter Boy, Sally Wiener Grotta (Pixel Hall)
•The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman (Viking; Arrow 2015)
•Truth and Fear, Peter Higgins (Orbit; Gollancz)
•The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot US)
•Resurrections, Roz Kaveney (Plus One)
•Revival, Stephen King (Scribner; Hodder & Stoughton)
•The Dark Defiles, Richard K. Morgan (Del Rey; Gollancz)
•The Bees, Laline Paull (Ecco; Fourth Estate 2015)
•The Godless, Ben Peek (Thomas Dunne; Tor UK)
•Heirs of Grace, Tim Pratt (47North)
•Beautiful Blood, Lucius Shepard (Subterranean)
•A Man Lies Dreaming, Lavie Tidhar (Hodder & Stoughton)
•The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Genevieve Valentine (Atria)
•California Bones, Greg van Eekhout (Tor)

Like I said, pretty comprehensive. Most of the major candidates are there, ranging from VanderMeer to Leckie to Addison to Bennett. Here are the snubs I noticed:

The Martian, Andy Weir: That’s a good indication that the “industry” doesn’t consider this a 2014 book.
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel: A surprise. Maybe it caught fire too late in the year to make the list?
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Clair North
Most mainstream fantasy novels: no Words of Radiance, no The Broken Eye, no Fool’s Assassin, no Prince of Fools, no The Emperor’s Blade’s, no The Slow Regard of Silent Things. It says something when you put together a list of 22 fantasy novels and leave out most of the fantasy best-sellers. Is Locus arguing that excellence can’t be achieved in mainstream epic fantasy? Or are they reflecting their audience’s lack of interest in epic series? Sure, there are a few fantasy series on the list—Robert Morgan, Elizabeth Bear, Lev Grossman, Kameron Hurley—but each of those is set up, on some level, as a challenge to more conventional epic fantasy.

There are several books that haven’t gotten an official US publication yet (or least they aren’t available on Amazon): Lagoon, A Man Lies Dreaming, Bete, and Wolves. You’d think publication would be truly international in 2014, but that’s not yet the case. Lagoon, in particular, would have had a Nebula and Hugo shot if had gotten a US publication. Without one, it’s probably not eligible for the Nebula, and thus can’t build momentum towards a Hugo.

Lastly, is The Bone Clocks really science fiction? I guess part of the novel takes place in the future, so that’s probably why they placed it in that category. It felt more like a horror/weird fiction/fantasy hybrid to me, but I guess classification doesn’t matter that much in the end.

I’ve been waiting for this list; now that we have it, I’ll update and finalize the Critics Meta-List.

Best of 2014: Updated SFF Critics Meta-List

Hot off the presses is my newly collated SFF Critics Meta-List! This list includes 8 different “Best of 2014” lists, all by outlets that have a reasonable chance of either reflecting or influencing the Hugo/Nebula awards.

Currently included: Coode Street Podcast, io9, SF Signal, Strange Horizons, Jeff VanderMeer writing for Electric Literature, Adam Roberts writing for The Guardian, Tor.com, and a A Dribble of Ink. The lists were chosen because of their reach and previous reliability in predicting the Hugos/Nebulas (Tor, io9); the fame of the authors (VanderMeer, Roberts); or because the website/fancast has been recently nominated for a Hugo (Dribble, Strange Horizons, SF Signal, Coode Street). Any comments/questions about methodology are welcome.

Points: 1 point per list, unless the list is a collation of more than 3 critics (SF Signal, Strange Horizons, Tor.com). In that case, books can grab a maximum of 2 points, pro-rated for # of mentions on the list. See here for an explanation of this methodology.

6.5: Ancillary Sword
6: Annihilation
5: The Goblin Emperor
4.5: The Magician’s Land
4: Broken Monsters
4: The Bone Clocks
3.5: City of Stairs
3: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
3: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
3: The Girl in the Road
3: Lagoon
3: All Those Vanished Engines
3: The Peripheral
3: The Three-Body Problem
2.25: The Race
2: Tigerman
2: Steles of the Sky
2: Our Lady of the Streets
2: Nigerians in Space
2: Europe in Autumn
2: A Man Lies Dreaming
2: Station Eleven
2: The Martian
2: Half a King
2: The Causal Angel
2: Wolves
2: The Book of Strange New Things
2: The Memory Garden
2: My Real Children

Pretty much what I expected. The SFF world is often very repetitive (nominating the same authors over and over again), so Leckie makes sense at #1. She was so talked about for last year’s award she’s a natural for this year, even if people are less excited about Ancillary Sword. VanderMeer, Mitchell, and Bennett are no surprise near the top.

Addison’s The Goblin Emperor is doing well, particularly when the lists are a little more fan oriented. She does represent a methodological problem: she has 2 points from SF Signal and 2 points from Tor.com, as well as 1 point from Dribble of Ink. That’s concentrated, not broad support. In contrast, Leckie’s 6.5 points are spread out across 6 venues. If I gave 1 point max per venue, Addison would be knocked down to only 3 points. I’ll keep my eye on the math of this, and make adjustments to my counting as necessary. Remember, the goal is to be predictive, not perfect. We can just wait until the Nebula noms come out, and then reassess at that point.

In terms of Addison’s chances: secondary world fantasy is not an easy sell to the Nebula voters. I wouldn’t be shocked to see her on the slate, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if she missed. Given the way that the Nebula slate shapes the Hugo slate, her Hugo chances are closely tied to whether or not she grabs a Nebula nom.

Lev Grossman poses something of a problem. The Magicians trilogy is very well regarded, and books like this (fantasy that crosses over into the real world) have done well in the Nebulas as of late. Still, the last books of trilogies have usually NOT been part of the Hugo/Nebula process; it’ll be interesting to see if that bias continues.

Beukes is something of a surprise with Broken Monsters. A serial-killer novel that crosses over into a supernatural text in it’s last 50 pages, I’m not sure it’s speculative enough to grab an award nomination. Beukes almost made the Hugo slate last year, so don’t count this one out.

Some lesser known works, at least to Americans: Lagoon (no U.S. release, so Nebula eligibility is unlikely), All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park (not very hyped in the U.S.), The Race by Nina Allan (released in the U.S., but not widely known over here). It’ll be interesting to see if these works continue to be part of the conversation.

The snubs: Station Eleven isn’t taking this list by storm. That might reflect a simple timeline problem: the Mandel came out late in the year, so people might only be getting to read it now. The Martian is also way down, but is that because it wasn’t a 2014 book?

I’d still like to add several more lists to this collation to see if we get a better convergence. Locus Magazine will have their “Best of 2014,” and I’m waiting for several Hugo nominated blogs to get their lists out (Book Smugglers, Elitist). Anyone else you would suggest for this collation?

Here’s the data: Best of 2014. This list is on the second tab.

Best of 2014: Coode Street Podcast

As I’m putting together my “SFF Critics Best of 2014 Meta-List,” I’ve been trying to find lists that are likely to be reflective of the Hugo/Nebula voters. I don’t want to be mired in “old-media,” so I thought I better some “Best of 2014” podcasts to include.

The Coode Street Podcast, by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan, has twice been nominated for the “Best Fancast” Hugo Award. Wolfe is a prominent reviewer for Locus Magazine, and Strahan a frequent editor, including for the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year series. Probably good voices to listen to.

With guest author James Bradley, they recently put up a “Best of 2014” podcast. It’s an hour discussion, and ranges over a large number of important works from 2014. Here’s the list of what they identify as the best of the year:

Wolves, Simon Ings
The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
Clariel, Garth Nix
Beautiful Blood, Lucius Shepard
The Memory Garden, Mary Rickert
Academic Exercies, K.J. Parker
Stone Mattress, Margaret Atwood
Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor
Half a King, Joe Abercrombie
Bathing the Lion, Jonathan Carroll
Bete, Adam Roberts
The Peripheral, William Gibson
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Genevieve Valentine
My Real Children, Jo Walton
The Blood of Angels, Johanna Sinisalo
All Those Vanished Engines, Paul Parks
The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber
Consumed, David Cronenberg
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
The Girl in the Road, Monica Byrne
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
Echopraxia, Peter Watts
The Causal Angel, Hanuu Rajaniemi
Orfeo, Richard Powers
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu
Questionable Practices, Eileen Gunn
Proxima, Stephen Baxter
The Race, Nina Allan
Crashland, Sean Williams

More international than most lists, and this bring up an interesting point: major SF novels are getting published in England that aren’t getting published in the US. Lagoon, for instance, would be in the award mix if it had received as US publication. Without that, though, you’re cutting off too much of your potential audience (and probably aren’t even eligible for the Nebula). Books like Wolves or even Europe in Autumn (which was published here but not really marketed) might be worthy of award consideration, but losing over half their potential audience is going to make a Hugo or Nebula nomination next to impossible.

Coode street touches on many of the major candidates, and I found their framing of the year in SF quite useful. Coode Street is more interested in SF than in Fantasy, and they don’t discuss some of the fantasy candidates (such as City of Stairs or Goblin Emperor). By having a large number of lists, these genre imbalances should work themselves out.

I’ll update and post the Meta-List later today.

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