Tag Archive | Award Nominees

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!

Brandon Sanderson Wins David Gemmell Legend Award

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Brandon Sanderson won his second David Gemmell Legend Award this past Saturday for his massive novel Words of Radiance. Words of Radiance also picked up the Ravenheart award for best cover art, and Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades won the Morningstar for best first fantasy debut.

The Gemmell has two rounds of voting, and they reported 17,059 votes in Round #1 and 19,700 votes in the finals. I’m not sure that’s the total votes across all three categories or not. Either way, this number compares favorably to the Hugos, which had a record number of voters this year at 5,950 this year.

The Gemmell is an interesting award because its so focused (fantasy novels, just three categories) and because this is an open internet vote. We could get a sense of what the Hugo might be like if they removed their entry bar (i.e. the $40 entry fee).

Sanderson won because he is incredibly popular. Just look at the number of Goodreads ratings for the finalists as of 8/10/15:
57,770 ratings: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
14,524 ratings: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
14,326 ratings: The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks
6,910 ratings: Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
1,832 ratings: Valour by John Gwynne

Not much of a contest, is it? Sanderson has emerged as one of—if not the—most popular fantasy writer working today. While George R.R. Martin is still more popular (a hit TV show will do that), and there is an argument to be made for Patrick Rothfuss and J.K. Rowling (if she ever writes fantasy again), Sanderson has been far more productive than those writers over the past 3-4 years. This steady flow of novels has catapulted him to a lofty status. Part of the appeal about reading an author like Sanderson is that you’re reading the books everyone else is reading, which is a powerful pull for fantasy fans. That’s how things were back in my day with Dragonlance. You also get your Sanderson fix every year. No 3-4 year wait like Rothfuss, Martin, Lynch, etc.

Jared over at Pornokitsch has been leading the charge with some great analysis of the Gemmell awards. He’s particularly tough on Sanderson, although his analysis glosses over what Sanderson does well, which is setting up magic systems and worlds that work by clear rules. Sanderson then gives us near-endless (you have to if you want to write 1000+ page novels) scenarios involving those rules. Sanderson works well because he gives us fantasy worlds that aren’t cloaked in a shroud of magic; when you read Words of Radiance, you feel like you “get” the world. Compared to the hand-waving magic of A Song of Ice and Fire or the “we-always-find-the-magic-we-need” plots of Harry Potter or The Kingkiller Chronicles, it feels very organized. Sanderson does coherent systems better than almost anyone else working in the field today, and its those systems that drive readers through Sanderson’s somewhat pedestrian prose and meandering plots.

I think Sanderson pulls a lot of his style from gaming, particularly the tabletop variety. At times, the appendices in the back of the book feel like DM rulebooks; I don’t think it should be any surprise that a generation of fantasy readers that grew up with D&D, Baldur’s Gate, Elder Scrolls, Final Fantasy, etc., would be drawn to Sanderson. There’s a steady drip-drip of information through Sanderson, and it’s that revealing of the world’s rules (not the plot) that drives the action.

All of this raises interesting questions about what an award should be. Should awards go to the most popular novels? Don’t they already receive enough attention, being the “most popular” already? Or does bringing attention to Sanderson help draw casual fantasy fans into the field, who are likely to pick up and enjoy him? The Hugo and Nebulas have gone one route, the Gemmell another.

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?

Modelling a Best Saga Hugo Award, Part 1

Recently, there’s been plenty of chatter in the blogosphere about the proposed Best Saga Hugo Award. You can go here to see the specific proposal that will be up for vote at Sasquan this year, but this is an idea that’s been buzzing around for years: many readers (most readers?) engage with SF and particularly Fantasy in the form of multi-volume series. The Hugo Best Novel award, on the other hand, steers away from ignore multi-volume works, privileging novels that are either the first in a series or stand-alones.

A Best Saga (or Best Series, or Best Continuing Series) Hugo would seek to solve that. While the current proposal makes you eligible after you publish 400,000 words in a series (how would readers know you’ve hit that word count? Why 400,000?) and once you get nominated you aren’t eligible again until you publish another 400,000 more, there are many ways to formulate a potential Best Saga award. I’ve heard proposals ranging from awarding it every 5 years, to only giving it once a series is finished, etc.

But what it such an award really look like? What kind of series would get nominated? Would it reward only famous authors? Would authors end up winning both the Best Novel and the Best Saga in the same year? Would this encourage publishers to publish more and longer series? Would ants destroy the earth? So many questions, so few answers.

I find it difficult to imagine an award in the abstract, so in this post and the next I’m going to model what a hypothetical Best Saga Hugo would look like for the past 4 years (2011-2014), using two different techniques to generate my model. First up, I’ll use the Locus Awards to model what the Best Saga would look like if voted on by SFF-insiders. Then, I’ll use the Goodreads Choice Awards to model what the Best Saga would look like if the Best Saga became an internet popularity contest. Looking at those two possible models should give us a better idea of how a Best Saga Hugo would actually play out. I bet an actual award would play out somewhere in the middle of the two models.

Lastly, I’m not messing with the complexities of the whole 400,000 word thing. In my model, I’m envisioning an extremely straightforward Best Saga award: your series is eligible once you published the THIRD novel in your series, and you are eligible again every time you publish a new NOVEL in your series.

First up, the Locus Awards Best Saga Model, 2011-2014. Since the 2015 Locus Awards come out this Saturday, I’ll update the model to include 2015 once the results are in.

Methodology: The Locus Awards are voted on by the subscribers of Locus Magazine and others on the internet to determine the Best SF and F novels of the year. They publish a Top 20 list for each genre, and their data is best looked at on the Science Fiction Awards Database. These are genre enthusiasts; if you have a subscription to Locus, you’re a very involved fan. These awards have historically been very closely aligned with the Hugo Award for Best Novel, often choosing the same books. The Locus Awards are friendlier to series and sequels than the Hugos, however.

To put my list together, I looked at the tops of the SF and F Locus Award lists for the year. Using the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, I checked to see if each of the winners was part of a series. If it was Volume #3 or later, it made my list. I went down both lists equally, and stopped once I found five series. The name of the series appears first, and the name of the individual book and it’s place in the Locus Awards comes after.

2014:
The Expanse, James S.A. Corey (Abaddon’s Gate, SF #1)
Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood (MaddAddam, SF #4)
Foreigner, C.J. Cherryh (Protector, SF #6)
Discworld, Terry Pratchett (Raising Steam, F #7)
The Dagger and the Coin, Daniel Abraham, (Tyrant’s Law, F #14)

2013:
Laundry Files, Charles Stross, (The Apocalypse Codex, F #1)
Culture, Iain M. Banks (The Hydrogen Sonata, SF #3)
Vorkosigan Saga, Lois McMaster Bujold (Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, SF #4)
The Expanse, James S.A. Corey, (Caliban’s War, SF #5)
The Glamourist Histories, Mary Robinette Kowal (Glamour in Glass, F #5)

2012:
A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin (A Dance with Dragons, F #1)
Zones of Thought, Vernor Vinge (Children of the Sky, SF #4)
Discworld, Terry Pratchett (Snuff, F #3)
The Inheritance Trilogy, N.K. Jemisin (The Kingdom of the Gods, F #6)
Jacob’s Ladder, Elizabeth Bear (Grail, SF #7)

2011:
Time Travel, Connie Willis (Blackout/All Clear, SF #1)
Vorkosigan Saga, Lois McMaster Bujold (Cyroburn, SF #2)
Laundry Files, Charles Stross (The Fuller Memorandum, F #3)
Culture, Iain M. Banks (Surface Detail, SF #4)
The Blue Ant Trilogy, William Gibson (Zero History, SF #5)

Projected Winners: Expanse, Laundry, Ice and Fire, Time Travel. Seems like a pretty credible list. Those have been some of the genre favorites of the last 4 years.

There were also some nice surprises. Iain M. Banks was only nominated for a Hugo once (for The Algebraist), but Culture showed up twice in this model. Culture was incredibly well-regarded, but also hard for new readers to jump into. I think Hugo voters felt it was unfair to ask someone to read Culture #7 or #8, and thus Banks didn’t get the nominations he deserved. Would a Best Saga award solve that problem?

Pratchett scored 2 nominations for Discworld, a nice end-of-the-career capper for his beloved fantasy series. There was a wide variety of authors in this model: Kowal, Jemisin, Gibson, Atwood, Bear, Abraham. Some super famous, some not. Maybe those would be squeezed out in an actual vote, but the Locus audience—and the Hugo audience—is fairly sophisticated. I find it hard to believe that the same Hugo voters who gave Connie Willis the Best Novel Hugo for Blackout/All Clear are going to turn around and vote Xanth or Drizzt as Best Saga every year. Who knows, though? These are only hypotheticals.

You only have one awkward year, with Willis predicted to win both Best Saga and Best Novel in 2011. Given that Willis has a staggering 11 Hugo wins already, I’m not sure that’s any more dominant than she’s already been. But I also think it possible that voters would have given Willis the Best Saga nod and someone else the Best Novel Hugo. Martin’s projected win in 2012 would be some much needed recognition for A Song of Ice and Fire: Martin’s decade-defining fantasy has only one Hugo win, a Best Novella for the Daenerys sections of A Game of Thrones. The Expanse winning is also nice: that’s become an incredibly popular and mainstream series, only to be bolstered by the TV showing coming out this December. By using the Best Saga award to honor such populist texts, would the Hugo increase its credibility?

It would probably take a few years for a Best Saga award to settle down, but this insider model shows some promise for such an award. What do you think of this projection? Would the WorldCon be satisfied with these kinds of nominees and winners?

Next time, we’ll imagine the Best Saga as an internet popularity contest using the Goodreads Choice Awards. Stay tuned for the terrifying results!

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.

2015 Locus Award Finalists Announced

The Locus Award finalists have been announced for 2015:

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL
•The Peripheral, William Gibson (Putnam; Viking UK)
•Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
•The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu (Tor)
•Lock In, John Scalzi (Tor; Gollancz)
•Annihilation/Authority/Acceptance, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)

FANTASY NOVEL
•The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
•Steles of the Sky, Elizabeth Bear (Tor)
•City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway; Jo Fletcher)
•The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman (Viking; Arrow 2015)
•The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot US)

NOVELLA
•“The Man Who Sold the Moon”, Cory Doctorow (Hieroglyph)
•We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)
•Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
•“The Regular”, Ken Liu (Upgraded)
•“The Lightning Tree”, Patrick Rothfuss (Rogues)

NOVELETTE
•“Tough Times All Over”, Joe Abercrombie (Rogues)
•“The Hand Is Quicker”, Elizabeth Bear (The Book of Silverberg)
•“Memorials”, Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s 1/14)
•“The Jar of Water”, Ursula K. Le Guin (Tin House #62)
•“A Year and a Day in Old Theradane”, Scott Lynch (Rogues)

SHORT STORY
•“Covenant”, Elizabeth Bear (Hieroglyph)
•“The Dust Queen”, Aliette de Bodard (Reach for Infinity)
•“The Truth About Owls”, Amal El-Mohtar (Kaleidoscope)
•“In Babelsberg”, Alastair Reynolds (Reach for Infinity)
•“Ogres of East Africa”, Sofia Samatar (Long Hidden)

EDIT: Here are the YA and First Novel categories:

YOUNG ADULT BOOK
•Half a King, Joe Abercrombie (Del Rey; Voyager UK)
•The Doubt Factory, Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)
•Waistcoats & Weaponry, Gail Carriger (Little, Brown; Atom)
•Empress of the Sun, Ian McDonald (Jo Fletcher; Pyr)
•Clariel, Garth Nix (Harper; Hot Key; Allen & Unwin)

FIRST NOVEL
•Elysium, Jennifer Marie Brissett (Aqueduct)
•A Darkling Sea, James L. Cambias (Tor)
•The Clockwork Dagger, Beth Cato (Harper Voyager)
•The Memory Garden, Mary Rickert (Sourcebooks Landmark)
•The Emperor’s Blades, Brian Staveley (Tor; Tor UK)

There are other categories that I haven’t included. Although the Locus (smartly, in my opinion) splits the Fantasy and SF novel categories, these might be what the Hugos would have looked like without the Sad/Rabid Puppy influence. The Locus Awards are a result of a direct vote of the Locus Magazine subscribers and anyone else who is interested; this doesn’t exactly overlap with WorldCon, but historically they’ve been in the same ballpark. The Locus Award are friendlier to sequels, and to short stories/novellas/ from collections, but otherwise they mirror each other fairly well, particularly at the finalist stage.

So, what do you think of this list? It strikes me as a “right down the middle” selection, choosing most of the critically and readerly acclaimed books of the year.

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.

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