Tag Archive | Best Books of 2014

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?

2015 Gemmell Legend Award Voting Now Open

The 2015 Gemmell Legend Award, an internet vote for the Best Fantasy Novel of the year, is now open for voting! The finalist are:

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie (HarperCollins)
Valour by John Gwynne (Pan Macmillan/Tor UK)
Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence (HarperCollins)
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (Gollancz)
The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks (Orbit)

Cast your vote here.

I find the Gemmell a fascinating award for several reasons. First, this is true “open internet vote” award: anyone can vote, and it pulls in a very different voting audience than the “pay to vote” Hugo. As such, you get a very different feel in this award: very populist, very mainstream, very best-sellery. Second, the Gemmell moves perpendicular to the other SFF awards: this and the World Fantasy Award couldn’t be more different in terms of the books they honor. The Gemmell is all about big epic series fantasy, whereas the other awards avoid such novels like the plague.

In my meta-awards tracking, I track 15 different SFF awards. Not a single of these 5 authors was nominated for any of the other 14 awards. To be fair, the major fantasy nominees (the World Fantasy and British Fantasy) haven’t been announced yet. I could see Abercrombie grabbing a nomination in one of those, but not the other Gemmell finalists.

This Gemmell will be a fascinating contest. We have three former winners going head-to-head in a fantasy deathmatch: Mark Lawrence (2014 winner for Emperor of Thorns), Brent Weeks (2013 winner for The Blinding Knife), and Brandon Sanderson (2011 winner for The Way of Kings). Add in Joe Abercrombie, and you probably have the most competitive Gemmell ever.

I think the Gemmell boils down to pretty much a popularity contest. In that case, Sanderson should win, as he’s the most popular of these big “epic” fantasy writers. In this case, the broad sweep of Goodreads can help. Check how popular these books are in terms of ratings on that site:

Words of Radiance: 52,766 ratings, 4.76 average
The Blinding Knife: 26,911 ratings, 4.46 average
Half a King: 12,067 ratings, 4.01 aveage
Prince of Fools: 5,933 ratings, 4.10 average
Valour: 1,566 ratings 4.42 average

A clear Sanderson advantage, no?

2015 Locus Award Finalists Announced

The Locus Award finalists have been announced for 2015:

•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)

•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)

•“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)

•“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)

•“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:

•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)

•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.

Checking the Other SFF Awards: BSFA, PKD, Tiptree, and Arthur C. Clarke

As the winds of winter continue to swirl around the Hugo, it’s a great time to check in on the rest of the SFF awards. There’s been a series of winners and nominees announced over the last week, and much of this has been lost in the furor over the Hugo. If you want a broad view of the field, looking beyond the Hugo and the Nebula is a must. Both the Hugo and Nebula are so peculiar in their assessment of Science Ficiton and Fantasy that they ignore a great deal of interesting fiction.

Chaos Horizon has been collating these lists into one master list; see the bottom of the post for that info.

BSFA: Ann Leckie won her second straight BSFA, taking the prize for Ancillary Sword, beating out such books as Lagoon, Europe in Autumn, and Wolves. Voting stats (found at the link) show that it wasn’t even close: Leckie almost doubled the vote total of Hardinge and Hutchinson in the first round, and ended up with a comfortable victory. Lagoon, for all the critical praise it received, wound up in last place. I think Leckie’s win here is a good indicator for the Nebula and Hugo; we may be in store for another Leckie sweep.

Philip K. Dick: The PKD award went to Meg Elison’s The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. The PKD picks the best paperback SF novel of the year published in the US; since the award is limited to paperbacks, it’s always a little offbeat compared to the Nebulas and Hugos. Elysium received a special citation as well.

Arthur C. Clarke: The Clarke shortlist was announced:

The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey (Orbit)
The Book Of Strange New Things – Michel Faber (Canongate)
Europe In Autumn – Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
Memory Of Water – Emmi Itäranta (HarperVoyager)
The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August – Claire North (Orbit)
Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel (Picador)

Faber and Mandel make that a very literary shortlist. Hutchinson and North are having good years across the board; I wonder how close North would have been to making the Hugo ballot without the Puppy slates. The absence of Leckie is a little surprising, given that she won last year. Despite the acclaim for VanderMeer’s Annihilation, it has been basically been shut out of the awards season (except the Nebula). This doesn’t speak well for its Nebula chances.

Tiptree: The Tiptree is given to “science fiction or fantasy that explores and expands the roles of women and men for work by both women and men.” The Tiptree website lacks a permanent link, but here’s the File 770 list of works.

The Girl in the Road, Monica Byrne (co-winner)
My Real Children, Jo Walton (co-winner)
Novels from the Honor List (short list):
Elysium, Jennifer Marie Brissett
Memory of Water, Emmi Itaranta
Ascension, Jacqueline Koyanagi
Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor

No Leckie (she made the Honor list last year), and I’m surprised Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire missed the short (or long) list.

Gemmell Legend: The initial voting for the Gemmell has opened, and lasts until May 15th. The Gemmell goes to the best Fantasy novel, and is awarded in an open internet vote. If you want to imagine what the Hugo would look like if it were open to everyone, the Gemmell can give you some insight into that.

Locus Award: The Locus Awards, voted on by the subscribers of Locus Magazine, are also open for voting.

The Chaos Cup: I’ve been collating all these awards into a meta-list, to see if anyone breaks out of the pack. So, if we sum up all our current slates (Arthur C. Clarke, BSFA, Hugo, Kitschies, Nebula, PKD, Tiptree), we wind up with the following list. Everyone gets 1 point for each nomination list they appear on, and we’re about halfway through the awards season (my list is going to collate 15 different awards). Here’s everyone with more than 1 vote:

Ancillary Sword: 3 nominations, 1 win (BSFA)
Memory of Water: 3 nominations
Lagoon: 3 nominations

Elysium: 2 nominations
Europe in Autumn: 2 nominations
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August: 2 nominations
The Goblin Emperor: 2 nominations

All told, 31 novels have received nominations. Unlike last year, where Leckie had already broken away from the pack, everything is bunched up. I wonder how Lagoon would be doing if it had gotten a US publication (it is ineligible for several of the American awards).

It’s looking to be a very spread-out year, without any necessarily “consensus” SFF novel in 2015. If you want to see the Excel file with all the awards and nominees, e-mail me at chaoshorizons42@gmail.com.

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.

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.

Best of 2014: SF Signal

I’m still sorting through the methodology of the SFF Critics meta-list: currently, the idea is to include all “Best of 2014” lists by “major” SFF critics. Now, defining “major” is the awkward issue. Remember, the goal of Chaos Horizon is to build a predictive model for the Hugo and Nebula Awards—not to achieve some impossible goal of determining what is the “best” novel of the year, but rather what lists are likely to influence the Hugo/Nebula—so, as of now, I’m building this from three things:

1. “Best of Lists” by the mainstream SFF websites: LocusMagazine, Tor.com, io9, basically anything that a ton of possible SFWA or WorldCon voters will see.
2. “Best of Lists” by well-known SFF authors, such as Adam Roberts’ list for The Guardian.
3. “Best of Lists” published by Hugo nominated blogs, fansites, and semiprozines. Given that the Hugo voting audience probably knows these outlets, it makes a certain amount of sense they’d look in that direction. There’s a definite feedback loop in the Hugos, as seen by the sheer number of Repeat nominees.

The collating methodology is a little complicated, since a number of these lists (including today’s SF Signal list) are made up of multiple critics. See my Strange Horizons posts for details on how I’m handling points.

All these various lists will be collated, and we’ll see where we get. Since these’ll be in an Excel file, we can sort them and see which ones actually correlate to the Hugos/Nebulas when the time comes.

Today, I’ll be looking at SF Signal’s “MINDMELD: Best Genre Works of 2014.” SF Signal won the Hugo for Best Fanzine in 2012 and 2013. For their “Best of 2014” post, they invited 14 bloggers, authors, and critics to cover their favorite novels, stories, movies, anime, comics, etc. This kind of broad meta-post gives some great insight into what SFF enthusiasts are thinking about the year in review.

For my list, I went through and noted the novels promoted as the “Best of 2014.” Here’s the list:

3 mentions: The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison
2 mentions: Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
Everyone else was mentioned once:
A Man Lies Dreaming, Lavie Tidhar
Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes
Child of a Hidden Sea, A.M. Dellamonica
Coming Home, Jack McDevitt
Dirty Wings, Sarah McCarry
Dreams of the Golden Age, Carrie Vaughn
Frost Burned, Patricia Briggs
Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor
Murder of Crows, Anne Bishop
Our Lady of the Islands, Shannon Page and Jay Lake
Prince of Shadows, Rachel Caine
Shimmer, Paul Weston
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt
The Burning Room, Michael Connelly
The Clockwork Dagger, Beth Cato
The Fictional Woman, Tara Moss
The Girl in the Road, Monica Byrne
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Genevieve Valentine
The King’s Deryni, Katherine Kurtz
The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman
The Metanatural Adventures of Dr. Black, Brendan Connell
The Secret Place, Tana French
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu
Tigerman, Nick Harkaway
Unwrapped Sky, Rjurik Davidson
Valour and Vanity, Mary Robinette Kowal
Wickedly Dangerous, Deborah Blake

The more fan-oriented these lists have been, the better The Goblin Emperor has done. When they’re more professional critic oriented, Annihilation shines. Does that mean a Nebula for VanderMeer and a Hugo nomination for Addison?

It’s interesting who doesn’t make the list: VanderMeer, Robert Jackson Bennett, David Mitchell. You figure 1 out of 14 critics would have praised those books, given how widely read they were this year. This might indicate that said books are not reaching every part of SFF fandom. However, you can’t overvalue one last, even if it does include 14 different critics.

Best of 2014: Strange Horizons

Now that I’ve put up the Mainstream Best of 2014 Meta-List, I can move on to the far more interesting (and predictive) SFF Critics Meta-List. I’m starting today with Strange Horizons, because their “Best of 2014” list causes on immediate methodological crisis. Thanks, Niall!

Like many of these posts from bigger publications, Strange Horizons is a meta-list unto itself, including short paragraphs highlighting the “Best of 2014” from 18 different critics. These critics represent a large range of important voices in the field, including Hugo nominated authors and fan writers. Of course, Strange Horizons was itself a Hugo nominee for semiprozine (whatever that means) in 2013 and 2014, and is thus likely to carry a fair amount of weight with Hugo voters.

All good so far, and this is exactly what I’m looking for in a predictive list. I figure we collate this list against other similar lists, and we’ll have another indicator of likely Hugo/Nebula nominees and winners. I then collate the indicators, and bam!, I have my predictive model.

My processing practice so far has been to read through the lists and every time a critic mentions a book as a “Best of 2014” (honorable mentions don’t count), to give it 1 point. Simple, or so I thought. In my previous SFF Critics Meta-List collation, I let each mention count for one vote. Thus, since 3 critics from Tor.com’s list mentioned The Goblin Emperor, it got 3 votes. This helped Goblin Emperor win the first collation.

That multiple votes per list is becoming a problem. Here’s the Strange Horizon list (absent Adam Robert’s choices, since I already collated them from The Guardian article he wrote, and I didn’t want his choices to count twice):

5 mentions: Annihilation/Southern Reach, VanderMeer, Jeff
2 mentions: J, Jacobson, Howard
2 mentions: The Race, Allan, Nina
2 mentions: Fire in the Unnamable Country, Islam, Ghalib
Everyone else got 1 mention each:
Europe in Autumn, Hutchinson, David
All those Vanished Engines, Park, Paul
Boy, Snow, Bird, Oyeyemi, Helen
Steles of the Sky, Bear, Elizabeth
Ancillary Sword, Leckie, Ann
Broken Monsters, Beukes, Lauren
The Bone Clocks, Mitchell, David
The Wake, Kingsnorth, Paul
Of Things Gone Astray, Matthewson, Janina
The Causal Angel, Rajaniemi, Hannu
Wolf in White Van, Darnielle, John
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Walton, Leslye
The Angel of Losses, Feldman, Stephanie
The Department of Speculation, Offill, Jenny
Tigerman, Harkaway, Nick
The Girl in the Road, Byrne, Monica
Nigerians in Space, Olukotun, Deji Bryce

A good list, broad and deep, with mentions of plenty of the front-runners for the Nebula and Hugo. But can I really give Annihilation 5 points from one list? Clearly, VanderMeer won the Strange Horizons betting pool, but how much influence can I give one publication? If I collate 5 votes, that means Strange Horizons will dominate my meta-list. Not cool. On the other hand, anyone who reads this Best of 2014 is likely to come away with the feeling they better read Annihilation, so is it fair to give it only 1 point? Does that accurately reflect the intent/effect of the article?

Like I said, methodological crisis. Our only option: panic!

Fortunately, Chaos Horizon is just for fun. I’m putting together a list that may or may not predict the Hugos and Nebulas, and, even when I do, we’re only looking at a few hundred data points, not enough to be statistically sound. For the time being, I’m going to give a list like Strange Horizons (and Tor.com, and SF Signal) a maximum of 2 points. Everyone who appears at least once, gets 1 point. That final point will be scaled against the multiple mentions. So the top of the Strange Horizons lists will look like this in the collation:

2 points: Annihilation/Southern Reach, VanderMeer, Jeff
1.25 points: J, Jacobson, Howard
1.25 points: The Race, Allan, Nina
1.25 points: Fire in the Unnamable Country, Islam, Ghalib

So, beyond the initial mentions, VanderMeer got 4 more mentions. 4/4 = 1. Howard got 1 more mention, 1/4 = .25. What do you think? Fair? Unfair?

I’ll be back tomorrow with SF Signal’s list and some more comments on the methodology for the SFF Critics Meta-List, and then I’ll recollate the list. Things are heating up this award season, so it’ll be interesting to see who pulls ahead with my evolving SFF Critics list methodology.

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