Tag Archive | Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer featured in The Atlantic

Jeff VanderMeer has a huge feature up on The Atlantic website about Annihilation, Acceptance, and Authority: From Annihilation to Acceptance: A Writer’s Surreal Journey. Written by VanderMeer himself, it’s a fascinating piece on the writing and publishing of Southern Reach and the various artistic and business decisions went into VanderMeer’s trilogy.

We rarely get such in-depth discussions about the process of writing and publishing science fiction or fantasy (or, in this case, weird fiction), and VanderMeer offers some great insight into his process like the following:

Afterwards, writing Annihilation was a simple process: I’d get up and write for three hours, fall asleep, maybe edit a bit in the evenings, and repeat the process. In five weeks, I had a finished novel. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else, in part because I was driven to write, but also because I felt so sick I was either writing or sleeping, with no energy for anything else.

Chaos Horizon is a Hugo and Nebula analytics site, and I currently have Annihilation in the #1 slot for both my 2015 Nebula and Hugo predictions. Part of the reason is that you just can’t buy mainstream coverage like this; SFF fans are just as influenced by the mainstream as everyone else (that’s why it’s the mainstream).

I’m very interested to see how Annihilation does in this year’s awards. Given that VanderMeer is probably more SFF-adjacent as a weird fiction writer, it would be something of a genre expansion to see the Nebula go to Annihilation. VanderMeer had a previous Nebula nomination for Finch, and Annihilation has been an order of magnitude more popular. The Hugo has been following the Nebula in recent years, so Nebula success can easily lead to Hugo success. We’ll have to wait and see; Nebula nominations should be out within the month.

Also check out VanderMeer’s very interesting Atlantic essay on weird fiction: The Uncanny Power of Weird Fiction.

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2015 Hugo Prediction, Version 3.0

Where did November go? Between the Thanksgiving holiday and wrapping up my classes for this semester, it’s blurred by. But it’s December 1st, so time to update my 2015 Hugo Prediction.

Reminder: Chaos Horizon is dedicated to predicting what is likely to happen in the 2015 awards, not what “should” happen. So, long story short, I’m not advocating any of these books for the Hugo, but simply predicting, based on past Hugo patterns, who is most likely to get a nomination. I’ve based these on the various Reports I’ve done, the Review Round-Ups of individual texts, and my tracking of various Hugo Metrics.

Changes: I moved VanderMeer to #1. Why? Well, the most basic reason is I raised him to the top of my Nebula prediction. Since 2000, the Nebulas and the Hugos have begun to converge. In those 15 years, 7 of the Best Novel Nebula winners have gone on to win the Hugo. That’s roughly 50%—great odds for any gambler. The odds are actually even better, because the Nebula winner doesn’t always make the Hugo ballot. When the Nebula winner has been on the Hugo ballot, it’s gone on to win 6 out of the last 7 times, for an eye-popping 86%. Redshirts over 2132 is the only recent example of the Nebula winner getting upset. Since the basic premise of Chaos Horizon is to do something other than just give my (often wrong) opinion, this is as a good a logic as I can find. While statistics can mislead and fail, I hope to at least provide something different than everything else out there. If you’re dissatisfied with a predicted VanderMeer sweep, remember that it’s still early (December, and the Hugo won’t be given until next Summer), and a lot may change.

Additionally, VanderMeer has done well with critics, is popping up on most year-end lists, and has solid popularity metrics. I also feel Annihilation stands well on its own, as a brief horror-SF novel, and you don’t need to read the less successful Authority and Acceptance to get the full effect. Others might disagree, and feel that Annihilation isn’t a stand-alone book, and we’ll get to see how that plays out over the next few month.

I think voters will be reluctant to give Leckie back to back Hugos, and Ancillary Sword hasn’t made the same waves as Ancillary Justice. The most popular SF book of the year, The Martian, isn’t likely to be eligible; the most popular fantasy book of the year, Words of Radiance, is the second in a series (those don’t get nominated unless the first was also nominated). This makes VanderMeer the most likely candidate almost by default; what else is there in 2014 that has the mix of popularity, critical sentiment, and genre demographics to make it a prime candidate? While there’s still time for a book like City of Stairs to catch fire, it needs to start catching soon.

The other changes are more modest. I’ve moved Echopraxia and The Mirror Empire down based on their popularity, or lack thereof. While both novels were well-received by critics, they’re simply not doing as well in the marketplace as other books. On its most basic level, the Hugo is a popularity contest, and you need to be popular to win. This leaves a SF hole near the top, and Gibson—who is making a ton of year-end lists—seems the most logical to slide into that spot. I still have him outside the Hugo slate, but there are a ton of SF only Hugo voters that might push Gibson up. Bennett also moves up as the most like fantasy Hugo newcomer. I’ve also added Cambias and A Darkling Sea to the list as perhaps the most heralded SF debut of the year. Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven also debuts at #15.

December should be a big month for the Hugo picture, as more and more year-end lists come up. Pay careful attention to the lists produced by SFF websites, as they are usually good indicators for the Hugo and Nebula. Mainstream lists like Amazon or Publisher’s Weekly are too outside of SFF fandom to be of much help in the prediction.

The current prediction:

Annihilation Ancillary Sword 9780765375865_p0_v1_s260x420 Monster Hunter Nemesis

City of Stairs Words of Radiance Goblin Emperor Mirror Empire

Tier I: Likely to be Nominated
This tier is full of strong contenders, based on previous Hugo Best Novel performance, reviews, genre, and popularity.

1. Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer: Beginning of his Southern Reach trilogy, all published this year. Popular, well-reviewed and well-liked. More people read and liked this short first volume than finished the series, so I think it’s Annihilation and not the whole Southern Reach that ends up nominated. Since I have this on top of my Nebula prediction, it needs to be on top of my Hugo prediction as well.
2. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie: The sequel to the 2014 Hugo and Nebula winning Ancillary Justice has been well-reviewed and received, but will fans want to give the award to Leckie twice in a row?
3. The Martian, Andy Weir: The bestselling SF novel of 2014, but I don’t think it will be eligible. See my post on the issue. This book is just so enormously popular it’s bound to receive lots of votes, eligible or not.
3. Lock In, John Scalzi: The 2013 Best Novel Hugo winner, and Lock In has been quite popular. Scalzi has tons of prior noms, and the past is a great indicator of the future.
4. Monster Hunter Nemesis, Larry Correia : 2014 Hugo Best Novel nominee, placed 6th in 2013, and a prominent Hugo campaigner.
5. City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett: The book I feel most uncertain about predicting a Hugo nomination. Very well-reviewed and well-liked fantasy novel, benefits from being a stand-alone book. Has shades of Mieville and Gaiman, both of whom have done very well. But have enough people read it for this to be a likely nomination?

Tier II: A Fighting Chance
These authors will need some help to make into the slate: strong placement on year-end lists, a big sales push during the Holiday season, a Nebula nomination (which helps your Hugo chances greatly), or some sort of formal or informal campaign. I’d note that some of these books might well be “better” than the books above them, but we’re discussing Hugo chances here, not which books are actually best.

6. Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson : Nominated with Robert Jordan for Wheel of Time in 2014; first book in this series (The Way of Kings) placed 11th in 2011; staggeringly popular. If the Hugo wasn’t biased against epic Fantasy, this would be a shoo-in.
7. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison: The other fast rising fantasy candidate, a popular fantasy novel. Strong reviews and well liked. Is there enough space for multiple fantasy novels on the Hugo slate, though, or can only one of Bennett/Hurley/Addison make the field? Could Sanderson crush them all?
8. The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley : 2014 Best Fan Writer Hugo winner, 2014 Best Related Work Hugo winner, 2012 Nebula novel nominee, first novel in an ambitious new series. Proved divisive amongst reviewers, and popularity isn’t as strong as other contenders.
9. William Gibson, The Peripheral: Gibson hasn’t been nominated for a Hugo since 1998, but there’s a lack of obvious SF candidates. Critics have been enthusiastic about Gibson’s return to “true” SF, so this is garnering a lot of attention.
10. My Real Children, Jo Walton: 2012 Hugo winner, lower on list because of a lack of strong SFF element.
11. Symbiont, Mira Grant: Nominated for four Hugos in a row from 2011-2014, although she barely made the field last year; published very late in year (November) for a Hugo contender.
12. Echopraxia, Peter Watts : First novel since his 2007 Best Novel Hugo nomination for the highly regarded Blindsight. If The Martian is ineligible, Watts seems to be the next most-logical SF novel to slide into its place. However, this doesn’t seem to be as popular as I expected.
13. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell: Surprisingly popular literary novel; contains some speculative elements (war with strange psychic entities), but those are late in the book. More of a Nebula than Hugo nominee.
14. Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes : Beukes placed 7th in the 2014 Hugos, 11th in 2012, but this is more crime and less speculative than the excellent The Shining Girls.
15. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel: The literary post-apocalyptic darling of 2014, this has been burning up the sales charts recently. Doesn’t seem like a Hugo book to me, but the sheer market saturation is likely to yield Mandel some votes.
16. Cibola Burn, James S.A. Corey: 2012 Hugo nominee, 8th in 2013, 14th in 2014.

Tier III: Long Shots
These authors could have an argument made for them, but would need quite a bit to happen to make it into the slate.

17. The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross: 2014 Hugo nominee, 2014 Novella Hugo winner, last novel in this series (Apocalypse Codex, from the Laundry novels) didn’t place in top 15.
18. Elizabeth Bear, The Eternal Range trilogy: With Jordan getting nominated last year, there have been some rumblings about nominating Bear’s well-reviewed fantasy trilogy. That’s going to take a lot of effort to happen, particularly if you take a look at the popularity indicators for Bear (number of ratings on Goodreads, for instance: the last volume has a mere 269 ratings as of November 1, 2014). Not enough readers = not much of a chance.
19. Valour and Vanity, Mary Robinette Kowal: 2014 Hugo Novelette winner, 2011 Hugo Short Story winner, placed 8th in 2011, 10th in 2012 for Best Novel.
20. A Darkling Sea, James Cambias: SF debut novel that has gotten some strong critical attention.
21. Mainstream Fantasy Novels: There are plenty of mainstream fantasy writers that don’t stand much of a chance, despite their books being well liked. Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks, Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, etc. The Hugo has never been very hospitable to novels in Epic fantasy series. Vote for Sanderson if you want a book like this on the slate.
22. The Space Epics: Same thing with these. Books like Peter F. Hamilton’s The Abyss Beyond Dreams, Alastair Reynold’s On The Steel Breeze, may seem like possible candidates, but they haven’t done well in recent years. Throw Greg Bear in here as well.
23. Cixin Liu, The Three Body Problem: A high profile release by China’s most popular SF author, but foreign-language texts have done terribly in the Hugos.
24. The Chaplain’s War, Brad Torgersen: First novel, 2014 Hugo Novelette and Short Story nominee, 2012 Hugo and Nebula Novelette nominee, didn’t grab much attention when released. Could be part of a future “Sad Puppy” campaign by Correia.
25. The Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor: No 2014 US release for this book dooms any chances.
26. The Girl with All the Gifts, M.S. Carey: Popular zombie book, would need tons of support to make the slate.

So, what do you think? Who is the frontrunner in December?

2015 Nebula Prediction, Version 2.0

It’s the 15th of the month, so time to update my Nebula Award for Best Novel prediction! Last year, the slate was announced on February 25th, so we’re just 3 months away from learning the nominees.

So what’s changed since my last prediction? We’ve gotten to see how various novels have performed with reviewers, fans, and in terms of popularity. As websites begin to publish their year-end lists, a narrative has begun to emerge for 2014, with books like City of Stairs and The Goblin Emperor getting lots of positive buzz. These books join more obvious candidates like Annihilation and Ancillary Sword.

I’ve also done a couple of Reports that have allowed me to better understand past patterns of the Nebula, particularly how the Nebula Best Novel category tends to nominate 50% previous nominees and 50% rookie nominees. This boosts the odds of someone like Katherine Addison or Robert Jackson Bennett, both looking to earn their first nomination.

Despite this information, the Nebulas are much harder to predict than the Hugos. The Nebulas involve a smaller group of voters (SFWA members, many of whom don’t seem to vote), publish less data (it keeps the vote totals secret), and tends to nominate obscure books (Nagata and Gannon last year, for instance). The Nebula is also a more “writerly” award; some of the popular authors in the Hugo—Scalzi or Stross—have never done well in the Nebulas. It’s harder to predict what writers are going to like than fans, given that fans tend be more vocal about their likes and dislikes.

Disclaimer: As always, Chaos Horizon predicts what is likely to happen in the Nebula awards, not what “should” happen. By data-mining past awards, I try to discover patterns to base my predictions on. This is an imperfect science—the past is not a 100% predictor of the future, otherwise we’d know everything that would happen—so take the list as no more than a rough guide.

Annihilation Ancillary Sword The Bone Clocks City of Stairs Coming Home Mirror Empire My Real Children Goblin Emperor

Tier I: Likely to be Nominated
The leading candidates, based on critical reception and past Nebula performance.

1. Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer: I’ve moved VanderMeer above Leckie based on two things: the Nebula’s past reluctance to award the Nebula to the same author two years in a row, and the sheer popularity of Annihilation amongst critics and readers. VanderMeer scored a Nebula nomination back in 2010 for Finch, and this has been the best reviewed and received novel of his career. I think Annihilation, the first volume of his three part Area X (all published in 2014), is the most likely to get nominated. This is the shortest, most accessible, most read, and most interesting part of the trilogy, although I wouldn’t be stunned to see all of Area X on the slate.
2. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie: Ancillary Sword hasn’t kicked up the same enthusiasm as Ancillary Justice, but it’s still been well-reviewed and received. Expect a nomination but not a win.

Tier II: A Strong Chance
I told you the Nebula is hard to predict. Beyond Leckie and VanderMeer, I’m not sure anyone is “likely” to make the final slate, but a wide range of authors have good chances. Remember, the Nebula has been roughly 50% repeat nominees, 50% newcomers; if this year follows that trend, that would be good for Bennett and Addison.

3. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell: Mitchell has a 2005 Nebula nom for the well liked Cloud Atlas, and this was the biggest “literary” SFF novel of the year. Huge sales, tons of mainstream coverage, with a “love it or hate it” kind of reaction by readers. I worry this isn’t speculative enough for the SFWA voters, and the length (600+ pages) is likely a problem. Everything else in the Top 10 is under 450 pages, with many of the books around 300 pages.
4. City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett: This dark, stand-alone fantasy about dead gods and a mysterious city seems tailor-made for the Nebulas: while fantasy series do poorly, stand alone fantasy novels have done better. This book has a similar to feel to some of Gaiman and Mieville, which bodes well for his Nebula chances. Bennett is also picking up steam as the year goes along; he may be peaking at just the right time.
5. Coming Home, Jack McDevitt: 11 prior Nebula noms for best novel (!), but no 2013 or 2014 nom; still, you can’t count McDevitt out. We’re also light on major SF candidates this year, and that might allow McDevitt to sneak back in.
6. The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley: 2012 Nebula nom, start of a well-received new fantasy series. Also the best cover of the year, if that helps.
7. My Real Children, Jo Walton: 2012 Nebula winner, 2012 Hugo winner, less SFF than her other works, although the Nebulas cares less about that than the Hugos.
8. The Martian, Andy Weir: This was the biggest debut SF novel of 2014, although eligibility issues—the book was originally self-published in 2012—are likely to prevent a nomination. It is also less “writerly”—and more action driven—than what the Nebula tends to nominate.
9. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison: Well received fantasy novel, offering an alternative to the dominant “grimdark” model currently so popular. Pen-name of Sarah Monette. After Bennett, the most buzzed about possible “newcomer” to the Nebula slate.
10. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel: Another literary SF novel, this time with a post-apocalyptic twist. This has gotten lots of mainstream coverage—it was named by Amazon the best SFF novel of 2014. One of last year’s big “literary” SFF novels, The Golem and the Jinni scored a Nebula nom, so this has a chance.

Tier III: In the Mix
11. The Peripheral, William Gibson: Gibson hasn’t been in the Nebula mix for more than a twenty years, but this is a return to more traditional SF. The top part of this prediction is too light on SF for the Nebula, so Gibson might get a SF “boost” into the slate.
12. Echopraxia, Peter Watts: Watts doesn’t have much past success in the Nebulas (no nominations ever), but this was one of the more highly anticipated SF books of 2014.
13. Valour and Vanity, Mary Robinette Kowal: 2011 Nebula nom, 2013 Nebula nom for prior books in this series.
14. Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress: 5 prior Nebula wins, including 2013 Nebula novella; 2 prior Nebula best novel noms.
15. The Girl in the Road, Monica Byrne: High concept debut novel, good buzz.
16. Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes: Beukes has almost scored Hugo noms in the past, but she hasn’t done as well in the Nebulas. High quality speculative/detective hybrid.
17. The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu: Major English-language debut by one of China’s most popular SF writers; translated by Nebula winner Ken Liu; foreign language books have historically done terribly at the Nebulas.
18. Literary Fiction interlopers: A large number of books from the literary world have used speculative elements this year, and the Nebula has, in the past, been somewhat receptive. This long list includes Strange Bodies by Marcel Thereoux, Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, J by Harold Jacobson (shortlisted for the Booker Prize), On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee, Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, The Bees by Laline Paull, and The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. If one of these books gets nominated, it would be similar to The Golem and the Jinni’s nomination from 2014.
19. The Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor: 2011 Nebula nom, but this novel only came out in UK this year; no US release yet dooms her chances.
20. Mainstream SFF writers: A lot of the biggest-sellers of SFF are missing from the above list: Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Brent Weeks, Robin Hobb, James S.A. Corey, John Scalzi, Mira Grant, Charles Stross, Joe Abercrombie, Lev Grossman, Deborah Harkness, Diana Gabaldon, I could go on and on. These kind of massively popular books have never done very well at the Nebula awards, particularly if they are part of a series. I don’t expect that to be different this year, but you never know.

That’s quite a list—a pretty busy year in science fiction and fantasy. Who’s on your list for the 2015 Nebulas? Who deserves to be here that’s not?

2015 Hugo Prediction, Version 2.0

It’s November 1st, so time for an updated Hugo prediction!

Chaos Horizon is dedicated to predicting what is likely to happen in the 2015 awards, not what “should” happen. So, long story short, I’m not advocating any of these books for the Hugo, but simply predicting, based on past Hugo patterns, who is most likely to get a nomination. I’ve based these on the various Reports I’ve done, the Review Round-Ups of individual texts, and my tracking of Hugo Popularity.

One advantage of doing predictions so early is that it also leaves of plenty time for change. If your favorite novel is down on the list, do something about it: post a review, blog, tell us about it in the comments. A ton can—and will—happen between now and the Hugo nominations. This is an award for SFF fans, and SFF fans should determine which novels make the slate.

Titles link to Review Round-Ups for each author (when I’ve done them).

Tier I: Likely to be Nominated
This tier is full of strong contenders, based on previous Hugo Best Novel performance, reviews, genre, and popularity.

1. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie: The sequel to the 2014 Hugo and Nebula winning Ancillary Justice has been well-reviewed and received, but will fans want to give the award to Leckie twice in a row?
2. Lock In, John Scalzi: The 2013 Best Novel Hugo winner, and Lock In has been quite popular.
3. Monster Hunter Nemesis, Larry Correia : 2014 Hugo Best Novel nominee, placed 6th in 2013, and a prominent Hugo campaigner.
4. The Martian, Andy Weir: The bestselling SF novel of 2014, but I don’t think it will be eligible. See my post on the issue.
5. Echopraxia, Peter Watts : First novel since his 2007 Best Novel Hugo nomination for the highly regarded Blindsight. If The Martian is ineligible, Watts is the next most-logical SF novel to slide into its place.
6. Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer: Beginning of his Southern Reach trilogy, all published this year. Popular, well-reviewed and well-liked. More people read and liked this short first volume than finished the series, so I think it’s Annihilation and not the whole Southern Reach that ends up nominated. Could benefit from a likely Nebula nomination.

Tier II: A Fighting Chance
These authors will need some help to make into the slate: strong placement on year-end lists, a big sales push during the Holiday season, a Nebula nomination (which helps your Hugo chances greatly), or some sort of formal or informal campaign. I’d note that some of these books might well be “better” than the books above them, but we’re discussing Hugo chances here, not which books are actually best.

7. Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson : Nominated with Robert Jordan for Wheel of Time in 2014; first book in this series (The Way of Kings) placed 11th in 2011; staggeringly popular. If the Hugo wasn’t biased against epic Fantasy, this would be a shoo-in.
8. The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley : 2014 Best Fan Writer Hugo winner, 2014 Best Related Work Hugo winner, 2012 Nebula novel nominee, first novel in an ambitious new series. Proved divisive amongst reviewers, and popularity isn’t as strong as other contenders.
9. My Real Children, Jo Walton: 2012 Hugo winner, lower on list because of a lack of strong SFF element.
10. Symbiont, Mira Grant: Nominated for four Hugos in a row from 2011-2014, although she barely made the field last year; published very late in year (November) for a Hugo contender.
11. City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett: Fast rising candidate, and a very well-reviewed and well-liked fantasy novel. Could capture Gaiman’s (huge) audience. I’ll be moving this up if it continues to do well amongst readers and reviewers.
12. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison: The other fast rising candidate, a popular fantasy novel. Strong reviews and well liked. Is there enough space for multiple fantasy novels on the Hugo slate, though, or can only one of Bennett/Hurley/Addison make the field? Could Sanderson crush them all?
13. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell: Surprisingly popular literary novel; contains some speculative elements (war with strange psychic entities), but those are late in the book. More of a Nebula than Hugo nominee.
14. Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes : Beukes placed 7th in the 2014 Hugos, 11th in 2012, but this is more crime and less speculative than the excellent The Shining Girls.
15. Cibola Burn, James S.A. Corey: 2012 Hugo nominee, 8th in 2013, 14th in 2014.

Tier III: Long Shots
These authors could have an argument made for them, but would need quite a bit to happen to make it into the slate.

16. The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross: 2014 Hugo nominee, 2014 Novella Hugo winner, last novel in this series (Apocalypse Codex, from the Laundry novels) didn’t place in top 15.
17. William Gibson, The Peripheral: Gibson hasn’t been nominated for a Hugo since 1998, but this might mark a return. Keep your eye on reviews.
18. Elizabeth Bear, The Eternal Range trilogy: With Jordan getting nominated last year, there have been some rumblings about nominating Bear’s well-reviewed fantasy trilogy. That’s going to take a lot of effort to happen, particularly if you take a look at the popularity indicators for Bear (number of ratings on Goodreads, for instance: the last volume has a mere 269 ratings as of November 1, 2014). Not enough readers = not much of a chance.
19. Valour and Vanity, Mary Robinette Kowal: 2014 Hugo Novelette winner, 2011 Hugo Short Story winner, placed 8th in 2011, 10th in 2012 for Best Novel.
20. Mainstream Fantasy Novels: There are plenty of mainstream fantasy writers that don’t stand much of a chance, despite their books being well liked. Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks, Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, etc. The Hugo has never been very hospitable to novels in Epic fantasy series. Vote for Sanderson if you want a book like this on the slate.
21. The Space Epics: Same thing with these. Books like Peter F. Hamilton’s The Abyss Beyond Dreams, Alastair Reynold’s On The Steel Breeze, may seem like possible candidates, but they haven’t done well in recent years. Throw Greg Bear in here as well.
22. Cixin Liu, The Three Body Problem: A high profile release by China’s most popular SF author, but foreign-language texts have done terribly in the Hugos.
23. The Chaplain’s War, Brad Torgersen: First novel, 2014 Hugo Novelette and Short Story nominee, 2012 Hugo and Nebula Novelette nominee, didn’t grab much attention when released. Could be part of a future “Sad Puppy” campaign by Correia.
24. The Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor: No 2014 US release for this book dooms any chances.
25. The Girl with All the Gifts, M.S. Carey: Popular zombie book, would need tons of support to make the slate.

That’s a long list. I’m sure I could add more to the “Longshots” section. Who else is missing? Who has a real chance of snagging one of these awards, and more important, why? Who’s your current front-runner? What SFF book have you liked best this year?

Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation Review Round-Up

Jeff VanderMeer has been a major voice in experimental fantasy for well over a decade, and in 2014 he stepped into the mainstream with his three-part Southern Reach trilogy: Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance. Annihilation is the first, shortest, and most accessible of the three, and it looks to be a major Nebula (and perhaps Hugo) contender in 2015.

Annihilation tells the story of an expedition to the mysterious Area X, an anomalous bit of the American coastline where . . . something . . . has happened. VanderMeer spins this mystery into a unfolding conspiracy, as characters and readers try to figure out what exactly is going on. VandMeer’s novel is both tense and scary as it spirals into a zone of paranoia and madness: is anything real? Is anything knowable? Is everyone insane? It’s best not to know too much about the narrative before you start reading; just trust VanderMeer to take you on a bizarre but enjoyable ride.

I found Annihilation the most effective part of this trilogy. VanderMeer is at his best when he’s weaving these kind of paranoid delusion stories, as he has proved so well in his Ambergris books. Once he starts to give us answers in Authority and Acceptance, Southern Reach drags a little. Still, Annihilation is a heaping slice of weirdness, and as strange, creepy, and effective as anything VanderMeer has written. While VanderMeer has been somewhat inaccessible in the past, Annihilation is brief and direct, and has opened up his writing to a whole new audience.

VanderMeer has one prior Nebula nomination for Best Novel, for Finch, and three Best Related Work Hugo nominations. VanderMeer comes across as a very “writerly” writer, with a careful control of his craft; I figure this is exactly what the Nebula voters love, and that they’ll strongly support his book. Throw in the fact that VanderMeer has had a long and distinguished career (cool experimental novels, anthologies, books about writing) and he seems a tailor-made Nebula candidate. I currently have him very high up on my 2015 Nebula Prediction.

The Hugo is a little dicier, given the experimental nature of VanderMeer’s work. Still, Annihilation sold well, and there’s a chance that VanderMeer sweeps both the Nebula and Hugo. This has happened quite a bit in recent years: an author builds momentum through the entire season, riding a Nebula nomination to a Hugo nomination to a Nebula win to a Hugo win. Since the award season is staggered in that fashion, a cascading effect is definitely possible. This benefited Walton in 2012 and Leckie in 2014.

I think it’s up in the air of how exactly voters will handle this trilogy: nominate Annihilation? Nominate the whole of The Southern Reach? A lot of this depends on how the Nebula and Hugo awards put together the slate. We’ll find out when the slate is revealed.

Annihilation
Book released February 4, 2014.

About the Book:
Jeff VanderMeer’s Web Page
Amazon.com page
Goodreads page
Publisher’s page (FSG)

Mainstream Reviews:
Publisher’s Weekly (Starred review)
Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)
NPR
The Guardian
NY Times
LA Times
Entertainment Weekly
(B+)

That’s an impressive amount of coverage: when Annihilation came out in February, it got reviewed everywhere. That exposure is really going to help VanderMeer come awards season.

WordPress Blog Reviews:
Books, Brains and Beer
BiblioSanctum
(4.5 out of 5)
Raging Biblio-Holism (5 out of 5)
Intellectus Speculativus
For Winter Nights
Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews (7.5 out of 10)
Bookmunch
The Little Red Reviewer
Book Reviews Forevermore (4.5 out of 5)
Lynn’s Book Blog
Doomsdayer

Since the book has been out since early in the year, there’s plenty of reviews to choose from. I took a representative slice from WordPress, and reviews are very positive across the board. Of all the books I’ve looked at 2014, I think this had the best reception on WordPress. Whether that carries over to the Nebulas is another matter, but, at the very least, readers were highly intrigued by the start of VanderMeer’s trilogy.

2015 Nebula Watchlist

As part of Chaos Horizon’s continued look at the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Novel, here’s my 2015 Nebula Watchlist:

Disclaimer: Chaos Horizon tries to determine which novels are most likely to be nominated based on data-mining past awards data, not who should be nominated for having the “best” novel in a more general sense. Take the list for what it is intended to be, as a starting point for debate of the 2015 Nebula.

In general, the Nebula award is harder to predict the Hugo award because we have less data. The Hugo award releases a list of the top 15 authors nominated that year, complete with number of votes. The Nebula only releases the final slate, with no actual information on how many votes each author got. This makes it harder to find out who was close in previous years, giving us far less info to make a good prediction on.

1. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (2014 Nebula winner, 2014 Hugo winner)
2. Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (2010 Nebula nom, first book of a three book series all released this year, which received a lot of attention and buzz)
3. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (2005 Nebula nom for the well liked Cloud Atlas, huge marketing push, made NYT bestseller lists)
4. My Real Children, Jo Walton (2012 Nebula winner, 2012 Hugo winner, less SFF than her other works, although the Nebula cares less about that than the Hugo)
5. The Martian, Andy Weir (biggest debut SF novel of 2014, although eligibility issues—the book was originally self-published in 2012—might prevent a nomination)
6. Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (11 prior Nebula noms for best novel (!), but no 2013 or 2014 nom; still, you can’t count McDevitt out)
7. The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley (2012 Nebula nom, start of a well-received new series)
8. Valour and Vanity, Mary Robinette Kowal (2011 Nebula nom, 2013 Nebula nom for prior books in this series)
9. Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (5 prior Nebula wins, including 2013 Nebula novella; 2 prior Nebula best novel noms)
10. The Girl in the Road, Monica Byrne (high concept debut novel, good buzz)
11. Strange Bodies, Marcel Thereoux (won 2014 Campbell award, one of the few times Ancillary Justice got beat; maybe that counts for something?)
12. Literary Fiction interlopers: A large number of books from the literary world have used speculative elements this year, and the Nebula has, in the past, been somewhat receptive. This long list includes The Girl With all the Gifts by M.R. Carrey, Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, J by Harold Jacobson (shortlisted for the Booker Prize), Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee, Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, and The Bees by Laline Paull. If one of these books gets nominated, it would be similar to The Golem and the Jinni‘s nomination from 2014.
13. The Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor (2011 Nebula nom, but this novel only came out in UK this year; no US release yet)

That’s all I could come up with for now—it’s much harder to populate this list than the Hugo Watchlist, as Nebula voters are so unpredictable. I’m 100 % positive there are books not on this watchlist that will make the final slate, but what could they be?

If a novel didn’t make the list, it’s likely because the author lacked any real Nebula pedigree: that’s why a John Scalzi or Joe Abercrombie didn’t make it. Likewise, later novels in series rarely jump into the slate if earlier novels didn’t get nominated, cutting out an author like Elizabeth Bear.

Methodology:

The list is compiled using several factors:
1. Winners and nominees over the past several years: once you get nominated or win a Nebula, you’re likely to get nominated again. The Nebula has a much longer memory than the Hugo, and Nebula nominees from a decade back (like Griffth last year) can resurface.
2. Who won or was nominated for the Nebula in other categories and have novels coming out this year.
3. Potential crossovers with the Hugo awards.
4. Novels that have lots of critical buzz.

For more information about specific novels, check out My Too Early 2015 Nebula Prediction.

Obviously, this is not an exact science. Since Chaos Horizon primarily uses past Nebula performance to predict future Nebula performance, this hurts novelists who have never been nominated for the Nebula before.

I’d like to get the Watchlist to 15 by the end of the year. Anyone else to add? Thanks to everyone in previous threads who suggested novels. If you post a suggestion, try to back it up with some data. I’m waffling on Cherie Preist’s Maplecroft: she scored a 2010 nomination for Boneshaker, but this novel looks more horror than SFF.

Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance Review Round-Up

Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy has been one of the best reviewed SFF works of 2014. Ambitiously published as three novels in one year, Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance deal with various expeditions to a mysterious “Area X,” a zone where normal reality seems to be broken. The novel is heavily laced with VanderMeer’s trademark weirdness, fungus, and creeping dread, and it is certainly one of 2014s most unique contributions to the field.

Although not accessible enough to be a contender for the Hugo, I have this series down as a possible Nebula nominee in my Too Early Nebula Prediction. VanderMeer has previously been nominated for the Nebula for his novel Finch, and this trilogy has reached a much wider audience, including hitting the NYT bestseller list. VanderMeer is well liked and well respected in the SFF field. His Ambergris novels are classics of experimental fantasy (for my money, City of Saints and Madmen was one of the best fantasy books of the 2000s), and he’s edited several major anthologies with his wife. Southern Reach seems to be earning him the broader audience he richly deserves. I worry that with three novels in one year, audiences won’t know what to nominate, but my guess is they’ll settle in on Annihilation, the first and spookiest book in the series.

On to Acceptance:

AcceptanceBook published on September 2, 2014.

About the Book:
Jeff VanderMeer’s Web Page
VanderMeer blogging about the book release
Amazon.com page
Goodreads page

Publisher’s page (FSG)

Mainstream Reviews:
Publisher’s Weekly
The Guardian
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Entertainment Weekly (A-)
NPR

WordPress Blogger Reviews:
Raging Biblio-holism (5+ out of 5)
Schuler Books Weblog

Intellectus Speculativus
Melanie R. Meadors

While VanderMeer has received a lot of mainstream attention for this series, I don’t know if that’s translated to enthusiasm for all three books. Authority was a slower read, and readers might have given up with Book #2. There’s not many WordPress reviews so far—I’ll admit, that worries me. Still, there are plenty of reviews out there for Annihilation and Authority, and maybe people are catching up with the series. Three VanderMeer books in one year is a lot of books. General consensus seems to be either “I loved it” or “it was too long and weird for me, and I ran out of steam before the end.”

I’ll try to keep the post updated, particularly with WordPress reviews. If you have a review you’d like to me link, let me know in the comments.

Too Early 2015 Nebula Prediction, Version 1.0

Here’s my far far too early take on the 2015 Nebula Award, to join my equally Too Early 2015 Hugo Prediction.

Of the Hugos and Nebulas, the Nebula slate is harder to predict. The Nebula is given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, with the rules explained here. Long story short: the some 1500+ members of the SFWA are eligible to nominate works for the Nebula award.

That’s a small group, and the group making nominations is even smaller. This makes the final slate very unpredictable: every year, there are several wild-card nominees that are total surprises. Just this last year, we had nominations of Charles Gannon’s Fire with Fire and Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light, both of which would have been near impossible to predict. Unlike the Hugo committee, the Nebula committee does not release statistics to the public, so we don’t know how many nominations it takes to get on the slate. I imagine it’s a very small number. As such, any predictions about the bottom half of the slate are almost 100% certain to be wrong.

That said, here’s a rough prediction. Remember, these are what books are likely to be nominated, not what should be nominated:

Good Bets:
1. Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword
2. Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation
50/50s:
3. Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire
4. David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks
5. Jack McDevitt, Coming Home
6. Some novel I’ve never heard of
Possibilities:
7. Mary Robinette Kowal, Valour and Vanity
8. Andy Weir, The Martian
9. Jo Walton, My Real Children

I could also see some literary SFF books creeping in: The Bees by Laline Paull, Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux, On Such a Full Sea by Chang Rae Lee, or Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes. If the Nebulas want to be truly inclusive, The Three Body Problem by Chinese SF star Cixin Liu might have a shot.

I’ve tried to build these nominations off who has been nominated recently, and the kind of push the books have gotten in the press and blogging community. The top 5 books from my list are all by previously nominated Nebula authors:

Leckie won last years Nebula and Hugo, and is as good a bet as any to return.

VanderMeer received a Nebula nomination for Finch in 2010, and his Southern Reach trilogy, all published this year, has been one the best-reviewed and best-marketed series of his career. Authority even hit the NYT bestseller list. This kind of ambitious series, coupled with the unusual decision to publish three volumes in one year, should attract Nebula voters. My only concerns it that voters won’t know what to vote for: individual books in the series or the series as a whole. I’m putting down the first book—a creepy and disturbing journey into a mysterious Area X—as the most likely to get a nom.

Hurley picked up a Nebula nomination for God’s War in 2012, and this is the start of an ambitious new fantasy series. There’s not a lot of epic fantasy amongst the potential nominees, so Hurley has a good shot of attracting that element of the SFF community.

Mitchell is a hard one. Cloud Atlas got a nomination way back in 2005, and Mitchell’s stature has risen since then. He is, however, a more experimental writer, and The Bone Clocks certainly seems more post-modern than speculative. If a small group of voters really like Mitchell’s book—a strong possibility: you either tend to love or hate this kind of book—they could push him to a nom.

McDevitt: you can never count him out of the Nebula. He has been nominated 8 out of the last 10 years for this award. While he missed out last year, will he return? I’m not sure I understand why McDevitt keeps getting nominated, but you can’t argue against that track record. He must have a core group of very dedicated fans in the SFWA.

Kowal is an intriguing choice. She scored nominations for her 2011 and 2013 for books from her Glamourist history series, in a “Jane Austen meets magic” kind of way. The latest novel in this series, Valour and Vanity, seems to vary up that formula by adding a heist into the regency mix; it’s received some of the best reviews of this series since Shades of Milk and Honey. Has the series run it’s Nebula course, or we will see a return to the slate?

Weir is beginning to trouble me, largely because of the complicated question of his eligibility. I’d have him higher if that status wasn’t so murky. The Martian was indie-published first—it seems somewhat odd that you can’t join the SFWA on the basis of indie-publishing, but that they might exclude a novel from Nebula consideration because of that. Until we get a ruling on eligibility from or the Nebulas, The Martian is going to have to float at the fringes of a potential slate.

Walton won the Nebula two years ago, and I’d have My Real Children higher if it was more speculative. Still, Walton is well-liked, the book is well-reviewd. I should probably have this higher.

A lot of the more commercial novelists who do well in the Hugo noms—authors like Scalzi or Stross, for instance—tend not to show up on the Nebula slates. I’ve largely excluded those books from consideration, but if anyone has a strong reason why one of those should be included, let me know.

Other suggestions? Thoughts? Who else have I missed?

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