Tag Archive | Prediction

2015 Nebula Prediction, Version 3.0

Another 15th of the month, another chance to update my Nebula Award for Best Novel prediction. The Nebula Award nominating process has already begun, and runs from November 15th until February 15th. SFWA members are already busy voting and plotting!

There are a couple of changes since last month’s Prediction. As more “Best of 2014” lists are published, we’re getting a better and better idea of what both the Mainstream and SFF Critics think are the major works of the year. While neither of these lists will be perfectly correlated to the eventual Nebula slate, both provide essential information that can help us make good predictions, particularly for books in similar categories. For instance, in the “somewhat unusual fantasy novel” category, we have three main contenders: City of Stairs, The Goblin Emperor, and The Mirror Empire. Robert Jackson Bennett and Katherine Addison have done very well on the SFF Critics list so far, while Kameron Hurley hasn’t. Ergo, I should rank Bennett and Addison higher than Hurley.

My prediction also factors in things like Reviews, Popularity and past Nebula patterns regarding Repeat Nominees, sequels, genre, etc. As we get closer to the Nebula slate, we can hope the prediction gets more accurate, but a lot can still change between now and February.

So what’s changed in my list?

City of Stairs creeps up to #3, and it’s getting pretty close to being a “sure thing” for this Nebula season. A stand-alone fantasy book taking place in a mysterious city filled with dead gods, it’s both accessible and literary, and unusual enough to stand out in a crowded field.

I added a dreaded “?” in Slot #5. This reflects the reality of the Nebulas: over the past decade, there have been some very unusual Nebula choices, books that were off the radar and wound up in the slate. Something like this is likely to happen again, and I don’t want to pretend we can predict the slate with 100% accuracy. Hell, I’ll be happy if I get 4 out of 6 right.

Next, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven is something of this year’s Nebula wild-card. This has been roaring over in the Mainstream world, but I don’t yet have a clear sense of how SFF fans and writers have been receiving it. I’ll be doing a Review Round-Up soon, and I’ll be interested to see what the broad range of SFF blogs and readers are thinking about this book. It doesn’t take broad support to make the Nebula slate; instead, it takes a small group of passionate fans. Station Eleven is likely to attract that necessary group, even if it is a little more problematic for the broader SFF community. I have her at a shaky #6.

Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Henry August debuts at #11. I initially discounted this book because it sounded too much like Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, but North has placed well on year-end lists. Apparently, audiences aren’t tired of the “Groundhog’s day” style-novel, and North certainly provides something different than the rest of the main contenders.

Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird has done extremely well on the Mainstream List, and Genevieve Valentine’s The Girls at the Kingfisher Club has also gotten some good online chatter. Both are re-told fairy tales without obvious speculative elements. There is some debate as to whether this sub-genre should be considered SFF, but I think positive reception has boosted either (or both) of their Nebula chances. They debut in one category together at #12.

You can’t move books up without moving some books, and I’ve moved down some of the authors that haven’t been showing up on “Best of 2014” lists: Jo Walton, Jack McDevitt, Kameron Hurley. For whatever reason, these books aren’t getting the same kind of year-end reception as the other books, and this definitely hurts their Nebula chances.

Remember, 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 City of Stairs
The Bone Clocks Question Mark Station Eleven

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

1. Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer: Nothing has happened this past month to disrupt VanderMeer’s frontrunner status: good placement on the Mainstream list (#2) and SFF Critics list (#3), good sales, great critical reviews, and strong across-the-board support. I do worry how the Nebulas will handle whether or not Annihilation or all of Area X get nominated. I think VanderMeer has a better shot if only Annihilation makes it, as far more people started this trilogy than finished it.
2. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie: I never thought Leckie would win this year, as back-to-back Nebulas are a huge statement, and #2 in a trilogy always drags a little. Still, a nomination should be a safe-bet, and I’d expect the conclusion of this trilogy, Ancillary Mercy, to be a major contender when it comes out.

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. City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett: Bennett has so many strong things going for him: a current #1 position on the SFF Critics list, the stand-alone status of his novel, its “edgy” take on what fantasy can be, that it almost seems like a sure-thing. My one hesitation is sales, as this hasn’t really broken out in the way you’d expect. Still, the Nebula is given by SFWA writers, not the general public, and I think this book has enough support to be at last 75% of a sure-thing.
4. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell: Until Mandel starting stealing his thunder, Mitchell was alone at the top of the 2014 Literary SFF heap. He won the Mainstream list convincingly, and sales for this book have been outstanding. I think Mitchell is also going to benefit from some “we should have given the Nebula to Cloud Atlas” sentiment. Think back to 2005, when Bujold won for Paladin of Souls. Which book has held up better? In a weird way, The Bone Clocks benefits from its massive length: if you read all 650+ pages of it, you wind up invested, whether or not it really seems like a “fantasy” novel.
5. 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.
5. ?: The Nebula is voted on by a small group, and towards the bottom of the ballot it gets very unpredictable. Who would have picked Fire on Fire or The Red: First Light last year, or Tina Connoly’s Ironskin in 2013? While I’m not sure we’ll have a Nebula surprise this year, it’s a definite possibility.
6. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel: This is a little too high for me for Mandel, but I can’t think of a better option in this slot. The Nebula is often around a 50/50 split fantasy and science fiction, and the list is too light on SF. While Annihilation might “technically” be science fiction, it has a more horror feel, and Station Eleven is a clear post-apocalyptic novel. Maybe Nebula voters will feel guilty about not nominating The Road or Never Let Me Go?
7. 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.

Tier III: In the Mix
8. 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.
9. Coming Home, Jack McDevitt: McDevitt has 11 prior Nebula noms for best novel (!), but this book didn’t grab much buzz. Still, those McDevitt fans are out there, and the top of the slate is light on SF.
10. 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.
11. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North: This has sold well and has gotten good buzz from both the Mainstream and SFF world.
12. A Re-Told Fairy Tale: Take your pick between Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird (less likely) or Genevieve Valentine’s The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (more likely). Both are historical novels that use fairy tale underpinnings to tell new stories. Valentine is better known to the Nebula audience (she was nominated for Best Novel in 2012), but Oyeyemi’s book is loved by the mainstream and is probably the most serious look at race in this year’s Nebula crop.
13. The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley: Had great buzz back in August, but hasn’t managed to make the year-end lists.
14. 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.
15. Valour and Vanity, Mary Robinette Kowal: 2011 Nebula nom, 2013 Nebula nom for prior books in this series.
16. Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress: 5 prior Nebula wins, including 2013 Nebula novella; 2 prior Nebula best novel noms. Depending on how the Nebula rules, this might show up in the Novella category.
17. The Girl in the Road, Monica Byrne: High concept debut novel, good buzz.
18. 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.
19. The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu: My favorite science fiction novel of the year, and while Liu has picked up some good reviews, this hasn’t gotten the attention you might expect for China’s most popular SF author. Foreign language books are a hard sell to the SFWA.
20. 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, 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, 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.
21. The Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor: 2011 Nebula nom, but this novel only came out in UK so it seems ineligible for the nebula.
22. 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.

For more info about the evolution and logic behind the list, check out the earlier version.

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?

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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?

Hugo Contenders and Popularity, October 2014

Awards season moves ever closer! Right now, the Hugo and Nebula Awards for 2015 are still wide-open: what we have is disorganized sentiment, and that’s going to begin to get organized over the next 2-3 months. Some of the first posts about the 2015 Hugos are beginning to appear, including this excellent post from A Dribble of Ink. As more and more people begin talking about the Hugos and Nebulas, new contenders are going to emerge.

To help get those discussions perspective, I’m going to launch a new monthly feature of Chaos Horizon: checking on the popularity of the major Hugo contenders. Without further ado, here’s the chart, with all numbers taken from Goodreads as of October 31, 2014:

Table 1: Popularity of the Main Hugo Contenders, October 31, 2014
Hugo October 2014 (3)

The chart lists the number of time each book has been ranked on Goodreads, with also the overall ranking. I think this chart is interesting, as it allows some of the differences in number of readers/reception based on these texts. While The Mirror Empire was embraced by critics on SFF websites, it’s been outread almost 75 to 1 by Words of Radiance. Sure, the Sanderson has been out for 8 months and the Hurley only 2, but that’s a staggering difference in number of readers. Also look at the score: 3.81 for Hurley, 4.76 for Sanderson. Have enough people read and liked The Mirror Empire for it to make the slate?

When you see the numbers like this, it’s clear how popular Words of Radiance and The Martian actually are, and how quickly writers like Scalzi or Mitchell are moving copies of their books. Based on number of ratings alone, Annihilation looks like a strong candidate. I don’t know yet how much raw popularity factors into the Hugo awards, but it has to be a factor, doesn’t it? I think by touching base with the popularity of these books every month, we can get a good idea of how often they’ve been read, and, in turn, how many voters can vote for them. That is, if you believe Hugo voters only vote for novels they’ve read . . .

About the Chart: One of the frustrations I have about the publishing industry is how secretive they are with numbers. The movie, music, and television industries are all relatively transparent about their numbers, and publish them regularly. We know within a few hours how well a blockbuster movie did at the box office, for instance.

For books—it’s all a deep, dark secret. The bestseller lists we have like NYTimes are calculated using obscure and byzantine formulas, and they don’t even release estimates of numbers sold. Bookscan covers a solid portion of physical book sales, but all those numbers are locked behind an extraordinarily expensive paywall. Publisher’s Weekly gives us some Bookscan numbers, but only for top-selling books—which often excludes SFF novels. So we’re left having to estimate popularity, either by word of mouth, blog traffic, Amazon sales ranks, etc.

I’ve thought long and hard about what the best measure of popularity might be, and I’ve settled on Goodreads as our current, most reliable measure of a book’s popularity. It’s not perfect by any means, and we don’t know the correlation between the # of Goodreads ratings to total sales (I’d estimate that at 5%-20%). What we do know is the following:
1. Goodreads has tons of users. For an average SFF book, there might be anywhere from between 1,000 to 50,000 ratings, and that has to represent a significant % of overall readers. Goodreads tends to have at least 10x the amount of ratings that Amazon.com does, for instance.
2. Goodreads doesn’t distinguish between electronic or print versions of the book. If you’ve read the book, you can rank it, no matter how. To my mind, that makes Goodreads even more reliable than Bookscan.
3. Even if Goodreads is somewhat skewed (the % of Goodreads readers is not 1:1 with the general reading public), it’s likely to always be skewed the same way. This makes for good “apples to apples” comparisons. Or, in other words, Goodreads is equally unfair to everyone.

A couple things to keep in mind:
1. The pool of Hugo voters is not the same as the general reading public. Hardcore SFF fans may like different things about novels than the more general pool of Goodsreads readers.
2. We don’t know how popularity correlates to the Hugo awards. I’ll need to collect data for a few years to begin to see patterns.
3. We don’t know if Goodreads is skewed towards certain authors. Most social media sites skew young, and books that appeal to readers in their teens and twenties may do better on such sites. I’ve got some ideas to figure this out, but it’s going to take time.
4. Goodreads only works for comparisons within the same year. More people join Goodreads all the time. Also, I can’t go back in time to measure how popularity worked in previous years; as soon as novels get Hugo or Nebula nominations/wins, that greatly increases their popularity, and we can’t know whether those novels sold well before or after they were nominated.

So, what do you think of this measure of popularity? Can it help us understand the Hugos or Nebulas better?

Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword Review Round-Up

Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice was the runaway SF success of 2013, racking up an unprecedented number of awards: the Hugo, the Nebula, the Arthur C. Clarke, the British SF Association Award, the list goes on and on. Ancillary Justice read like a unique fusing of Iain M. Banks and Ursula K. Le Guin, and gave Leckie a great platform to explore complex issues of empire, gender, multiple consciousness, space colonization, and identity. Given the strong reaction to the book, this seems to have been exactly what the SFF community was hungering for in 2013: an ambitious, original novel that was equal parts hard SF and soft SF (in the most classic sense, as dealing with societies and sociology rather than the nuts and bots of physics/engineering).

Leckie is back with the sequel, and Ancillary Sword looks to extend the plots and themes of Ancillary Justice. As an awards contender, this is as close to a shoe-in as you’ll see in 2014. Both the Nebula and the Hugo are heavily repetitive: since the voters don’t tend to change much from year to year, they tend to nominate the same authors over and over again. Since Leckie was far-and-away the most popular awards-circuit novel of 2013, it would take disastrous reviews of Ancillary Sword to keep this novel from breaking into the Hugo and Nebula slates. Currently, I have her at the top of my Hugo and Nebula watchlists. Winning again, on the other hand, is a more complex question . . .

Winning the Hugo (or Nebula) twice in a row is well within the realm of possibility. It’s happened twice with the Hugo: first in 1986 and 1987, when Orson Scott Card won for Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, and then again in 1991 and 1992, when Lois Bujold won for The Vor Game and Barrayar. The Nebula also boasts three back to back winners: Samuel R. Delaney in 1967 and 1968, for Babel-17 and The Einstein Intersection (to be fair, 1967 was a co-win with Flowers for Algernon), Frederik Pohl in 1977 and 1978, for Man Plus and Gateway, and then again Orson Scott Card in 1986 and 1987. It’s been quite a while since a “double,” and I don’t know if that helps or hurts Leckie’s chances. My sense is voters might want to share the awards around, but that’ll depend on the other contenders. We’re going to have to wait and see. Year-end “best of” list are going to be particularly important in tracking sentiment: is Leckie’s second novel seen as more exciting than The Martian or Echopraxia? Or is there a second novel dip? Middle books of trilogies are often the least compelling, as they lack a first novel’s giddy thrill of introducing a world or a final novel’s dramatic conclusion. Or is there a fantasy novel that can jump and capture the public’s imagination?

On to the book:

Ancillary Sword

Book published October 7, 2014.

About the Book:
Ann Leckie’s website
Ann Leckie’s blog
Amazon.com page
Goodreads page
Excerpt from Orbit Books

Mainstream Reviews:
Publisher’s Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
Tor.com

Update 10/30/14:
Entertainment Weekly
(B)
New York Times (by N.K. Jemisin, scroll down for the short review)
NPR

Initial Reaction (10/7/14): Not a ton of high profile reviews yet—no New York Times, no The Guardian, no NPR, no Entertainment Weekly. Perhaps a bit surprising given the success of Ancillary Justice, but maybe this is just showing the mainstream press’s bias against SF novels. There are reviews at places like Booksmugglers, etc., but you can use google just as well as I can. Chaos Horizon tries to use the same 6-7 mainstream sources every time, because that consistency gives us a better idea of how broadly the book is being promoted. Ancillary Sword, as of today, doesn’t seem to be breaking into the mainstream audience the way that The Bone Clocks did. I don’t think this matters much for Ancillary Sword‘s award chances: everyone in the SF community already knows about it.

Update (10/30/14): It took a few weeks, but more mainstream reviews appeared, including Entertainment Weekly, NYTimes, and NPR.

WordPress Blog Reviews:
Dan Eshleman
Intellectus Speculativus

Update (10/30/14):
Things Lizzy Reads (joint review of both Ancillary books)
Mabrick’s Mumblings
ryandake (3 out of 5)
Far Beyond Reality
The Relentless Reader (4 out of 5)
Mental Megalodon

Initial Reaction (10/7/14): That was it for WordPress reviews. I don’t know why. I did the same search I do for every Review Round-Up: WorPress tag searches for both the author and the book, then Google searches for the book title and WordPress. Normally there are a good range of WordPress reviews available on Day #1. I don’t know why Leckie isn’t getting the same attention; perhaps review copies were not readily available to bloggers. I’ll revise this list in a week to get some more reviews up.

Update (10/30/14): A lot more WordPress reviews have come out, with some interesting mixed reactions. Some people think this was as good or better as Ancillary Justice, while others felt it fell pretty to “second novel” syndrome.

So, does Leckie have a chance at a historic double Hugo or double Nebula? Or will voters hold off to reward the third volume of the trilogy? Or will they go in another direction altogether?

Why So Early?

One of the more common critiques—that’s probably too strong a word, let’s use “comments,” because no one is trying to be hostile—about Chaos Horizon is that it’s too early to start thinking about the 2015 Hugo and Nebula awards. So why I am I predicting Hugo and Nebula slates so early?

As a reader, I’m interested in the Hugo and Nebula awards because they allow me to keep track of the trends—and controversies—going on in the SFF world. Over the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve tried to read each of the Hugo and Nebula nominees, but I noticed I was falling farther and farther behind. When the Nebula nominees would come out in late February, I’d find myself having to buy 4 or 5 books, and then having to buy another 2 or 3 books when the Hugo slate got announced. By then, I’d be so far behind I wouldn’t have time to read all of the nominees before awards season. Because of this, I ended up missing out on the conversations and arguments that go along with choosing the Hugos and Nebulas.

Last year, I decided to get ahead of the curve, and read the major SFF books as they came out. I went looking for resources on potential Hugo and Nebula nominees, and there wasn’t much out there. Many SFF review sites are very enthusiastic about the genre (as they should be), and end up recommending lots and lots of books. I don’t have the time (or money) to read 30-40 new SFF novels a year; I need to contain my SFF reading to about one book a month, both for my pocketbook and sanity.

Thus Chaos Horizon. By looking for past trends in the Nebula and Hugos, I figured I could come out with the most likely nominees myself. That way, I’ll save myself a little bit of time and money by getting a jump on the award season. While I’m not going to be 100% accurate—that’s an impossibility—but if I can predict (and read) a good chunk of the eventual nominees by the end of the year, I’ll only have to buy a few books when the slates come out. I also think readers need time to process all these books. It’s not easy to zip through The Bone Clocks and Echopraxia, so if I’m going to read them, I want to read them over Christmas and other vacations, when I have some actual time to dedicate to them. Better to have a good list by October than to have to wait until February.

Is there a downside to thinking about the awards early? Some could argue that this is going to slight books that come out later in the year, but I’m not so sure. Won’t drawing attention to contenders as they come out leave plenty of space for contenders from the end of the year? Anyways, most Hugo noms are published between May and October, so that prime season is almost over. Another objection could be that predicting early ends up utilizing things like reputation, marketing, and past awards history, rather than the actual content of the novel. I think that objection is 100% true—but that’s also what nets award nominations. The Hugos and Nebulas are stuffed with repeat nominees, and that statistical consistency is what makes Chaos Horizon possible.

So tl;dr: I started Chaos Horizon because I don’t have enough money or time to buy and read all the Nebula/Hugo nominated books when the slates are announced. I wanted to get a start on selecting and reading these books earlier, and thus the site. Questions? Objections?

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.

Literary Fiction and Predicting the Hugos and Nebulas

Chaos Horizon, a website dedicated to predicting the eventual winners of the Hugo and Nebula awards, largely ignores speculative novels that emerge from the world of “literary fiction.” Why?

Because such novels have, in general, not received past nominations. Let’s take a look at how these books are presented to the reading public:

In this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly (September 19), there were two reviews of works that can be loosely classified as “genre” fiction: one of Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, presented here as a straightforward serial killer novel (although it has supernatural elements), and a review of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, identified as a “post-apocalyptic” novel. What’s of interest is how these two authors are positioned: Mandel is from the world of literary fiction, having published three previous non-SFF novels; she gets the lead story and receives an “A.” Beukes, who is best known for two earlier speculative novels, gets a smaller review several pages later and walks away with a “B+.”

I point this out not because Entertainment Weekly is the be all and end all of reviews, but rather because it sums up the American “mainstream” approach to SFF. Over the last ten years, there have been an increasing number of “literary SFF” novels written by authors outside the SFF community. Think of novels like Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers, Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles, or, from just this year, Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea. Add in slightly older books like Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let You Go, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake trilogy, Haruki Murakim’s 1Q84—the list of impressive and important novels goes on and on.

These books, particularly in publications like Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, The New Yorker, etc., have been better reviewed and more prominently featured than what, for lack of a better term, we might think of as “traditional” SFF. By this, I mean authors that are publishing in SFF magazines and whose books appear from the SFF imprints. Since these literary books have received major pushes—and sold well, even winning major literary awards such as the Pulitzer prize for The Road—you might expect them to perform well in the Hugo and Nebula nominations. The Nebula, with its focus towards more experimental and literary books, seems an obvious landing spot for these authors.

Past analysis of nominations shows that these books perform very poorly. With the exception of Chabon—who won the Nebula and the Hugo—and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (a Nebula nom), these books have not received Hugo and Nebula noms. The Road, arguably the most highly acclaimed SFF novel of the past 10 years, placed 21st in the 2007 Hugo voting. 21st!

It’s clear that Hugo and Nebula voters have not, over the past 15 years, wanted to reward authors from the “literary” world who dip into speculative fiction. I think Chabon is the exception because he wrote a number of genre stories; his Lovecraftian “In the Black Mill,” as well to his nods to comic book culture in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, have won him fans in the SFF community. Otherwise, these books have been snubbed.

What’s interesting is that the opposite has not happened—when SFF authors like China Mieville, Karen Joy Fowler, Jo Walton, Nicola Griffith, and so on, all who have a long history of writing speculative fiction, move over into writing more literary fiction, they get Nebula noms. These gives the slates a slightly incoherent feel: why is We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which only contains trace speculative elements, getting a nomination while The Road, a post-apocalyptic novel, getting ignored? Chaos Horizon can’t answer those questions; we can merely note the patterns and move on.

Since Chaos Horizon bases its predictions on data-mining past results, these kinds of novels will not make the final predictions until something changes in voting patterns.

So, despite glowing reviews of Station Eleven, it’s hard to consider it a true Nebula contender. I have Bone Clocks down as a possibility because of Mitchell’s prior nomination, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it misses the Nebula slate.

So, tldr;: over the past decade, the “literary” world has been producing an increasing number of books with strong speculative elements. While these books have done well in reviews and sales, they haven’t made the Nebula or Hugo slates. Because of this, Chaos Horizon will not be predicting such novels to make future Nebula or Hugo slates.

I’d love to hear any explanations of why such novels are ignored in the comments.

Too Early 2015 Hugo Prediction: Additional Contenders

To go with my far Too Early 2015 Hugo Prediction, here are some additional possibilities for the 2015 award season. Some readers have noted that it’s too early to predict the Hugos: I 100% agree. That’s the fun of it. Why so serious?

Having this conversation early gives potential readers more of a chance to read the nominees. If anyone has suggestions for additional candidates, put them in the comments. It would be great if we, as a community, could come up with a comprehensive Hugo (and later Nebula) watch list.

As a reminder, here’s my too early slate (now in order of most likely to be nominated):
1. Ann Leckie, Ancillary Truth: Last year’s Hugo and Nebula winner, due out October 7th.
2. John Scalzi, Lock In: The 2013 Hugo winner, and one of the best reviewed and marketed novels of his career.
3. Larry Correia, Monster Hunter NemesisL who has offered himself up as a conservative alternative to the Hugo slate.
4. Andy Weir, The Martian: NYT bestselling hard SF novelist, that might or might not be eligible, as the book was originally indie published before being issued in hardcover this year.
5. Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire: one of the most buzzed about fantasy novelists of the year, and a fantasy alternative to the rest of the slate.

As always, my predictions are who is likely to be nominated, not who should be nominated.

Of course, some big novels will be published between now and the end of the year; Ancillary Justice wasn’t published until October, and it swept the awards.

First, let’s dig into the numbers. Here’s this year’s Hugo nominees and the number of votes they received, taken right from the Hugo website:

368 Ancillary Justice Ann Leckie 23.1%
218 The Ocean at the End of the Lane Neil Gaiman 13.7% * Declined nomination
184 Warbound Larry Correia 11.5%
160 The Wheel of Time Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson 10.0%
120 Neptune’s Brood Charles Stross 7.5%
98 Parasite Mira Grant 6.1%
96 The Shining Girls Lauren Beukes 6.0%
92 A Stranger in Olondria Sofia Samatar 5.8%
91 A Few Good Men Sarah A. Hoyt 5.7%
84 The Golem and the Djinni Helene Wecker 5.3%
81 The Republic of Thieves Scott Lynch 5.1%
74 Under a Graveyard Sky John Ringo 4.6%
70 London Falling Paul Cornell 4.4%
69 Abaddon’s Gate James S.A. Corey 4.3%
67 Steelheart Brandon Sanderson 4.2%
66 River of Stars Guy Gavriel Kay 4.1%

A couple quick things to note: Mira Grant wouldn’t have made it if Gaiman hadn’t declined, and she beat Samatar and Beukes by only a few votes. Correia was solidly in the field, one of the reasons I think he’ll make it this year, even if there is less enthusiasm for a “Sad Puppy” slate.

A fair number of authors on this list don’t have books coming out this year. I wasn’t able to find books by Samatar, Hoyt (Night Shifters is a collection of previously published novels), Wecker, Lynch, and Guy Gavriel Kay. Ringo has two zombie sequels out this year, which probably muddies the voting waters so much that he doesn’t have a chance. Cornell’s sequel to London Falling is The Severed Streets, but sequels tend not to jump up in the Hugo voting. Same thing for Cibola Burn, the latest Expanse novel by James S.A. Corey. It’ll be interesting to see if the Expanse TV series will eventually push up these novels, but that is still a ways off.

From last years close calls, that leaves Sanderson, who I dealt with in my last post, so that leaves Lauren Beukes:

Lauren Beukes, Broken Monsters (less likely to be nominated): Beukes almost broke through with The Shining Girls last year, a time-travelling serial killer story. If that doesn’t sound cool, what does? This novel is due out on September 16th, and has an intriguing jacket copy: a cop in Detroit, a mysterious case that seems to fuse human and animal bodies, and all sorts of trippy and disturbing stuff. It doesn’t, however, sound particularly like a SFF novel, but maybe more like a post-modern take on the cop novel. The description doesn’t really give away the genre, so we’ll have to wait and see how speculative this is. Even if it’s not a Hugo or Nebula contender, it still seems like a very interesting read. I’ve added it to my “to read’ pile, although I can’t pre-order due to Amazon’s feud with Hachette. :(.

Here are some other possibilities suggested by commentators:

Echopraxia, Peter Watts (50/50 chance to be nominated): This was a good suggestion of a potential contender. This is Watts’ long awaited follow up to the well-regarded Blindsight, which received a Hugo nomination in 2007. In those intervening years, I think Blindsight‘s reputation has only increased, winding up as one of the more talked about SF novels of the past 10 years. Watts has tons of challenging and interesting hard SF ideas in these novels, and I can easily imagine that element SF fandom coalescing around this novel. If Weir isn’t eligible, this could be the hard SF novel that sneaks into the slate.

Cixin Liu, The Three Body Problem, translated from Chinese by Ken Liu (less likely to be nominated, but who knows): A real wild card. Cixin Liu, according to the Amazon.com description, is the most popular SF writer in China, and this is his first novel being translated into English. Historically, the Hugos have been completely biased against non-English language books. This is a shame, given that these awards are given by the WorldCon; you’d figured you’d have to honor the rest of the world at some point. This book is due out November 11th, and it’ll be interesting to see how much buzz it gets. I have it on my “to read” list, but it’s too early to say if this is an award contender.

Elizabeth Bear, The Eternal Sky series (less likely to be nominated): Although dead, Robert Jordan is still a trailblazer. By getting his entire series of The Wheel of Time nominated through something of a loophole (that allows serialized works to be nominated as one big work), this has opened the door to other fantasy series being nominated. Bear was brought up in the comments by Niall in the comments as a possibility. On the surface, this makes sense: Bear is well liked, has four Hugos (two for stories and two for podcasts), and this fantasy series is well regarded for its genre-bending. Still, Jordan didn’t make it into the slate that easily: he picked up only 10% of the total vote. How much less popular than Jordan is Bear? To nominate a series, voters have to know to nominate the series, and that takes an organized campaign and a huge fanbase. If Bear’s fanbase is 50% of what Jordan’s is (no offense, but that’s a wild overstatement of Bear’s popularity), she’d wind up outside of the slate. I find it hard to imagine any other complete series getting nominated, because no one beside Martin has Jordan’s huge following, and Martin’s novels already get nominated for the Hugo. Perhaps The Kingkiller Chronicles could be nominated as a series in a few years. Any other possibilities?

Fantasy Novelists: Take your pick of names: Joe Abercrombie. Patrick Rothfuss. Mark Lawrence. I’m sure I could add more. These are some of the most talked about fantasy writers of the past five years, and all have new books coming out this year. For whatever reason, though, authors like this don’t make the Hugo slate. Of those three, there are exactly 0 Hugo nominations between them. If anyone from this type of authors would have a chance, it would be Sanderson with Worlds of Radiance. I might end upgrading his chances to 50/50: if he just doubles his vote from Steelheart—a far less respected book—he’d be in the field.

I’ll continue mining the comments for more ideas, and I’ll try to address the other novels mentioned in the comments in my Hugo contenders post.

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