Everything Is Nice

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Handicapping The Best Novel Shortlists

with 10 comments

At the beginning of the month, Niall Harrison had a great post which tried to predict the shortlists and winners of this year’s SF awards for best novel. The first two of these shortlists have now been announced: the BSFA Awards and the Kitschies. What will win though? Well, here are my guesses, starting with the BSFA Award for best novel:

  • Cyber Circus by Kim Lakin-Smith (Newcon Press)
  • Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan)
  • The Islanders by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)
  • By Light Alone by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
  • Osama by Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)

Frankly, this is a two horse race. At best. Miéville and Priest are multi-award winners who were always going to appear on the shortlist and it seems inevitable that one of them will walk off with the award. I would put money on that one being Priest. Harrison agrees. He also predicted the titles that would appear on the shortlist (although he allowed himself more than five guesses); I predicted four, thinking Tidhar’s spot would be taken by The Kings Of Eternity by Eric Brown. Part of my thinking has that Brown’s book would have been more widely read than Tidhar which might explain why PS Publishing are currently offering the Kindle edition for free.

Of course, there three other categories. All five stories shortlisted for the short fiction award are available online so I will be reviewing them, setting out my personal ballot and predicting the winner once I’ve read them. Non-fiction I don’t have much to say about, except to predict that the beta of the third edition of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia will win. I also think it is worth reading Harrison’s comments about the viability of the award. Last of all, both the BSFA Awards and the Kitschies also have a category for best artwork and again, I intend to cover that in a separate post.

Now the Kitschies. Pornokitsch are actually running a competition to predict the winners. The four judges – Lauren Beukes, Rebecca Levene, Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin – haven’t yet made their final decision and I think it is harder to second guess a group of individuals than the membership of an organisation like the BSFA. But I’m going to try. Firstly, the Red Tentacle for best novel:

  • The Enterprise of Death by Jesse Bullington (Orbit)
  • Embassytown by China Miéville (Tor)
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd (Walker Books)
  • The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (Sandstone)
  • Osama: A Novel by Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)

Miéville appears again but I think he is much less of an obvious contender this time round. Tidhar also appears again and my instinct is that this comes down to a three way fight between those two and Ness. Harrison thinks Tidhar will win but, whilst I wouldn’t bet against Osama, I think Ness might just take it. Next the Golden Tentacle for best debut novel:

  • Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick (Tor)
  • God’s War by Kameron Hurley (Night Shade Books)
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Harvill Secker)
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Quirk)
  • The Samaritan by Fred Venturini (Blank Slate Press)

2011 has been Morgenstern’s year so I think she’s got it in the bag. Venturini is a completely unknown quantity for me and I imagine Hulick will be discarded fairly early on so if there is any competition it will come from Hurley and Riggs. But I think Harrison will be disappointed if he hopes for God’s War to triumph.

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Written by Martin

28 January 2012 at 16:19

Posted in awards, books, sf

Tagged with , ,

10 Responses

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  1. I think it is harder to second guess a group of individuals than the membership of an organisation like the BSFA

    I think you’re right about this; the fact that we have a couple of years of selections by some of the judges to indicate their taste is complicated by the fact there are new judges this year. That said, part of the reason I predict Osama is that the Kitschies have a demonstrated affection for speculative crime tales. I also think it meets the award criteria more squarely, which I’m not sure I can say for some of the others; A Monster Calls is beautifully done, but is it particularly progressive?

    On the Golden Tentacle I really don’t know — I haven’t read enough of them to do a fair evaluation. For me The Night Circus also struggles slightly at the progressive hurdle (the attempt made in their award review doesn’t quite convince me), but it is an easy book to like. I still voted for GW in their competition, though.

    Niall

    29 January 2012 at 11:58

  2. A Monster Calls is beautifully done, but is it particularly progressive?

    I don’t know. I bought it as a Christmas present to myself and it will be the first book I read on 12 February. Might it not be considered progressive in the wider sense to give the award to a children’s novel?

    For me The Night Circus also struggles slightly at the progressive hurdle

    Last year’s winner (when there was no shortlist?) was King Maker by Maurice Broaddus. I’ve not read it but seems like it is more towards the Morgenstern rather than Hurley end of the spectrum. So I wouldn’t want to go too far down the progressive route (but like you I am speculating from a position of ignorance).

    Martin

    29 January 2012 at 12:11

  3. Ness: I suppose so; I think I’d feel slightly disappointed if that was the rationale, though.

    Golden Tentacle: hang on, King Maker is blurbed as ‘The Wire meets Excalibur’. How is that more Morgenstern territory than Hurley territory?

    Niall

    29 January 2012 at 12:18

  4. Ness: I suppose so; I think I’d feel slightly disappointed if that was the rationale, though.

    I would imagine the rationale would be that it was a great book. I’m not clear on how the weighting towards other criteria comes into play.

    How is that more Morgenstern territory than Hurley territory?

    I filed Broaddus as doing interesting things in an under-appreciated genre which is where I’d also placed Morgenstern. Hurley strikes me as working in a more interstitial place. But I’ve not read the other two books so there is only so far a conversation based on vague impressions will get us!

    Martin

    29 January 2012 at 18:23

  5. Not going out on much of a limb here, but I predict Mieville will take the BSFA Award, just because more people have read Embassytown than any of the others. I don’t think it’s unworthy of the award, but he may pick up votes from Eastercon attendees who don’t read all the novels in advance.

    I go for Osama for the Red Tentacle and God’s War for the Gold, but I don’t have much to go on – it is hard to second-guess a jury, especially when there’s only a couple of previous years of winners to go on. Ultimately I went for those two because I’ve read them and I think they are intelligent, progressive, and entertaining, but I’m probably wrong.

    Liz

    30 January 2012 at 23:56

  6. The stats certainly show Mieville to be the clear front runner in terms of books read but I would have thought that the BSFA membership was not necessarily reflective of the wider reading public and Priest will have disproportionately more readers amongst them. I hadn’t factored Eastercon attendees into my thinking though. I wonder what proportion of the vote they make up?

    As for the Kitschies, when you put it that way they really do seem like the obvious winners. Perhaps that in formed my thinking: that the judges won’t want to be so easily second guessed. What do you think about the Inky Tentacle? My money is on A Monster Calls.

    Martin

    31 January 2012 at 09:31

  7. [...] an aside in my post about BSFA Award for best novel, I promised to review the shortlist for the short fiction award and [...]

  8. I think A Monster Calls is gorgeous and it’s the obvious choice for me, but going off the Inky shortlist my taste in art and cover design is wildly divergent from that of the Inky judges so who knows what they will pick.

    Liz

    31 January 2012 at 20:42

  9. So I was right about the red tentacle and Niall was right about the golden tentacle. As for the inky tentacle, The Last Werewolf won so Liz was right that the judges’ taste was wildly divergent.

    Martin

    3 February 2012 at 21:07

  10. [...] which basically proved I am horrendously bad at predicting awards. I posted my predictions over at Martin’s blog, and managed a 1 in 3 success rate. The success was the Golden Tentacle category, where having read [...]

    Liz's blog » The Kitschies

    5 February 2012 at 23:53


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