Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

My 2011 BSFA Award Short Fiction Ballot

with 5 comments

So, I’ve now read the five shortlisted stories for the BSFA Award and thanks to everyone else who read them and commented, it has been informative for me and hopefully enjoyable to you. If you are a BSFA member or are attending Eastercon, please do read the stories as it would be nice to have a high turnout for the vote. They are all available online but we also hope to make them available again as a printed booklet for members. Once you’ve done so, I’d welcome any more comments here as the deadline approaches.

I’ve set out my ballot below with links to each of the discussions. I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with my rankings but I wonder if anyone would disagree that, considered as a whole, it isn’t a particularly strong shortlist.

In terms of coverage of the field, it is broad in some directions and narrow in others. There are two science fiction stories: one set on another planet in the far future, one set on an alternative Earth in the near past. Then there are three fantasies that are all set in Britain and deal with a protagonist facing the intrusion of a single example of the fantastic: a magic clock, animated oil rigs and a satyr. Only one of the stories – and ironically, one of the fantasies – is set in the near future. There is a marked absence of the core tropes that people associate with science fiction and fantasy. Not a criticism, of course, but as someone who doesn’t read a lot of genre short fiction, I wonder how representative it is.

1) ‘Covehithe’ by China Miéville

The clear winner for me and the only shortlisted story that looks anything like an award-winner. It’s Miéville, innit?

2) ‘Afterbirth’ by Kameron Hurley

I liked this a lot but I primarily liked it as a companion piece to God’s War. However, it seems to have worked for Aishwarya Subramanian and Fernando Hugo, even though it was their first exposure to Hurley.

3) ‘The Copenhagen Interpretation’ by Paul Cornell

A fun setting that I’d like to read more of but only in a broader context. Here it is a bead on a necklace and I want to see the whole thing, particularly if the ending really did attempt to conceal a huge paradigm shift.

No Award

I can’t actually remember if the awards have a No Award option but, if they do, this is where it would go.

4) ”The Silver Wind’ by Nina Allen

A huge disappointment from an author I admire. In the comments, Niall Harrison articulates the virtues I would usually associate with Allan but I can’t find them here.

5) ‘Of Dawn’ by Al Robertson

A familiar story badly executed at unneccessary length. British SF writers really need to get out of this rut but perhaps there is no incentive since this style of story obviously continues to prove popular.

Written by Martin

10 February 2012 at 15:36

5 Responses

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  1. I want to reread “Covehithe” and “The Copenhagen Interpretation”, and read “Of Dawn” at least once before deciding on my ballot. However, while I don’t think there’s anything here for the ages, I also didn’t feel that any of the four I’ve read wasted my time, and the Mieville, Allan or Hurley offered me enough that I’d be happy to see them win.

    As another factoid, two of the stories were selected for Year’s Best volumes: Allan is in Horton, and Cornell is in Dozois. (Both characteristic stories for those editors, I’d say.) Nobody has picked up the Mieville, which surprises me — maybe there are reprint restrictions? But then again it’s not on the Locus recommended reading list either.


    10 February 2012 at 15:48

  2. I’m tempted to read ‘The Silver Wind’ again to triple check my verdict but you were a bit of a voice in the wilderness in the discussion and it isn’t as if our tastes massively intersect.

    Nobody has picked up the Mieville, which surprises me — maybe there are reprint restrictions?

    Fingers crossed not, for the sake of the BSFA booklet!

    But then again it’s not on the Locus recommended reading list either.

    It is a bit odd, isn’t it? I can only assume the venue was under the radar (although Mieville is hardly inconspicuous).


    10 February 2012 at 16:07

  3. I haven’t heard back about reprinting the Mieville story yet, so can’t resolve that question either; but have permission for the other four in hand, I’m happy to say!


    10 February 2012 at 22:37

  4. I’m really hard pushed to decide whether to even vote in this category this year as I feel I’d be either voting on the basis of least worst, or else most capable of standing contextually alone, neither of which seems to be a good way of setting about voting for anything. Hurley’s story convinces me I need to look at her other fiction, but that’s issue-driven rather than because I adored the story and must, must, must now seek out every word she’s ever written.

    I am quite honestly stuck.

    Maureen Kincaid Speller

    13 February 2012 at 11:19

  5. […] lost out on the BSFA Short Fiction Award to Paul Cornell this year and those two stories as well as the other shortlisted works were […]

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