Posts Tagged ‘locus’
Locus Online is hosting, during the month of November 2012, a poll for the best novels and short fiction of the 20th and 21st centuries, the first such poll Locus has conducted since those hosted by the Magazine in 1975, 1987, and 1998 (with an online supplemental poll in 1999). The scope for this poll is the 20th century, 1901 to 2000, and the first decade of the 21st century, 2001 to 2010.
There are five categories in each century: SF novel, fantasy novel, novella, novelette, and short story. For 20th century categories, you may vote for up to 10 items in each category; for 21st century categories, you have the usual 5 items in each. Results will be scored based on rank, so that a 1st place vote is worth twice as much as a 5th or 10th place vote, but not 5 times or 10 times as much.
The poll closes tomorrow and I’ve been putting it off all month. I imagine other people have being doing the same so I thought I’d post 21st Century lists as a prompt for other people to get their finger out.
21st Century Science Fiction Novel
- Light by M John Harrison
- Spirit by Gwyneth Jones
- Black Man by Richard Morgan
- Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
- Maul by Tricia Sullivan
21st Century Fantasy Novel
- Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
- Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge
- The Facts Of Life by Graham Joyce
- The Scar by China Mieville
- In Great Waters by Kit whitfield
Please feel free to defame these choices below. I also recommend reading Nina Allan’s choices, particularly if you are after short fiction recommendations.
As you will have noticed from my short story projects I tend to find genre short stories frustrating. For this reason I subscribe to none of the magazines and rarely read any of the freely available material on the internet. The exception is at awards time. This is, after all, part of the point of awards: to filter a huge field and identify the best of the best. By reading only shortlisted works I should avoid all frustration and experience only excellent literature.
Ho, ho, ho.
Not only does awards season mean I read short fiction, it also means I get an opportunity to talk about it. This year Karen Burnham has been running a short story club at Locus Online. It is a welcome development, although it is a shame to see no other contributors to Locus taking part. The club covers all the short stories and novelettes that received two our more award nominations this year.
One of these stories is ‘That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made’ by Eric James Stone, which was shortlisted for both the Hugo and the Nebula. It subsequently won the Nebula. This means, theoretically, that the membership of the Science Fiction Writers of America – professional writers all – thought that this was the best short story published in science fiction and fantasy in 2010. That is quite an accolade. Theoretically.
Before going on to try and puzzle out what has gone catestrophically wrong with the Nebulas, I suppose I better mention the story itself. My first encounter with the story was when Nick Mamatas refered to it as the “Mormon space whale rape story”. Then I read Abigail Nussbaum’s scathing review as part of her overview of the Hugo novelette shortlist. (Nussbaum has also written about the Hugo short story and novella categories. Poor sod.) As such, although my expectations for the short story club had already been lowered by ‘The Jaguar House, in Shadow’ by Aliette de Bodard and ‘Ponies’ by Kij Johnson, I was confident that ‘Leviathan’ would be much worse. And it was.
I tweeted the story as I read it at #whalerape (
now lost to the ether) and I’ve left several comments on the Locus post so I’m not going to rehearse why the story is so bad (it is also worth reading the David Moles post linked there). If you think the story has any merit at all, feel free to try and convince me in the comments. Instead, my interest now is in how it won the Nebula. The voting system might well play a part. As Sam Montgomery-Blinn pointed out, unlike the Hugos:
the final vote is a winner take all, unranked vote: pick one of these 5-6 stories. This is precisely the voting system you would expect to produce a mediocre winner with strong hot/cold reactions, while 3 or 4 more potentially outstanding stories split the remaining votes.
But that would still mean a chunk of people had to actively vote for ‘Leviathan’. How many members of the SFWA vote for the Nebulas and how many of them voted for this story? I’ve no idea because this information isn’t published. The Hugos are very good about publishing their nomination and voting statistics and I can see no good reason why the Nebulas shouldn’t do the same. I emailed the SFWA to ask for the statistics but I’ve had no response. Because of this fundamental lack of transparency around the award, I am reliant on anecedotal evidence. For example, Rick Bowes gave a partial answer but I’m not sure what his source is:
it appears that fewer than 20% of the membership recommend on the preliminary ballot or vote on the final ballot. It’s possible for a very small number (even single digets) of recs to put a work on the final ballot.
The combination of First Past The Post and low voter turnout is exactly the sort of situation where you would expect logrolling to succeed. And, chances are, that is exactly what has happened here. Mamatas has since mentioned that Stone is a member of the Codex writers group. He is not the only one. Here is the shortlist for the Nebula novelette category:
- ‘Map of Seventeen’ by Christopher Barzak
- ‘The Jaguar House, in Shadow’ by Aliette de Bodard (Codex)
- ‘The Fortuitous Meeting of Gerard van Oost and Oludara’ by Christopher Kastensmidt (Codex)
- ‘Plus or Minus’ by James Patrick Kelly
- ‘Pishaach’ by Shweta Narayan
- ‘That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made’ by Eric James Stone (Codex)
- ‘Stone Wall Truth’ by Caroline M. Yoachim (Codex)
It is the same old story, you vote for your mates, regardless of how good their work is. Of course, the Nebulas have always had this reputation but even so you would hope people who voted for this story would have the good grace to be embarrassed. ‘Leviathan’ is not the best story of 2011, it is not even a good story; in fact, it can probbaly be counted amongst the worst stories published in 2011. Couldn’t the Codex writers group just have bought Stone a cake? That way I wouldn’t have been tricked into thinking his story was worth reading, that the Nebulas retained an vestige of value and that the SFWA was an organisation interested in literature.
Aidan Moher asks: are fantasy readers ‘dumber’ than science fiction readers? The answer is: no, of course not. Moher’s deliberately provocative question stems from the fact Tor dropped Daniel Abraham after his critically acclaimed but apparently poor selling Long Price quartet and a suggestion on his blog that the relative intelligence of the fantasy readers was the reason for this. From these unpromising origins an interesting conversation about the difference between fantasy and science fiction springs up in the comments. Abraham himself puts in an appearance but unfortunately doesn’t make a useful contribution.
Cheryl Morgan asks: is the Locus Recommended Reading List biased against British authors? The answer is: no, of course not. But then no one had suggested they were. It is a typically muddled and defensive piece from Morgan who creates a strawman to attack a nameless group of people who apparently have concerns about the recommended reading list. In the comments there is some discussion of the underlying basis of these concerns which is the tension between Locus as an organ of the US publishing industry, predominantly read by American subscribers, and Locus as a journal of record for the field as a whole, with global reach through its website. In a related point, Abigail Nussbaum asks (again): what are the Locus Awards for?
Damien G Walter ask: is enough being done to support British libraries? The answer is: no, of course not. The value of libraries has always been clear but they persistently find themselves under valued. this is a particularly rough time as libraries find themselves first in line for cuts from local authorities following the drastically reduced spending settlement. Walter proposes a moratorium on closures and the establishment of a national standards and improvement agency. But the UK already has one of these and whilst you can argue over how well resourced it has been, it certainly isn’t going to get any more resource in the near future. So whilst I’m pleased that people like Philip Pullman continue to lobby passionately for the survival of libraries, I think this is one bitter pill (of many) that we will be forced to swallow. As Walter notes, when the choice is closing old peoples homes or closing libraries, no one is going to choose the former.
Finally, not one question but many: Hari Kunzru interviews Michael Moorcock. The was the lead feature in yesterday’s Guardina Review and starts with some interesting context on Kunzru’s on induction into fandom and Moorcock’s work in particular:
Most of my books came from charity shops or the Whipps Cross Hospital fête, where my dad – who as a doctor was expected to put his hand in his pocket on such occasions – would give me pound notes to convert into teetering piles of paperbacks. There was something so much more interesting about these books, fished out of crates and cardboard boxes, than the ones in the library, let alone the expensive, sensible fare which seemed to be on sale in ordinary bookshops. They were musty-smelling 10p messages from the futuristic past, complete with cover designs (and content) that were unlike anything I’d seen before.
I’m fairly certain that this was how I first came across Michael Moorcock, in an early-70s Mayflower paperback, with a psychedelic cover by Bob Haberfield. Soon I was combing London for these editions, which I’ve carried through numerous house-moves, keeping them even after I ditched the majority of my SF and fantasy collection in favour of student bookshelf-adornments intended to attract potential sexual partners
Then the article moves onto Moorcock himself:
Moorcock’s biography reads like a rebuke to every wannabe novelist who’s pottering through a creative writing MFA… Since the New Worlds days he has carried on writing at a furious pace, weaving an ever more complex web of novels and stories, filled with associations, refractions and knowing references, a delightful maze for his fans and a source of perplexity for bibliographers. This prolific, promiscuous output is perhaps one reason he’s not accorded the status he deserves in the postwar canon of English literature. Unlike his friend Ballard, whose reputation has been transformed in recent years, Moorcock remains something of an outsider, regarded with trepidation (if he’s known at all) by a literary establishment that prefers clear blue water between literature and genre writing.
Kunzru has made the full transcript of the interview available on his website and I think the only question that remains is: when is he going to write a science fiction novel himself?
Thankfully the Locus round table is now over. In the conciliatory manner typical of Locus editorial staff Liza Groen Trombi says:
While most have welcomed the blog and the launch discussion, we have clearly annoyed a few people by not conforming to their ideas of what we ought to be doing.
The complaints I’ve seen are that the blog is boring and it takes seven hours for comments to appear but well done to Locus for striking a blow against conformity. Anyway, with the round table finished the blog proper can begin, starting with this article by Graham Sleight on advocacy and recognition SF. Stay tuned for his inevitable post about hedgehog and fox SF.
The latest edition of Vector is out. I have a review and a letter of comment in it and other people have more interesting things – like Martin McGrath’s essay on John Scalzi’s feeble Old Man’s War books – in it. However, since the website hasn’t been updated for a couple of years there is nothing to link to and so this is probably only of interest to you if you are a member. In which case you will already have received your copy. So, instead, here are some links:
- Locus have launched a group blog which is still very much finding its feet.
- Jonathan McCalmont continues to bang the barleypunk drum as he thinks about the future of British SF.
- Elsewhere Damien G Walter is more conventional in his selection of bright young things.
- And Stephen King says Stephenie Meyer is shit. Although he also implausibly claims JK Rowling is not.