Thoughts on the Latest SF Book Award Noms Noms Noms

So, uh, I don’t know if you noticed that all three of the novels I selected to illustrate my post about the Locus Recommended Reading list got shortlisted this weekend. Aaand, two of them received double-noms.

Remember this?

lagoontheracewolves1

I’m super stoked that the above novels got nom’d for the exciting BSFA award! And, super-duper stoked that Lagoon and The Race also made the Red Tentacle shortlist for The Kitschies!

Let’s review the big news, then I promise I’ll get back to talking about old books.

But book awards! It’s like reader crack! It’s cheap, it’s temporary, it’s addictive, it’s probably meaningless, but omfg sooo goood for the moment!

And it’s exciting because I actually read some of these books!

The BSFA (British Science Fiction Association)

Best Novels

theracecuckoosongeuropeinautumnwolves1ancillarySwordTheFirstFifteenLivesofHarryAugustlagoonTheMoonKing

Last year, I regretted not reading the BSFA shortlist and committed to doing so this year. Thanks to some direct and informed sleuthing, a lot of blog stalking, and a little bit of luck, I’ve read all but three of these contenders. In fact, the majority of my December Holiday “Oh Shit, I Better Read Some New Fic Before Award Lists Come Out” Reading List made this list. Frankly, this has been the most satisfying batch of recent speculative fiction that I’ve ever experienced in one go, which means my book sleuthing is getting better or the British are up to some interesting things. Probably both.

But it goes to show: the BSFA are the readers to praise and model. If you are tired of the same old SF faff, you will find something new and fresh on this list.

My top picks of this lot are Wolves and The Race, because they are both so unique and peculiar, I can’t recommend them enough. But I wouldn’t begrudge a win for Hutchinson, North, or Okorafor, all very cool reads. Because I’ve read so much of the list already, I think I will bother to read the rest of this huge list: Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song most intrigues me, Williamson’s The Moon King sounds kind of cool, and *sigh* I’ll even down another standard Leckie space opera, if I have to. (Ancillary Justice didn’t blow me away like it did everyone else, but people say Ancillary Sword is different.)

Best Short Fiction

LaFemmeTheMusselEaterScale Bright

Ruth E. J. Booth, “The Honey Trap,” published in La FemmeNewcon Press
Octavia Cade, The Mussel Eaterpublished by The Book Smugglers
Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Scale Bright 

Recent short-fiction and me go together like honey and mussels. Eww. Will I bother? Sriduangkaew’s very controversial nomination doesn’t bother me none because I’m used to reading books written by assholes. I will be annoyed if the book is mediocre, though. In which case, I will let you know.

As for the non-fiction shortlist, I find myself too often enjoying, while alternately agreeing with and eyebrow-raising at, Jonathan McCalmont on his blog Ruthless Culture. I ignore his film criticism because movies are lame (right now, he has a post about Transformers... like who cares about Transformers?), but these specific nominated blog posts can probably best explain most of my honey-and-mussels issues with recent short fiction. His “Short Fiction and the Feels,” while deserving of its own criticism, best explains my recoil.

I am a proud owner of Paul Kincaid’s Call and Responsewhich has been an excellent resource to thumb through as I work through my TBR. And The State of British SF and Fantasy: A Symposium is not something I have looked at, (I have an inexplicable Strange Horizons blindness, well may be explicable if you read the above-mentioned Ruthless Culture post), but I will get on that right away, mates.

You can see the rest of the shortlists at the BSFA website. The winners will be announced at Eastercon aka Dysprosium at Heathrow on April 6.

The Kitschies
“The prize for progressive, intelligent & entertaining” SF fiction

The Red Tentacle

lagoonGrasshopperJungletheperipheral1

TheWayInntherace

Well, waddayaknow? We have some familiar faces. Hello to Okorafor and Allan again. I am pleasantly surprised that William Gibson is getting some recognition for the excellent The Peripheral; I kind of figured people would skip nominating him just because he’s TBTF. As for the two unfamiliars, Grasshopper Jungle is YA apocalypse, so that’s a no for me (I am a book snob. I am sorry. We should all be snobby about the books we like, and still be friendly with each other. And I spend my working hours with teens, so yes, I might be overcompensating with strict reading boundaries to reaffirm my adulthood, even though I tweet about balls sometimes). The Way Inn is horror that sounds just funny and twisted enough to intrigue me, but, you know, horror.

Lame Mexican-Spanish joke that I just can’t help: I’m calling it The Guey Inn in my head.

The Golden Tentacle (Debut)

a.k.a. The Newbie Award

ViperWineTheGirlintheRoadMemoryofWater

SmallAngryPlanetThe People in the Trees

I’ve read none of these. The only one I can even recall seeing is Memory of Waterjust because the over-the-top whiteness on the cover weirds me out. The Long Way etcis self-pubbed, so wow, that’s interesting. The rest sound really cool, dubiously so. I’m skeptical.

It doesn’t matter anyway, because there is no voting for The Kitschies. You can see the full Kitchies list here, including the Inky Tentacle (Cover Art) and The Invisible Tentacle (Digital Fiction).

They will announce the winners on March 4th. Mark your bio-chip.

Okay! Book nom slavering done for the moment! I return you to your normal FC2M vintage and pre-millennial book programming next week!

Next up: The Female Man (1975) by Joanna Russ

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33 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Latest SF Book Award Noms Noms Noms

  1. thebookgator says:

    “So, uh, I don’t know if you noticed that all three of the novels I selected to illustrate my Locus Recommended Reading post got shortlisted this weekend. Aaand, two of them received double-noms.”

    Why yes, I did notice. Are you a Locus editor? 😉

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    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      Haha, nah. I meant MY post about it. I will reword. Now.

      Like

      • thebookgator says:

        Wait, no–that wasn’t a grammatical correction;i it was (apparently) a badly-worded compliment. That was me alluding to the fact that you picked those novels before the Locus came out–you are already tapped in to the bookworld psyche it seemed. I looked at the Locus list and recognized a few titles that I added based on your post.

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        • fromcouchtomoon says:

          Ah, well thanks! My original opening line was badly-worded and misleading, so you did me a favor. (I was also quite sick and high on cough meds, so I probably wasn’t reading or writing very clearly at the time.)

          My “strategy,” I suppose, was just listening to the Year End Review of Coode Street Podcast and choosing the books that either sounded the most interesting, or had some buzz in other sectors. Gary K. Wolfe is one of the hosts that podcast AND he contributes to that Locus article every year, so his influence probably has more to do with it than anything. They mentioned a lot of books in that episode, but I may be getting better at inferring the better recommendations.

          As for how 5 of the 8 BSFA nominees ending up on my reading list… that’s something I’m pretty chuffed about 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Thoughts on the Latest SF Book Award Noms Noms Noms […]

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  3. wildbilbo says:

    Impressive – apparently you can pick ’em. Got any hot tips for the next bunch of awards (assuming you can gamble on them of course)?

    More seriously, I will have to book mark this page, I need to hit most of these you mention.
    Cheers
    KT

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    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I think it just means I’m living on the wrong continent.

      The next shorlist we will probably see will be the Nebulas in the coming weeks. I doubt we’ll see much crossover, and their selections tend to be a mixed bag of interests. Not as exciting to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t read any of them, but own Wolves and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and may get them read before the awards announcements.

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    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I am surprised by how much I enjoyed Harry August. It’s a clever premise and I loved the tension between the protagonist and his antagonist. I know you dabble in audiobooks, too, and this is absolutely a great one to listen to. Normally, I just listen to audiobooks to be efficient, and I can’t wait to get back to actual reading, but this was one I couldn’t stop listening to. The narrator is incredibly talented. British, of course!

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  5. Jesse says:

    After last year’s relatively mediocre list, good to see the BSFAs back in fine shape. I was a bit disappointed to see them plod Leckie Road like the rest of awardom, but this year there’s a good chance they won’t make the same mistake twice. She may be an asshole, but a mentally troubled apologetic asshole, so good to see the BSFAs didn’t slight Sriduangkaew like Strahan did in his ‘best of 2014’. (I say this as she is one of the freshest voices in the field, writing 3 really strong shorts last year – and I’ve yet to read “Scale Bright”.) The Kincaid book looks interesting, but I gotta say, have you seen the male-female ratio? The authors he chose are well deserving of attention, but there remains a slight aroma of grandpa sf… And for what it’s worth, I think you’d enjoy the Strange Horizons article that’s nominated. Book a half hour and read it.

    Now that Jared Shurin is out of the picture (awards-wise, at least), I pay more attention to the Kitschies. But I remain a skeptic they are identifying ‘the most literate genre of the year’. Comparing their list to the BSFA, is it really more “progressive, intelligent, and entertaining”? I don’t know. I haven’t read enough of the titles. But superficially it doesn’t seem the case. As such, it will be interesting to see the Arthur C. Clarke nominations. Yes, I too was born on the wrong continent.

    As such, I gotta agree with your comment above. I don’t think the American award nominations will be anywhere near as sophisticated. The Nebula always has the chance to surprise, but the Hugo, and its shadow the Locus, as well as the Campbell (speaking of grandpa sf) rarely seem to match the Brits in their ability to locate books the genre can be proud to have as flag-bearers. But I digress (before breaking into a rant).

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  6. fromcouchtomoon says:

    Ah, I remember your essay defending Sriduangkaew after the RH controversy broke out and I found it very interesting. I have not read any of her stuff, but I hope she’s as good as she thinks she is, just because the genre needs it. Troubled or not, I view her behaviors and insults more as a culmination of cultural/generational/eco-dis influences where wishing rape and murder are common insults thrown around in whatever society she keeps. Those are things that actual people outside of high society actually say to one another. A LOT. To the point where those words don’t even have meaning anymore. But let’s not forget that those things are definitely not okay, definitely unprofessional, definitely abusive.

    But some of the reactions I saw from the community only highlighted for me just how out of touch this High Society is. (Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised, when this community can’t even handle a mildly offensive comedian to host their events.)

    As for the Kincaid book, that’s the funny thing about it. I haven’t been able to look at much of it because I haven’t read many of the authors he’s covered. I haven’t picked up on the grandpa flavor, but I’ve only recently discovered that I enjoy reading criticism and literary analysis. I’m sampling lots of stuff.

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    • Jesse says:

      What are you sampling? Any recommendations?

      If you haven’t already checked them out, I would recommend Brian Atterbery’s Strategies of Fantasy, Ursula Le Guin’s The Language of the Night, and Farah Mendlesohn’s Rhetorics of Fantasy. I have not read either Joanna Russ or Samuel Delaney’s non-fiction on genre, but everywhere I turn I hear good things…

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      • fromcouchtomoon says:

        I’ve only had a cursory look at the few items I’ve collected over the past couple of months, but the two items that seem most promising to me so far are Critical Theory and Science Fiction by Carl Freedman and The Wave in the Mind by Le Guin.

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  7. Rabindranauth says:

    Don’t believe the hype. Leckie’s latest ain’t anything new. If anything, it’s not even on par with Ancillary Justice. It’s just more engagingly written. I wasn’t swept away by Justice either.

    Cuckoo’s Song look’s pretty awesome. Will definitely be checking it out; I think I’ve read a Hardinge short story that really rocked my boat.

    Skriduangkaew is decent. Her imagination is fresh and she has some interesting story ideas that are just on the edge of cheesy but never quite making it there [peacock for a stomach, for instance.] I’ve only read like 2 short stories from her, but it was more than enough to make me pick up Scale-Bright.

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    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I’m most excited about Cuckoo’s Song. It’s definitely going to be my next 2014 read. It sounds so bizarre.

      Your input abouy AS makes me dread it even more. Maybe I won’t read it…

      I’ve been curious about Scale Bright for a long time. I will definitely give it go.

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      • Rabindranauth says:

        Oooh, I’ll wait for your review then.

        Yea, I really doubt AS will have any interest for you. It’s more space opera/mystery-ish than anything. Think Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, if you’ve ever read that.

        Cool! Maybe we can buddy read it or something. Its been sitting on my Kindle almost since it was released.

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        • fromcouchtomoon says:

          I’ll let you know when I start it!

          I have not read the Corey series. I’m pretty sure I won’t like it, but I think I might like the TV show. Books that adapt well to TV are terrible books. Way too flat. But I do like TV space operas. A LOT.

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          • Rabindranauth says:

            I couldn’t make it through the first book. Exactly the sort of story I’m completely sick of. Agreed. Hopefully HBO does as good a job with it as they did with Dexter. TV ended up being much, much better than paper in that case.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Grasshopper jungle. That’s my nickname for the playground where I got this scar. *points* And this one. *points again* Playing four square.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Joseph Nebus says:

    Aw, I’ve missed everything. And I even read Annihilation this year.

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    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I was slightly surprised that the Brits completely ignored Annihilation, but I’m sure it will get nods on the upcoming Nebula, Locus, & Hugo lists.

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  10. I have a blind spot for Strange Horizons too, but it is only because for some reason my reader won’t let me add it to my feed, which is pretty much a deal breaker for me, the laziest of internet browsers.

    Besides Wolves, I have read absolutely none of the nominees. Though I have coveted quite a lot of them. I have put off reading Leckie’s books and at this point wonder if I will get to them before another decade has slipped by. Though I found it refreshing to hear you all not worshiping at its altar here. I seem to only know people who totally worship that book.

    I think The Race should go at the top of the “things I want to read that you mention in this post” list though.

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    • fromcouchtomoon says:

      I’m also a lazy internet browser, so I’m always annoyed when I miss good critical features of SH posts (like the nominated Brit Fic Symposium), but their short fiction just wears me out. I’m basing this opinion mostly on impressions from blurbs and titles and such, and very little actual reading, so I’m completely out of touch, but they seem to be trying too hard to be progressive and perfect. Not very organic or fresh.

      Of course the short fiction market in general just wears me out. Normal people can’t keep up with that clusterfuck.

      The sad thing about Leckie is that I actually enjoyed the book when I read it, but it was nothing so mind-blowing that it should sweep awards and opinions like it did. To me, it was a good space opera, but nothing new. The AI protagonist was innovative, but there were parts that felt amateurish and kind of made-for-television (unrealistic, dramatic bad person confession, “I’ll tell you why I did it!” and such).

      Nina Allan is just such a unique writer in this field. She is truly doing something indescribably different with SF, sort of taking the baton from the New Wave feminist writers and doing it with postmodern sophistication. People are drooling over VanderMeer for his atmosphere building, but I felt more Weirdness and discomfort from reading The Race.

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  11. Steph says:

    Nice to see you slumming it with the rest of us reading the cheap and tawdry contemporaries:)

    Like

  12. […] were nominated. My reading overlap ratio isn’t nearly as uncanny as it was with the BSFA shortlist, but I didn’t expect to see much overlap between the two awards. I think I’m most […]

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  13. […] Thoughts on the Latest SF Book Award Noms Noms Noms […]

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