2016 SF Book Awards Update: The Kitschies and The Nebulas

We are well into the 11 months of SF Book Award Season. Adding to the PKD Award shortlist, which I didn’t cover because it’s always a weird list that I never know what to make of it, and the BSFA Award shortlist, which I talk about all the time, the Nebulas and the Kitschies have now arrived.

The Nebula Rundown


Announced this weekend, SFWA revealed their very predictable Nebula award shortlist, predictable thanks especially to Chaos Horizon’s bang on analysis. I have read none of the Best Novel list, and have zero to very slight interest in bothering with it. (Though I have the Liu and will probably give it a go, and I have greatly enjoyed Novik in the past.) I’m not sure why, but ever since I started paying attention to SF discourse– just a few years ago– I’ve been leery of anything that comes from the SFWA lot. I just don’t get the sense that I have anything in common with them as a reader. And I never regret not reading the Nebulas. (The ’60s and ’70s Nebulas are a different story entirely.)

But biases aside, were these really the Best SF Novels of 2015?

Best Novel:
Raising Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu (Saga)
Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen (Tor)
Updraft, Fran Wilde (Tor)


The Kitschies Rundown:


For me, things are always greener on the other side of the Atlantic fence, and the Kitschies prove that by releasing their very interesting 2015 shortlists today. With a revolving door selection jury, the Kitschies lists always strike me as fresh and surprising, though a little too jigsawed in what seems like an attempt to select from every kind of subgenre. What I like most about the Kitschies is they have a kind of slow burn: novels I’ve never noticed before suddenly get this second life and start pinging my radar all year long. For that reason, I always regret not reading the Kitschies.

But who has the time? It’s impossible to play along and read both novel shortlists before the ceremony date, which, if other potential readers think like me, probably affects potential sales for these lucky nominees. This is especially true this year because the winner will be announced on March 7th. Two weeks away!

The Red Tentacle (Novel):

  • The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood (Bloomsbury)
  • Europe at Midnight, by Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
  • The Reflection, by Hugo Wilcken (Melville House)
  • The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • The Thing Itself, by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)

The Golden Tentacle (Debut):

  • The Shore, by Sara Taylor (William Heinemann)
  • Blackass, by A. Igoni Barrett (Chatto and Windus)
  • The Gracekeepers, by Kirsty Logan (Harvill Secker)
  • The Night Clock, by Paul Meloy (Solaris)
  • Making Wolf, by Tade Thompson (Rosarium)

The Hutchinson (my review) and Roberts noms are no surprise (I’m rewarding myself with The Thing Itself every time I reach a milestone in zzzzzzFeastforCrowszzzz), the Atwood nom is a mainstream surprise, and Jemison’s appearance on both lists is no surprise given her skyrocketing popularity (perhaps her writing has evolved since her wheel-spinning Hundred Thousand Kingdoms?). The other novels have been in my blindspot (which is why the Kitschies are so important). See the rest of the list here.


What’s Next?

I don’t know if we’ll see the Hugos or the Tiptrees or the Clarkes next, but they all showed up in early April last year. I’ll nominate for the Hugos– which is just another example of my extraordinary tolerance for futility– but I’m more interested in what unique novels the Clarke and Tiptree juries will select this year. I had a great time sampling from the Tiptree list last year.

Given the humdrum Nebula list and the too-rapidly approaching Kitschies ceremony date, I’ll probably commit to reading only the BSFA list for now, but I’ll probably sample from these other lists throughout the year as buzz picks up. Any recommendations?






31 thoughts on “2016 SF Book Awards Update: The Kitschies and The Nebulas

  1. Anton says:

    I want to read The Fifth Season. Many people have said it’s her best one now, and I liked her Killing Moon.

    I almost forgot about the Kitschies, and then I remember that their lists are usually aligned with my current reading tastes much better than most other speculative awards. This year they have Blackass on their list, which I did not think of as genre fiction (though now that I went back and reread the description, I can see why it would be included). I’m probably going to pick this one up because it’s published by Graywolf here, and they do good stuff, plus he is coming to my store for the book tour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s always hard to tell when fans say a book is “the best yet” if it’s genuine feedback or just fannishness talking. For Jemison to appear on a UK list is a pretty big deal, so she’s got my attention this time. I will probably end up reading The Fifth Season, and I expect to see it on the Hugo list, too.

      I think the Kitschies have a much broader definition of SF and they seem to lean toward writers who are willing to take risks and experiment. Blackass was the first title that jumped out at me and one I will probably either read or wish I had read. In fact, that entire Golden Tentacle list looks pretty damn interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thebookgator says:

        I loved, loved, loved The Killing Moon, was so-so on Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and have been saving Fifth Season for a time I can give it my attention. She’s a very, very interesting writer that has managed to challenge a lot of genre tropes without making it an Issue Book.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hundred Thousand Kingdoms felt like someone in SF trying to cash in on the tween paranormal romance craze. It was too loyal to “the special one who doesn’t do much” trope, and obsessing over the dangerous bad guy (with a heart) is just bad for girls. Too many books like that.

          But that was her first book, and it seems like she gets the need for challenging things now, so I’m curious to see what she doing now.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. “(The ’60s and ’70s Nebulas are a different story entirely.)”
    So true. When I look at lists like these, it’s hard to say that the Nebulas aren’t just the Hugos with a manicure. I’m kind of curious about the Ken Liu, but someone’ll have to really sell me on the others.

    The Kitschies, though, always seem to pull something out of the ether that I swear didn’t exist ten minutes ago, but now it does, so I guess it exists in the past now too, and wow does it look fascinating. Mainly thinking of the Golden Tentacle, as I kind of expected the Hutchinson (because it is awesome), Atwood, and Roberts.


    • Actually come to think of it, I bought the ebook of The Night Clock because dat cover + dat description + I’m on Solaris’ mailing list. So I guess it did exist before its Kitschies nom, or so I’ve been told…

      Liked by 1 person

    • “The Hugos with a manicure” haha, love it. It makes the whole political controversy in both organizations look even more ridiculous when both sides are faving the same familiar flavors of books.

      That Golden Tentacle list is something worth mining. The Girl in the Road was a Golden Tentacle nominee last year, which was one of the best new novels I read last year (or ever, really). It just floored me, and I’m still seeing blips about the other GT nominees from last year (Itaranta, Yanagihara, even that self-pubbed space opera book that looks so terrible but I guess not because buzz…). Yeah, the Kitschies are a great avenue for new and fresh buzz.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rabindranauth says:

    The Nebula shortlist made me grin; I took it as a sign of how far out to sea I am where it comes to genre at this point that I could honestly care less about any of those books listed – the only one I’ve read is Mercy largely because I’m a completionist at the end of it.

    I’m also going to have to read The Fifth Season at some point because of how gorgeous it’s sequel’s artwork is – I can’t not have something that shiny on my shelf.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel it. I could be wrong, but the Nebulas just look like character-driven surface stuff. I COULD BE WRONG.

      I’m not drawn to the artwork, but I’ll probably read The Fifth Season because I think it’s likely to sweep noms and become one of those books everybody has to read as a reference point. And I might end up liking it. Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was really amateur, but I’ve been looking for an excuse to see how she’s grown as a writer.


      • Rabindranauth says:

        Having read some Ken Liu’s short fiction, I think he’s there by merit. The rest is beyond me, but then, I’m not even sure what else came out last year that could compete with anything on the list, so maybe that’s why they made it? Will be interesting to see what you make of The Fifth Season – I’ll probably snag it closer to the sequel’s release date.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I keep seeing similar positive reviews of Ken Liu from different corners, which is why I picked up Kings last year. That “epic fantasy” label on the cover makes me wary, though.


          • Rabindranauth says:

            Yea, even though I like his stuff I’m most likely going to take a pass on that series, especially after reading that he’s essentially rewriting Romance of the Three Kingdoms. I may pick it up eventually, but right now the only epic fantasy I seem to get interested in are series/sequels I’m already reading, and even that to an extent . . .

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Tomcat says:

    It always amazes me that Michael Cisco is never nominated for anything, but is very, very clearly on of the best SF/F/horror writers ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I’ve heard of him, but I’ll have to check him out now.


      • Tomcat says:

        You must, must; Michael Cisco is great! His books are extremely difficult (I genuinely reckon I only understand about 40% of whatever the hell is going on at any given moment), but very rewarding, and just estrangingly, deeply, confusingly original and odd.

        I recommend ‘The Great Lover’, which is about a scientist who can’t concentrate on his work, so he hires an undead sorcerer to build him a cyborg-thing in which he can store his sex drive, dubbed ‘The Prosthetic Libido’, and then he builds another to store his death drive ‘The Prosthetic Death’… and then very, very weird things happen.

        ‘The Traitor’ is a sort of persecution narrative written from the PoV of an old man in prison who helped a healer-turned-murder into becoming a new God. It’s very early Cisco, so can be hard to find.. but it’s great.

        ‘Celebrant’ is about a man called deKlend looking for a city he’s probably already living in, and a group of “natural robots” that form from the mountains surrounding the city. It’s bonkers.

        Hell, just read any of them, they’re all good 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Okay, so Animal Money, right? That showed up on my Amazon recommended queue last night and that cover is hella amazing and I was like, “Cisco. Cisco. Cisco. Where did I hear of him?” and bam, there you are. I’m sold. He will not be ignored.


          • Tomcat says:

            Yes! Though I wouldn’t start with Animal Money, ‘cos it’s 800 pages and likely to put you off his writing for life! His books get harder and harder, so I’d start with the Narrator or The Great Lover and work your way up. At least, that’s what worked for me :). Jeff Vandermeer is a huge fan, as is China Mieville… which is basically how I discovered Cisco in the first place 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          • I have had The Great Lover on my tbr for a couple of months now. That was another book that turned up quite a lot on the thread that VanderMeer did asking people to recommend weird books a while back. So far that list has been gold.

            Liked by 1 person

          • That reminds me that I saw Animal Money on VanderMeer list not long ago. That was probably my first exposure to the name. Completely forgot.


  5. I am actaully glad that both The Fifth Season and The Grace of Kings were nominated, I really enjoyed them both. For me, The Fifth Season is Jemisins best work, I read all of her books last year and her writing has improved a lot (not that I didnt enjoyed her other books but they were not as good in my opinion). As for the The Grace of Kings, if you’re not a fan of epic fantasy, I don’t know if I should recommend it or not since it’s way different from your “typical” epic fantasy novel. I read some of Liu’s short fiction before reading his book and her really love his writing style.

    I never heard of the Kitschies but just looking at the shortlist, I think that they might be very interesting to follow!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Emil says:

    What? You fell asleep during “Feast of Crows?”

    And here I am, quite keen on reading the Nebula’s! Liu and Jemisin are noteworthy authors. After splendid performances during past award seasons, Liu finally has written a novel and I guess it is no surprise that it is featuring. I am enjoying Uprooted and did so too with Ancillary Mercy, a good and consistent conclusion the the trilogy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know. I’m weird. Actually, I finished Feast for Crows today and I have to say I was more engaged than I expected. There were times when my attention drifted, but I’m surprised it didn’t happen more often.

      Your words about Liu and Jemison mimic others, so I don’t think I can go this year without checking out their latest work.


  7. […] book award opinions of the 2015 Locus Recommended Reading List, the 2015 BSFA award shortlist, and the 2015 Nebula and Kitschies award shortlists. I have committed to reading the BSFA list, and am tempted, very tempted to have a go at the […]


  8. Oh man oh man oh man oh man! I am so behind on everything! Reading! Blogging! Reading blogs about reading!

    I have become more and more interested in the Kitschies in the last couple years as well.

    So anything I haven’t read many of the noms, as usual, but I really disliked Uprooted, or at least the part of it that I read. It has one of those HERE COME SPOILERS love stories where the dude is just a total uncommunicative asshole and still gets the girl (again I didn’t finish, but I’ve been told by those who have) and I am so fucking tired of watching angry dudes stomp around castles not explaining shit and then getting awarded for it. UGH. But also, I listened to the bits that I read, and I felt that the narrator had a rather wooden delivery that I couldn’t get into as well, which certainly played into it.

    Of the Nebula noms I think I am most interested in trying out Updraft.

    As for the Kitsches, I really want to read the Roberts, since you keep singing his praises, and if I have time all the others as well. Like you said, this is stuff that was in my blind spot (well, except Atwood, which I find just as surprising on here) and I like to check out the things hanging out in the blind spot as often as possible.

    And now to go catch up on all the posts you’ve written in the last month that I have missed…and hopefully write something about my reading month tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay, a Nikki comment! Glad to hear your feedback on Uprooted. You say exactly what I thought that book was supposed to be subverting, though, but I’m not surprised. I’m often disappointed with how some writers “subvert” the romance theme. It always ends up being the same. I know Chaos Horizon had initially predicted big things for Uprooted this year, but I just don’t see much talk about it. I do have a big blind spot to my fellow American readers, though. Updraft being another I have heard nothing about until it showed up on the shortlist.


  9. Jesse says:

    Have to agree with you on the Nebulas’ commentary. If the nominations represent what the field’s writers think was the best published in 2015, then the field is indeed in a sorry state. Charles Gannon?!?!?! Given the incredibly high volume of mediocre to low quality material on the market today, however, I guess it should come as no surprise… Cranky old man signs off


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