Hugo Award Nominations 2014. Part IV.

I’m attending the 2014 Worldcon, and that means I get to nominate for the Hugo Awards. And, because I’m the kind of shy retiring flower who hesitates to share her opinions, I’m going to tell you all about my nominations!

But I’ll do it in more than one blogpost, because the Hugo Awards have a lot of categories. And one may nominate up to five items in each category.

First post here. Second post here.

Now, let’s talk about the final category: Best Novel.

The sheer size of the field means it’s impossible for any single person to read every novel published in it, much less every novel and a good proportion of the short work, and the related work, and grasp at least some of the art – rather like Jonathan McCalmont and Martin Lewis and Ian Sales, I’m pretty convinced the Hugo Award has too many categories. (But we run with the award we have, not the one we wish we had.)

So when it comes to the novels I read that were published in 2013, let’s not pretend it isn’t a more limited field than the field as a whole. And while I’m going to be picking the best of that, let’s not pretend that technically-best isn’t going to be playing up against favourite-things-best.

So, caveats aside, what novels did I find best of 2013?

Ann Leckie’s ANCILLARY JUSTICE tops the list. A debut novel, it is polished, powerful, doing interesting things with space opera, and kicked me in all the narrative squids.

Elizabeth Bear’s SHATTERED PILLARS comes second. It is an incredibly well-written book, and I really think its predecessor, Range of Ghosts, should have made more award lists last year.

Marie Brennan’s A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS is also on the list. I really like the world, the voice, and the narrative conceit of it, even if the pacing can be up-and-down.

Nicola Griffith’s HILD. I don’t care if it is fantasy, magical realism, or “merely” straight historical fiction. It is ON THIS LIST, because it belongs here.

I am torn over fifth place on the list. Nalo Hopkinson’s SISTER MINE? Roz Kaveney’s REFLECTIONS? Something else I haven’t got to read yet? Feel free to convince me in comments.

Some recent books

I cannot do answering comments lately. Please excuse: excessive amounts of being swamped going on in life.

Timothy Zahn, Star Wars: Scoundrels. Del Rey, 2013.

I have always loved Zahn’s Star Wars novels. Scoundrel is Star Wars meets Ocean’s 11, with Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian the only original trilogy characters really appearing – and with Han in the role of the man organising the Grand Heist. It takes place some time before the Battle for Hoth, between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.

(A couple of my favourite extended universe characters – Kell and Winter – also appear here.)

It is a really well done heist narrative, with complications and recomplications, although I think one of the withholding-information tricks Zahn used in order to work another familiar character in did not, in final analysis, actually pay off.

Still really fun.

Martha Wells, Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge. Del Rey, 2013.

Another novel set after A New Hope and before Empire Strikes Back. Wells is an excellent writer and tells a good story – but for a novel purporting to focus on Leia, her character carries nearly none of the story’s emotional freight. So that was a little disappointing.

Not disappointing at all, however, is how filled with interesting female characters Wells’ vision of Star Wars is.

Nalo Hopkinson, Sister Mine. Grand Central, 2013.

A delightful urban fantasy with weird gods and weirder family dynamics set in Toronto. Well recommended.

D.B. Jackson, Thieves’ Quarry. Tor, 2013.

Urban fantasy set in Boston in the 1770s. Entertaining, but not especially my cup of tea. Characters felt a bit flat, and the central mystery felt more People Running Around At Cross Purposes than actively compelling.

Diane Duane, Star Trek: The Wounded Sky. Titan, 1989.

Duane’s Star Trek novels are always interesting space opera.

Kelly McCullough, Blade Reforged. Ace, 2013.

Entertaining second-world urban fantasy with assassins and a coup and Deeply Laid Plots. Fourth in series. Recommended.

Jeanne Lin, The Sword Dancer. Ebook.

Romance set in historic China. A bit odd (but that is a function of it being a romance), at points a bit slow, but entertaining.

Helen Lowe, The Heir of Night and The Gathering of the Lost. Orbit, 2010-2012.

Oh dear sweet overblown Grand Epic Fantasy. These books have serious structural problems and occasional line of direction fail. And yet. I would have loved these when I was thirteen, and they still curled into the Fond Of Overblown Destiny and COOL SHIT corner of my heart.

Madeleine E. Robins, Sold For Endless Rue. Forge, 2013.

Historical novel based on the bones of a Rapunzel story. I am a sucker for female doctors and Salerno, but I don’t think the structure worked as well as it might have. Still, very good book.

Alex Bledsoe, The Hum and the Shiver and Wisp of a Thing. Tor, 2011-2013.

One of these is a very good book: The Hum and the Shiver is an excellent work of small-town fantasy, playing up its liminality and strangeness. It does not resolve all its threads, but it resolves many…

Wisp of a Thing, on the other hand, is full of manpain, has some dodgy SPECIALNESS, and resolves with an extra dodgy nod at a happy ending which SKEEVED ME THE FUCK OUT, okay. Thanks for ruining The Hum and the Shiver for me, Wisp of a Thing.

Andi Marquette, Friends in High Places, A Matter of Blood, and Edge of Rebellion. Ebooks.

Fun, pulpy, not excessively well-written (but on the other hand far from terrible) space opera. With lesbians. That is not a lesbian romance in terms of its focus. With a feel somewhere between Star Wars and Firefly.

Gaie Sebold, Babylon Steel and Dangerous Gifts. Solaris, 2011-2012.

I do not know how to talk about these books. I love them a lot: they are like a cross between noir and sword-and-sorcery in the Conan mould – except centering women. It is sword-and-sorcery for the girl who wanted to grow up to be Conan (except better), and I’m very happy with that.

Elizabeth Bear, Book of Iron. Subterranean Press, 2013.

A brilliant standalone novella in the same world as Bear’s Range of Ghosts and Bone and Jewel Creatures. Read it.

Robert Graves, The White Goddess. Review copy, 2013 reprint.

I want those hours of my life back.

nonfiction

Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After.

Which I spoke of previously.

Pál Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary 895-1526. English translation by Andrew Ayton. I.B. Tauris, 2005.

Which I also spoke of previously.

Daniela Dueck, Hugh Lindsay, and Sarah Pothecary, Strabo’s Cultural Geography: the making of a kolossourgia. Cambridge University Press, 2005.

An interesting collection of papers on Strabo’s work.

Linky will sing to you about starships

Except maybe not today. You don’t want me to sing.

Niall Harrison at Strange Horizons releases the 2012 SF Count:

VIDA started it. In 2010, they published the first iteration of “The Count”, a straightforward analysis of how literary coverage is affected by gender. For a range of notable publications, VIDA calculated the proportion of books reviewed that were by women, and the proportion of reviewers that were women, and published pie charts illustrating their findings. They published similar analyses for 2011 and, most recently, for 2012. Each year, a consistent imbalance has been observed: more books by men are reviewed, and more book reviewers are men.

Following VIDA’s lead, for the past two years Strange Horizons has published “SF counts”, looking at the same parameters as VIDA for speculative fiction review venues.

…This article presents the results of the SF count for 2012.

Cécile Christofari, “Tourism, From Inside and Out”:

[I]it’s always very surprising to hear that the place where you live is not authentic enough. I don’t know what that makes of its inhabitants—am I supposed to be a paid extra, or something?

Nalo Hopkinson in the Los Angeles Review of Books, with a review of Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds:

KAREN LORD’S NOVEL The Best of All Possible Worlds put me in mind of Junot Díaz’s brilliant novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Not stylistically: while Oscar Wao is an experimental pelau of modes served up in Díaz’s distinctly Dominicano and in-your-face voice, The Best of All Possible Worlds is a beautiful shape-shifter. It reads like smooth jazz comfort food, deceptively familiar and easy going down, but subtly subversive.

Linky brings tidings of tragedy and cheer

Elizabeth Bear on “I Love A Good Tragedy As Much As The Next Guy”:

I mean, we’ve all been fifteen and in love with death. Yours truly was a Goth before that was a thing; we were still adjectives back in my day, not even having graduated yet to nouns. That nihilistic view of the world is essentially a juvenile, sociopathic, self-justifying fetish, and most of us eventually grow out of it. We grow into a little responsibility, at least—the understanding that the only thing likely to make the world a more endurable place for the bulk of humanity is collective action. Even when we’re spending a significant amount of time selfishly looking out for number one.

Joe Abercrombie follows up his “Value of Grit” post with “Gritty Washback”:

Doubtless gritty fantasy (and I’d include my own) has not always covered itself in glory in its treatment of race and gender. Though I don’t see any reason why grit can’t be a powerful tool to investigate those issues, if wielded with skill, thought and responsibility (not by me, in other words).

Elizabeth Bear, again, with “I pity the fool”:

Every damned time the topic of diversity in SFF comes up, somebody says something about “Well, if the story demands that the character be queer/disabled/black/trans/female/postcolonial/feminist, that’s one thing. But if you’re just putting it in to be politically correct***, then you’re bound by ideology, and that’s bad art.”


… …
… … …

…because able Western white cis het male is the default. Because the viewpoint character being an able Western white cis het male totally doesn’t inform the narrative, and has no influence in the way the world is presented, because that’s the only viewpoint that really exists, and the rest of us are all flavor text.

Sofia Samatar interviews Nalo Hopkinson at Strange Horizons.

Also at Strange Horizons, the results of the 2012 Readers’ Poll. Very personally flattering, and congratulations to everyone else who made the lists.

@fidelioscabinet has provided a transcript of a Twitter conversation about anthropology in SFF between Rose Lemberg, Kate Elliott, me, and a couple of others.