Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Best Science Fiction Novel of 2013 is...

I came across a post about the recently awarded Nebula awards the other day. I was curious how close its short-list of nominees for the best science-fiction/fantasy novel of 2013 matched those of other awards, so I had a look.

Nebula Awards

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (Marian Wood)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (Morrow; Headline Review)
Fire with Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Hild, Nicola Griffith (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Red: First Light, Linda Nagata (Mythic Island)
A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)
The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker (Harper)

Hugo Awards

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, Larry Correia (Baen Books)
The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books / Orbit UK)

Arthur C. Clarke Award

God’s War by Kameron Hurley (Del Rey)
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
The Disestablishment Of Paradise by Phillip Mann (Gollancz)
Nexus by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot)
The Adjacent by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)
The Machine by James Smythe (Blue Door)

They didn’t match at all. Only one novel made it onto more than one list: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, which made it on to all three of the award short-lists.

So why didn’t any other novel make more than one short-list? Probably because of the way they are nominated. 

How are the Novels Nominated?

The Nebulas are nominated and voted on by members the Science Fiction Writers of America. Membership of the SFWA is restricted to published authors, including people who have sold at least three short stories to professional markets. Reviewers and scriptwriters can also become members. The nominated books must have been first published in America in the nomination year.

Anyone who buys a membership to World Con can nominate novels and vote for the Hugos. This year’s World Con is in London. Anyone going to Loncon3 could nominate novels that were published anywhere in the world in 2013.

Novels are submitted by their publishing company for the Arthur C. Clark award. Members of its judging panel and organisation committee can also nominate novels. This year's award was judged by Ian Whates and Duncan Lawie from the British Science Fiction Association, Sarah Brown and Lesley Hall from the Science Fiction Foundation and Georgie Knight from the Sci-Fi-London film festival. The nominated books must have been published in the UK in the nomination year.

Depending on the judges for the Arthur C. Clarke award, it or the Nebula award would have better qualified judges than the Hugo award. But the Hugo is open to nominations of books from all around the world, including non-English written books.

Whose Judgement to Trust?

I wonder how many of the short-listed novels are read by those who vote. I would expect the judges of the Arthur C. Clarke award to read all the short-listed novels. I would imagine that the authors of SFWA would try to read many of the nominated novels before they voted for the Nebula. But for the Hugos, I doubt whether many of the general public who travel to Loncon3 will read more than one or two of the novels, if any. When I went to Aussiecon I did not read any of the nominated novels, so I did not vote for that part of the Hugos.

Due to the different nomination and voting processes, Spock would give more credence to the Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke awards, until he found out no Vulcan literature would be accepted for them. 

Whose judgement do I trust?

I had a look at the past winners of the awards. I have not read many of the winners due to my concentrating on reading Australian authors. And only one of them, George Turner, has won any of the three awards. My favourite international authors do not seem to have won many awards either. 

I have read only three of the Arthur C Clarke Award winners from its 27-year history. I have read eight of the Nebula award winners from its 47-year history, and nine of the Hugo award winners from its longer 61-year history. With the slightly shorter history, it looks like I am more likely to have read a winner of the Nebula award. It must be noted that a few of the award winners that I read did not live up to their hype, but that seems to apply equally over the awards.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie won the Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke awards. I must get a copy. Will it win the Hugo?


graywave said...

Graham, you might like to look at my review of Ancillary Justice ( As you'll see, I was impressed, but the book had structural flaws (IMHO) and it would only have won an award if the competition was pretty weak. It may be no coincidence that she once served as SFWA secretary - so she'd have been personally known to US fandom. Sadly, I haven't read a single book on any of the three lists apart from Leckie's, so I'll never know.

graywave said...

Actually, I just realiesed there's another on the lists that I've read: Nexus by Ramez Naam. This didn't have Leckie's great "voice" nor her terrific world-building, but it was a much more satisfying read.

Graham Clements said...

Graham, as I posted on your blog, your review has convinced me to buy the book. I have not read any of the novels on the award lists either. But at least I am about to finish reading a second one from this year's Aurealis awards list. Now I am really interested to see if she wins the Hugo.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Who knows how they come up with the best books? Have they read every sci-fi published in the world in one year? Hmm.

Nice to see some variety in the different awards though. It's annoying actually when one artist or author 'cleans' up when really, its a matter of taste. Be interested to read your review of Justice.