Meanwhile, in SFF awards that are both not the Hugos nor in any way dramatic (at least through these binoculars), interesting books have been winning things. For once, this is a crowd I am (almost) caught up on. So don’t take the expert judges’ words for it, read these books because a stranger on the internet said you should.
The Nebula Awards
The Nebulas are given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America—a group with around 1,500 members who work professionally in the field—to the year’s best US-published novel, novella, novelette, short story, dramatic presentation, and YA SFF.
The very first Nebula was awarded to Frank Herbert in 1966 for Dune, and a quick glance at the list of winners since tells me that this is an award that recognizes books destined to become genre classics, from Gibson’s Neuromancer to Delaney’s Babel-17 to Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness. So it is with great hope for its future as a classic that I tell you that the winner of this year’s award for best novel published in 2014 was Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation.
Annihilation was my first VanderMeer, and it made a deep and lasting impression. I loved the strange, creeping horror of the Southern Reach trilogy, and I immediately started buying it for friends and relatives whose weirdbuds were likely to fall for it too. Then I read City of Saints and Madmen and became a card-carrying lifetime fan of VanderMeer’s work. I am currently working my way through his novels. While City of Saints and Madmen bears easy comparison to the likes of Borges and Nabokov, Annihilation and the Southern Reach trilogy have more of a lovecraftian feel (at least, that is what the Lovecraft fans tell me, I’ve never read him myself), and it is a good place to start with VanderMeer’s work.
The John W. Campbell Memorial Award
Way back in 1973 at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the very first Campbell Award for best science fiction novel went to Barry N. Malzberg for a novel I’ve never heard of called Beyond Apollo. They regularly award novels I’ve never read by authors who I often hear praised, so I’m going to trust in their judgement for the time being. The Campbell nominee lists for the past few years look like best ofs, curated and chosen as they are by a jury of science fiction experts. This year those experts were Gregory Benford, Paul Di Filippo, Sheila Finch, James Gunn, Elizabeth Anne Hull, Paul Kincaid, Christopher McKitterick, Pamela Sargent, and T.A. Shippey. And they chose an excellently woven tale of time travel (sort of) and immortality (sort of): The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.
Harry August was one of my favorite April reads, and the sort of tragic, sort of happy story is a smooth and enjoyable read. And what a structural feat, christ on a bike. I never did review it, but From Couch to Moon did a short write up that will give you the right idea. The right idea being that you should read this book.
The Kitschies were announced way back in March, but with the goal of awarding “the year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic” they are worth watching and mentioning, even at this late hour. They award The Red Tentacle (for novels), The Golden Tentacle (for debuts), The Inky Tentacle (for cover art), and The Invisible Tentacle (for natively digital fiction). This year’s Red Tentacle went to Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle.
Erika loved Grasshopper Jungle, and as she has challenged me to read it this year, we will all find out sooner or later what I thought of it. However, my feelings are likely to be influenced by the loud and dramatic internet debacle that occurred after Smith was interviewed by Vice. Mostly those feelings are: I don’t feel like talking or thinking about this guy anymore, no matter what happened, but a book challenge between friends is iron law, so cue up the dramatic music and let’s order this sexy hunk of words.
Have you read any of these books? Think they deserved the honors?