And the nominees are …

They’re not quite up on the website yet, but I’ve got permission to post them. From the website: the nominees for the 2006 British Science Fiction Association Awards are:

Best Novel

  • Darkland by Liz Williams
  • End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
  • Icarus by Roger Levy
  • The Last Witchfinder by James Morrow
  • Nova Swing by M. John Harrison

Best Short Fiction

  • “The Djinn’s Wife” by Ian McDonald (extract; Asimov’s)
  • “The Highway Men” by Ken MacLeod (Sandstone Press Ltd)
  • The House Beyond Your Sky” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (Strange Horizons)
  • “The Point of Roses” by Margo Lanagan (Black Juice, UK ed., Gollancz)
  • “Signal to Noise” by Alastair Reynolds (Zima Blue and Other Stories, Night Shade Books)
  • Sounding” by Elizabeth Bear (Strange Horizons)

Best Artwork

  • Angelbot” by Fangorn (cover of Time Pieces, ed. Ian Whates)
  • Cover of Farthing magazine, issue 2 (credited to Vertebrate Graphics)
  • Droid” by Fahrija Velic (cover of Interzone 206)
  • The Return to Abalakin” by Alexander Preuss
  • Ring of the Gods” by Willliam Li (cover of Holland SF 206)

Non-Fiction Recommended Reading List

NOTE: There will be no individual award for non-fiction. The following is a recommended reading list based on nominations from BSFA members.

  • The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology, ed. Paul Kincaid with Andrew M. Butler (Serendip Foundation)
  • Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, ed. Justine Larbalestier (Wesleyan University Press)
  • Great British Comics by Paul Gravett (Aurum Press Ltd)
  • James Tiptree, Jr: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips (St Martin’s Press)
  • Polder: A Festschrift for John Clute and Judith Clute, ed. Farah Mendlesohn (Old Earth Books)

Congratulations to all the nominees! The shortlists will be voted on by BSFA members and members of Contemplation, the 2007 Eastercon; the winners will be announced at that convention. I won’t comment on the novel list, for obvious reasons (though I’d love to hear others’ reactions), but I will at least say that I like the look of the short fiction list.

21 thoughts on “And the nominees are …

  1. Ooh look! I can tell everyone at work that “the book” as they call it, is on a “recommended reading list”.

    Congratulations to all those on the short lists.

  2. Hrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

    I am pretty sure there not being an individual Non-Fiction Award is Bad and Wrong. I will have a muse overnight before coming up with a reasoned explanation why it is Bad and Wrong.

  3. Blimey… that Ring of the Gods artwork is quite phallic isn’t it? Wouldn’t a better title have been “Cockring of the Gods”?

    Quite an interesting shortlist for best novel. Nova Swing hasn’t been out for long so I’m surprised to see that and I haven’t heard anything about Icarus and nor have I read anything by Levy before. So I shall have to track a copy down before I vote.

  4. You know I looked at that Ring of Gods thing at least twice and never noticed the giant knob until you pointed that out. I think I might be more innocent that I imagined.

    I quite liked Darkland, was disappointed by End of the World Blues (and I’ve liked almost all of JCC’s other work) and haven’t read the Levy or the Morrow yet.

    But I have a weird relationship with Nova Swing. I found it immensley annoying the first time I read it. Hated the fact that one character was described as looking like Einstein and the faux-noir vibe just bugged me. I don’t know what I wanted from a sequel to Light but when I put the book down the first time, I was pretty sure that wasn’t it.

    And yet it’s a book that has got under my skin. I’ve gone back and read it again (despite the howls of protest from the three tonnes of books in my “read me now!” pile) – and still don’t really “get it”, but I’m starting to admire it and finding it more powerful as time passes.

    I don’t know whether it’s a great book or just a really annoying one, but I’m having trouble getting it out of my head.

    I’ve read all the short fiction except the Lanagan – the Reynolds and the MacLeod are very good and the Rosenbaum was enjoyable but I’m afraid I don’t understand how Elizabeth Bear’s work has become so popular – but it’ll have to be something special to shift my vote from The Djinn’s Wife.

  5. Tony: Look forward to your thoughts.

    Martin:

    You know I looked at that Ring of Gods thing at least twice and never noticed the giant knob until you pointed that out.

    “Me too”. And obviously, now that he’s said it that’s all I can see.

    On the short fiction, I haven’t read the Macleod or the Reynolds (though I have the latter, and will have the former shortly), but as I said I think it’s a good list. I’d also lean towards the McDonald as the best, though.

    General question: what does everyone thing of this “snap preview” thing WordPress has started doing? I can’t decide whether it’s quite neat or really really annoying. I’m leaning towards the latter, though, so will probably go and try to find a way to turn it off unless people tell me they want it to stay.

  6. Tony is right, I think; it’s a bit silly offering a ‘recommended reading list’ of SF criticism, rather than deciding (via bsfa vote, or if it’s thought that too few members are interested enough in crit to have read the stuff, by a panel of experts as was done last year) on a title. I assume the intention is to spread the honour around, but I don’t think it works that way: a ‘recommended reading list’ sounds like something your college professor hands to you, and insists that your read whether you want it or not; it seems, paradoxically, dispraising rather than praising the works themselves. An award makes sense in that it picks one title that deserves closer attention, or merits celebration. Otherwise the award becomes like a primary school sport’s day where everybody is given kojak-lollies just for turning up. My ha’pennorth would be: if the bsfa (I mean members, or committee-on-behalf-of-members) isn’t interested enough in Sf criticism to decide an award it should stop offering one: put out an award for TV, cinema, graphic novel instead perhaps. Don’t get me wrong: I think this would be a great shame, and that SF criticism is very poorly represented in the awards culture. But that would seem to me more honest.

    I’m a little puzzled by the novel list too. Are only five titles listed because the selection panel were of the opinion that there weren’t six worthwhile titles for shortlisting this year? It might, for instance, be a way of registering the sense — I’ve seen it elsewhere, and wouldn’t necessarily disagree with it — that 2006 was a weak year for fiction. But it’s a rum selection for all that. I haven’t yet read the Morrow, but can believe on the strength of the very strong reviews it’s received that it deserves its place. Roger Levy is a good friend of mine, and I read Icarus in typescript, so I’m inevitably biased when I say that it seems to me that he’s a superb writer and that this is the best thing he has done. Nova Swing may not (Martin’s right) be very likeable work, but it’s steeped in the unique Harrisonian genius. Fair enough. But the shortlist issued here is saying that the other titles, Darkland, End of the World Blues and ‘no novel listed’, have all three of them been judged better than … Against the Day? Than Brockmeier’s beautiful, original, mind-zapping Brief History of the Dead? Than J G Ballard? Even late Ballard, slightly weary in its Roaring, packs a punch like few other writers. Whereas Darkland is a very competent, very readable, but ultimately familiar, unsurprising novel. Jon Courtenay G is a very significant writer, whose brilliant Stamping Butterflies deserved to do much better, award wise, than it did, but End of the World Blues is by no means his best book. And No Title Entered just looks lazy.

    I could believe that the panel thought it unlikely that a significant tranche of bsfa members would be interested enough in the Pynchon to read it all the way through (I’ve been at it for weeks and I’m only at p.800) and be in a position to vote for, that in effect it wasn’t a title with enough appeal or relevance to this particular award. But it really is an astonishing, towering book; and the danger is that it simply reflects badly on the award to tick the ‘none of the candidate’s get my vote’ box, as it were, instead of including it.

  7. I suspect there are six short fiction nominees because there was a tie in the numbers of nominations, as happened last year when there were eight nominees in that category. There is no selection panel, the nominations are made by members of the BSFA. Perhaps not many of them have made it through Against the Day yet.

  8. Snap previews: evil, bad and wrong. For the same reasons that any other popup you don’t ask for is so – it’s intrusive; if i want to mouse over to see where the link goes, or if my pointer just wanders there by accident, i get a huge chunk of uselessness thrust in my face, distracting me and covering the link around the text. And no, i’m not asking for it by mousing over, since that’s not part of the normal web interface.

    Funnily enough, i’m not bothered by the title tooltips you get (at least in Firefox) with links like this (can i do HTML here?). Partly because i’m used to them, and partly because they’re rather smaller, i think.

    If it could be made to do it so it only happened on a shift-mouseover or something, or if there was a little tiny icon right after the link, and mousing over that gave you the popup, that would be good.

    In summary: why couldn’t we all just have been happy with gopher? WHY?

    — tom

  9. I think my problem with the Non-Fiction Non-Award is the message that it sends out about criticism, that in the BSFA’s opinion writing about sf really isn’t that important, and doesn’t warrant a proper award. Now, of course, actual original sf creation is always going to be more important than the secondary activity of writing about that creation. But nevertheless, good criticism is important, and I feel that part of the mission of the BSFA is promoting good criticism – that is, after all, why Vector exists in its current form. Now, one can say that the recommended reading list does promote non-fiction, and I suppose it does for someone who has time to read all five. But what of someone who doesn’t? One of the functions of the best novel award is the BSFA as a group saying, “if you’re only going to read one novel this year, we think it should be this”. Now the Association is not going to do this for non-fiction. Given, as Adam rightly observes, criticism is not overly supplied with awards, for the BSFA to pull back in this fashion seems to me to be a retrograde step.

  10. Adam,

    To clarify a couple of points:

    The shortlists are normally 5 works long, unless there is a tie for 5th place; this is why only the Short Fiction is 6 long, the other three lists are 5.

    There is no selection panel, the shortlists are drawn from the most popular nominations. It is not a case of some cabal deciding what the most deserving books are and putting them on the list for vote; the lists are what they are, and what is nominated.

    I’m not going to comment on the Non-Fiction just yet, but it is looking more likely that I am going to have to. However, as one response – if it were a case that we were giving Kojak lollies to all the non-fiction that attended, then the entire longlist would be on the recomennded reading list (which I really don’t see as a slur, as you claim). The full longlist is available on the BSFA website.

  11. Ian: thanks for the clarification.

    My mistake about the number of shortlisted titles; I didn’t know that. Nor did I understand the selection procedure. It does render much of what I said irrelevant.

  12. Tony, a few disagreements re the non-fic award. I think there are a number of problems built into it as it has stood for the last couple of years, and can’t easily see how they could be resolved. Firstly, it tends to privilege book-length over essay-length (and essay-length over review-length) stuff. Given that this is, historically, a field, where a disproportionate amount of critical work gets done in reviews, how are you going to reward that. (Example: I think David Langford is terribly undervalued as a reviewer – as opposed to a fan writer – and I can’t see anything in the non-fic award set-up that would unpick that.) Second, I think comparing stuff written within the protocols of academic writing and the world at large is not exactly apples and oranges but certainly very difficult. And thirdly, as I understand it, the non-fic award currently (and has always?) excluded stuff published in Vector and Matrix, which is a pretty big gap – Gary Wolfe’s piece in the Storying Lives issue, for instance, is one of the best I’ve read anywhere in the last year.

    [Full disclosure, of course – I’m a reviewer/essayist, but not yet a book author; I have essays in two of the recommended books; and I’m editor-in-waiting of Foundation]

    The solution may be, therefore, to have a UK non-fic award run by a body other than the BSFA, and divded into short- and long-form. But I still don’t see how you get round the academic/non-academic divide. I think a recommended reading list is probably the least-bad solution to that right now.

  13. I think it’s interesting that the change to the non-fic award is attracting so much attention and argument when the fact, as I understand it, is that one reason for the change is that there was so little interest in the award as it was previously run.

    And while I agree with the current proscription against nominations for BSFA published material in the ballot, if I am anything like the average BSFA member it does prevent me nominating a significant proportion of the sf criticism I read each year. Which, I guess, acts as a further restriction on the award for many BSFA members.

    Perhaps the BSFA could use Contemplation to host a “Battle of the Critics” – where the merits of the non-fic reading list are debated in a rambunctious/violent manner (preferably using those Klingon battle-axe things) and then the winner is decided in a “last man standing” fashion with the battered and bloody winner paraded through the con…

    Or perhaps we should try and negotiate some intra-genre co-operation and try and organise a joint award sponsored by the BSFA with the SFF Foundation, BFS and anyone else we can think of to give the thing a wider base.

    Personally I quite liked the idea of a “mixed economy” approach to this award – either a panel judged awards based on nominations received from members or a member voting award based on a recommended shortlist from a panel.

  14. The exclusion of the materials published by BSFA came about, as I recall, from the year that the cover of Omegatropic won best artwork and Omegatropic won best book. There was muttering, in some quarters, that nepotism or home team advantage came into play – which both risked bringing the award into disrepute and hurt the feelings of some of those involved in producing the material.

    I was only ever short listed for one of the Pocket Essentials, the same year as Omegatropic, but my instinct since then would have been to decline the nomination whilst I was directly involved in the BSFA. In most competitions, employees of the company running it are forbidden from entering.

    On a jury award. We’re dealing with a small pond here. I’m in two of the shortlisted books, and am credited for one of those. My guess is that the two books have about half a dozen contributors in common. Adam and I are working on two books (along with two other editors) with overlapping contributors, some of whom are active reviewers, and/or the sort of person you’d think to ask to be a judge for a nonfiction award. A lot of us are mates or hang out or at least have a grudging respect for each other. I can’t think of a mechanism for the BSFA (or the Science Fiction Foundation, which my gut suggests would be a more natural home) to come up with informed judges who would not be open to idiotic charges of nepotism.

    It perhaps also looks odd to have two different means of judging the awards.

    But a membership award is difficult, because cover prices of non-fiction can be prohibitive. Some academic journals are prohibitively expensive (although perhaps a password protected PDF might be made available), and much academic press more so. Greenwood Press volumes start at £50, are probably more expensive. Even with a hardback sf novel at twenty quid, it’s reasonable to assume a sufficient sized readership to get an informed popular decision over five novels. Enough people automatically buy the shortlisted novels of the major awards. The Cambridge Companion was reasonably priced, the Blackwells Companion is £85. I wouldn’t have bought a copy of it new, despite some really good stuff in it (and the attack on me).

    I would hope that anyone who reads Vector would automatically buy any book published by the BSFA, by the SFF, by the Serendip Foundation, or Beccon – indeed it would be neat if they bought Liverpool University Press titles too, but sometimes, well, let’s not enter that world of pain.

    It would be great to have a nonfiction award (and a proper one, not one which goes to books of cover art), but I can’t see a respectable way of judging it. As with many things it needs to be seen to be above reproach as well as being above reproach.

  15. Given that 2006 probably wasn’t the strongest year for new novels we’ve ever seen, I think it’s a pretty decent list all round. Like Carl, I really must check out Liz’s Darkland before Eastercon.

    It’s strange, but it never occurred to me that any of stories from Time Pieces — a book I edited and published — might be nominated for the BSFAs, and I was unaware that any of them had until one of the authors, Sarah Singleton, emailed to tell me. Yet now that none of the three that were have made it through to the short list, I feel vaguely disappointed. I guess that says something about the power of possibility and anticipation.

    At least Fangorn’s cover art is still there for me to cheer for!

    Now, if only choosing which novel to vote for were so simple…

  16. Niall – will you (or anyone else) be leading a discussion of the short fiction nominees again at Eastercon this year?

    Given that I don’t have the excuse of reading for an anthology, I’ll try to as many nominees as I can get hold of this time!

  17. Gary — I don’t know, on the grounds that (a) I don’t yet know for certain that I’ll be at Eastercon (though I probably will), and (b) I’m not directly involved in programming as I was last year. But I suspect my arm could be twisted, if necessary.

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