Best Novel: Big Machine by Victor LaValle (Speigel & Grau)
Best Novella: Midnight Picnic by Nick Antosca (Word Riot Press)
Best Novelette: “Morality” by Stephen King (in Esquire)
Best Short Story: “The Pelican Bar” by Karen Joy Fowler (in Eclipse 3)
Best Single-Author Collection: Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson (Harper Perennial), and Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical by Robert Shearman (Big Finish)
Best Edited Anthology: Poe, ed. Ellen Datlow (Solaris)
I’m cautiously optimistic about the SJAs, which are awarded “for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.” This is their third year, and as for 2007 and 2008, the 2009 winners — and even more so the shortlists — strike me as interesting and inclusive. Partly this just means they’re playing to my taste. I’d had my eye on Big Machine, for instance, since Elizabeth Hand’s glowing review; I was half-hoping for a UK edition, but the award has given me the necessary nudge to order a US copy. Several other nominees and winners are also on the “actually, yes, I’d like to read that” list, which gives me a certain amount of confidence that the ones I haven’t encountered before will also be worth looking at. And Richard Larson’s shortlist review, the first part of which is up at Strange Horizons today (second part on Friday) makes all six of the Best Novel nominees sound worthwhile.
I have a couple of reservations. It’s a juried award, which is good, but I believe that two of the judges for this year’s awards also served for the previous two years. I prefer to see a bit more turnover among the judges — a World Fantasy Award or Clarke Award replacement rate rather than a Campbell Award replacement rate, if you like. I wouldn’t want to see too many ties like this year’s for Best Collection, either. And part of me wishes there were fewer categories, if only to increase my confidence that the jurors are making a thorough survey of the eligible work in each category; but this is a genre award, so everyone must get their spotlight. Still, they’ve had a good track record so far, and I look forward to next year’s shortlists.
In a related confession, I’ve barely read any Shirley Jackson. The recent Library of America volume seems like a good place to start; there’s a review of that at SH this week, too, by L. Timmel Duchamp:
Two themes run through most of the fiction in the volume: the volatility of group dynamics and the collusion of social silence with psychological and even physical violence against individuals who are outsiders or have been excluded from the in-group. Jackson’s fiction is for the most part not actually fantastic, but she frequently depicts behavior and psychological violence that is not acknowledged as such at the conscious level of the narrative, and in doing so presents mundane reality as troubled with sinister currents that can lead, unpredictably, to bizarre and even dangerous situations beyond the individual’s control. Jackson’s treatment of mundane reality, that is to say, casts into sharp relief the artificiality of the style known as “realism.”
(I hadn’t realised LoA use such thin paper, though! I’m afraid to start reading my copy for fear I’ll tear the pages.)
EDIT: See also Laura Miller on is Shirley Jackson a great American writer?