Part 1: What the Awards tell us
Okay, awards season is finally coming towards its belated end. With the Hugos and Clarke Award in the last week or so, we’ve at least had all the major international prizes. So what do the awards tell us about the best science fiction of 2015?
Surprisingly little, in fact.
There was remarkably little consensus on what was the best of the year. No book won more than one of the leading awards. The Hugo and Nebula Awards traditionally have quite a lot of overlap, even with the malign influence of the Puppies, so it is no great surprise to see that the Hugo-winning novel was shortlisted for the Nebula, and the Nebula-winning novel was shortlisted for the Hugo. But they were not shortlisted for any other award. And none of the winners of the other awards was shortlisted anywhere else.
This amount of disagreement between the awards is pretty well unprecedented.
Let’s take, as the five major sf awards, the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, John W. Campbell Memorial Award, BSFA Award and Arthur C. Clarke Award. Between them, these five awards shortlisted 26 different novels, or which only 7 were shortlisted for more than one award.
Now, by one reckoning, the best novels of the year were the five books that won, which were:
BSFA Award: The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
Hugo Award: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
John W. Campbell Memorial Award: Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman
Nebula Award: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Arthur C. Clarke Award: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
But if we reckon the best books of the year by the number of times they were shortlisted for awards, then the clear winner is:
Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson, the only novel to have been shortlisted for three different awards.
Closely followed by the following books that were each shortlisted for two awards:
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
One thing we can say is that it has been an excellent year for women writers, particularly women of colour (eg. N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor, whose novella, Binti, seemed to sweep every award ballot it was up for).
But there really is no consistent story you can tell about science fiction in 2015 from these award results. And our own pick of the best novels of 2015 is quite different – as you’ll see in an upcoming post.
From Nebula and Hugo Award–nominated Carolyn Ives Gilman comes Dark Orbit, a compelling novel featuring alien contact, mystery, and murder.
Reports of a strange, new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate.