Monday, January 25, 2016

The 2016 Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together Hugo Award Longlist, Part 1: Fiction Categories

For the past couple years I've posted a draft Hugo ballot (2014, 2015). Last year's slate voting controversy, however, made me rethink that practice. True, this blog has limited influence within fandom, and we've never tried to mobilize voters to further a cause or agenda either. But it still feels strange to call out slate-based voting campaigns while publishing something that looks, superficially at least, like a slate of our own. So instead of giving you my personal ballot, I asked the the thirteen 'nerds of a feather' to contribute to a longlist of potential Hugo nominees.

The rules for inclusion were simple--just: (a) meet the eligibility criteria; and (b) be "award worthy" (i.e. good). Given the subjectivity of the latter, it should come as no surprise that the selections on our longlist reflect the spectrum of tastes, tendencies and predilections found among our group of writers. You'll find selections ranging from the obscure and literary to the unabashedly popular and commercial, and from all corners and subdivisions of the genresphere.

That said, this is not nor intends to be a comprehensive survey of the field. Some books that are undoubtedly "award worthy," for example, are absent for the simple reason that we haven't read them yet. Thus we encourage you to think of this as a list of candidates to consider--alongside others. 

Given the vast number of Hugo categories, we've also made the decision to split the longlist up into multiple posts. Today we look at the fiction categories (Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette and Best Short Story). In each case, we provide a reference followed by a brief summary of why we think the work in question is worth your time. For fiction that is available free of charge, we've embedded a direct link to the story. For novels and works of short fiction that are not available for free, the embedded link redirects to a review (with a separate purchase link added at the end). 

Finally, in the interests of transparency, a disclaimer: Charles (here and here), Chloe (here, here and here) and I (here) published short stories in 2015, and as such are eligible in that category. We'd love for you to check those stories out, but do not feel it would be appropriate to discuss their merits (or lack thereof) here. 

But enough about all that--on to Part 1 of the 2016 'nerds of a feather' Hugo Longlist!

-The G

Best Novel

Asher, Neal. Dark Intelligence [Night Shade Books, 2015] (buy)

A planet-hopping tale in which everyone involved turns into monsters (literally and figuratively). 

Bear, Elizabeth. Karen Memory [Tor, 2015] (buy)

A steampunk Western with a heart of gold (and the only novel on this list that features a "squidmersible"). 

Gilman, Carolyn Ives. Dark Orbit [Tor, 2015] (buy)

A dense, multilayered novel about exploration and first contact on an alien planet.

Hutchinson, Dave. Europe At Midnight [Rebellion, 2015] (buy)

An intelligent and complex work of political SF that will haunt readers long after completion. 

Jemisin, N.K. The Fifth Season [Orbit, 2015] (buy)

A terrifying fantasy set in a uniquely conceived world where continual disasters mark epochal time.

Leckie, Ann. Ancillary Mercy [Orbit, 2015] (buy)

A gratifying conclusion to Leckie's award-winning Imperial Radch trilogy.

Moreno-Garcia, Silvia. Signal to Noise [Solaris, 2015] (buy)

A beautifully written literary fantasy about love, music and growing up--set against the backdrop of Mexico City.

Novik, Naomi. Uprooted [Del Rey, 2015] (buy)

A grown up fairy tale that works for adults of most ages.

Older, Daniel José. Shadowshaper [Arthur A. Levine, 2015] (buy)

Magic and the fight against cultural appropriation feature in this engaging and fun contemporary fantasy. 

Robinson, Kim Stanley. Aurora [Orbit, 2015] (buy)

A generation starship leads 1,000 humans to an extrasolar colony they will terraform in what is essentially a revised take on themes developed in Robinson's "greatest hits."

Schwab, V.E. A Darker Shade of Magic [Tor, 2015] (buy)

An innovative, affectionate and highly entertaining fantasy thriller in a beautifully rendered world(s). 

Smale, Alan. Clash of Eagles [Del Rey, 2015] (buy)

A well researched alternate history in which Roman legions invade the New World.

Stephenson, Neal. Seveneves [William Morrow, 2015] (buy)

An unsentimental yet spellbinding take on what comes after the end of the world.

Sumner-Smith, Karina. Defiant [Talos, 2015] (buy)

A major step up for Sumner-Smith's postapocalyptic series, in which two unlikely heroines must face impossible--and worsening--odds and overcome the systemic social inequality of their world.

Valente, Catherynne M. Radiance [Tor, 2015] (buy)

A beautifully constructed novel that unfolds in a solar system inspired by early cinema.

Walton, Jo. The Just City [Tor, 2015] (buy)

A smart, fun and historically-grounded mythological fantasy.

Wexler, Django. The Price of Valor [ROC, 2015] (buy)

The third installment in Wexler's Shadow Campaigns series. A thoroughly addictive flintlock fantasy.


Khaw, Cassandra. Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef [Abaddon, 2015] (buy)

A man tries to survive the plots of corrupt pantheons, but what must he betray to do so?

King, Stephen. "Ur" [The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner, 2015] (buy)

A Kindle deliveries historical news from alternate realities, as well as glimpses into the future of this one.

Malik, Usman. "The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn" [, April 2015]

Family and history bleed into this story about place and self.

Okorafor, Nnedi. "Binti" [ Publishing, 2015] (buy)

A very strong cultural contact story, centered on a young woman who is the first of her people to attend a galactic university.

Polansky, Daniel. The Builders [ Publishing, 2015] (buy)

Redwall meets Joe Abercrombie in a revenge tale (featuring tails). Brutally good.

Reynolds, Alastair. Slow Bullets [Tachyon, 2015] (buy)

Space opera set on a deteriorating ship with limited chance of rescue, focused on the idea of deciding what information is most worth preserving.

Robson, Kelly. "The Waters of Versailles" [, 2015]

Toilets. In historical France. With Magic. 

Sales, Ian. All That Outer Space Allows [Whippelshield Books, 2015] (buy)

A smart, sophisticated alternate history of science fiction that highlights the struggles of female authors in the field.

Shu, Bao [trans. Ken Liu] "What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear" [F&SF, March 2015] (buy)

A deeply-affecting, big idea story that borders SF, fantasy and alternate history.  


Bear, Elizabeth. "And the Balance in Blood" [Uncanny Magazine, November 2015]

A powerful story about the expectations that might come from having a direct conduit to God, and the ability to have your prayers answered, no matter what they are. 

King, Stephen. "Obits" [The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner, 2015] (buy)

What if writing an obituary meant that the subject would die within a couple of days? 

Lemberg, Rose. "Grandmother-nai-Leylit's Cloth of Winds" [Beneath Ceaseless Skies, June 2015]

Exceptional world-building features in this poignant story about acceptance and love.

Pinsker, Sarah. "Our Lady of the Open Road" [Asimov's, June 2015]

A remarkable speculative piece about a rock band trying to find gigs at a time when holovids are fast replacing live music.

St. George, Carlie. "The Price You Pay is Red" [Book Smugglers Publishing, November 2015]

A fable-noir story with a great cast and a healthy dose of tragedy in the face of victory.

Thomas, Lee. "The Lord of Corrosion" [Nightmare, October 2015]

A father finds his daughter being attacked by an unseen force, and does what he needs to protect her.

Valente, Catherynne M. "The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild" [Clarkesworld, January/March 2015]

A surreal jaunt through the lands of color with an eye for grief and loss and healing.

Short Story

Chandrasekera, Vajra. "Documentary" [Lightspeed, March 2015]

A very strange story about the aftereffects of war, centered on a documentary about a "were-helicopter" that flies but never fires its guns. This one really sticks with you. 

Cipri, Nino. "The Shape of My Name" [, March 2015]

A tightly-plotted, emotionally devastating time travel story.

Dickenson, Seth. "Three Bodies at Mitanni [Analog, June 2015] (buy)

An interstellar survey team is faced with a moral-ethical dilemma: whether or not to destroy a rapacious, ex-colonial society that almost certainly poses an existential threat to human space. Unnerving and thought-provoking.

Hurley, Kameron. "The Light Brigade" [Lightspeed, November 2015] (originally published on Patreon in 2015)

Moving futurewar story in which soldiers are transported across the universe as beams of light, narrated by a very disaffected soldier who has seen and done too much. 

Kritzer, Naomi. "Cat Pictures Please" [Clarkesworld, January 2015]

A benevolent, self-aware internet features in this smart, funny and referential story. 

Machado, Carmen Maria. "Descent" [Nightmare, February 2015]

An intricately layered story about death and horror and stories.

Markov, Haralambi. "The Language of Knives" [, February 2015]

An absorbing story about death rituals and, of all things, baking a cake.

Maughan, Tim. "Dialed Up" [Terraform, November 2015]

A corporate dystopia in which the intake of digital pharmaceuticals structure the workday. 

Miller, Sam J. "To Die Dancing" [Apex, November 2015]

A story at turns jubilant and sad, which looks at the price of waiting and inaction in a corrupt society.

Moher, Aidan. "Tide of Shadows" [Tide of Shadows & Other Stories, 2015] (buy)

Strong military SF story with a tight and unexpected focus on one soldier's preparations for battle. 

Moraine, Sunny. "Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dreams" [Cyborgology, June 2015]

Dead girls begin to appear, climbing out of their refrigerators in a chilling tale marked by a strong narrative voice. 

Napper, T.R. "A Shout is a Prayer / For the Waiting Centuries" [Interzone, May 2015] (buy )

Two highly compelling near-future stories weave together in surprising and gratifying fashion: one of a family trying to escape war, and other struggling to make ends meet in a society marked by extreme social stratification.

Older, Malka. "Tear Tracks" [, October 21, 2015]

A beautiful story, ostensibly about signing an agreement with an alien race, but which is really about suffering and the nature of wisdom.

Sriduangkaew, Benjanun. "The Occidental Bride" [Clarkesworld, September 2015]

Tropes are inverted in a story that explores the meaning of forgiveness and overcoming the past.

Rucker, Rudy and Marc Laidlaw "Watergirl" [Asimov's, January 2015]

A "surfpunk" murder mystery, in which even the waves are controlled by "the man." Quirky and fun.

Sundar, Naru Dames. "Infinite Skeins" [Crossed Genres, 2015]

A poignant story set across infinite parallel dimensions.

Wojcik, Michal. "The Dragons of Kraków" [Pornokitsch, 2015]

Absorbing travel story that approaches the "find yourself after a breakup" narrative trope in novel fashion.


POSTED BY: The G--purveyor of nerdliness, genre fanatic and Nerds of a
Feather founder/administrator since 2012.