2019 Recommended SF/F List

By JJ: This thread is for posts about 2019-published works, which people have read and recommend to other Filers.

There will be no tallying of recommendations done in this thread; its purpose is to provide a source of recommendations for people who want to find something to read which will be Hugo-eligible next year.

You don’t have to stop recommending works in Pixel Scrolls, please don’t! But it would be nice if you also post here, to capture the information for other readers.

The Suggested Format for posts is:

  • Title, Author, Published by / Published in (Anthology, Collection, Website, or Magazine + Issue)
  • Hugo Category: (Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Related Work, Graphic Novel, etc)
  • link (if available to read/view online)
  • optional “Brief, spoiler-free description of story premise:”
  • optional “What I liked and didn’t like about it:”
  • (Please rot-13 any spoilers.)

There is a permalink to this thread in the blog header.

225 thoughts on “2019 Recommended SF/F List

  1. Just FYI: Any two members of the current Worldcon (attending or supporting) can submit proposals to the Business Meeting. You don’t have to be present to make the motion, although you can’t debate it if you’re not there in person. The “lead proponent,” if present, gets first crack at debate in person.

  2. Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab

    Novel (middle-grade, second in a series)

    Another winning entry in the Cassidy Blake series. This one gets as much mileage out of its Parisian setting as the previous one did by taking place in Edinburgh, and it doesn’t hurt that we learn a bit more about the characters, and meet some interesting new ones. Some nice tension and a dash of middle-grade horror keep things moving briskly along.

  3. @Kevin Standlee: I do not find what I meant covered in 3.8, so I’ll provide a some artificial examples.
    1.
    a. Works {A,B,C,D,E,F,G} get {100,95,90,85,80,75,70} nominations for short story
    b. Works {H,I,J,K,L,F,M} get {100,95,90,85,80,74,70} nominations for novelette.
    (Everyone else gets fewer nominations, and F is a length that could be assigned to either category.) Using 3.8.8, we see that F could get on the ballot in either category but has more nominations for short story, so it’s a finalist for short story and M is a finalist for novelette while G loses out.
    2.
    a. Works {A,B,C,D,E,F,G} get {100,95,90,85,80,75,50} nominations for short story
    b. Works {H,I,J,K,L,M,G} get {100,95,90,85,80,75,49} nominations for novelette.
    (Everybody else gets fewer than 50 total nominations.)
    I thought I’d read something to the effect that G would receive a place on the ballot on the strength of having a total number of nominations higher than some of the other nominees — but I don’t find this in the rules, and I wonder whether EPH makes floating nominations between lengths effectively impossible.
    And, as you note, none of this would apply to Lodestar nominations.

  4. Chip Hitchcock: I do not find what I meant covered in 3.8, so I’ll provide a some artificial examples.

    While F will definitely be in the Top 6 for nominations in one of the categories in Example 1, there’s no cut-and-dried answer to Example 2, because the result is dependent on how many of the nominations for G can be transferred to the other category.

    Assignment of category will take place before EPH is applied, because nominations can only be moved from one category to the other if the individual nominators have at least one blank slot in that category.

    The Hugo Administrator will have to decide in which category they are going to place F and G. If the vast majority of nominations are in one category, the Admin will likely choose that one, so that they will only need to try to move as few as possible nominations.

    If the nominations are evenly split, as in your examples, then the Admin will probably look at the relative strength of the two categories, and assign F / G to the one which has the weaker field, as determined by the number of nominations for each of the Top 6 in each category. Historically, the choice has often been to move from the longer to the shorter category, because the shorter the story length, the more diffuse the nominations tend to be (and thus a lower total number of nominations needed to make the Top 6).

    Or, in Example 2, if G would only make the Top 6 in one category, because not enough nominations could be transferred to empty slots in the other category, they might choose to assign G to the category where it would make the Top 6.

    EPH would then be applied, and conceivably either F or G, which are in 6th place, could still be knocked off the ballot by a work with fewer nominations but more points. (A Hugo Admin, if they were a glutton for punishment, might do the process twice, with F / G moved as much as possible to one category then EPH run to determine the results, then to the other category, and EPH run to determine those results — then make their decision based on what comes out of that.)

    In no case would either F or G be guaranteed a place on the ballot, because EPH does occasionally result in a non-Top 6 work for nominations becoming a Top 6 work based on points.

  5. @JJ: can you point to a part of the rules that actually allows transfers of nominations from one category to another (at least within the text-fiction lengths)?

  6. @Chip,

    It’s in this pdf, Section 3.2.8:

    3.2.8: The Worldcon Committee may relocate a story into a more appropriate category if it feels that it is necessary, provided that the length of the story is within twenty percent (20%) of the new category limits.

  7. Chip Hitchcock: can you point to a part of the rules that actually allows transfers of nominations from one category to another (at least within the text-fiction lengths)?

    3.2.8: The Worldcon Committee may relocate a story into a more appropriate category if it feels that it is necessary, provided that the length of the story is within twenty percent (20%) of the new category limits.

    3.8.2: The Worldcon Committee shall determine the eligibility of nominees and assignment to the proper category of works nominated in more than one category.

    3.8.7: The Committee shall move a nomination from another category to the work’s default category only if the member has made fewer than five (5) nominations in the default category.

    3.8.8: If a work is eligible in more than one category, and if the work receives sufficient nominations to appear in more than one category, the Worldcon Committee shall determine in which category the work shall appear, based on the category in which it receives the most nominations.

    If you bookmark or Google for the WSFS Rules page, you can look this stuff up for yourself, instead of asking other people to do it for you.

  8. Novella

    Waterlines by Suzanne Palmer

    +1 to JJ’s rec, fascinating setting and a great story.

  9. Those rules seem to me incredibly cryptic. 3.2.8 refers to transfer of stories, not of nominations, and gives extremely vague criteria for when this should take place (‘more appropriate’ ‘if it feels that this is necessary’). 3.8.7 says that transfer of nominations is allowed only in certain circumstances, which by standard rules of interpretation implies that if those circumstances obtain it is allowed, but says nothing about what would actually be a reason for the transfer.

    It is possible to work out a coherent story which would make sense of these provisions, and turn them into an actionable set of principles, and it seems that the administrators have in fact done so, but I think it would be fair to say that story is not actually written in the rules.

  10. Andrew M: Those rules seem to me incredibly cryptic. 3.2.8 refers to transfer of stories, not of nominations

    Correct. 3.2.8 is talking about determining to which category a work will be assigned by the Hugo Administrator, based on its length and how the majority of Hugo nominators thought it should be categorized.

     
    Andrew M: 3.8.7 says that transfer of nominations is allowed only in certain circumstances, which by standard rules of interpretation implies that if those circumstances obtain it is allowed, but says nothing about what would actually be a reason for the transfer.

    Correct. 3.8.7 deals purely with counting all nominations for a work as fairly as possible, while preventing an individual nominator from being able to make more than 5 nominations in a given category. Say I want to nominate 6 novelettes, so I put 5 of them on my Novelette ballot and the 6th one on my Short Story ballot with the expectation that the Hugo Administrator will count that nomination in the correct category. 3.8.7 prevents my 6th nomination from being moved to that work in the Novelette category, but it allows someone who nominated less than 5 Novelettes to have an incorrectly-categorized nomination moved to the correct category.

    3.2.8, 3.8.2, and 3.8.8 give the possible reasons for a transfer.

    Maybe it’s because I’m really familiar with the rules, but to me they make sense as a whole, and aren’t cryptic at all.

  11. @Andrew M.,
    Just as there is a SF reading protocol, there is also a WSFS Constitution reading protocol. I remember when I first started getting interested in the rules :it took me a little while to get into the correct approach/mindset in understanding what the rules meant.

    I got a lot better at it during the period when rule changes were discussed to minimise the effect of slate voting. And eventually was happy to be a co-sponsor of EPH.

    That said, it is always interesting to find out how someone with fresh eyes views the wording of the WSFS rules. (This can sometimes lead to new amendments being proposed to clarify rules. It’s one of the things I like about the WSFS constitution; that it is a living document.)

  12. Well, sure. I don’t think there is any doubt about what is actually meant to happen. But if you need a protocol to read the rules, it follows that the rules are not self-interpreting.

    The central problem is this. 3.8.7 is the only rule that mentions transfer of nominations. If we had 3.2.8 all by itself, I think the natural reading would be that the committee might look at the finalists for Novelette, say ‘Ha! Call that a novelette? It sure looks like a novella to us!’, and, without further ado and without any more counting of nominations, move it into Novella.

    Now, we all know that that’s not what actually happens. What happens is that if a lot of people nominate something for Novelette when it’s really a novella, the administrators take individual notional bits of paper from the notional pile marked ‘Novelette’, move them to the notional pile marked ‘Novella’, and see if, when so moved, they outnumber what would otherwise be the lowest finalist for Novella. We know this is what is meant to happen, because 3.8.7 sets limits to how it can happen, and there’s no point setting limits to something that can’t happen at all. But the rules nowhere actually specify that this should happen.

  13. Testing the waters here: what do Filers think of me adding Joker to the IMDb list? Superhero films such as Batman Begins and The Dark Knight with otherwise no SF/F elements have made the finalist list before. I have no interest in nominating Joker but it does have a solid critical reception (at least among audiences), so it may be dishonest to leave it out of the conversation…if people feel it’s eligible.

  14. @Andrew M

    You’re actually fairly correct in the first place about 3.2.8. It is talking only about the work itself. For example, Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor is technically a short novel, but it is within 20% of being a novella. It was also marketed as a novella and preceded by two actual novellas in the series. There were probably significantly more nominations for it in novella. So it was moved from its actual category to become a novella finalist.

    When it comes to moving nominations, they have to look at each ballot. If someone nominated it as a novel, their vote would only be moved to match its new category if they had four or fewer novella nominations. If they already had five novellas, their vote for Binti would stay in novel.

  15. My editing window closed on me…Wanted to add:

    I think in cases where they actually move a work to a different category than the one it is technically in, it’s very obvious what the general consensus of voters is before needing to get down to the nitty gritty of what individual nominations can indeed be moved.

  16. Thought of another precedent. Enough voters thought the original audio-only publication of “Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal was a novelette, that it would have been a finalist in 2013. However, the admins put it in dramatic presentation short form where it didn’t have enough to make the ballot that year. So Hugo Admin can indeed say, ‘Ha! Call that a novelette? It sure looks like a [dp-sf] to us!’ regardless of individual nominations.

  17. Thirding Suzanne Palmer’s “Waterlines.” Fascinating setting and story. I’ve only read a few novellas so far this year, but this one’s definitely at the top of the list.

  18. Laura: So Hugo Admin can indeed say, ‘Ha! Call that a novelette? It sure looks like a [dp-sf] to us!’ regardless of individual nominations.

    Yes, they can — but the controversy over that particular decision, and the landslide win for the text version the following year, are still so well-remembered and notorious that I suspect subsequent Hugo Admins have used it as a guide on how not to decide something is ineligible.

  19. Before this gets lost upthread:

    N on October 17, 2019 at 9:12 am said:
    Testing the waters here: what do Filers think of me adding Joker to the IMDb list? Superhero films such as Batman Begins and The Dark Knight with otherwise no SF/F elements have made the finalist list before. I have no interest in nominating Joker but it does have a solid critical reception (at least among audiences), so it may be dishonest to leave it out of the conversation…if people feel it’s eligible.

    I haven’t seen it, but just from what I generally know about it… I would say it at least falls under the “related subjects” part of the definition: “dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects.” I think I would accept being based on a superhero comic character as genre related enough for eligibility.

  20. “Testing the waters here: what do Filers think of me adding Joker to the IMDb list.”

    I think I’m the odd one out here, but in my mind, superheroes is a separate genre from Fantasy or Science Fiction (even if containing elements), so I never nominate anything from there. But I do vote for them if others have nominated them.

  21. @Hampus Eckerman: I also think of superheroes as a different genre, and one that doesn’t happen to interest me, etc. But probably this discussion should be on a different post.

  22. Novella

    Gremlin by Carrie Vaughn
    Asimov’s Science Fiction, May-June 2019

    This story is sort of a reversal on the famous Shatner Twilight Zone episode, a multi-generational story of a family line of women pilots, stretching from WWII to Iraq to the far future.

    Each of the focal characters gets enough screentime for us to get a feel for their personalities, and the author has done her research on real-life pilots, planes, and wars.

    Themes include respect and kindness for all living things, remorse at the costs and waste of war, and the recognition that other sentient beings are not pets, but full-fledged beings with their own agency and needs.

    There are some war battles and off-screen deaths, but this is a great feel-good story, and if you’re looking for something that’s interesting, engrossing, and enjoyable, I highly recommend it.

  23. The Border Keeper, by Kerstin Hall

    Novella

    Vasethe, a man with a troubled past, comes to seek a favor from the Border Keeper, and enters the nine hundred and ninety-nine realms of Mkalis, the world of spirits, where gods and demons endlessly vie for power.

    Weird and wild. I liked if. If your fond of fantasy books that throw you in the deep end without explanation so you can enjoy the swim, this one is for you. I’m kind of surprised this one hasn’t attracted more attention, actually.

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