SFWA Releases Nebula Suggested Reading List

For the first time, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is making its Nebula Suggested Reading List publicly available.

The list is compiled from SFWA member suggestions made throughout the year, providing a list of notable speculative novels, novellas, novelettes, short stories, and dramatic works from the year.

Meantime, Nebula Award nominations are being accepted from Active and Associate SFWA members through February 15, 2016. The votes will be tallied and the final ballot will be released on or before February 20 for voting on by the membership.

Winners will be announced during Nebula Awards Weekend, to be held May 12-15 at the Palmer House in Chicago. The banquet and awards ceremony will take place the evening of May 14. Other awards presented at the weekend include the Grand Master Award, the Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award, and the Solstice Award.

Nebula Commissioner Terra LeMay says “Even before I became the Nebula Awards Commissioner, I’ve always thought the Suggested Reading List was one of the best resources I’ve ever encountered for finding the most exciting new science fiction and fantasy works each year. It is a great privilege to have helped bring this list out to the public where any reader may benefit from it.”

SFWA President Cat Rambo notes, “Every year there’s plenty of terrific stuff to read. I hope that providing a list that draws upon the wide spectrum of tastes represented in the SFWA’s membership of professional writers helps up the discoverability of great writing that should be considered for awards. For me the Nebula Awards remain the most meaningful in the field, chosen by writers working in the genre, who understand and appreciate craft and who possess an understanding of the works that have shaped our field. SFWA has had a productive year in 2015, and it’s a pleasure to share yet another result of our members working together.”

[From the press release.]

52 thoughts on “SFWA Releases Nebula Suggested Reading List

  1. I wouldn’t call it curated — is anything being excluded? — but it is displayed in order of number of recommendations.

  2. I call it “curated” because it’s not just every self-pubbed author in the world adding their own work, the way that GoodReads and Puppy lists are.

  3. I wish it had been released as just an alphabetical list, without vote counts. Under present Hugo-related circumstances, anything that looks remotely like “Here’s a list of recommendations but here are the ones you should really vote for, wink wink” is liable to give rise to conspiracy theories.

    (I know, it’s for a different award, but that won’t stop anyone.)

  4. Technically this is not “curated”.

    It is, if I understand correctly, a compiled list of every book or story recommended by a SFWA member. Thus while it is filtered insofar as only SFWA members can add to it, it is not altered or winnowed.

    Curating is a *different* filtering process, as is jurying.

  5. Petréa Mitchell: I thought about the same thing, and although for me the news value was going to trump the other consideration, it’s also true that the Nebula final ballot will be released before Hugo nominations close, so the potential for influence will exist in any case.

  6. Very nice! And it’s all due to Filers that I recognize so many of the titles!

    Thanks, all!

  7. Not happy at all with ordering the list after recommendations. A very bad idea, especially for this year. Someone did not think this through.

  8. Even though I set up alerts and look at new release lists I still didn’t realize some authors I look forward to released new books darnit.

  9. In fairness, it’s been ordered like this as long as I’ve been a member of SFWA–that’s just how the list is. While the Hugo kerfluffle is pretty absorbing here, I doubt anybody gave it much thought when making the list visible.

  10. I misread the title of “The IX” as “Title IX” and thought to myself “the puppies are going to plotz.”

  11. I suspect that the Novelette recommendation for “Buttception: A Butt Within A Butt Within A Butt”, by Chuck Tingle, was probably not made due to artistic merit.

  12. Hmm, I see why the Nebulas often differ so much from the Hugos. I am WAY the opposite of their ratings in all the categories.

  13. Welp, this was a poorly-thought idea, especially as this is what SP4 claims* they intend to provide, (albeit with the even more poorly thought out and terrible decision of an additional ranked “Top X” list and the suggestions to vote for the more likely candidate).

    [fineprint] * = Note that claims are not legally binding. Or, well, binding of any sort. That’s Marxist you see.[/fineprint]

  14. We went back and forth about including the numbers. I can argue it either way, honestly. This is an experiment. Whether we do it again next year or not depends a lot on how this year goes. I’m sincerely hoping it won’t result in a massive display of logrolling, but that remains to be seen.

    I use the reading list to guide some of my reading, but I also made a lot of recs this year, often stuff I found here. Thank you to everyone who’s good about pointing to titles.

    I have very mixed feelings about Mr. Tingle’s appearance on there.

  15. I don’t think the numbers are helpful, especially this year. Indeed, they seem counter-productive. Alphabetical by title would have been ideal. Or by author, if you wanted to put Mr. Tingle farther down the list. 😉

  16. Oh look, a list of recommendations for Hugo noms.

    A list is supposed to be a Bad Thing, isn’t it? Suppsed to be racist/bigot/homophobe fascist hatery, or something?

    Or is it ok when ‘those who are more equal than others’ do it?

  17. A little tally just to satisfy my own curiosity …

    On the novels list, I’ve read eleven, of which four are currently in my top 10 SFF books of the year, four more I liked but probably wouldn’t nominate for a major award, and three I didn’t think much of. Several of my favorites are not on the list at all, but oh well. There’s about six more books on the list already in my to-read pile that I haven’t gotten to yet.

    On the Norton list, I’ve only read one, with two more on my to-read list. This really surprises me, since I read quite a lot of YA. On the other hand, I thought the Norton shortlist last year was kind of strange and lacking some obvious choices. *shrug* Just my opinion. (Although I do notice very few of the Norton award nominees have more than a couple of nominations, and wonder if that means anything.)

    I’ve read very little short fiction yet this year, so won’t even bother to check. I’m thinking about doing a short-fiction binge at the end of this year, and might use these lists as one of several guides for what might be good to check out.

  18. Cat, is this list final, or will the numbers continue to change as people submit recommendations?

  19. Kudos to @ThePhantom for being the first one to (a) being unable to tell the differences between the above and previous Puppy iterations, and (b) Missing the dozen or so people above saying “wow, this is a bad idea”.

    I expect a bunch more to show up, points merrily whooshing over their heads.

  20. lurkertype: Hmm, I see why the Nebulas often differ so much from the Hugos. I am WAY the opposite of their ratings in all the categories.

    Yeah, at least 3 of the top 10 Novels aren’t getting anywhere near my Hugo nomination ballot (nor are several more which are farther down the list).

    Oh, look. People who actually nominate based on their own preferences, instead of based on what others are telling them is good.

  21. Oh look, a list of recommendations for Hugo noms.

    Oh look, someone who can’t read the header, which says a suggested Nebula reading list. You Pups need to learn to read if you want to participate in awards about books and other written fiction.

  22. I am interested to see several books that I enjoyed and a few more that I plan to read. I’m disappointed that a couple of my personal favorites The Pyramids of London and Bryony And Roses don’t seem to be on there.

    I also think ordering it by number of recs is a mistake. Ideally it should be served up as a web page with the items in a new random order every time. But I accept that the SFWA probably never gave the matter much thought, never having had to deal with a bunch of slaters before.

    I will be checking the list especially for short stories, novellas and novelettes that I may have missed and should check out. But I’m also going to look elsewhere.

  23. Even though it’s pretty far down the list, I’m really happy to see Signal To Noise on the novel list as I don’t think it’s gotten as much attention as it could have – there aren’t very many copies listed on WorldCat. Of course, we don’t have our records there and we have it, so that isn’t always the best way to judge things. I’m actually loving these lists as collection development tools. Also, they make me feel good about what I have selected thus far this year for our library with our limited budget.

    I am a bit befuddled by some of the suggestions for the Norton that aren’t YA at all, though.

  24. I’m not a SFWA member so take this for what it’s worth from an interested outsider–I, too, wish the list was ranked other than by number of nominations for all the reasons listed above.

  25. Cat, is this list final, or will the numbers continue to change as people submit recommendations?

    Yes, it will continue to change as members add stuff — particularly since some things don’t come out till December. We will probably shut it to new recs at the same time the ballot closes. FWIW, the list has traditionally not been a good predictor of the final ballot, at least in my experience.

    I’m disappointed that a couple of my personal favorites The Pyramids of London and Bryony And Roses don’t seem to be on there

    I do see Pyramids on the Norton list.

    It may end up proving to be a TERRIBLE idea. I dunno. We put a lot of time and discussion into it, at any rate, and I hope the results are mostly good. Or mostly harmless at a minimum.

    (And I do appreciate the feedback. You’re also welcome to mail me if you want to offer it privately.)

  26. FWiW, I would suggest, at minimum, to drop the first column, and randomise the publicly available lists.

  27. snowcrash: I would suggest, at minimum, to drop the first column, and randomise the publicly available lists.

    I second (fifth) this.

    I see the value of this as simply a Suggested Reading list. I think that the nomination totals really detract from that. As I said, the ranking doesn’t influence me — but it shouldn’t be influencing anyone else, either, and the best way to ensure that is to get rid of it.

    If implementation of randomization of order every time the page is loaded/refreshed is not too onerous, that would be awesome. Otherwise, ordered alpha by Title or by Author.

    And Cat, thanks. I really appreciate the intent of the SFWA board in making this available to all SFF fans.

  28. Similar to the Carnegie longlist, I think, if anyone wants to compare to an existing prestigious and long-running award doing the same thing. I’m very happy to see a Nebula list since more book recs are good.

    I would prefer that nomination numbers weren’t given, although I would be fine with alphabetical since it would be unfair of me to expect a different standard from the one I plan to use. 🙂 Nonetheless, the randomiser might not be a bad idea if it can be put together reasonably easily.

  29. I think the numbers were a good idea. One recommendation for a book doesn’t tell you much. Half a dozen recommendations is a bit more significant.

  30. Milt Stevens: I think the numbers were a good idea. One recommendation for a book doesn’t tell you much. Half a dozen recommendations is a bit more significant.

    I think that the presence on the list sans rank, coupled with an Amazon search for synopsis and reviews, are more than sufficient to assist potential Hugo nominators in making their reading decisions.

    SFWA, while a good selective sample, is still an extremely small sample, prone to huge errors in standard deviation.

  31. There’s some interesting stuff in the non-novels in particular – much love for Cat Pictures Please, and while I liked And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead a great deal I haven’t seen it mentioned by anyone else before.

    But….ranked? Publicly? Really?

  32. I’m not against the nomination totals. I’m not finding the crowdsourced Hugo recommendation lists particularly useful. A single nomination by an author for their own work and I’m supposed to rush out and read it in consideration for award nomination purposes? I’m better off just ignoring the list and paying attention to reviews and recommendations from trusted sources.

  33. @Cat Rambo

    To put it a bit more coherently than I did above, I think this is a misstep. Obviously whatever SFWA do internally is no-one’s business, and indeed anything you do publicly is entirely up to you as well, but given that your membership includes people who wish to see the Hugos remain a process uninfluenced by agenda-driven groups I am surprised by this. Specifically, my concern is that the ranked element of this will be seized upon as justification for the upcoming SP4 campaign.

    The plan for SP4 can be summarised as:
    1) Produce ranked list from recommendations from a group
    2) Publicise the higher-ranked items
    3) Nudge-nudge-wink-wink to members of group that voting for the higher-ranked items is a good idea.
    Thereby concentrating their voting power to counteract the usual high levels of dispersion seen in Hugo voting and achieving a result disproportionate to their numbers.

    Obviously the SWFA recs list only represents (1), because the idea of herding the SWFA membership into agreeing on anything is ludicrous, and is for the Nebulas not the Hugos, but I confidently predict that none of those points will matter. SP4 already deny that (3) is happening or going to happen, so the only point that marks them out from perfectly usual discussions and individual recs lists is that they are the only group doing (1). Until now. Now the SFWA are doing it too, or rather can be spun as doing it.

    I think you should remove the ranked element of your list from public display.

  34. The number of recommendations is a mildly interesting datum. But it’s not that helpful to the likes of me, because it doesn’t say anything about why they’re being recommended. (Top ten novels, as currently shown, contains four books that I’ve read and enjoyed… does that necessarily mean I’ll like the other six just as much? Who knows, without more context to the rankings?)

    Since it’s only mildly interesting, it could be left off without losing much… or, it could be left on without losing anything, but you could re-order the list, say, alphabetically by title or author. Just my idle thought on the matter.

    (There are definitely some books there I’m planning to read – some are already on The Pile. Then again, there are books on The Pile which aren’t on the list.)

  35. @ Petrea Mitchell
    “I wish it had been released as just an alphabetical list, without vote counts. Under present Hugo-related circumstances, anything that looks remotely like “Here’s a list of recommendations but here are the ones you should really vote for, wink wink” is liable to give rise to conspiracy theories.

    (I know, it’s for a different award, but that won’t stop anyone.)”

    That was my second thought when I saw Mike’s post this morning. My first thought was the “Oh cool, a recommended list from well-read people!” –then I had the second thoughts. It should, at least, have just been an alphabetical listing.

    Of course, all this second thinking didn’t keep me from pouring over the lists to get ideas! :^]

  36. Mark says:

    Obviously the SWFA recs list only represents (1), because the idea of herding the SWFA membership into agreeing on anything is ludicrous, and is for the Nebulas not the Hugos, but I confidently predict that none of those points will matter. SP4 already deny that (3) is happening or going to happen, so the only point that marks them out from perfectly usual discussions and individual recs lists is that they are the only group doing (1). Until now. Now the SFWA are doing it too, or rather can be spun as doing it.

    Furthermore, there is a strong belief in Puppy Land that (3) has been going on for a long time among the powers that allegedly be, and this will just confirm their suspicions.

  37. Furthermore, there is a strong belief in Puppy Land that (3) has been going on for a long time among the powers that allegedly be, and this will just confirm their suspicions.

    Any Puppy who is a SFWA member already knew about this list, and was able to contribute to it.

  38. One thing to keep in mind is that SFWA’s got members all over the spectrum, and while some folks tend to regard it as a monolithic entity, it’s much more like an enormous bag of assorted cats, skunks, dogs, ocelots, octopi, and other entities not particularly interested in cooperation, merrily rolling along while I try to pluck thorns and caltrops from its path.

    Removing the numbers (which would require a chunk of work to do right now) if we do it again next year does seem — at the moment — like the better course. (I like the idea of the page randomizing each time very much.) But I also tend to try to plan for the long game rather than the short one, so I want more data. This year we’ve been working to get a lot of the back end more efficient and effective — when I came onboard a year or so ago, the project management system consisted of widely scattered spreadsheets and good intentions.

    I think if you pile up what we’ve managed to do this year to help professional genre writers, it’s pretty impressive. I will throttle back the urge to list it all.

  39. The Norton list was… interesting. I read primarily YA SFF, so I was surprise how few of the top 10-15 were on my TBR pile.

  40. With any sort of book reviewing, you have to calibrate a reviewer. You aren’t looking for a reviewer who has no prejudices. You are looking for a reviewer who shares your prejudices.

    For years, I’ve used the NESFA recommendation list which is on their website. NESFANs tend to read a lot of SF and have been doing it for years. They are jaded in the same way I am jaded. My sense of wonder needs a heavy jolt of originality to even get started.

    I’ve calibrated the NESFA list. I know there is one member who will nominate anything Christopher Priest writes. That may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your opinion of Christopher Priest. There are also some recommendations for writers I know I don’t like. I pass over those unless someone suggests something has changed. With those caveats, I’ve been introduced to some quite good books and writers from the NESFS list, so I will continue to use it.

  41. Aaron says:

    Any Puppy who is a SFWA member already knew about this list

    The leading Puppy voices have all been quite loud about their non-membership in SFWA.

  42. > “The Norton list was… interesting. I read primarily YA SFF, so I was surprise how few of the top 10-15 were on my TBR pile.”

    I’m starting to think the SFWA doesn’t have a lot of people who are into YA. Last year’s final shortlist was very surprising to me both in terms of what got on and what got left off. This year’s suggestion list (bearing in mind it’s still a work-in-progress) is missing a bunch of stuff I’ve read that I would have considered likely, such as “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness and “Shadow Scale” by Rachel Hartman, and things I haven’t read yet but which have been getting great word of mouth like “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo and “Carry On” by Rainbow Rowell.

  43. @ Cat Rambo
    I think that, all things considered, I’m more glad to have this as a resource than I am worried about it being accused of trying to be a slate. If the numbers can be removed at some point, my slight slate worry will be assuaged (which I just know was a high priority for the SFWA 😉 ).

    The Pups will rant, rave and rewrite realitiy no matter what you do, so PHLBBBB ’em!

  44. @Cat Rambo Thanks for dropping in and discussing the pros and cons you considered when deciding to make the list public.

    Love that your making this list public. Hope it encourages more members to recommend books. 😉

    Leaving the ranking but sorting the list alphabetically by title or author would be a way to downplay the ranking. I’m not sure if this would be an easy thing to do on your side.

  45. The leading Puppy voices have all been quite loud about their non-membership in SFWA.

    Antonelli’s in SFWA. Anybody who makes their sale and pays their dues is welcome to join (and stay, if they don’t do something egregious like hijack official channels for bad ends.)

  46. @Snowcrash

    Ah, but they then denied they’d meant that, which means it automagically never got said.

  47. Leaving the ranking but sorting the list alphabetically by title or author would be a way to downplay the ranking.

    I like this idea, but I would understand if it can’t be changed now without skewing the data being collected.

  48. Only one Baen novel in the list. An obvious conspiracy right there.

    Kidding aside, I really like this. Quite useful for someone like me who is always looking for short fiction recommendations especially, I like that the number of recs is included too. Let the Puppies whine, who cares. They will claim foul play no matter what, so no point trying to appease them.

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