2016 Locus Recommended Reading List Published

The 2016 Locus Recommended Reading List from the magazine’s February issue has been posted at Locus Online.

The list is a consensus by Locus editors and reviewers, and others: Liza Groen Trombi, Gary K. Wolfe, Jonathan Strahan, Faren Miller, Russell Letson, Graham Sleight, Adrienne Martini, Carolyn Cushman, Tim Pratt, Karen Burnham, Gardner Dozois, Rich Horton, Cheryl Morgan, Paul Kincaid, Ysabeau Wilce, Liz Bourke, Colleen Mondor, and James Bradley.

Short fiction selections are assembled from material from Laird Barron, K. Tempest Bradford, Karen Burnham, Neil Clarke, Ellen Datlow, Gardner Dozois, Paula Guran, Rich Horton, Brit Mandelo, Faren Miller, Nisi Shawl, Jonathan Strahan, Lois Tilton, and Gary K. Wolfe.

On the list are —

  • 28 SF novels, 22 fantasy novels, 19 YA books, 13 first novels;
  • 27 collections, 12 original anthologies, 11 reprint anthologies;
  • 7 nonfiction books, 18 art books;
  • 18 novellas
  • 32 novelettes
  • 66 short stories

Three self-published works made the list: two art books, and Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Baen Books broke into the Locus Recommended list this year with John Joseph Adams’ original anthology Operation Arcana, ending a drought going back years (the publisher had no books on Locus’ 2014 or 2013 lists.)

Those sifting the omens to learn whether Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen will be Hugo-eligible in the year determined by its available-for-purchase 2015 e-ARC or its February 2016 publication date can ponder what it means that the book does not appear on the Locus list.

Locus Responds to Tilton Departure

Locus Magazine’s Liza Groen Trombi has commented on Lois Tilton’s statement about her resignation as the publication’s short fiction reviewer.

While we don’t usually discuss the end of a contract relationship online, we do want to clarify something about the recent statement made by a freelance reviewer and her relationship with Locus. Lois Tilton wrote: “Without consulting or informing me, they had begun deleting material they considered negative from my reviews. To me, this is censorship and completely unacceptable.” This has been interpreted incorrectly to mean that Locus was making editorial changes to Lois’s columns without her consent.

To clarify, Locus made a decision this month to change how editing future online review columns was to be managed — folding the online columns in to the existing Locus editorial stream and applying the same standard to online reviews as the magazine.

Locus publishes both positive and negative reviews and, we hope, encourages a robust conversation about the works being discussed. When Lois was told about the editorial process being applied to the website, she opted to resign. None of her columns affected by this decision have been posted online, and she was paid for the work even though it will not be published.

We are sorry to see this relationship come to end after 205 columns. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.

Pixel Scroll 10/22 No Certain Elk

(1) Nick Skywalker’s touch of genius —

(2) Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow is teasing plans for a sequel. Cinema Blend says here’s what to expect:

It all has to do with what B.D. Wong’s Dr. Wu said in this summer’s blockbuster: “We’re not always going to be the only ones who can make a dinosaur.” In an interview with Wired U.K., Trevorrow said he found that to be an interesting idea:

What if this went open source? It’s almost like InGen is Mac, but what if PC gets their hands on it? What if there are 15 different entities around the world who can make a dinosaur?

Though Trevorrow admits this isn’t really covered in the original movie, it’s something in which he sees potential for growth. Looking back to the first Jurassic Park film, we saw Wayne Knight’s Dennis Nedrey attempt to steel the genetic material from dinosaurs and smuggle them off the island for a third party. While he didn’t succeed, this seems to be along the same lines that Trevorrow is talking about.

(3) Tom Galloway: “Seems Mark Zuckerberg’s project for this year was to read a lot of books (for values of “lot” that amounts to one every two weeks. Well, he is busy). There’s a Facebook page to serve as an online book club for them, and the latest choice is the Hugo-winning Three Body Problem.”

(4) David Gerrold has made his novelette “Entanglements,” published in the May/June issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a free read via Dropbox. [PDF file]

(5) Aya de Leon’s article “Space Babe Fantasies: On Geoff Marcy and Sexism in Science and Sci-Fi” for The Toast begins with a headline example of harassment, and moves on to comment about the genre, including three paragraphs about Sad Puppies.

Last Thursday, my colleagues and I received an email from the Chancellor of UC Berkeley informing us that Marcy had resigned. A panel had found that he had sexually harassed female students for nearly a decade. According to Azeen Ghorayshi, the reporter who broke the story for BuzzFeed, Marcy’s great success was part of the reason why his pattern of harassment went unchallenged. As Ghorayshi explained, “Marcy’s is the rare ilk of scientific research that is capable of both reaching the peak of his field and capturing the public imagination.”

Ghorayshi lays out in painful detail how Marcy’s behavior was both widespread and well known; her article documents incidents of alleged misconduct with female colleagues dating back to the 1980s. BuzzFeed also noted that “UC Berkeley is currently under federal investigation for its handling of dozens of sexual violence complaints on campus.”

(6) Adam-Troy Castro offers an analogy in “Enough With the Fershlugginer Chocolate Cake, Already”.

Look, I’m going to explain this in terms you might be able to understand.

I like chocolate cake just fine.

I think chocolate cake is one of the things that makes life worth living.

As a fat guy, I not only return to chocolate cake more often than is healthy for me, but can actually wax rhapsodic about great slices of chocolate cake from my past.

I’m perfectly capable of sitting down with you and geeking out over chocolate cake.

But I can’t eat just chocolate cake.

(7) And apparently you can’t drink Pepsi Perfect either.

“Back to the Future” fans had hoped to be sipping a Pepsi Perfect by now, but most of them are making sad eyes at their computers after facing a fast sellout of a special release of the bottles.

Fans have been waiting for this day ever since the 1989 sequel, when Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrived in the future on October 21, 2015. In honor of the film, Pepsi decided to make 6,500 limited-edition bottles of Pepsi Perfect available.

Pepsi Perfect makes a cameo appearance at an ’80s-theme cafe in the future. Fans got extra-excited about the prospect of owning it because it feels both iconic and attainable (selling for $20.15, about £13, AU$28). The release date? October 21, 2015, naturally.

Now imagine the stress when Back to the Futurites discovered that some of the Pepsi Perfect bottles went on sale early and that other people had snapped them up. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. Here’s a selection of what they said:

Amazon reviewer Pissed AF wrote: “I am SO upset!! This didn’t even pop up in the search! And you released it a whole hours early? Are you kidding me?????????” This is currently the top most-helpful review on the Pepsi Perfect Amazon page.

(8) Notes Adweek: “During his stay in the future, McFly often references a copy of USA Today, which was created specifically for the movie. To celebrate the occasion, USA Today wrapped its paper in a replica of the movie edition.”

(9) Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd rolled onto the set of Jimmy Kimmel Live in a classic DeLorean and got a standing ovation just for showing up.

(10) Today’s Birthday Boys

  • October 22, 1938 — Christopher Lloyd
  • October 22, 1952 — Jeff Goldblum

(11) Now for something completely different. Entertainment.ie names its “Top 10 Time Travel Movies That Aren’t Back To The Future”

(12) How It Should Have Ended – why Big Hero 6 should have been a lot shorter.

(13) James H. Burns praises the Mets’ broadcast crew:

Another reason for those who admire near Hall of Fame first baseman Keith Hernandez (famous for his stints with the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets), now a long time Mets broadcaster, to like him:  In the local post game after the Mes clinched the National League title, when talking about first baseman Luca Duda, “We’ve seen him go from the depths of Mordor, to the heights of the Swiss Alps…”

Frequently, during unusual moments in Mets seasons past, Hernandez and lead broadcaster Gary Cohen, and former Mets pitcher Ron Darling (also a broadcaster with TBS), will discuss ancient Saturday mornings, and cartoons; CHILLER THEATRE; Kurt Vonnegut, and puppet shows….

(14) An artist used Google Street View to visit all the places in Around the World in 80 Days and created postcards of those places.

(15) Mark Kelly in Part 4 of his “Rereading Isaac Asimov”  series comments —

“Nightfall” is still, I would guess, Asimov’s most popular story, though it was one of his earliest stories, and one which Asimov came to resent — he felt that he must have improved as a writer over the subsequent decades (the story was published in 1941, just two years after his first-published story) — and was perplexed by how fans kept gravitating to this early story.

(16) Gregory N. Hullender touts a new article, “The Locus Reading List and Hugo Awards” at Rocket Stack Rank.

This new article looks for selection bias in Locus Recommended Reading List short fiction over the past fifteen years. We found that although stories from the reading list regularly make up about 70% of Hugo-nominated stories, there doesn’t seem to be any actual bias, either in terms of which sources they come from or in terms of the authors.

So while we can’t speak for how good a job Locus does with novels, we don’t find any obvious problems with their recommendations for short fiction.

(17) Really funny compilation of comics bloopers from Mental Floss.

Here are some classic screw-ups, printing errors, and unfortunate coincidences that have graced the pages of comic books and newspaper strips over the years.

(18) We end with a serious fan edit of what Han Solo sees before his eyes when he tells Rey and Finn about the past in the new trailer for The Force Awakens.

[Thanks to Tom Galloway, Steven H Silver, James H. Burns, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

2014 Locus Award Winners

The winners of the 2014 Locus Awards were announced June 28 in Seattle.

Abaddon’s Gate, James S.A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (Morrow; Headline Review)

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, Catherynne M. Valente (Feiwel and Friends)

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean)

• “The Sleeper and the Spindle”, Neil Gaiman (Rags and Bones)

• “The Road of Needles”, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales)

Old Mars, George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, eds. (Bantam)

The Best of Connie Willis, Connie Willis (Del Rey)


• Tor

• Ellen Datlow

• Michael Whelan

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, Jeff VanderMeer (Abrams Image)

Spectrum 20: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, Cathy Fenner & Arnie Fenner, eds. (Underwood)

Betting on a Blip

Redshirts made the New York Times hardcover fiction list for June 24, but unfortunately stayed there only one week, exiting as suddenly as one of its namesakes on Star Trek.

I decided to check after scanning the Locus Bestsellers for July 2012 list, expecting Redshirts to be in there somewhere. No, it’s too early. I learned from an endnote that Locus’ July list is based on the April 2012 data period.

How big of a splash in the marketplace must a book make to top the Locus bestseller list? George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons has been the bestselling hardcover for 10 straight months. Someday that will change. Does Redshirts have that much pop? We’ll find out when Locus gets the June 2012 data.

Locus Adds PDF Edition

Starting in January Locus will be available in PDF as well as print reports Rose Fox’s Genreville blog on Publishers Weekly. Digital subscriptions will be available, as will single issues.

Please faneds, no snarky comments about Locus finally catching up with other zines that have been in PDF format for years unless your zine also keeps a monthly schedule, has thousands of subscribers, and boasts a shelf full of Hugos.

Locus’ January issue will be #600, and feature commentary by Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Bear, Mur Lafferty and Cheryl Morgan.

[Thanks for the story to Andrew Porter, who is eligible to comment however he likes because he has run a monthly zine with thousands of subscribers that won multiple Hugos…]

Why Gaiman Won the Best Novel Hugo

Neil Gaiman refused a 2006 Hugo nomination for Anansi Boys, but Charlie Brown’s timely insistence that he accept prevented Gaiman from declining his nomination for The Graveyard Book:

The late Charles N. Brown called me during that week having found out by his own methods, or possibly just guessing, and told me not to decline the nomination. He was astonishingly firm and bossy about it, and while I had been wavering, after that call I emailed the administrator of the awards to let them know that I accepted. I should have thanked Charlie, and I didn’t. So I am, here.

Gaiman nevertheless feels that Neal Stephenson’s Anathem ought to have been the winner.

Charlie Brown also made Gaiman a director of the Locus Foundation, which has assumed long-term responsibility for the magazine. Gaiman is having a little fun with it:

Yesterday began with the Locus Foundation Board Meeting, the Foundation founded by Charles N Brown before his death. These are the people whose responsibility it is to overlook Locus Magazine and make sure it continues into the distant future. I am on this foundation.

There may also be a shadowy Second Locus Foundation, whose job it is to ensure that the future of Science Fiction and Fantasy proceeds as Charles had planned it. Or that might be an Isaac Asimov book, now I come to think of it.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter and Lee Gold for the story.]

Rx for the Worldcon Business Meeting

A friend wrote that the news of Charlie Brown’s death had convinced him to vote against abolishing the Semiprozine category. He thinks the timing is unsavory, and it would be disrespectful to the memory of a giant in the field.

For the same reason, a few other fans have speculated about parliamentary maneuvers to derail the vote or eviscerate the amendment. As these are people who actually attend Business Meetings, there’s always a possibility they will translate these sentiments into action.

What I expect to happen, and hope will happen, is that the vote on ratification will occur as scheduled, and on the motion in its present form.

First, the WSFS Constitution states the ratification vote is the work “of the subsequent Worldcon.” So let’s just get on with it.

Second, if there was any “disrespect” inherent in eliminating the category it was already communicated to Charlie Brown while he was alive. I’m convinced the rules change was not purposed to offend Charlie but, in either case, he is beyond being hurt anymore.

Third, it’s the opponents to the motion I’ve seen speak against carrying on in the aftermath of Charlie’s death. However, it’s also the opponents who have tried to use online discussion to get more people who might not otherwise appear at the Business Meeting to come and vote against ratification. Next year’s Worldcon is in Australia – the motion’s supporters, who are Business Meeting “regulars” will attend, but will its opponents be there? It seems to me that delay works to the detriment of opponents of ratification.

Yes on Dropping the Semiprozine Hugo

In August fans are scheduled to decide the fate of the Best Semiprozine Hugo at the Worldcon Business Meeting. Last year voters approved an amendment eliminating the category, a change subject to ratification at Montreal. If passed a second time, the category will be dropped.

Should it stay? Should it go? I’ve honestly been having a hard time deciding. Now having spent many hours looking over the arguments I’ve come to the conclusion that the Best Semiprozine category ought to go.

The rules define a semiprozine as one that meets at least two of the following criteria:

(1) had an average press run of at least one thousand (1000) copies per issue,
(2) paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication,
(3) provided at least half the income of any one person,
(4) had at least fifteen percent (15%) of its total space occupied by advertising,
(5) announced itself to be a semiprozine.

Internet technology has put zine publishing on a much different economic footing than the days (not so long ago) when paper issues predominated. A person can choose a far less expensive strategy to distribute work and be spared the necessity of creating a large commercial enterprise in order to survive.  

The way pros market their writing has been radically changed by the ability to create online communities of fans and customers. One result is that the amount of free nonfiction about the field available from pro writers has greatly increased. How logical is it to compartmentalize directly compensated writing as semipro, when the other also has the commercial motive of establishing a writer’s brand and stimulating sales?

Finally, a little discussed but very significant change to the Best Fanzine category is likely to be ratified at the same Business Meeting. As I read it, blogs and some websites will become eligible in the fanzine category. Wouldn’t it be absurd to preserve a category for the benefit of a few paper semipro fanzines if other issue-based fanzines must compete with blogs having thousands of readers?

In essence, times have changed and done away with many of the reasons for keeping the semiprozine category.

No Reservation Required: The category was created 25 years ago by fans concerned that the Best Fanzine Hugo category had become dominated by commercially-motivated, professionally-printed, high-circulation zines like Locus, Science Fiction Review/The Alien Critic, Algol/Starship, and Science Fiction Chronicle. Such zines were moved into the new Best Semiprozine category in 1984. And I’m hardly ungrateful – that’s the reason mimeographed, hand-collated File 770 won its first Best Fanzine Hugo in 1984.

But with the dawning of the Age of the Internet a strange reversal occurred, and  I wonder to what extent Ben Yalow and Chris Barkley (who submitted the original motion) were spurred to action by the slate of Best Semiprozine nominees for 2006: Ansible, Emerald City, Interzone, Locus, New York Review of Science Fiction.

Locus won again, of course.

However, nominees Ansible and Emerald City would have been eligible to compete in the Best Fanzine category (and had done so formerly) barring their editors’ unilateral declaration that these were semiprozines (one of the eligibility definitions provided by the rules). Consider that just three of several dozen semiprozines proved capable of outpolling amateur publications in order to make the final ballot.

It’s as if in 2006 the voters were already exercising an implicit veto over the continued existence of this Hugo category.

Drawing a Circle Around Locus: The rules change eliminates the Hugo for semiprozines while preserving the list of semiprozine criteria in the simultaneously amended definition of Best Fanzine. So Locus (and semiprozines generally) won’t drop back into contention with other fanzines after the rules are changed. No doubt that’s a politically necessary feature to get the change passed by long-time fans at the Business Meeting who won’t have forgotten the original purpose of the semiprozine category.

On the other hand, consider how trivial some of the criteria now are, compared with their importance 25 years ago.

One of the formerly important attributes of Locus that made its way into the Best Semiprozine definition was “an average press run of more than 1000 copies per issue” (Locus far exceeded that, of course). A zine needed to become an engine of commerce in order to pay its printer for thousands of expensively-published paper copies, and buy postage for mailing them. Now the ease of distributing material to many readers through the internet allows the option printing no copies, using instead PDFs or other kinds of electronic text files. Press runs aren’t a limiting factor when Hugo voters can see many eligible works online.

Paying for material can also be a defining feature of a semiprozine. The amateur ideal has hung around the discussion since the original Hugo award for Best Amateur Magazine, later renamed Best Fanzine. Yet paying contributors has never legally ruled a fanzine ineligible for the Best Fanzine category provided that’s the only one of the five semiprozine criteria it satisfies. That’s proven by 2009 nominee Electric Velocipede, which pays for material.

Another cherished assumption about the categories in which pro writers should properly compete has already been tested to destruction in the Best Fan Writer Hugo category. The kind of writing that once filled Science Fiction Review and Algol/Starship – bought and paid for – now is available for free from literally hundreds of pros in venues that don’t possess a single attribute of semiprozines as defined by the Hugo rules.

Internet distribution levels the playing field. Fanzines can pay writers and remain fanzines. Pro writers market their work by giving away to fans what we used to have to buy. We may believe we can infer the commercial or noncommercial motives behind various types of published writing and art, but awards categories based on our guesses about people’s intent are arbitrary and inconsistent. “Semipro” is no longer a helpful boundary definition, which makes it hard to justify continuing any category it defines.

Til Semiprozines Have Faces: Some object that Locus has virtually monopolized the category, winning 21 times in 25 years. One of the paradoxes of fan psychology is how we set up “best of the year” awards, then become impatient unless they’re won by someone new every year.

I consider Locus to have gone beyond consistent excellence over the past four decades — it’s also achieved ever-increasing quality during that time. I’d say something has been lost when an award causes people who might otherwise marvel at its phenomenal achievement to curse Locus for not obligingly going out of business and leaving room for someone else to win. In short, my opinion about the change has nothing to do with how many times Locus has won.

One zine, no matter how great, isn’t sufficient justification for a Hugo category, however. Even two or three top semiprozines, adding in the frequently-nominated New York Review of SF and Interzone, are not enough. Some have argued there are too few strong semiprozines to support a Hugo category.

I suspect advocates of the rules change considered the fiction semiprozines immaterial to the debate until Neil Clarke, Publisher/Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, refused to let the Best Semiprozine Hugo category go down without a fight.

Clarke’s Save the Semiprozine rallied vocal opposition to the change, and 32 semiprozines have identified themselves on the site. They’re a volatile group, some having suspended publication or gone out of business since the beginning of this campaign. That still leaves the population larger than I believed: others may have been surprised, too.

When there was a Best Professional Magazine Hugo category, the universe of prozines sometimes shrank to 10 (1967) or even 6 (1972) as titles fell victim to downturns in the economy. (Source: the Wikipedia entry on science fiction magazines.) Yet there was never a call to abolish the category due to there being too few potential nominees. Perhaps that’s not a very strong argument against the Best Semiprozine category, either.

Pro Arguments: Save the Semiprozine has also opened channels of communication for people to hear the semiprozine editors’ own arguments in favor of keeping the award.

John Klima said it is a rush to be nominated, and that the award recognizes hard work. David G. Hartwell wrote:

We are opposed to that abolition for several reasons: we cannot honorably compete in any other category; we derive great personal satisfaction from our nominations; and most of our competitors in the category feel the same way.

That is not an inconsiderable argument. It’s very gratifying to witness a friend’s pleasure in winning a Hugo. People voted to divide the Best Editor category into Long Form and Short Form partly so that David Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden and other noted novel editors would share some of the glory going to magazine editors every single year. (As it turned out, Hartwell’s first Hugo win occurred just before the division took effect.)

New York Review of Science Fiction is the kind of classic sercon publication that the creators of the Best Semiprozine category expected to dominate it. However, as shown at Save the Semiprozine, nonfiction semiprozines are very much in the minority. And that “great personal satisfaction” has been denied to fiction zines for the most part.

There have never been more than two semipro fiction zines nominated in any year. Just six different fiction zine titles made the Hugo ballot from 1999-2008.

(Interestingly, only two titles nominated during that timespan are still published, Interzone and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. Absolute Magnitude, Helix, Speculations, and The Third Alternative are gone.)

Despite the odds against semipro fiction zines ever winning, their editors are very reluctant to see the category killed off.

If anyone harbors a prejudice against fiction semiprozines, assuming they’re filled with stuff that “real” prozines would pass over, be aware that’s seldom the case. Over the years, some of these zines have had award-nominated stories. A couple have sold “best of” collections to major sf publishers, like Del Rey. Many of the zines listed at Save the Semiprozine pay competitive rates to beginning writers. 

One editor believes a Hugo is needed to reward what these semiprozines are doing for the sf field.

Wendy S. Delmater of Abyss & Apex argued that the Best Semiprozine Hugo should continue in recognition of services like:

(1) We are talent scouts for the pro magazines. A&A is a good market for new writers – 25% of our stories are first-ever publications for our authors.

(2) Other semiprozines give similar things to the community: a place to move up the publication ladder, a niche that might appeal to a broader audience, and-especially in the case of review zines-a place for the community to interact.

When I looked at the wordage rates offered to beginning writers by semiprozines and prozines, I was surprised to see they often aren’t that far apart, by no means the great chasm I expected. The competition to develop a successful magazine involves more than money, it requires a lot of other skills and personal intangibles, too. Exactly the spectrum of abilities already recognized in this Hugo category:

3.3.8: Best Editor Short Form. The editor of at least four (4) anthologies, collections or magazine issues primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy, at least one of which was published in the previous calendar year.

The present rule is not limited to editors of printed publications. It isn’t restricted to professional publications. Fiction semiprozine editors are already eligible for the award as presently defined. There will still be a Hugo recognizing their services if the Best Semiprozine category is eliminated.

Eliminating the category is consistent with the long-term trend to recognize individual people. That’s why Best Prozine was superseded by Best Editor, because fans wanted to honor a person, not a title or corporate entity.

Calling the Question: There seems to me little need for a Best Semiprozine Hugo. The five hallowed criteria have diminished meaning, due to the advent of the internet, and because we are not trying to enforce a strict amateur/pro divide.

The semiprozine editors’ arguments that we need to keep their category because (1) it’s a rush to be nominated and (2) it rewards hard work aren’t very persuasive. If that was all it took to get Hugo categories added, there’d be a Best Filk Hugo and many more.

Semiprozines help uncover literary and artistic talent, and for that the editors are eligible in another category, Best Editor: Short Form.

That’s why it makes sense to me to ratify the rules change.