Andrew Wheeler said:
SF Awards Watch has the full list of [BSFA Awards] nominees; all we need now is the American version of Niall Harrison to come into the comment thread and sneer at it.
For the record, my reaction to the Nebula preliminary ballot wasn’t intended to be a sneer, though I suppose I can’t really fault Andrew for getting that impression. It was, rather, a scream of frustration and disappointment.
I realise that I care more about literary awards than the average sf reader, never mind the average person on the street, but I do care. There are two general categories of awards I find useful: those awards that identify books I’m likely to be interested in (or am interested in an am pleased to see recognised), and those awards that represent the tastes of groups of readers I’m interested in. Awards in the first group tend to be juried — the Clarke, the Tiptree, the World Fantasy Awards. Awards in the second group tend (not entirely by definition) to be popular vote awards — the Hugo, the BSFA Awards.
The Nebula Awards, by all rights, should be in both groups. I’m an avid reader of sf, so I respect sf writers and am interested in what they, as practitioners, consider to be good sf; and the early Nebula winners are a pretty good list of essential science fiction. And yet, increasingly, they’re not in either group, to the point where my only response is bafflement. Readers who prefer Joe Haldeman’s Camouflage to Geoff Ryman’s Air and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell — readers who prefer Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas — are not readers I have much in common with. It’s not even that the shortlists are horrible; it’s just that the winners seem to be the mediocre (yes, in my opinion) choices. Hence, frustration.
But enough of this looking back! Tomorrow, the books I’m looking forward to reading in 2008.
P.S. In the same post, Andrew comments on the nomination of Alice in Sunderland, and Saxon commented here. I haven’t read it yet, but I’d be interested in other thoughts.
. If the likes of Atwood, Palahniuk, McCarthy and Winterston do any long term good, it might be to persuade publishers to revisit what counts as ‘SF artwork’. Fantasy publishers, for example, could do a lot worse than commission Sam Taylor-Wood, Matthew Barney, Chris Anthony or even Stefan Sagmeister rather than relying on the ‘richly painted dragon’ motif that’s been done to death.
P.P.P.S. For those who didn’t see the comment on the main shortlist announcement post, there’s now a livejournal community for the discussion of nonfiction about sf and fantasy (which is of relevance to the Hugo Best Related Book category as well as the BSFA Awards).