Roundtable: All the Awards (Part 3 of 3)

Rachel Swirsky

There was pretty much one thing in each category that I loved this year which didn’t make it onto either ballot:

Matt Kressel’s “The History Within Us” (Clarkesworld) which was, for me, an extremely moving meditation on genocide and memory, set in an interesting far future world.

Nina Allen’s “Flying in the Face of God” [PDF] (Interzone), a compelling emotional portrait which looks at the technologies of the frontier in terms of their emotional effects on those who leave and those who stay.

Robert Reed’s “Alone” (Godlike Machines), a long and lonely story of immortality with really interesting far future sci-fi stuff.

And Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe which I found to be a very sophisticated merging of science fictional tropes with literary themes, looking at the intersections of popular culture, science, and modern emotional life.

I’m not sure how much the markets these were published in affected their chances. Clarkesworld seems popular, but I noticed that “The History within Us” didn’t make a lot of other lists that I read. Reed isn’t exactly obscure, of course, so that may be another case where my “whoa, that was awesome” just didn’t intersect with a lot of other readers’.

On the other hand, how easy is it for people to access Interzone? I think Andy Cox finds really compelling stories, but I wonder if their audience mostly fails to intersect the audiences for Australian and American Worldcons. As a British author, is Nina Allen more obscure than a comparable American author? I would have loved to see her up for the Campbell, too.

Charles Yu seems to have attracted some vitriol for the way in which he’s positioned relative to the genre. I wonder if he’s not seen as “one of our own?”

This sort of thing gets really weird for me, probably because I’ve never been very good at seeing? respecting? genre boundaries. A work that’s identified as science fiction will often get a weird response from lit readers, and the opposite is true as well–but there really is interstitial work. Two of my classmates from the Iowa Writers Workshop had novels published this year that I would call science fiction–I haven’t read the finished versions of the novels yet due to time constraints, but I know from the workshop that their work is excellent. It seems unfortunate to me that their literary identities may be a barrier to them being read in sf/f.

Some of the other things I really enjoyed that didn’t make it onto the ballots: “On the Banks of the River Lex” by N. K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld), “Hwang’s Billion Brilliant Daughters” by Alice Sola Kim (Lightspeed), “The Isthmus Variation” by Kris Millering (Beneath Ceaseless Skies), “Surrogates” by Cat Rambo (Clockwork Phoenix), “Standard Loneliness Package” by Charles Yu (Lightspeed), “Plague Birds” by Jason Sanford (Interzone), and The Boneshaker by Kate Milford.

Some of these made, like, the Locus recommendation list, and others didn’t. I don’t know if there’s any significance to that via the way these authors are perceived and published. I just don’t think I know enough about that end of the industry.

& yes, I do mention these because I hope some of the Roundtable readers who haven’t read the pieces already might be curious and look them up. 😉

“It can also make me re-asses/re-think things, simply because if I did overlook something and it ended up on an awards shortlist/ballot it’s worth re-thinking”


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