I’d meant to get this post up before the Hugo nominations were open, but better late than never. It was a banner year for SF/F in multiple media formats, as far as I could tell – film, TV, novels, short fiction, comics, nonfiction – there’s so much fantastic work coming out that I couldn’t possibly keep up with all of it. I didn’t get to read as much short fiction (well, outside of editing Uncanny Magazine) as I would have liked, but I’m fairly proud I managed to read as many novels as I did over the past year!
I didn’t get around to watching as much new SFF TV shows as I had hoped because I’m trying to branch out of my comfort zone, but if an episode (or more) of The Expanse isn’t on my nominations list next year, I’ll be really surprised (I loved the first season, but none of the episodes eligible for this year’s ballot really snagged me). Same with comics – sadly I didn’t have as much time to keep up.
So the following is a list of works and creators I’ve greatly enjoyed over the previous year. It’s by no means exhaustive, and I’m going to keep reading as much as I can until the nominations period closes. I’d also highly recommend looking at the SFWA Suggested Nebula Award Reading List. If you’re looking for an overview of Hugo Award categories, try this link.
If you’re curious as to what, if any, Hugo categories I’m eligible in, I wrote about that, too. Please note that while I’ve included works published in Uncanny Magazine, as well as staff members, in related categories, I’m also Managing Editor for that publication. Don’t forget, Hugo nominations close on March 31st. As always, thank you for your consideration, and I hope you find something on this list to enjoy!
Short Stories (less than 7,500 words)
“Pockets” by Amal El-Mohtar
“Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon
“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong
“The Star Maiden” by Roshani Chokshi
“The Ways of Walls and Words” by Sabrina Vourvoulias
“Monkey King, Faerie Queen” by Zen Cho
“Restore the Heart Into Love” by John Chu
Novelette (7,500-17,500 words)
“Oiran’s Song” by Isabel Yap
“Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu
“And Never Mind the Watching Ones” by Keffy R. M. Kehrli
“Fake Geek Girl” by Tansy Rayner Roberts
“Fabulous Beasts” by Priya Sharma
Novella (17,500-40,000 words)
Bone Swans of Amandal by C. S. E. Cooney
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman Malik
Novels (40,000+ words)
Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Updraft by Fran Wilde
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
Of Noble Family* by Mary Robinette Kowal
Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace
Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
*Mary has asked that her works from 2015 not be considered for the Hugo Awards this year.
Invisible 2: Personal Essays on Representation in SF/F, edited by Jim C. Hines
Kitchen Overlord’s Illustrated Geek Cookbook by Chris-Rachael Oseland
“Bad Life Decisions” by Natalie Luhrs
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
“If-Then-Else” Person of Interest – I’ve felt for awhile that PoI is one of the most underrated SF shows on network TV, but this episode really struck me as a clever way of exploring an AI’s POV and way of thinking, and it’s all done without any actual dialog from the AI in question. The way in which The Machine functions as a character is put front-and-center in this episode was unexpectedly affecting, and yet managed to retain the feeling of The Machine as a distinctly not-human entity. The Machine’s POV also provides a brilliant way of exploring the ensemble casts’ relationships with one another, giving us more insight into both the characters and the AI’s perception of them. After this episode, I found myself going back to the previous seasons and getting a much deeper understanding of how The Machine had always *been* a character POV throughout the series. The entire series is available on Netflix Instant.
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
Mad Max: Fury Road – Breathtaking action sequences, surprisingly multi-dimensional characters (with a mostly-female-led cast), a deceptively streamlined and relentless narrative, gorgeous cinematography, and clever editing. This really hit most of my sweet spots for epic action SF.
Advantageous – I wish I’d seen this earlier because I’d have been banging the drum for this movie from the start. A multi-layered story about sacrifice, love, loneliness, and the nature of identity that treats racism, sexism, ageism, class, and corporate amoralism as intersecting systems of oppression; with complex, compelling characters; and a narrative that’s emotionally-wrenching without resorting to shock-value violence. It’s the kind of scifi where the “scifi” elements – futuristic settiing, advanced tech – enhance rather than dominate the narrative. The fact that the cast features Asian actors – including that of the main characters (a single mother and daughter) – in decidedly non-stereotypical roles is just icing on the cake. It’s a damn shame this indie film hasn’t gotten more attention because it deserves it. This film’s currently available on Netflix Instant.
**Had meant to include Mark’s work in this list but of course blanked and forgot while rushing to get this finished for posting today.
MOONSHOT: The Indigenous Comics Collection, edited by Hope Nicholson (not sure if this would be considered under Best Graphic Novel or Best Related Work due to the book being a collection of stories by different creators, but regardless, well-worth your time and money)
Lazarus: Volume 3, written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark
Mooncakes, written by Wendy Xu, illustrated by Suzanne Walker (online comic)
Ladies Night Anthology Vol. 3: How to Magic, edited by Caitlin Rosberg, Kris MacKenzie, Lauren Burke, Megan Byrd, and Summer Sparacin (as with MOONSHOT, I’m unsure if this would be considered a graphic novel or best related work due to it being an anthology)***
Editors – Short Form
Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
The Geek Show: A Nerdy Talky Variety Thing by VStheUniverse – This project isn’t eligible in any category, as much as I can tell, but I think it’s worth pointing out. The crew behind the VStheUniverse vlog/webseries has been working tirelessly since fall 2014 to bring a monthly, live geek talk show series to life, one that is free to audiences. The Geek Show, hosted by Aaron Amendola, is a mixture of sketch comedy, game show, and interviews celebrating geek culture with a delightful sense of fun. The show reflects its producers’ commitment to highlighting the amazingly diverse community and varied works being created by geeks in Chicago by inviting guests from all corners of our community to talk about their projects and what they love (or sometimes don’t) about nerd culture (full disclosure: I was a guest on their very first show and a friend of Amendola’s). They successfully Kickstarted their 2015-2016 season and thus far, the show’s consistently “sold out” of tickets. If you’re in Chicago or happen to be passing thru when The Geek Show is on, I highly recommend reserving a ticket to join in on the fun!