Four Views of Fantastical/SFnal Fiction in 2010: Locus Online Best-of Lists

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Last year, I did a comprehensive overview of genre books for Locus Online. This time, in the context of writing a SF/Fantasy column for the NYTBR, reviewing for LAT, WaPo, and B&N Review, along with being the major contributor to the Amazon top 10, I didn’t particularly like the feeling of being semi-ubiquitous. So I suggested to the marvelous Mark Kelly that I just do a list of the best fantasy and that getting at least three other views with a bias, respectively, toward SF, YA, and, finally, heroic fantasy would be a good idea.

The result is great, I think, because it means more and different books get additional attention. Here, then, are the full best-of lists posted on Locus. They’re also a useful counterpoint to and/or reinforcement of the Locus recommended list. To buy and the full-on articles, click the four header links, although I’ve provided buying links for my list just cause I’m an Amazon associate.

Fantasy in 2010, A Baker’s Dozen – Jeff VanderMeer
Best Novel of the Year (3-way tie):

The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz(Dalkey Archive Press)
The Narrator by Michael Cisco
(Civil Coping Mechanisms)
Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
(Small Beer Press)

Ten More of the Best:
The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman(Tor)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
and The Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemisin(Orbit)
Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey(Eos)
The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich(Two Dollar Radio)
The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee(Orbit)
The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen(Random House)
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor(DAW )
The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer(St. Martin’s)
Birdbrain by Johanna Sinisalo(Peter Owen)
A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter by Peter Straub(Pegasus)

Heroic Fantasy–Larry Nolen
1. Carlos Gardini, Tríptico de Trinidad (Bibliopolis, Spain)
2. N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Orbit)
3. George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (eds.), Warriors (Tor)
4. Paul Kearney, Corvus (Solaris)
5. Andrzej Sapkowski, La Dama del Lago, volumen 2 (Alamut, Spain)
6. Ian Cameron Esslemont, Stonewielder (Transworld, UK)
7. Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders (eds.), Swords & Dark Magic (Harper Voyager)
8. Adrian Tchaikovsky, Salute the Dark (Pyr; Tor UK)
9. Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings (Tor)

Top 10–Gwenda Bond (with an emphasis on YA, although not exclusively)1. White Cat by Holly Black (Simon & Schuster/McElderry Books)
2. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)
3. Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves (Simon Pulse)
4. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (Simon & Schuster/McElderry Books)
5. Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve (Scholastic)
6. Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown)
7. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
8. What I Didn’t See and Other Stories by Karen Joy Fowler (Small Beer Press)
9. The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook (Berkley)
10. Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis (Ballantine Spectra)

Top 10 SF Novels – Adam Roberts (in alpha order)Lauren Beukes, Zoo City (Angry Robot)
Project Itoh, Harmony (Haikasoru)
Tom McCarthy, C (Jonathan Cape; Knopf)
Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House (Gollancz; Pyr)
Hannu Rajaniemi The Quantum Thief (Gollancz)
Francis Spufford Red Plenty (Faber)
Tricia Sullivan, Lightborn (Orbit)
Scarlett Thomas, Our Tragic Universe (Canongate; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Jean-Christophe Valtat, Aurorama (Melville)
Charles Yu, How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe (Corvus; Pantheon)

Murder by Death Rareties Digital Download Now Available

Murder by Death, which did the awesome soundtrack for Finch (see the sidebar of this blog to play it), is now offering a rareties, demos, and low-fi album of 32 tracks. I’ve downloaded it and am listening to it now–great stuff.

In the band’s email announcing the new project, they also note the following:

A couple days ago our back wheel flew off on our van and we had to leave it for a repair in Bakersfield. We rented a couple SUVs and put as much stuff as we could fit in ’em and made a mad dash to the show. Its gonna be expensive and inconvenient for the next week or so, but them’s the breaks. Lucky for us, as of today you can now purchase the digital download of the Rarities collection “Skeletons In The Closet” which was compiled, designed, and put out by me (Adam) from MBD. Your purchase will make this next week way easier- and since we put it out ourselves, buying the download is a donation to help us keep this tour going as we pay for rentals, buy a new van etc.

Lizard Dance Collab with Gio Clairval: Story and Interview

First, I am well worth not reading according to the Boston Globe! And this guy interviewed me in a most amusing way.

Second, my collaboration with Gio Clairval, “Lizard Dance,” is now up on Fantasy Magazine. I must admit that I am a distinct second fiddle on this story, but that Gio is making me say that anything a reader doesn’t like about the story is my fault.

The interview that accompanies the story was conducted via IM, and, I hope, simultaneously fun and interesting. An excerpt:

How would you describe the genesis of “The Lizard Dance?” What inspired this piece?

JV: It was somewhat unique. I had wanted to collaborate with Gio and gave her a book of my flash fictions, Secret Lives. Many of the stories were more like little portraits of people. One included dancing lizards. She took that, discarded the structure of my original story, and wrote a story.

GC: Jeff had this strange book of his, and he suggested that I pick a story I liked. He had already used several cool ones, but when I stumbled across the lizard one, I couldn’t resist (I’ve always loved lizards). I spent hours playing with lizards in my mum’s garden.

JV: Yeah, so she took that image and made it her own. Then she gave me the draft and I added some to it, edits, etc. Then Gio ignored most of my edits and revised. Then I looked at it again, made comments, Gio ignored most of them, and we were just about done. I have spent hours wondering why Gio spent hours playing with lizards. But we do have geckoes and anoles that live on the outside of the house.

GC: I’ve always thought that lizards could be tamed, and I chose one in particular and used the Little Prince’s method: Sit beside your lizard and keep still. Lizards have eyes like foals. Ever notice?

JV: But foals don’t have eyes like lizards. Odd, that.

GC: They do, but foals have bigger, horsie-sized eyes.

JV: Anyway, so it was an interesting process, of inspiration-counter inspiration. Yes, Gio, if lizards had horse-sized eyes they’d have to roll around on their pupils.

State of the Blog: Re-defining, Re-purposing, Focus

The pace of projects has overtaken me lately, along with the energy and effort required to stay patient and focused even while so many things are in flux. Part of my stress relief has been messing around on facebook, and that’s diluted some of my focus on this blog. I’ve been posting little snippets there rather than here because blogs and snippets don’t seem as suited for each other.

But I’ve also been thinking about this blog in terms of what I want out of my writing life and my reading life, which has slowed me down a bit. I don’t want this blog to just be ceaseless adverts, no matter how info-filled, for various book projects. I don’t want it to be too linky, in terms of cross-posting from Omnivoracious and elsewhere.

I also don’t want, anymore, to engage, for the most part, in the kind of heated debate that occurs when you tackle controversial topics—in part because I don’t have the time and in part because 90% of the topics “in play” tend to repeat discussions had time and again on the intertubes and in the meat world over the last 20 years. I feel a bit like saying “Why don’t you just Google it?!?” It’s exhausting.

In particular, any discussions about genre vs mainstream, subculture tribalism of any kind, any generalized discussions about types of fiction that don’t talk in specifics and start from false foundations based on received ideas rather than actual reading…none of this is worth correcting to, engaging with, or in any way acknowledging, and I’m going to try to avoid doing so from this point on.

What do I find myself passionate about? The creation of unique and meaningful books and other projects. The celebration of and analysis of unique and meaningful books, and especially to continue to bring attention to under-appreciated material that deserves your attention. (I would also like to have the time to talk more about Shared Worlds, the teen writing camp I help run, because the two weeks I spend there are among the most fulfilling of my year.)

At the center of the philosophy I think most healthy is the idea that the division between genre and mainstream fiction, between genre and literary fiction, is an artificial and harmful one, and that the best way to combat this disconnect, this partition of one alike thing from the other in the name of category, is to pretend it doesn’t exist in people’s minds. This is also harmful when considering fiction outside of the Anglosphere, because if we, for example, think just in terms of genre, we automatically render invisible the rich mimetic traditions in many countries, and their relationship to more fantastical material in those same places.

Which is to say, I want to continue to emphasize books from all over the landscape and to continue in our anthology projects to invite writers from all over the map–whether that map be geographical or reflecting the spectrum of types of fiction.

I have no idea if that sounds boring or fascinating. All I know is that the bloggers I follow have passion that translates into insights about what they love, what invigorates and moves them—the subject matter almost isn’t important. And that is what I want to continue to do, while balancing the demands of posting here with a sane daily schedule and our many books.

Site stats remain steady, but comments on this blog are way down. So, you’re out there, reading. But I don’t really know what you’re thinking.

And, inasmuch as I am able to take requests, what kinds of things would you like to see covered here?

Shared Worlds: Nnedi Okorafor Named Visiting Writer

nnedi okorafor-akata witch

As some of you may know, I’m the assistant director for the truly unique Shared Worlds writing camp. Every summer some of the most talented teens interested in SF/Fantasy get together at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and get to build worlds and write stories—all under the tutelage of a dazzling array of creators and teachers.

We’re proud to honor Nnedi Okorafor as our 2011 Visiting Writer. This allows us to spotlight her work and celebrate her latest YA release.

She joins a wonderful group of faculty and writers for the 2011 camp–which is now open for registration. Please note that there are scholarships available based on need.

More details in the press release below.

Novelist Nnedi Okorafor Named Shared World’s 2011 Visiting Writer

Shared Worlds, a non-profit science fiction/fantasy teen writing camp hosted by Wofford College (Spartanburg, South Carolina), has named Nnedi Okorafor the Visiting Writer for 2011. As part of her visit, Okorafor will talk about writing with the students, participate in a reading, and be interviewed about her books. Prior to the start of the camp, Shared Worlds will post a profile of Okorafor on their website, including an appreciation of her current novel, Akata Witch (April 2011). Okorafor’s visit will be funded by an grant recently received by Shared Worlds.

“Each year, we would like to turn the spotlight on one of our amazing guest writers, someone whose work is unique and also inspirational for our students,” said camp founder Jeremy L. C. Jones. “Nnedi’s fiction is truly original and her imagination is boundless.”

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Total. And Utter. SQUEE!


Two titles, one on squid and one a great Finnish writer’s latest, just came and caused me to “eeeeeeeeeee!” in total and utter excitement. I’ve read Birdbrain in PDF form, but I still prefer print books.

I’m busy on some stuff, but you’ll get a real post tomorrow, squidlings.

Amazon Features on Novelists Kameron Hurley and Stina Leicht

It’s been a long week, and I’ve been silent here largely because of work, but I wanted to point out two Omnivoracious features I posted this week:

An interview with Stina Leicht (Of Blood and Honey) by Rick Klaw

The first of a series of short essays by Kameron Hurley (God’s War)

Leicht and Hurley both have their first novels out from Night Shade. Both are highly individualistic writers with their own style and voice. Both are approaching their subject matter from a different place than many other fantasy/science fiction novelists. Both also have been toughened up by their path to publication and have shown remarkable perseverance and determination.

So, raise a glass in congratulations to two new unique voices, check out these features, and go out and buy their novels, both of which seem to be prominently displayed at chain stores and indies. These novels deserve your support.


Four Years At Sea, No Sign of Shore

As of this week, it has been four years since I was shoved ignominiously, bloody and already scarred, into the deep waters that constitute writing and editing books full-time. That the leviathans that live here haven’t devoured me yet is perhaps due to certain abilities of camouflage and mimicry, along with an equal propensity for flight and for fight.

At first, you are drowning in the dark water, lungs shrieking at you to rise prematurely to the surface, all of your senses oddly muted and mutable…but before the panic at water in your throat can end you, you discover with no little surprise that you have gills and although the landscape is strange you navigate through it without constantly gulping for air. Over time, you become used to the denizens of these places, some illumined with light and others shrouded in shadow. You look up toward the faded gold glimmering that is the sun shining down to you, but at first you have no desire to surface. You acclimate yourself to what is beneath.

When finally you rise, it is not a breach or a lunge, but a stealthy quick surveillance, eyes barely above the water, almost as if a mudpuppy in a trough upon a mudflat. When no harpoon nor other instrument of disaster pierces your skull, you become bolder. You float upon the surface and welcome the warmth you find there. Your senses are no longer muted, and you are no longer focused just on survival. You can appreciate the silhouette of the frigate bird, ignore the albatross, breathe in the scent of the sea and sleep to the sound of currents expressed as waves.

From pieces of wood and vines that float past, you build a raft over time. You begin to fish for your supper rather than subsist on seaweed. The raft becomes a boat. The boat becomes a ship. It’s a ramshackle ship, yes, with pieces not properly lashed together that break off, and it needs bailing—sometimes weekly, sometimes it holds water longer. But you’re able to make a crude stove and eat cooked meat and even find a violin in the water and teach yourself to play.
You encounter other rafts and boats and ships. You salvage from the waters not just a violin but a telescope, a desk, chairs, a sofa. The bounty of the sea, from your position at the ship’s wheel is uncertain only in its quantity and type, for it is always there, moving past you. Opportunity for the taking.

That your days are more certain than before is clear—and you are in no fear of drowning or of starving now. But some weeks are leaner than others, and each new sail encountered elicits the thought friend or foe? It’s a stop-start rhythm, an uncertain and treacherous current, that you must steel yourself over time to accept. You’re weather-beaten by now, skin toughened by the sun, and you are forever looking to the horizon with one eye and into the waters beneath the bow with the other. Each offers opportunity and each is treacherous.

You’re not really in a ship you built. You’re not really at sea. You’re surrounded by friends and family and colleagues. But still, after a time, you recognize there’s no far shore in sight, and may never be. And you have to be at peace with that.

Locus Online–Update on International SF/Fantasy/Horror

Just a quick note that due to circumstances beyond my control I am behind in compiling the 2010 version of this list. Rest assured it’s being worked on soon and information solicited shortly—including from those who commented on the list from countries not represented.

Further, please contact me with a brief paragraph of credentials if you live in a country not represented on last year’s list or in the comments thread–and you are familiar with the genre scene there and willing provide a list for your country. I am following up on other contacts to expand the range of the list, but more never hurts. I cannot promise anything, but do email me at vanderworld at I’d prefer you not comment here so I can keep proper track via email instead.

I’m working on making things more systematic and independent of my own schedule for the 2011 list. Thanks,

Monstrous Creatures Pre-Orders: Royalties Go to Translations (with Froggie and Cheese)

(Art and design Jeremy Zerfoss; slogan, Stepan Chapman; download a high res version here)

The long and the short of it: Raw Dog/Guide Dog is now offering not just the hardcover and trade paperback of my nonfiction collection Monstrous Creatures (see TOC) but a signed limited edition that includes the following additional section and a different cover. All royalties I receive these editions of Monstrous Creatures will help fund, along with direct donations, the translations component of the anthology Leviathan 5.

Bonus Section for Limited: “Monstrous Jobs” (in which I am forthcoming about odd jobs I have held)

—I’m Not With the CIA” (in which I am chased by a vicious dog)
—“Ms. Bookwarehouse” (in which I must do unnatural things in a bookstore)
—“The Baron’s Son with Blackened Fishsticks” (in which I must write narsty things to Taco Bell)
—“Lord of the Flies with Middle Management” (in which many bad things happen)
—“How I Became Dr. Lambshead’s Assistant” (in which I am chased by an idea)
—“The Pellet Story” (in which I am arrested for a time)
—“Pitch Me Eden” (in which freelancing becomes Biblical)

Free PDF download of my prior nonfic collection Why Should I Cut Your Throat?

Cover by Jeremy Zerfoss (higher res on his site):

monstrous limited

One story that didn’t make the cut because of space considerations below, along with a video of another story I only ever tell aloud and isn’t work-related…

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