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2015 Hugo Nominations v 0.1
Best Novel

The flush of the 2014 Hugo Awards is fading, and, with the holidays just peeking around the corner, I wanted to take the time to discuss some of my favourite novels from 2014, the ones that, at this very moment, would comprise my nomination slate for the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Will it change by next spring when nominations are due? Undoubtedly.

These are all terrific novels, and, if you haven’t read them already, well, I envy you.

Best Novel

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Say hello to the best fantasy novel of 2014.

Even as I was startled by its twisted depth, I adored every moment I spent with City of Stairs. Colonialism lies at City of Stairs‘ centre, and RJB handles it with equal parts boldness and delicacy. The ruined beauty of Bulikov and its fallen gods haunted me long after I turned the final page.

Robert Jackson Bennett is best known for his contemporary fantasy and horror crossovers, such as American Elsewhere and The Troupe, so his move into more traditional epic fantasy put him on the radar of a lot of new readers, and the result is something special. On first reading City of Stairs, I described it to a friend as “China Mieville without the ego.” I’m not sure I still agree with that statement, because it’s unfair to saddle one writer with another’s baggage, but while reading City of Stairs I couldn’t fight the feeling that RJB was mixing and refining elements from some of my recent favourite fantasies. Other touchstones exists, such as Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire and Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence, that place RJB among the most exciting and vibrant young fantasy writers working today.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

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Hold off on your re-reads, ardent Tad Williams fans! The author of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn announced via his Facebook page that the first volume in the upcoming sequel trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard is being delayed until Spring 2016.

“It appears as though the publication date of The Witchwood Crown has been pushed back to Spring 2016,” revealed OstenArd.com, “to allow time for editing of what is likely to be a massive manuscript.”

There was never an official release date for the novel, so calling this a delay might be somewhat disingenuous, but it is a pretty dramatic shift from the previously projected release date of Fall 2015. Given the length and complexity of Williams’ novels, this original date appeared quite ambitious in the first place.) Williams said on his website message board that he is 555+ pages into the manuscript, and is currently working on Chapter 32 of the novel, making it already longer than Stone of Farewell, though well off the pace to beat To Green Angel Tower, which had 60 chapters. “I’ve actually had time again to get into a rhythm,” he said.”It’s amazing how much faster it goes when I have dedicated working time and thinking time.”

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Buy Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie: Book/eBook

Ann Leckie, author of the much lauded, and many award winning, novel, Ancillary Justice, announced on her blog that her Imperial Radch series has been optioned for television by Fabrik and Fox Television Studios. “They have previously worked together on The Killing for four seasons on AMC and Netflix,” Leckie said, “and they started their relationship with Burn Notice.”

Leckie warns her fans not to get too far ahead of themselves, though, citing Hollywood’s glacial pacing and labyrinthine nature. “Ancillary Justice has been optioned for TV,” she said. “Now, ‘optioned’ doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is going to actually happen–things get optioned and then never made, quite frequently.’

With the production of a television adaptation of James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series in full production, this is a great time to be a fan of televised science fiction. Though the question begs to be asked, where Corey’s work is straight forward science fiction with all the fixins for television, Leckie’s series is a whole different beast, and many of its strongest facets — such as its handling of gender, and its protagonist’s preternatural cognitive abilities granted to her as an ancillary — may prove difficult to adapt to a television script.

“Bringing [Ancillary Justice] to any sort of screen (not counting your eReader screen, of course!) would be… an interestingly difficult project,” Leckie admitted. “I made sure to have a conversation with the folks at Fabrik about my specific concerns–namely, the approach to gender, and the issue of whitewashing (as in, I do not want to see the book whitewashed, I would like to namedrop LeGuin and mention her Earthsea experience here, thank you). I was very pleased with their response.”

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Publisher: Orbit Books - Pages: 400 - Buy: Book/eBook
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie can dance.

When her debut novel, Ancillary Justice, released in 2014, nobody expected it to hit the science fiction community like a nuclear bomb. But it did. And Leckie was dancing the whole way through.

It was a firecracker of a novel — small and intense — but the unusual narrative structure and Leckie’s bold take on gender might have limited the audience to the most passionate and feminist-minded readers. Instead, the exact opposite happened: Ancillary Justice wasn’t a small snap, crackle, pop in a corner of fandom, it was a conflagration of love and adoration heard ’round the community.

Ancillary Justice won almost every major literary award for science fiction and fantasy in 2014, including the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel, and has sold over 30,000 copies to date, proving that not only is there a market for progressive, thoughtful space opera, there’s a thirst for it among readers. Ancillary Justice was a huge critical and commercial success, but with that success comes a lot of pressure for a sequel that lives up to its predecessor and satisfies its many fans. Writing under that sort of pressure can be the first stumbling point for many first time novelists, but Leckie never misses a beat. Read More »

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Ana Grilo and Thea James, of The Book Smugglers, are no strangers to the publishing industry and good story telling. Since they first started smuggling, way back in 2007, and reviewing in 2008, Grilo and James have nurtured one of the finest speculative fiction blogs and were awarded for their hard work this year with as Hugo Award finalists for “Best Fanzine”. Now, the talented duo are set to apply their passion and eye for fiction to a new venture: Book Smugglers Publishing. I caught up with Ana and Thea to chat about the new venture, the challenges they’ve faced along the way, and why the speculative fiction community should be so excited for this new short fiction market.

In 2014, Grilo and James co-edited Speculative Fiction 2013, the follow-up to the Hugo nominated and British Fantasy Award winning non-fiction collection, Speculative Fiction 2012, and the experience opened up a whole world of options for the Smugglers. “It just seemed like such a natural progression for us,” said Grilo. “Unlike many of our fellow bloggers, we have no interest in becoming writers, but we do love stories and the publishing world.

“We’ve been editing our own blog for seven years, and during that time we’ve had the opportunity to beta-read a lot of novels. After our experience editing Speculative Fiction 2013, we felt ready to take the plunge into publishing short fiction as we felt we could make a contribution to the SFF world–by publishing diverse, feminist fiction. True Fact: we had not talked about publishing anything until this one day when we were having a discussion about What Comes Next™ for The Book Smugglers, and we both at the same time said, ‘let’s do short stories.’ And then we did.” Read More »