So it’s that time of year again, the deadline for nominations to the BSFA Awards is fast approaching (midnight on 13 January, if you haven’t done your duty yet) so it’s time to think about what I’d like to see on the shortlist. You can see what others have nominated here.

As usual lots of people online have complained about the quality of stuff they’ve read this year, but I felt like I had a rather good year of novel reading and coming up with a shortlist wasn’t hard – in fact I had more trouble narrowing the list down to a remotely sensible length.

By Light Alone, Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
City of Bohane, Kevin Barry (Jonathan Cape)
Dead Water, Simon Ings (Corvus)
Embassy Town, China  Mieville (Macmillan)
The Hammer, KJ Parker (Orbit)
The Islanders, Christopher Priest  (Gollancz)
Osama, Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)
Rule 34, Charles Stross (Orbit)
Zone One, Coleson Whitehead (Harvill Secker)

There were a number of other books that came close to getting my nomination. I wanted to nominate Nina Allan’s Silver Wind (Eibonvale Press) but it has been ruled a short story collection. That’s a perfectly reasonable decision but each story in the book is also thematically linked and it comes together as a coherent whole. I felt it works as a novel just as well as Chris Priest’s book and would highly recommend it.

I also enjoyed Jane Rogers’ The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press), Kim Lakin-Smith’s Cyber Circus (Newcon Press), Ahmed Khaled Towfik’s Utopia (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing), Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s The Fallen Blade (Orbit) and Will McIntosh’s Soft Apocalypse (Night Shade Books) but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere and my list of nominations was already too long.

The Copenhagen Interpretation, Paul Cornell, Asimov’s (July)
Crosstown Traffic, Tim Lees, Interzone 233, TTA Press
Day 29, Chris Beckett, Asimov’s (July)
For the Ages, Alastair Reynolds,  Solaris Rising:The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction, Solaris
Insha’Allah, Matthew Cook, Interzone 235, TTA Press
Jesus and the Eightfold Path, Lavie Tidhar, Immersion Press
Sleepers, Jon Ingold, Interzone 234, TTA Press
The Ceiling is Sky, Suzanne Palmer, Interzone 234, TTA Press
The Last Osama, Lavie Tidhar, Interzone 237, TTA Press
The Silver Wind, Nina Allan, Interzone 233, TTA Press

As usual my short story nominations are tinged with certain degree of guilt. There’s so much stuff out there it is impossible to keep up with it all. I did, for a change, manage to read all of this year’s Interzone in the year of publication and that’s reflected in the nominations. I subscribe to Asimov’s and F&SF but I have to confess that this year I’ve only dipped into them to pick out pieces by author’s I already knew. I also have a Clarkesworld subscription but I’ve barely had time to read any of it this year. The same is true of many of the anthologies. There’s still a pile of suff I want to read, that deserves to be read, but that I won’t get to within the nomination period.

The best collection I read this year was Kevin Barry’s These are Little Kingdoms – a wonderful little book. Most of  the stories are straightforwardly “literary” but a few of the outstanding tales contain elements of the fantastic. Unfortunately the collection was published in 2007 and so nothing in it was eligible for nomination. Paul McAuley’s Kindle published collection, Stories from the Quiet War, was also excellent.

Out of This World: Science Fiction but not as we Know it , Mike Ashley, British Library
The Emergence of Latin American Science Fiction, Rachel Haywood Ferreira, Wesleyan University Press
SF Mistressworks, Ian Sales, SF Mistressworks

More guilt. I’ve read a lot of non-fiction about sf this year but very little of it was published in 2011. Of the stuff I did read, this is what stood out.

Cover of Adam Roberts’ By Light Alone, Gollancz
Cover of Lavie Tidhar’s Osama, Pedro Marques, PS Publishing
Cover of Interzone 235, Richard Wagner, TTA Press

This was the toughest list to come up with this year, simply because I didn’t come across much sf-related artwork that really stuck in the memory.


So, there you go. That’s my take on the “best sf of 2011” as it crossed my path. Looking back through the list, it appears to have been a good year for Lavie Tidhar!

If you disagree with what I’ve listed or think I’ve missed anything, feel free to comment. And if you’re a BSFA member, remember to send your nominations to Donna Scott (awards@bsfa.co.uk) by the 13th.


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