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Jonathan
Posted on Monday, December 15, 2003 - 04:00 pm:   

Hi all

I'm not sure if this is a conversation anyone else is particularly interested in having but, somehow, every year I get caught up in the whole 'year-in-review/'best-of-the-year' discussion, and I'm always looking for different ways to approach it. So, I thought it might be worth seeing if anyone here on the Night Shade boards was interested in discussing what they thought of the year just ending in science fiction / fantasy / horror / whatever.

Realising that Iím suggesting this whole discussion, I thought Iíd get started. Iíve posted a list of my personal Top 20 Favorite Books of í03 over on my blog, but I thought Iíd take a different tack here by posting a short list of ĎBest of the Yearí lists.

Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year (Thatís not a science fiction novel)
Pattern Recognition, William Gibson

Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year (That is a science fiction novel)
Natural History, Justina Robson

Best Fantasy Novel of the Year (That might be a science fiction novel)
The Light Ages, Ian R. Macleod

Best Fantasy Novel of the Year (That really is a fantasy novel)
The Light Ages, Ian R. Macleod

Best Fantasy Novel of the Year (Thatís just darn popular)
In the Forests of Serre, Patricia A. McKillip

Best First Novel of the Year
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow

Best Original Collection of the Year
Changing Planes, Ursula K. Le Guin

Best Reprint Collection of the Year
Limekiller, Avram Davidson

Best Original Anthology of the Year:
The Dark, Ellen Datlow ed.

Best Reprint Anthology of the Year (thatís not a yearís best):
Cities, Peter Crowther ed.

Best Science Fiction Anthology of the Year:
Live Without a Net, Lou Anders ed.

Best Fantasy Anthology of the Year:
The Dragon Quintet, Marvin Kaye ed.

Best Anthology Thatís Something Not Quite Like Anything Else of the Year:
The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and
Discredited Diseases, VanderMeer, Jeff & Roberts, Mark, eds.

Iíve got some short fiction lists to do, but I thought that might be a discussion starter.

Best
Jonathan
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Cheryl
Posted on Monday, December 15, 2003 - 05:08 pm:   

Interesting. And quite close to mine. A few comments...

I'd pick Quicksilver over Pattern Recognition, but it is close.

No dispute with Natual History - wonderful book.

I've said everything I need to say about The Light Ages elsewhere. Beautifully written, silly ending, odious politics. So I'll go for 1610 by Mary Gentle for the "might be SF" (because it assumes that astrology is a science that works) and The War of the Flowers by Tad Williams for real fantasy that is very popular.

First novel? The Etched City by Kirsten Bishop.

I don't read enough collections and anthologies to comment much, but Cities is wonderful and I'd like to put in a good word for Liz Hand's Bibliomancy.

Best looking book of the year that isn't an art book: The Lambshead Guide.

So, uh, can I use these as Hugo recommendations on the Emcit site?
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Jonathan
Posted on Monday, December 15, 2003 - 06:03 pm:   

Hey Cheryl,

It's always good to see other people seeing the world pretty much as I do :-) I considered long and hard when choosing between Quicksilver and Pattern Recognition, and chose Pattern Recognition because it's a tighter, better written book, and because Quicksilver really is only a third of a longer book. That said, both are worth checking out.

On 1610 and The Light Ages: I haven't had a chance to read 1610 yet (a copy only arrived here in Perth last week), so I can't say much about it. I do think it was a very ordinary year for fantasy novels, though. The Williams novel you mention was surprisingly good, but I didn't see a book that really stood head and shoulders above all comers either.

On first novel: I thought there were three really good first novels this year: Down and Out..., The Etched City, and Veniss Underground. I coudl be talked around on any of them, but I think Cory's book just tickled my imagination a little more.

On collections etc: if you can, you should try to get some time to check 'em out. Some pretty amazing books were published this year. I certainly agree about the Hand, but could go on to rave about the Glen Hirshberg, the Dale Bailey and a bunch of others.

And yeah, you can use 'em if you'd like.

J
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Cheryl
Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 - 08:18 am:   

Just go read 1610. I loved it.

Know what you mean about part-books. Quicksilver made my Hugo shortlist and Ilium didn't, because Quicksilver had some sense of closure whereas Ilium is clearly just half a book. Is it just me, or is this happening more often these days? The Scott Westerfeld, for example. It seems that publishers are taking longer novels, chopping them in half and selling them as two books so as to increase revenue.
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Jonathan
Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 - 02:13 pm:   

I will definitely read 1610. On books being split into multiple volumes - my understanding is that it's a practical assessment on behalf of a publisher about the saleability of a new or new-ish writer's book. A writer delivers a long book. The publisher says to publish this book it would need to retail at $US27.95. I don't believe I can sell Author X at $A27.95 so what I'll do is cut it into several volumes I can sell at $US24.95. The book is cheaper per volume so more copies sell, and the project as a whole is more viable in a business sense. My understanding is that this is pretty much what happened to both the Westerfeld novel SUCCESSION and John C. Wright's THE GOLDEN AGE. I don't see this as anything dark or evil by publishers, though - just practical marketing. That said, there's always the SFBC with their happy omnibuses making it cheaper for readers if you (as I sometimes do) balk at the more expensive book.

J
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Cheryl
Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 - 05:37 pm:   

Oh, I'm not suggesting anything dark and evil, I'm just interested in the industry dynamics. I've seen claims that bookstores are pressuring publishers for shorter novels (more revenue per foot of shelf) and people have speculated that this may lead to shorter novels. But it also seems to be leading to the creation of half-books.

OTOH, both the works you mention are Hartwell-edited. David? Are you out there? Any comment?
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 04:06 am:   

Jonathan,

could you send me an email. I;ve misplaced yours....

Thanks
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Night Shade Books
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 05:12 am:   

The word I've been hearing is that the chains have been pretty resistant to stock anything over $24.95 in depth, so the publishers have been doing whatever they can to keep the prices down. So short books are in, and long books become multiple short books.

Jason
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JV
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 04:22 pm:   

Much as I think Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom shows promise--and not to diss him; I like him--it's something of a travesty that that book is #5 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the top 10 books of the year, the only genre entry (unless I missed something). Talk about a triumph of PR.

JeffV
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JV
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 05:36 pm:   

Whoops--I see they have Harry Potter on there, too. I've liked the Potter books, but really didn't like this last one. Whiny and much worse writing-wise than the previous ones.

JeffV
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Jonathan
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 06:08 pm:   

Hi Jeff:

I'd have to agree that it's a triumph of something. I do think the book is good and should feature highly on a list of the year's best genre first novels. Would I put it in the Top 10 genre novels of the year? Probably not. I do wonder if Cory is helped by the fact that his book is 60,000 words long and not 250,000. As to the Potter - I thought it very mediocre. Poorly written, plotted, structured etc.

J
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Jonathan
Posted on Monday, December 22, 2003 - 05:03 am:   

Given that a number of the readers of the Night Shade boards spend time following what's going on in the field - a lot more so than the average reader - I'm curious as to what everyone thinks of the year just coming to an end.

It struck me as being a very average year for novels, especially fantasy novels. Most of the best SF seemed more to be semi-mainstream fiction with an sfnal point of view rather than straight SF, with one or two notable exceptions. And the best fantasy was wonderful, but there wasn't much of it.

Interestingly, for all that the marketplace is a shambles, I thought there was a lot of great short fiction published in '03. There were some wonderful collections, a handful of great anthologies, and Asimov's, F&SF, and SciFiction all had very good years.

So, I'm curious: do you think it was a good year? Does it matter? Is there any merit to the observation that you seem more likely to see a new slipstream (or whatever) story than a straight SF story published? I'm interested in people's views.

J

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