Yep, it’s that time of the year again: Award Season. In the months to come, for those paying attention, there will be a truly impressive smattering of Awards swirling about. If you catch a Hugo or Oscar across your dome-piece, don’t act as if you weren’t given fair warning, ‘cause pretty soon it’s gonna be like an Awardmaggedon up in this piece.
Travel outside at your own peril.
Anyways, I’ve never been all that into Awards, writing or otherwise (especially in a medium as subjective as writing/art). In basketball or football, sure, with an army of statistics to back you up, one can make a compelling argument as to who was the most valuable player of the year, but how do you do that with writing?
Books and movies are interesting in so far as they are truly subjective. Case in point, The Southern Reach Trilogy, touted by many pundits as one of the best series of 2014, barely made a blip on my radar. Does that mean I have bad taste? Or maybe everybody else is wrong and the books just aren’t that good?
The answer lies somewhere in the middle, orbiting the always frustrating “both”. And this is where choosing the best books of 2014 gets really murky, ‘cause let’s be honest, of all the books to be nominated for all the various awards this year, how many of those have you actually read? How many have the judges actually read?
Has anybody read them all? Can anybody make an objective decision? No way. Impossible. Frustratingly so.
So, what happens? Well, it’s kind of the same old, same old. The authors who’ve gained a suitable following and are known within the community will consistently get nominated for awards, and within that fractional cross-cut of nominations certain authors will consistently win
Does that mean they are unworthy? Not at all. They got to where they are by being fantastic writers. I’m not trying to take anything away from them. But rather, I want to be honest that when we’re talking about the best books of 2014, we’re not really taking all the books, or even worthy books, into consideration.
To make the point, let’s take a look at the past decade or so of the Hugo’s (the grand poobah of awards within the Science Fiction/Fantasy realm).
Michael Swanwick won the Hugo for best novelette in 2003 and 2004. The year before he won for best short story. Two years before that he also won for best short story. How about the year before that? Yeah, you guessed it… best short story. So, in ‘99, 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2004 Michael Swanwick consistently beat out thousands of other worthy rivals. That’s impressive, surely he must be the exception.
Or is he?
Neil Gaiman, (a fantastic writer), won for short story in 2004. Best Novella in 2003. Best Novel in 2002. Three years running, not shabby.
Now, Michael Swanwick and Neil Gaiman are deserving of every accolade they receive, no doubt. But how can two authors in a 5 year span, win 8 awards?
Are they truly that much better than all the rest? Well, let’s go a bit more recent and take a look at nominations that made it to the finals.
China Mieville was nominated for Best Novel in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2010, and 2012. 5 nominations in a decade.
John Scalzi was nominated in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2013. 4 nominations in 7 years.
Robert J. Sawyer 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010. 6 nominations in 11 years. Wow! That must be a record.
Charles Stross has been nominated and made it to finalist status for Best Novel in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, oh and again in 2014. 7 nominations in a decade, with 6 of those being in a row. No winners, yet.
Okay, okay, so the same guys get nominated every year, what of it? Should we just throw in the towel and hand them the award?
Not so quickly, ‘cause here’s another little stat that will blow your mind.
In 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 (sort of), 2011, 2012, and 2014, the winner of Best Novel were writers who had NEVER made it to the finals before.
What? Take 2008 for instance. Charles Stross, John Scalzi, and Robert J. Sawyer (who between the three have a combined 17 nominations!) lost to Michael Chabon who had NEVER, ever, ever, made it to the finals.
So what do these wonky numbers tell us? Well, if you don’t win the Hugo’s on your first time in the finalist circle, then you’re probably not gonna win for quite sometime. But no fear, you’ll keep getting nominated indefinitely, you may just never win.
Sorry, Charles Stross.
Consequently, Michael Chabon hasn’t made it back into the finalist circle.
You win some, you lose some.
What’s the point of all this? Who cares?
Meh, I only care a little bit and even that is fairly forced. If somebody wants to give me an award, I’ll take it, but beyond that I can’t summon the strength to really get all that interested. So, instead, I’m gonna give my own awards.
Here ya go, the first annual “Lazy Robots”.
But since I think it’s really dumb choosing just one (and why should I even have to? Huh? Tell me, why?) I’m gonna give you the top ten books of 2014.
Consequently, the only stipulation for being eligible for a Lazy Robot is that the book had to have been written prior to 2015, and I read it sometime in 2014. Arbitrary? Yes, but they are my awards so suck it up.
Sorry, no time traveling books from 2097 trying to sneak into the 2014 Lazy Robot line-up. Time traveling is cheating.
But mostly cheating.
Okay. Here’s the top ten list of 2014. Every book on here I would unequivocally recommend for your reading enjoyment.
BLACKBIRDS – Chuck Wendig
The Night Circus
Lies of Locke Lamora
The Book Thief
All You Need Is Kill
The Name of the Wind
There ya have it, one really long winded blog post, and ten book recommendations. Not a terrible ratio. What were some of your favorite books of 2014?