Whether it’s the Nebulas, the Hugos, or any other sort of awards, these are the works I personally read/watched/listened to in 2014 and found worthy of critical acclaim. (If I missed your obvious favorite, it’s only because I didn’t read it yet.)
City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett
This fantasy novel does a number of things I value. Interrogations of colonialization and post-colonial powers. Complicated women with complex lives doing dangerous things. Different cultures behaving differently. The consequences of the past coming to bite the present’s ass. Human-scale evil being somehow worse than god-scale evil. Moreover, Bennett’s prose is clean and clear and readable, a quality I value more and more in my fiction.
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, by Genevieve Valentine
Historical fantasy fiction is a weakness of mine! But even allowing for that, Valentine’s work is marked superior. Her characters are real, painfully real — real enough that I had to keep putting the book down because I was worried about what was going to happen next. The intersection of culture and agency — the personal is political — is fascinating. I loved this book from start to finish.
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
The book is a damn delight. It’s court politics, and outsider fiction, and chosen one fiction except totally not at all. I particularly loved that the sympathetic main character is also sometimes a complete ass. Real characters, like real humans, are complex things. I also loved that the Huge Conflict in the plot was not a war or a plague or a demon infestation, but a bridge. That detail grounded the whole ending of the story for me. I highly recommend this book.
These are all from Apex Magazine. Of course I am biased. But this is what I spent a year doing — reading and picking the short stories I thought were the very best. Of course, then, I choose from these.
Jackalope Wives, by Ursula Vernon
Repairing the World, by John Chu
Not Smart, Not Clever, by E. Saxey
Economies of Force, by Seth Dickinson
The House in Winter, by Jessica Sirkin
Candy Girl, by Chikodili Emelumadu
Anthracite Weddings, by John Zaharick
Henrietta’s Garden, by Rebecca Kaplan
Keep Talking, by Marie Vibbert
Dramatic Presentation Long Form
Welcome to Night Vale, written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Narrated by Cecil Baldwin. Music by Disparition.
This long-form science fiction serial is complex, weird, frightening, and funny. The characters are vividly realized, and no matter how odd the plots get, I always care what happens next.
The Hidden Almanac, written by Ursula Vernon, performed and produced by Kevin Sonney.
This daily almanac of a fictional history is a gem. Short and sweet, each podcast give a historical note, the day’s saint, and gardening tips for a world not our own.
Non-Fiction, or Related Work, or Fancast, or whatever category this is for various awards
Rachel and Miles XPlain the X-Men, written and performed by Rachel Edidin and Miles Stokes, produced by Bobby Roberts.
This is the best encyclopedia and guidebook to the X-Men comics, ever. It is information, loving, funny, critical, and enthusiastic. Rachel and Miles are perfect guides to the crazy that is X-Men comics.
Graphic Novel or Comic Book
The Fuse vol 1: Russia Shift, by Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood.
Space station murder mystery featuring a middle-aged woman detective, international geo-politics, and the social problems of space? This story is amazing, and amazingly told through the art of Greenwood. Probably my favorite comic story of 2014.
Lumberjanes vol 1, by Noelle Stevenson, Brooke Allen, Grace Ellis, and Shannon Waters.
Camping! Mysterious creatures! Magic! Kissing! Girls who are friends! Girls who are rivals! Women mentoring girls! This is straightforward adventure fun, and I recommend it to almost everyone.
Captain Marvel #9 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, David Lopez, Lee Loughridge, and Joe Caramanga.
In this issue we see the limits of interstellar superheroing, and the benefits of diplomacy. It’s been a theme of the 2014 Captain Marvel run, that human relationships are more important than superpowers. It’s a theme I advocate, and I’m glad to see it in comics.
Apex Magazine, by Sigrid Ellis, Cameron Salisbury, and Elise Matthesen.
Well, duh. Of course I want you to consider Apex. I think we did a great job last year. We published a number of first-time authors, we expanded the poetry publications, we introduced reviews and artist essays, and in general we published high-quality work from a range of people who might not otherwise have been heard. That was the point, that was the mission, that was the goal. I feel good about it, and I hope you do, too.
I don’t really have other recs in this category, because working on Apex took so much time that I didn’t really read much of the other magazines’ work.
I tried! I really did! but, no.
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