Monday, July 16, 2012

Readercon 2012- Some of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year and What I Bought

So one of the big reasons I attend ReaderCon, the annual festival/conference of science fiction and fantasy every year is to attend sessions on the best books of the year and get ideas about what to read. I don't read a lot of science fiction but I like to dip my toe in a little and learn. And every year I come back with ideas and lots of new books.

I bought three books this year:
Redemption in Indigo, by Karen Lord, was on last year's list of best science fiction and fantasy. It's a retelling of a Senegalese folk tale about a glutton whose wife leaves him, and the powers she gains. It's published by the great Small Beer Press.

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever is a collection of short stories by James Tiptree Jr., and some of Tiptree's only work that's in print. Tiptree was the pseudonym for author Alice Sheldon. She was known for edgy, feminist science fiction and so far I'd have to agree with that assessment! I see a lot of Margaret Atwood in Tiptree.

Finally, and this is more fun, I picked up 24 Frames into the Future, a collection of essays about science fiction film and movie culture by John Scalzi, author of many novels and stories. Each essay is about 2-3 pages long and many are very, very funny.

But what made folks' best-of lists this year? Four critics gathered for the Year in Novels panel, offered their picks and then asked for audience favorites.

ReaderCon's Year in Novels tracks novels from the ReaderCon year rather than the calendar year, so from July 2011 through July 2012.

The panel was made up of four critics: Don D'Ammassa, Natalie Luhrs, Gary K. Wolfe and Lisa Gruen Trombi. Several agreed that Kim Stanley Robinson's recent 2312 was a standout and also enjoyed China Mieville's Embassytown and Railsea as well. Caitlin Kiernan's The Drowing Girl received a lot of praise, and Wolfe said that Tim Powers' Hide Me Among the Graves was "the best fantasy of 2011." It's a historical fantasy about the Rosettis, telling the "secret history" of the family between the lines of known history. I may well look out for that one!  

The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun, by N.K. Jemisin, stood out for its "great worldbuilding"; inspired by ancient Egypt, one critic called it "multilayered" and "wonderful." Osama by Lavie Tidhar is unavailable currently in the U.S. but was praised for the risk-taking by author Tidhar, who recreates the real world as fiction within fiction. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore was a YA pick with Cashore receiving praise as one of the most thoughtful writers for young adults.

The audiobook of Bitterblue was noted as a standout as well, as was the audio of John Scalzi's Redshirts, narrated by Wil Wheaton.

Audience picks included A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The critics noted great early buzz for Iain M. Banks' forthcoming Hydrogen Sonata and Paolo Bacigalupi's Drowned Cities, which is out now.

On Sunday the 2011 Shirley Jackson Awards were handed out to the following writers and works:

  • "The Corpse Painter's Masterpiece," by M. Rickert, won in the Short Fiction category. It appeared in the Sept./Oct. 2011 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
  • After the Apocalypse: Stories, by Maureen McHugh and published by Small Beer Press, won for Single Author Collection.
  • Ghosts by Gaslight, edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers, published by Harper Voyager, won for Anthology.
  • "Near Zennor," by Elizabeth Hand, won for Novella. It was published in A Book of Horrors, published by Jo Fletcher Books.
  • "The Summer People" by Kelly Link won best Novelette. It was published in Tin House 49/Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, Candlewick Press.
  • Witches on the Road Tonight, by Sheri Holman, won Best Novel. It was published by Grove Press.
The Shirley Jackson Award recognizes horror, psychological suspense and the dark fantastic. This year Jackson's daughter Sarah Hyman DeWitt honored us with an appearance and wonderful stories about her mother,  a very kind and loving person.

Of the books mentioned, I want to read 2312, Witches on the Road Tonight and Hide Me Among the Graves. I tend to wait for paperbacks so I'll get them later on.

Now you know what to look for on the science fiction shelf of your local independent bookstore! Happy reading!