The 2015 Planetary Awards have three categories open for nominations: shorter story (including novelettes and novellas), traditionally published novel, and self-published / small press novel.
It wasn’t too hard for me to find a short story nominee. I’ve read a dozen 2015 science fiction magazines as part of my magazine quest, and I’ve also read multi-author anthologies, single-author collections, and a few random stories from the kindle store.
My nominee for 2015’s best short story is … [drumroll] … “Something in the Water” by CS Boyack. The story can be found in The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack, which is only 99 cents at Amazon.
I had to think about why this was my favorite story. It has a few references to the early days of aviation, which is a topic of interest to me, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to make it my favorite. What I really liked was what the author did with two characters: the bad guy and his victim.
The bad guy had several layers of bad, from small things that made him an annoying jerk, to more serious things that made him an awful person, to something really dark that made him a vile monster. In a similar way, his victim demonstrated a number of traits from nice to wonderful to saintly. The author accomplished this without being over-the-top, and within the length constraints of a short story which wasn’t just a character study, but also had a plot.
OK, short story down, now on to the novels. At the end of November, I tabulated the publication years of the books I’d read in 2015, leaving out short stories and collections of short stories:
OK, I was in trouble here. I’d only read one 2015 book during the first 11 months of 2015, and that was Leviathan, the last book in the Lost Fleet series. I liked the book, but didn’t feel I should nominate it, since if another voter hadn’t read the rest of the series and tried to jump in with Leviathan, I’m not sure they would like it.
Other random facts suggested by the above data:
- There is a strong cluster of 2014 books. Perhaps I should have started the “best books from two years ago” awards.
- I didn’t read any classic science fiction last year. This will be remedied during 2016.
None of that helped me; I needed great novels to nominate. In December, I put aside all non-fiction reading to focus on science fiction and fantasy. I haven’t decided how far to continue doing so in January. This is a big sacrifice for me, as two non-fiction books I’d been looking forward to came out in December: Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire, and Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries. I also have a couple of WWI-related books I’d like to get to.
So, I bit the bullet and started buying 2015-published sci-fi and fantasy books. I bought: Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia, Enter the Janitor by Josh Vogt, Armada by Ernest Cline, Monsterland by Michael Cash, The Awakening by Adair Hart, Rath’s Deception by Piers Platt, Heirs of Empire by Evan Currie, The Oncoming Storm by Christopher Nuttall, and Renegade by Joel Shepherd. I may add Iron Axe by Steven Harper and/or Battle Cruiserby BV Larson to the list. I’m leaning away from Solomon’s Arrow by JD Jenningsdue to bad reviews, and even my almost irresistible attraction to underwater science fiction is not enough to make me read Hostile Waters by RT McPherson.
Let me know if you’ve read any of the above books or anything else by their authors. Even after applying some generous Christmas spirit, I gave out a lot of two-star ratings at Goodreads, but I also uncovered some surprise gems. I’ll announce my novel choices in a follow-up nomination post, and I’ll also make later posts reviewing some of the other books, so this intensive sci-fi/fantasy reading period wasn’t wasted.