As reported by Locus Online, the 2010 World Fantasy Award finalists have been announced, including the five finalists for best novel, first published in 2009. The winners will be announced at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus OH, in late October.
Blood of Ambrose, James Enge (Pyr)
The Red Tree, CaitlÃn R. Kiernan (Roc)
The City & The City, China MiÃ©ville (Macmillan UK/ Del Rey)
Finch, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland/Atlantic-Corvus)
In Great Waters, Kit Whitfield (Jonathan Cape UK/Del Rey)
Of these novels, The Red Tree has been award nominated before and made Amazon's SF/F 2009 top 10, The City and the City made Amazon's 2009 Top 100 and has won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, among others, and my own Finch has been a finalist for the Nebula and Locus Awards, while also picking up year's best nods from the Washington Post and others. The Enge has not received that much attention, while In Great Waters has received critical acclaim and much support in some quarters. Of the novels that could have made it but didn't, I would point out Catherynne M. Valente's Palimpsest and Michal Ajvaz's The Other City, in particular.
(Alternate editions of three of the finalists...)
Contacted by Amazon, finalist Kiernan (featured here just two days ago) said of The Red Tree, "It's a very different novel from my previous novels, though I'm not sure I can explain just how it's different. It is the first novel-length work I've written as a first-person narrative, and I think that gave it a greater immediacy and emotional impact than my other novels. It's the most blatantly autobiographical novel I've done. It's the first time I've allowed myself to move completely away from the interconnected, overlapping stories and characters that begin with Silk. It's the first time I've allowed myself to construct a book as found artifact, which is a story-telling device that fascinates me. So, different in a lot of ways."
The World Fantasy Award finalists in each category are comprised of the top two selections chosen by voters who attended the World Fantasy convention the year before, along with three to four selections by a panel of judges. The judges for this year were: Greg Ketter, Kelly Link, James Minz, JÃ¼rgen Snoeren, and Gary K. Wolfe. As a former judge, I can say that it's a very difficult and thankless task, picking the finalists, and knowing what goes into the process, it's fair to say that the finalist list should be viewed as a winners list, in a sense. Judges will always be second-guessed, but every jury works very, very hard and reads many thousands and thousands of pages of material. It's not a job anyone does except because they love fantasy.
As always, there's plenty on the list, in all of the categories, to please readers. Former winner John Picacio is up in the art category, while Paul Witcover's unjustly overlooked short story collection Everland is up in that category.
Said Witcover, "I've been nominated for a number of awards, but this is the nomination that means the most to me, because the caliber of judges is so high. To be chosen by such a select group, and to appear as a nominee with such wonderful writers, is deeply meaningful to me." As for what readers get of his short fiction, Witcover said, "I hope readers are a little less certain of themselves and the predictability of the world around them after reading my stories."
While a finalist in the short story collection or novel categories immediately conjures up a book cover in the reader's mind, a nominated artist may have had work admired by readers who never knew who produced the piece in question. Yet many of the top artists in the field will create dozens of memorable book covers and other pieces in a year.
I contacted former winner Picacio to ask what of his own work he personally found the most fulfilling in 2009. "The cover art for the limited edition of Drood by Dan Simmons still makes me happy and the cover art for [his] Muse of Fire. [Also,] the cover art for Age of Misrule: World's End by Mark Chadbourn.....I wasn't sure if I had nailed this one when I finished, but when I showed it to Pyr art director Lou Anders, he insisted I had. From the subsequent reaction, I'm glad I listened to him." This last piece will be featured in this year's edition of Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art.
What does next year hold for the awards? Personally, I think it will be The Year of Fresh Blood, with a slew of bold new writers making the ballot. (Check this space in early September for a "Best SF/Fantasy of the Year So Far?" post.)