Everybody everywhere seems to have their own awards and so, I thought, why not have my very own? The awards, the Coode Street Awards, would, sensibly, only cover a single calendar year. They’d also be limited to what I’d actually read (very subjective awards, I know, but hey, they’re my awards), and wouldn’t include any work that I was connected with in any way (no year’s best annuals are eligible, for example). The award, sadly, would have to be honor enough, so no prizes. And there’d be no shortlists etc., just the winners.
And, so, here are the inaugural Coode Street Awards.
The Jennifer Morgue, Charles Stross (Golden Gryphon)
I only managed to read a handful of novels in 2006, but this was the most enjoyable book I read all year. Fast paced, riveting, funny. It’s also possibly Stross’s most completely successful book length work so far. What more could you ask for from a novel that blends Ian Fleming and H.P. Lovecraft in equal measure?
Best Young Adult Novel
Wintersmith, Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins/Gollancz)
I fell in love with Tiffany Aching in The Wee Free Men. This latest in the series is as wise and wry, as witty and funny, as either of its predecessors. Pratchett is that rarest of writers: a treasure hiding out in the open. For some reason actually selling books makes people overlook how good you are at what you do. Pratchett is simply the best at what he does, and has been for a quarter century.
The Empire of Ice Cream, Jeffrey Ford (Golden Gryphon)
Jeffrey Ford is the best short story writer working in the genre today. No caveats, no ‘if”s’ or ‘buts': he’s the best. And this second collection was the best short story collection published in a year when we saw some amazingly good collections published. From the title story to the new novella “Botch Town”, Ford doesn’t skip a beat, doesn’t miss a note. And he seems only to be getting better.
There are many pitfalls when assembling an original anthology. Are the stories good? Are they consistently good? Is the book sequenced well? How well does it match what it says it is? That kind of thing. These two books, one science fiction and one mostly fantasy, stood out this year. The November anthology, a follow-up to her earlier Firebirds, included outstanding stories by Kelly Link, Ellen Klages, Diana Wynne Jones, and Emma Bull. Those stories alone were good enough to push it into the front rank of the year’s anthologies. The Dann and Dozois book features six science fiction stories. With strong contributions from Walter Jon Williams, Kage Baker, and Joe Haldeman, it had the highest ‘hit’ rate of any original SF anthology that I saw this year.
Best Reprint Anthology*
Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel, eds.
This is nothing less than Mirrorshades for the whole slipstream thing. Impeccably edited by Kelly and Kessel, it brings together a stunning array of short fiction in a book that is both definitive and readable. It even includes a terrific new M. Rickert story. Easily the best reprint anthology of the year.
Julian: A Christmas Story, Robert Charles Wilson (PS Publishing)
From the gorgeous cover to the story, this wonderful book is a delight. Wilson, only just finished winning the Hugo for Spin delivers in “Julian: A Christmas Story” one of his best works to date. Reminiscent of A Canticle for Leibowitz, this powerful novella is the story of a young man swept up in political and historical events beyond his station in a post-Collapse 22nd Century America. Apparently it may become part of a novel and, if so, I can’t wait to see it. One of the year’s highlights.
This story is set in the same world as Bacigalupi’s Sturgeon Award winner and Hugo nominee “The Calorie Man”, but I thought it much better. It’s set in a near-future Thailand where an everyman who has lost his wealth desperately struggles to survive in a resource-starved world. Dark, sensual and very, very impressive, it’s an incredible story and one of Bacigalupi’s very best.
I’d not read much Rosenbaum, but this year he produced two terrific stories, “A Siege of Cranes” in Twenty Epics and this short, powerful piece. A young girl lives and suffers in a violent home while the creator of her world looks on, and wonders how he can intervene. It’s a remarkably intense tale.
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Gordon Van Gelder ed.
Gordon Van Gelder has established The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as the leader in the genre magazine field. Every month it reliably provides a sampling of the best fantasy and SF stories anywhere in the field, and the annual double-issue is usuall one of the best anthologies of the year. This year the magazine featured terrific work by regulars M. Rickert, Robert Reed and others, as well as very fine work by Peter Beagle etc.
Best Related Work
The Arrival, Shaun Tan (Lothian/Hachette Livre)
World Fantasy Award winner Tan’s magnum opus. Four years in the making, this 128 page graphic novel is simply stunning. A poignant tale of immigration and all of its pitfalls and promises, The Arrival is a book that is only loosely related to the genre, but is such a major work of the imagination that we can’t afford to overlook it. Possbily only Cormac McCarthy’s The Road comes close to occupying a similar position. If this one doesn’t clean up every major award in the field in 2007 it’ll be because the awards got it wrong.
* excludes year’s best anthos.