Women of the Retro Hugos: 1943 and 1944 edition

Note: Fog Magic by Julie Sayer and Child of the Sun by Leigh Brackett were both longlisted, but I have yet to read these. As such I have left them out of the article here.

Best Novel 1943:

The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle

The Uninvited

It is interesting to see a work of gothic horror make the ballot, particularly from a writer who up to this point would probably have been better known as a journalist and playwright. But I always welcome a fresh perspective and a more literary take on the genre.


The first thing that struck me was how much the mood and setting reminded me of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. And as such you could have seen this head more in that direction. Instead what we have is a haunted house story where ghosts are treated as much as a sensible part of the mystery as the human elements.


I enjoyed the spooky tale but I was left at the end wanting a little bit more. I know it is often cited as one of the best haunted house stories of all time but compared to say Shirley Jackson, Henry James or Toni Morrison it is on a much simpler level.

Grand Canyon by Vita Sackville-West (Longlisted)

Grand Canyon

Talking of literary writers, you cannot get much more highbrow than Vita Sackville-West. Missing out by the narrowest margin on being a finalist, this is a work that is much cleverer than it seems.

The concept sounds like it could easily be a piece of war time propaganda like The 49th Parallel. What Sackville-West’s skill allows it to do is transform into a much smarter study. Whilst we know that a Nazi attack is going to come eventually, it spends a long time with just the characters talking, allowing us to be lulled in.


As it goes on it becomes philosophical and nightmarish with some true weirdness at the end. It is not the easiest book to read but it is possibly the most interesting one to come out in 1943.

Best Novel 1944:

Earth’s Last Citadel by C. L. Moore & Henry Kuttner

Earth's Last Citadel

Moore and Kuttner’s works are usually a delight and I look forward to them. The retro Hugo voters clearly agree with me, each of them having 9 nominations apiece so far (only beaten by Asimov and Heinlein).


However, this is the first of their writings I have come across the didn’t work as well for me. The story starts off interestingly enough, with our protagonists ending up on a dying earth. And whilst this is a fast-moving fantasy story it feels very insubstantial in the end.

Judgment Night by C. L. Moore (Longlisted)

Judgement Night

This, on the other hand, was slightly more towards my tastes. This almost seems more the kind of space fantasy I would associate with Leigh Brackett. What does mark it out as distinctly Moore-ish is her characters, where she has a deep understanding of people’s motivations and she also constructs an interesting world.

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton (Longlisted)

Magic Faraway Tree

Although I grew up on Enid Blyton books this was not one I was familiar with in its written form. Instead it was from the animated series Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Lands, the first season of which adapted these stories. Whilst I enjoyed them, I was nervous going in, as not all of Blyton’s works age well. This one thankfully lacked any majorly problematic elements I could see. However, it also was quite simplistic.


Unlike the allegorical The Land of Far Beyond or adventurous Five on Treasure Island, this seems designed for very young readers. And whilst the portal fantasy element is always a good one there doesn’t seem to be much depth outside of how fun these lands would be to visit. The main characters are also pretty thinly drawn.


The whole thing is very enjoyable for young children and the adventures run quickly but they also feel like what I would have written as a seven-year-old myself. Nothing bad but also a bit lacking.

Best Novella 1944:

The Magic Bedknob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons by Mary Norton

The Magic Bedknob

I am a big fan of Bedknobs and Broomsticks (probably near wearing the VHS out in my youth) but had never read the original book, so was interested to check it out. The biggest difference with the film is that, rather than having a single driving narrative, these are more discrete Blytonesque adventures, with the bed acting as the magic portal.


Whilst the characters are quite good and the mood is fun, the adventures themselves vary between pedestrian and offensive. It has potential but, at least in the first half, it remains largely unfulfilled.


Best Novelette 1943:

There Shall Be Darkness by C. L. Moore

There Shall be Darkness

For me this is one of the best pieces published in 1943. It is a beautifully written novelette which is incredibly clever and packs a punch at the end. Coming before the beginning of the major moves towards de-colonization in the 50s and 60s this comes across as extremely prescient and another great addition to Moore’s illustrious career.

The Sorcerer of Rhiannon by Leigh Brackett 

Sorcerer of Rihannon

Leigh Brackett was a prolific writer in the early 40s. After having her first sale in the February 1940 edition of Astounding, in the following 3 years she had published 26 short stories, a novella and 2 novels.


However, that is not the only reason she is dubbed the queen of space opera. Her tales are also very entertaining yet have a certain edge and intelligence to them, which elevates them above the standard fare. This is a perfect example, at once a fantastic tale of a magical Mars but it goes in a different direction than you would got have from many other authors.

Best Novelette 1944:

Mimsy Were the Borogoves by C. L. Moore & Henry Kuttner – Winner

Mimsy Were the Borogroves

Between them in this two-year span they had published almost 50 stories. And of these this is probably the most famous, being regularly reprinted since the 40s and the basis of a major film.

However, this one left me cold compared with their usual inventiveness. I think your feelings on this will likely depend on what you think of the characters of Scott and Emma. I felt like I was meant to relate to them in the way we do with the Pevensie children but they felt flat and so I struggled to enjoy it. Clearly this has a wide audience of fans but not one for me.

Citadel of Lost Ships by Leigh Brackett 

Citadel of Lost Ships

Even among Brackett’s earlier works this is one of the more interesting pieces that goes to darker places. From the appropriately swampy Venus we get a story of power struggles and prejudice that is still quite chilling even among the space hijinks.


I do have trouble with the idea of the world Romany, however. Whilst it is not as poorly drawn as other ethnic groups often are during this period, it is still done in a way that dates the piece badly. 

Thralls of the Endless Night by Leigh Brackett (Longlisted)

Thralls of the Endless Night

I have read this one several times over and I still don’t know what to make of it. I think it might be trying to make a point about racism in the US at this point in time but, if that is the case, I feel it is being done in a poor way. If this is incidental and it’s just meant to be a darker space adventure then I don’t think it works in that manner either, being quite slow and leaden. Not one for me.

Best Short Story 1943

The Twonky by C. L. Moore & Henry Kuttner – Winner

The Twonky

This is a rightly famous tale of robotic appliances gone wrong, in its short space it manages to be atmospheric and memorable. A very worthy winner.

Child of the Green Light by Leigh Brackett (Longlisted)

Child of the Green Light

Whilst this didn’t quite make my final nominating ballot it was one I definitely considered. This one seems to have a less fantastical feel to it and a slightly harder science fictional edge (although still very firmly in the mood of the space opera adventures of the rest of her Solar System stories) and ends up being one of the more memorable of her series.

Best Short Story 1944

Doorway into Time by C. L. Moore

Doorway Into Time

And with this nomination Moore has an unusual record. The only writer to be on the Hugo final ballot in the same year for novel (Earth’s Last Citadel), novella (Clash By Night), novelette (Mimsy Were the Borogoves) and short story (Doorway into Time).


This is a much slower and more ponderous tale than we often get from Moore. It is a tale told in rich prose as if we are meant to see it in slow motion. Very different from much of the work you will see during this period.

The Iron Standard by C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner (Longlisted)

The Iron Standard

Whilst Nothing But Gingerbread and The Iron Standard didn’t quite make the final ballot they came close with the next most nominations (along with Frederic Brown’s The Geezenstacks). Which both goes to show how strong Moore and Kuttner’s writing is and the importance they have to the history of the genre.


This is a good example of their ingenuity. It is shaped like an interplanetary adventure but it is really a tale of possible economics and where humans are attempting to survive in a completely different system from which they are excluded.

Nothing But Gingerbread Left by Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore (Longlisted)

Nothing But Gingerbread

As you can tell by now C. L. Moore was one of the defining writers of the early 40s. And after the seminal There Shall Be Darkness this was my favourite of hers from these two years.


This is a piece that is weird and humorous but also has a fascinating idea at its core; the use of a semantic virus against German speakers and the effects of it.

Best Professional Artist:

Margaret Brundage

We already covered her career in our previous piece so here I will look at her 1942 and 1943 work.

Brundage 1

Brundage 2

By this point Brundage’s career was winding down. She had the above two covers and three pieces of interior art for Weird Tales. This does not appear to be due to a lack of talent but changing environment and publishing control, leaving her in relative poverty for the rest of her life.


This is a shame because for me I actually think her work is significantly better during this period. Gone are some of the problematic and over sensationalised elements. Also the women are depicted in a wider range of poses and situations, with an interesting range of compositions. Ironically hers are some the most memorable covers of Weird Tales in this period just as her work was being used less.

Dorothy M. Wheeler (Longlisted)

Wheeler 1

Dorothy M. Wheeler appears to have started her collaboration with Blyton in 1939 but was already a well-known artist by that point due to her numerous watercolour fairytale depictions.

Wheeler 2

The work she was being nominated for this time was specifically the cover of The Magic Faraway Tree, which it cannot be denied is a stunning piece of art, with so much detail that directly conveys the sense of wonder of the story within. So many wonderful little touches and ideas go into her work you can easily get just as lot in them as you can in a book itself.

Best Editor Short Form:

Dorothy McIlwraith


Following the struggles Weird Tales had after the deaths of Howard and Lovecraft and having to go bi-monthly, we begin to see an upswing in quality. Whilst losing out on the Ffhard and Grey Mouser stories to Unknown, Lieber produced several strong horror stories for Weird. Robert Bloch continued to produce creepy tales, including his famous Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper. Otis Kline’s final work (in collaboration with Frank Bellknap Long), The Return of the Dead, came out of there in 1943.


Probably the biggest reason, however, was picking up a number of Ray Bradbury’s stories, including 3 of his most uncanny: The Scythe, The Wind and The Crowd. As such a very strong couple of years and would point the way for the future.

Mary Gnaedinger


I was very glad to see Mary Gnaedinger to get on here as her work is often overlooked. Starting in 1939 she started editing Famous Fantastic Mysteries, which would be followed by Fantastic Novels and Abraham Merrit’s Fantasy Magazine, and would continue to edit every issue.


These magazines were largely reprints, but of works that otherwise readers wouldn’t get to see at that time. In this she would reprint for the first time works by Francis Stevens, Ray Cummings, George Allan England, and Ralph Milne Farley among others, helping reintroduce older works to a new generation long before the emergence of easily available paperback editions.


In addition, however, she also began to publish some original fiction as well, with two of the short story nominees (Doorway into Time and King of the Grey Spaces) coming from these pages. This was still a minority of the content but points out the quality of some of the choices that would appear.

So, these have been good years for women getting nods, but will this continue next year? I would hope so, among others we see:

CL Moore continued to produce excellent work, in particular the superlative No Woman Born. Leigh Brackett’s Solar System keeps expanding, with her first novel in it, Shadow Over Mars, being of particular note.

For fans of the supernatural, Elizabeth Bowen released a number of stories in mainstream magazines whilst Allison V. Harding had a range in Weird Tales.

Edna Mayne Hull has a new story in the Artur Blord series as well as a new novel, The Winged Man.

Whilst for fans of Enid Blyton she continues her prolific writing with books such as Tales of Toyland and The Train That Lost Its Way.


But what will be on there? Have to wait and see.

200 Science Fiction Books From Authors of Marginalized Gender: The List

Last year, in honour of 200 years since Frankenstein, we attempted to tweet a daily list of 200 science fiction books from writers who are not cis-male. However, real life got in the way of completing it all.

As such I am now sharing here the full list:

1. A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski

A Door Into Ocean

2. A Matter of Oaths by Helen S. Wright

A Matter of Oaths

3. A Paradigm of Earth by Candas Jane Dorsey

A Paradigm of Earth

4.  A Thousand Words for Stranger  by Julie E. Czerneda

A Thousand Words For Stranger

5. Alien Earth by Megan Lindholm

Alien Earth

6. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Alif the Unseen

7.  All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red

8. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky

9. Amatka by Karin Tidbeck


10.  An Account of an Expedition to the Interior of New Holland by Lady Mary Fox

An Account of An Expedition to the Interior of New Holland

11. An Exchange of Hostages by Susan R. Matthews

An Exchange of Hostages

12. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

An Unkindness of Ghosts

13.  Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice

14. Angel Island by Inez Haynes Irwin

Angel Island

15. Anthem by Ayn Rand


16. Arachne by Lisa Mason


17. Archangel Protocol by Lyda Morehouse

Archangel Protocol

18.  Arqtiq: A Study of Marvels at the North Pole by Anna Adolph


19.  Arslan by M.J. Engh


20.  Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi


21. Becoming Alien by Rebecca Ore

Becoming Alien

22. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress

Beggars in Spain

23. Black Oxen by Gertrude Atherton

Black Oxen

24. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest


25. Brightness Falls from the Air by James Tiptree Jr.

Brightness Falls From The Air

26.  Brother Termite by Patricia Anthony

Brother Termite

27.  Cards of Grief by Jane Yolen

Cards of Grief

28. Children of Men by P. D. James

Children of Men

29.  Children of the Atom by Wilmar H. Shiras

Children of the Atom

30.  China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh

China Mountain Zhang

31. Cinder by Marissa Meyer


32. City of Pearl by Karen Traviss

City of Pearl

33.  Code of Conduct by Kristine Smith

Code of Conduct

34.  Crashcourse by Wilhelmina Baird


35. Darkchild by Sydney J. Van Scyoc


36.  Darkland by Liz Williams


37.  Daughters of a Coral Dawn by Katherine V. Forrest 

Daughters of the Coal Dawn

38. Daughters of the North by Sarah Hall

Daughters of the North

39. Day of the Drones by A. M. Lightner

Day of the Drones

40.  Diadem from the Stars by Jo Clayton

Diadem from the Stars

41. Distances by Vandana Singh


42. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Doomsday Book

43. Dormant by Edith Nesbit


44. Downbelow Station by C. J. Cherryh

Downbelow Station

45. Dreamsnake by Vonda N. Mcintyre


46. Dust by Elizabeth Bear


47. Egalia’s Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes by Gerd Brantenberg

Egalia's Daughters

48. Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett


49. Everfair by Nisi Shawl


50. Everything Belongs to the Future by Laurie Penny

Everything Belongs To The Future

51.  Farthing by Jo Walton


52. Feed by Mira Grant


53. Fires of Nuala by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Fires of Nuala

54. Flight: A Quantum Fiction Novel by Vanna Bonta


55. Floating Worlds by Cecelia Holland

Floating Worlds

56. Fool’s War by Sarah Zettel

Fool's War

57. Glass Houses by Laura J. Mixon

Glass Houses

58. God’s War by Kameron Hurley

God's War

59. Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle

Golden Witchbreed

60. Grand Canyon by Vita Sackville-West

Grand Canyon

61. Grass by Sheri S. Tepper


62. Grimspace by Ann Aguirre


63. Groundties by Jane S. Fancher


64. H(A)PPY by Nicola Barker


65. Halfway Human by Carolyn Ives Gilman

Halfway Human

66. Heart of Gold by Sharon Shinn

Heart of Gold

67. Hellspark by Janet Kagan


68. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


69. Horizons by Mary Rosenblum


70. House of Zeor by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

House of Zeor

71. Hunger Makes The Wolf by Alex Wells

Hunger Makes The Wolf

72. I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman

I Who Have Never Known Men

73. In The Garden of Iden by Kage Baker

In The Garden of Iden

74. Infomocracy by Malka Ann Older


75.  Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias


76. Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

Into The Forest

77. Islands by Marta Randall


78. Jaran by Kate Elliott


79.  Kallocain by Karin Boye


80.  Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor


81. Legend by Marie Lu


82. Lethe by Tricia Sullivan


83. Leviathan’s Deep by Jayge Carr

Leviathan's Deep

84. Line and Orbit by Lisa Soem and Sunny Moraine

Line and Orbit

85.  Looking for the Mahdi by N. Lee Wood

Looking for the Mahdi

86. Looking Through Lace by Ruth Nestvold

Looking Through Lace

87. Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson

88.  Mainline by Deborah Teramis Christian


89. Memoirs of a Spacewoman by Naomi Mitchison

Memoirs of a Spacewoman

90. Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

Midnight Robber

91. Mind Traders by Joan Hunter Holly

Mind Traders

92. Mindscape by Andrea Hairston


93. Missing Man by Katherine MacLean

Missing Man

94.  Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin

Native Tongue

95. Necrotech by K. C. Alexander


96. Northwest of Earth by C. L. Moore

Northwest of Earth

97. Nothing Sacred by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Nothing Sacred

98. Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Noughts & Crosses

99. Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody


100. Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet

Oh Pure and Radiant Heart

101. On A Red Station Drifting by Aliette De Bodard

On A Red Station Drifting

102. Out of the Void by Leslie F. Stone

Out of the Void

103. Pandora’s Genes by Kathryn Lance

Pandora's Genes

104. Pennterra by Judith Moffett


105. Pilgrimage: The Book of the People by Zenna Henderson


106. Planet Patrol by Sonya Dorman

Planet Patrol

107. Planetfall by Emma Newman


108. Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro

Primary Inversion

109. Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Queen City Jazz

110. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente


111. Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta by Doris Lessing

Re Colonised Planet 5 Shikasta

112. Ring of Swords by Eleanor Arnason

Ring of Swords

113. Rondah, or Thirty-Three Years in a Star by Florence Carpenter Dieudonne


114. Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler

Sarah Canary

115. Shade by Emily Devenport


116. Shadow on the Hearth by Judith Merril

Shadow on the Hearth

117. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

Shards of Honor

118. Sign of the Labrys by Margaret St. Clair

Sign of the Labrys

119. Slow River by Nicola Griffith

Slow River

120. Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge


121. Star Man’s Son, 2250 A.D. by Andre Norton

Star Man's Son

122. Star Rider by Doris Piserchia

Star Rider

123. Starbridge by A. C. Crispin


124. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven

125. Still She Wished for Company by Margaret Irwin

Still She Wished For Company

126. Sultana’s Dream: A Feminist Utopia by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain 

Sultan's Dream: A Feminist Utopia

127. Sunburst by Phyllis Gotlieb


128. Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin

Swastika Night

129. Synners by Pat Cadigan


130. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

The Best of All Possible Worlds

131. The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata

The Bohr Maker

132. The Cage of Zeus by Sayuri Ueda

The Cage of Zeus

133. The City Not Long After by Pat Murphy

The City Not Long After

134. The Color of Distance by Amy Thomson

The Color of Distance

135. The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Disappeared

136. The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season

137. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

138. The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter

The Fortunate Fall

139. The Girl In The Moon by Thea Von Harbou

The Girl in the Moon

140. The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver

141. The Guild of Xenolinguists by Sheila Finch

The Guild of Xenolinguists

142. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale

143. The Heads of Cerberus by Francis Stevens

The Heads of Cerebus

144. The House on The Strand by Daphne Du Maurier

The House on the Strand

145. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games

146. The Journal of Nicholas The American by Leigh Kennedy

The Journal of Nicholas the American

147. The Last Man by Mary Shelley

The Last Man

148. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness

149. The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett

The Long Tomorrow

150. The Long Way Back by Margot Bennett

The Long Way Back

151. The Long Way To The Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet

152. The Madness Season by C. S. Friedman

The Madness Season

153. The Man With Six Senses by Muriel Jaeger

The Man With Six Senses

154. The Many-Coloured Land by Julian May

The Many Coloured Land

155. The Matrix by Jo Bannister

The Matrix

156. The Merro Tree by Katie Waitman

The Merro Tree

157. The Mount by Carol Emshwiller

The Mount

158. The Mummy! A Tale of the 22nd Century by Jane C. Loudon

The Mummy

159. The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald

The Outback Stars

160. The Perfect Planet by Evelyn E. Smith

The Perfect Planet

161. The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power

162. The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

The Prey of Gods

163. The Republic of the Future by Anna Bowman Dodd

The Republic of the Future

164. The Sardonyx Net by Elizabeth A. Lynn

The Sardonyx Net

165. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls

166. The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey

The Ship Who Sang

167. The Shore of Women by Pamela Sargent

The Shore of Women

168. The Silent City by Elisabeth Vonarburg

The Silent City

169. The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee

The Silver Metal Lover

170. The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya

The Slynx

171. The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge 

The Snow Queen

172. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow

173. The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

The Speed of Dark

174. The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein

The Steerswoman

175. The Strange World of Planet X by Rene Ray

The Strange World of Planet X

176. The Terrorists of Irustan by Louise Marley

The Terrorists of Irustan

177. The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers

The Testament of Jessie Lamb

178. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler's Wife

179. The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again by A. C. Wise

Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron

180. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

The Unit

181. The Victorian Chaise Longue by Marghanita Laski

The Victorian Chaise Longue

182. The Wave Theory of Angels by Alison MacLeod

The Wave Theory of Angels

183. Thinner Than Thou by Kit Reed

Thinner Than Thou

184. Time of the Fourth Horseman by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Time of the Fourth Horseman

185. Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer


186. Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott

Trouble and Her Friends

187. Turning Point by Lisanne Norman

Turning Point

188. Unveiling a Parallel: A Romance by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant 

Unveiling A Parallel

189. Unwillingly To Earth by Pauline Ashwell

Unwillingly To Earth

190. Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff

Valor's Choice

191. Vanishing Point by Michaela Roessner

Vanishing Point

192. vN by Madeline Ashby


193. Walk to the End of the World by Suzy McKee Charnas 

Walk to the End of the World

1934 Warchild by Karin Lowachee 


195.  We Who Are About To… by Joanna Russ

We Who Are About To

196. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm

Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang

197. White Queen by Gwyneth Jones

White Queen

198. Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Wild Seed

199. Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

Winter Tide

200. Woman On The Edge Of Time by Marge Piercy

Woman On The Edge of Time

The Subjective Chaos Kind Of Awards 2019: Winners

The second year is complete. Our discussions are finished and the winners now have their trophies. It was quite a divided field in the end, with everyone having their own favourites and trying to narrow it down to winners was quite hard.

Here are the winners:

Best Fantasy Novel:

The Loosening Skin – Aliya Whiteley

Loosening Skin  

Best Science Fiction Novel:

I Still Dream – James Smythe

I Still Dream  

Best Blurred Boundaries Novel:

The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

Psychology of Time Travel    

Best Novella:

Prime Meridian – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Prime Meridian  

Best Series:

Machineries of Empire – Yoon Ha Lee

Machineries of Empire - Revenant Gun  

Congratulations to all the winners. Who will be nominated next year? Watch this space!

The Subjective Chaos Kind Of Awards 2019: Finalists

And so we come to the finalists for this year:

Best Fantasy Novel:

The Poppy War by RF Kuang

The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley

In here there was one clear front runner and then a fight over the second slot. Will definitely be interesting to see what happens in the head to head

Best Science Fiction Novel:

I Still Dream by James Smythe

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Space Opera by Catherynne M Valente

One round where a lot of different championing from the different judges with no clear front runner and every nominee getting at least one mention

Best Blurred Boundaries Novel:

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

As with science fiction this was a hotly contested round where there was even debate over whether we should have 3 nominees. But in the end we couldn’t leave  one of these three out

Best Novella:

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

These two were way ahead of the other nominees and it is going to be a tough battle with these facing off against each other

Best Series:

Machineries of War  by Yoon Ha Lee

Fractured Europe by Dave Hutchinson

You can read about my favourites here

The Subjective Chaos Kind Of Awards 2019: My Thoughts

In our second year of the SCKA I thought this time I would write my feelings in a single post on all of the SCKA works we have shortlisted and those I felt strongest in the various fields*:


Best Fantasy Novel:

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Someone Like Me by MR Carey

The City of Brass by SA Chakraborty

The Poppy War by RF Kuang

The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley

Poppy War

Children of Blood and Bone

Going into awards season I felt that the two strongest fantasy novels of 2018 were Children of Blood and Bone and The Poppy War. This has not changed as I have continued reading. Adeyemi’s work takes a lot of the standard tropes of YA fantasy and uses them in interesting ways. The Poppy War, on the other hand, is a kind of fantastical bildungsroman that allows for our protagonist to go in directions that are not usually allowed for young women. Both also take inspiration from cultures and histories that are often neglected in the western fantasy tradition.

Whilst I originally enjoyed Children of Blood and Bone more, and it is a great adventure, I feel that there is more depth to The Poppy War, and it is one of the books I have kept thinking about again and again. A such that is the one I will be rooting for.


Best Science Fiction Novel:

Semiosis by Sue Burke

84k by Claire North

Embers of War by Gareth L Powell

I Still Dream by James Smythe

Rosewater by Tade Thompson**

Space Opera by Catherynne M Valente

Space Opera

I Still Dream

I know it is not for everyone, but I adored Valente’s Space Opera. An Adams-ian take on the Eurovision Song Contest with deliciously lush language and a message about the value of emotional openness. As such it is my personal clear front runner.


Due to the nature of this site I am not concentrating on the male nominees but the next ones in contention for me are Smythe’s I Still Dream and Thompson’s Rosewater.


Best Blurred Boundaries Novel:

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning

The Psychology of Time Travel

This is a very strong category but top of my list is Trail of Lightning. The use of language is stark and perfectly crafted whilst also developing a real character arc for Maggie which is gut wrenching and throws you into an amazing world.

Coming close behind is The Psychology of Time Travel, which is such a different work but at its core is still an emotional character piece which cleverly combines relationship drama with science fictional concepts beautifully. A really skilled work.


Best Novella:

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

The Black God’s Drums by P Djeli Clark

Chlorophryll and Gasoline by SJ Fleming

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts

The Tea Master and the Detective

The Black God's Drums

Chlorophyll and Gasoline

On here there are a lot of great works. For me the competition is between Aliette de Bodard’s exciting detective novel (combining two of my loves, the Xuya universe and Sherlock Holmes stories), The Black God’s Drums and the fascinating Chlorophyll and Gasoline.

So these are my own thoughts, we will see what makes it through to the final round and wins outright. There don’t currently appear to be any frontrunners among the judges.


*I am leaving out series as I am not as much of a sequential reader and so, whilst I have my own feelings on each of the I will be leaving a lot of the discussion to more ardent series readers. 


**Moved from Blurred Boundaries to Science Fiction upon judges’ discussion. We are chaotic that way.

Announcement: The Subjective Chaos Kind Of Awards – Winner

And so we come to the end. A fun adventure in reading and debating our favourite books of the year. After a lot of discussion here are our winners:

Best Fantasy Novel:

Under the Pendulum Sun – Jeannette Ng

Fantasy Novel 

This ended up being a really varied category, showing how strong and diverse the field is. From romance to grimdark, from urban fantasy to experimental southern gothic, we had to weigh how they worked in their various subgenres as well as against each other. But in the end Pendulum Sun was one that was generally beloved and we could get behind. Combining the gothic literary tradition, explorations of colonialism, surrealism and fairytale it had so much we were able to discuss and explore.

Best Science Fiction Novel:

An Unkindness of Ghosts – Rivers Solomon

Science Fiction Novel 

As bloggers we seemed to tend towards space settings and to the more literary style of tales. In the final round we ended up with two books that took a different approach but were at their heart about how these optimistic tropes of science fiction end up reproducing the prejudices that exist on Earth. In the end we went for An Unkindness of Ghosts for the power with which it is able to explore the multiple themes it presents.

Best Blurred Boundaries Novel:

The Ninth Rain – Jen Williams

Blurred Boundaries 

This was a much debated category and there were times when I wondered if we would be stuck in an endless deadlock. A lot of discussion went into asking what makes a good “blurred boundaries” novel. Should it engage with the history of the genre and challenge it or be able to stand alone? Should it try to be the strangest and most innovative or be the most solid construct?

The one we could all agree we liked was The Ninth Rain. A strange mashup of so many different elements that even trying to define which fantasy tradition it comes from resulted in long essays being exchanged. But it was also the work we probably all actually enjoyed the most which helped tip the balance in its favour.

Best Novella:

The Murders of Molly Southbourne – Tade Thompson

Special Mention: Passing Strange – Ellen Klages


Getting to the final two ended up being pretty easy as these works were beloved by everyone involved. But to decide between them ended up being the hardest discussion. Even when we put it to a final vote there was only one point between them and we decided a special mention was needed for Passing Strange. Both exceptional works that I would recommend to most readers.

Best Series:

The Broken Earth – N K Jemisin


Whilst there was still much discussion of what would make it into the final two, there was only going to be one winner. Every one involved loved The Broken Earth series and it won universal acclaim. A book so deep and broad it almost defies analysis. Whether they were those that loved serial reading or regularly bemoan the need for sequels there was nary a bad word to be said about Jemisin’s work.

I will try to get up the rest of our reviews of the works we read. But otherwise we will see if we can continue this in 2019.


Nicola Barker

Happy Nicola Barker

Review By Kris Vyas-Myall

Sometimes there are works that are beautiful in style. Sometimes there are works with great character and depth. Sometimes there are works that I think about regularly long after I have finished them. It is rare to find one that is all of these but it comes in the form of H(A)PPY.

I cannot recall entirely what I heard about this book (although I feel book is too small a term for what it is attempting to do) but something intrigued me enough that I knew I had to seek it out even months after I became aware of it. And I was not disappointed.

For whilst it is a narrative prose novel, it also acts as a literary experiment, and a multimedia piece, and a meditation on art whilst being art in itself. And yet what really impressed me was both how it was not something that I could see working in any other medium but also being totally readable and understandable.  I never had any question of what was going on but would go back over passages to just swim in their beauty.

Another element of the style which flows into the next part was the narrative from Mira A’s perspective, which was something I felt very close to (I don’t know if this was Barker’s intent but who cares for authorial intent). The way she thinks very much reflects my own in many ways: the double think, the multiple voices, the points where my brain just gets stuck or the words won’t come. Even the use of colour I understood the meaning of better than 100 words of explanation on emotion, when I am asked what I am feeling I can better characterise via a colour chart than any terms.

It should not be said though that this is all in the style. The narrative is also intriguing. This dystopia is one in the very original sense – the society built to be perfect but inherently rotten. So we see how this society should be allowing people to be their happiest but in doing so it is stifling them and  stopping them from being who they need to be.

I wanted to address the sections about Barrios which I take  as an important point of mirroring. Barrios’ works were inspired by the work of others but through craft she was creating something which inspired others and is still beautiful. Just as Mira A creates her own  which then becomes her own liberation. For me I did not want the world to be   out or see others’ perspective as to do so would be to make it a much more pedestrian novel. The subjective lived experience of Mira A in this environment is what makes it beautiful and gives it the substance and flavour.

Now this book I can understand will not be to everyone’s taste but Mira’s experience is something I feel is worth everyone going through. Maybe it will resonate with you as it did with me. Perhaps it will not. But then, isn’t that the point of art?

Goodreads Link
Publishers’ Website

Announcement: The Subjective Chaos Kind Of Awards – Finalists

We are now coming to the finalists in the SCKA. Following much judicial discussion here are the works that made it to the final round, along with quotes from the discussions:

Best Fantasy Novel

Metronome by Oliver Langmead
"…on the level of pure enjoyment and delight, Metronome was miles ahead for me"
"Metronome is so much fun and bizarre"

Under The Pendulum Sun by Jeanette Ng

"I loved the writing and the atmosphere, and I enjoy books that make the Fae creepy af"
"…creating that most unique eerie feel in a world"

Best Science Fiction Novel

Places in the Darkness by Christopher Brookmyre

"I really loved the characters and it was very old school but told in a modern fashion"
"I love a cynical, hard-boiled detective…and combines it perfectly with the SF elements for me. I enjoyed the tension between our female leads, and the growing trust."

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

"…what jumped out was…the feelings. Giselle and Aster are both traumatised and have gone on very different directions to hide that pain the rawness for me worked"
"The idea here is that we bring the same problems from Earth to space and that the problem isn’t in the science but in ourselves."

Best Series

The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

"something very fun, very entertaining"

"…the conceit of an aristocratic Victorian naturalist with fantasy was wonderful and inspired"

The Broken Earth by N. K. Jemisin

"…near perfect. Just one of the most amazing things I have read."

"I am absolutely blown away by it – the prose / storytelling style, the characters, the world-building"

Split Worlds by Emma Newman
"I love a portal fantasy. Plus feminism, yay!"
"Absolutely fantastic characters, some you love, some you love hating, with an added folklore dimension"

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

"…manages to go such interesting places and explore a world so deeply with real brevity."

"What I really really enjoyed was the themes of the story, particularly the fact of growing up in a traditional society with a yearning to go beyond without reneging on your origins."

Best Novella

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

"…really showing that fantasy can do a lot more with social history than people think"
"Klages managed to completely get a hook in my emotions and drag me along in a marvellous manner.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson

"creepy as hell yet also created a fascinating lead character"
"fascinating, and creepy, and I really liked just how hard Thompson had thought about the consequences / implications of his concept"

Best Blurred Boundaries

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

" whilst short, packs in so much and creates such a fascinating world."
"bots with personalities and goddesses in beauty salons. How to win me over"

Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

"beautiful and poignant and clever in all the right ways."
"a book well worth experiencing."

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams

"As always her characters, both heroes and villains, are the heart of the book and in particular I enjoyed how nearly all major roles are women."
"Familiar, unnerving, inhuman, terrifying"

Under The Pendulum Sun

Jeannette Ng

Under The Pendulum Sun

Review by Kris Vyas-Myall

This is one of those novels that has already been so discussed and engaged with by people much smarter than I am. As such I worry than anything I have to say will add little of note to the ongoing conversation. With that in mind however it is a very rich book and worth exploring, even if it isn’t always entirely to my taste.

The first point that has to be touched on is the religious aspect. The discussions of theology were interesting and I recognised them well from my degree, religious background, and own reading for fun. The choice of the time period was, I am sure, intentional where we begin to see a movement to see a shift in doctrine by many churches (as a result of both the horrors of the industrial revolution and scientific advances such as fossils, Champollion’s aging of the pyramids and the theories of natural selection) but is cleverly counterpointed by having a world that is literalist. This actually becomes even deeper and more fascinating as it goes on (but will no say no more because…spoilers…).

Going on from that it is important to mention how much of a role race plays in this. Whilst it does not go into the full horrifying effects the “civilising mission” had on the world, it does go into the Victorian view on race and the Other, and so questions what would happen if they encountered another intelligent species and how it would fit in to their cosmological view.

However, this is not only rich in the ideas it explores, it is also in the more fantastical elements. Whilst I personally did not find it to be as atmospheric as some, I still found it to be well crafted and a great exercise in world building. I also have to say I found the Fae characters to be very interesting, much more accessible and alive than the human characters. This, I believe helps highlight the ideas mentioned before.

The plot itself is a very curious and clever one. On one level it is a device to explore the ideas, the world and the characters. That in itself would be reasonable with so much going on and perfectly enjoyable. But within this there are many more threads going on, often cleverly exploring a number of literary influences and with a very clever twist at the end.

So, whilst it was occasionally not to my taste it is an extremely strong novel and I will continue to look for Jeanette Ng’s work going forward.

Site Changes

I wanted drop a note to explain what we have been doing recently. We have been pausing to regroup and consider some changes to the site. Firstly, we will be retiring the “Journey Through The Meowtiverse” feature. This may be continued at some point in the future but for now it will be paused.

Secondly, we have been taking stock of evolving nomenclature and considering how we phrase the work we are doing. Following discussion and consultation with various people we will be trialling changing our terminology from “women and non-binary” to “marginalised genders” and shall be including reviews of works written by anyone who does not identify as a cisgender male. This will also affect are #200WNBSF feed, which will be updated to #200MGSF. This may well change again as we get more feedback and see social views change. As such we always welcome feedback if you have any. We hope these changes will help with the site going forward.