December 27, 2011

Bleary Eyed Bloodshed: The Cybils Finalists

Yaaaaaawn. After three and a half hours of argument and six hours of sleep (::my brain switched back on, and woke me up::) I'm back for the YA SFF summation.

The 2011 Cybils in Science Fiction and Fantasy ~ what a long, strange trip it's been. One hundred and seventy-one books - of which I read just over one hundred and thirty -- and all the books on the list were read by at least two readers, huzzah! Some sterling small press and self-pubbed books this year, and with the new rules about having books available by electronic publishing, we all read books on various Devices, which brought the future of publishing and concerns about quality vs. quantity right in the center of things.

Quite a few debut authors were nominated this year - but some familiar faces as well, which is always nice. Several adult crossover authors from paranormal romance circles came through - not all of them were successful imports, but a couple of them have a great future writing for MG readers, if they can get their marketing folk to agree. It's all about finding one's correct audience.

Fewer vampires were nominated this year, but they are still there - though the conventional wisdom (of Secret Agent Man and others) is that after the final Twihard movie, None Shall Pass with editors and publishing houses. We shall see.

There were nominated a lot more angels - gah!!! - and other paranormal abnormalities like witches, but only three books that I recall with werewolves (is that because Team Jacob lost? Aww). We were into ad infinitum with the Greek gods and goddesses - hello Persephone as hot YA romance of the season? - though some truly were special and original - which is well-nigh impossible, given such old, ancient stories and tropes with which to work, so well done to those authors. There were a goodly number of princess novels nominated this year, which was kind of fun, though most of them weren't as hardcore as a real princess would need to be - I mean, hello, girls, never mind the prince. If you're going to be queen someday, your whole purpose is the queendom, no? ::sigh::

As usual, there were tons of book series, which was hard - I'm getting to the point that I don't even like books with sequels anymore, because they just produce annoyance - (Dear Publishing peeps, please don't let your authors/editors talk you into creating an incomplete novel and calling it the first novel in a trilogy. Each novel must. have. a. full. story. arc. Thank you so much.) - and as usual, jumping in on the third in a set of eight means that if the novel often doesn't have a compelling enough plot to stand alone, I don't know where I am in it - but fortunately, most of our nominations were the first or second novel.

2011's most obvious SFF Cybils nomination trend was conception novels. Clearly, there was some Super Seekrit Shindig somewhere, and publishing houses got together and decide the thematic content of popular books. "Hey, let's harp on pregnancy. Endlessly. Let's have novels about locking girls up, and bartering, buying, selling, stealing, and otherwise commodifiying their sexual/marital relationships and their fertility." And everyone else says, "Ooh, let's do! That'd be soooo FUN!

Arguably, not all of these fertility novels are bad - but it still slightly gives me the creeps that they all came out the same year. What else can we blame this on? Surely there's not some zeitgeist that decided, "Hey, great, we all read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood in grad school. Let's see in just how many ways we can recreate it!" But, maybe there was, and A.F. and I didn't get the Author Mansion Memo... how else could there have been so many novels on essentially the same topic? Off the top of my head, the books I recall were:

Eve, by Anna Carey
Bumped, by Megan McCaffrey
Wither, by Lauren DeStefano
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Matched, by Ally Condie
Dark Parties, by Sara Grant

...and, to a lesser degree, Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, Glow, by Amy Kathleen Ryan, and Possession, by Elana Johnson, A Long, Long Sleep, by Anna Sheehan.

...there might have been more.

All in all this year, there were a couple of books of actual science in the science fiction field, and we were glad. There were a few more novels with male protagonists and gay protagonists, a few more male authors, and a few more authors of color. Progress - the slow, creaking kind - is being made. We have a list of books of which I think we can be proud, representing ethnic and gender diversity (not as much as we might have liked, but we must choose for the whole book, not for authors or characters alone), a balance between teen voices and various subgenres. It's a strong, solid list.

(And if I'm doing a little happy dance with my big boots because I got a couple of books on that I really wanted, please excuse the stomping.)

As for the SFF YA judging panel itself... it was midnight (7 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Mountain, 4 p.m. Pacific) for me when we started deliberating, and I met my bed after 3:30 a.m. There was some... er, bloodshed, screaming and quiet sobs (Poor Steve) involved in these deliberations. Daulton the cat may or may not have eaten either staggering amounts of turkey, or his drugged owner, who'd been in a minor car accident just before our meeting and was on painkillers, slightly loopier - and quieter - than usual. There were polite pauses and bursts of sarcasm. We fortified ourselves with pie, and found the strength to keep arguing. The word "sequins" was taken in vain, which made me think of jazz hands each time ; one panelist, who'd warned us in advance that she was prepared to "get all hostile" about her shortlisted choice found to her shock that she didn't need to. This year, the judging panel also, pre-discussion, unanimously shortlisted one book, - which has never happened in all the years I've been doing this! I cannot wait for everyone else to find out what that one was!

And now it's A.F.'s turn -- since she's on a final judging panel, and while I kick back and recover - my eyes, my bloodshot EYES!!! - she starts her final judgment part of the job with Graphic Novels. Over to you, Aquafortis!

Thank you, SFF peeps. You're so fun.

Thank you, Sheila, SFF Peeps Organizer. You're so organized, and we appreciate you not getting sick of us messing around.

Thank you, Overlord Anne, for putting in the long days, long nights, and pulling out your luxuriant hair one more year on behalf of the Cybils Awards.

Long may they reign.


Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see the shortlist! Thanks for all your hard work.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for doing this for all of us! Looking forward to the shortlist.

Have to also add...LOVED this post, informative and totally funny read. You _rocked_ it. Now, go rest those eyes you guys!

LinWash said...

I'm looking forward to that list too. And this made me giggle: (Dear Publishing peeps, please don't let your authors/editors talk you into creating an incomplete novel and calling it the first novel in a trilogy. Each novel must. have. a. full. story. arc. Thank you so much.)
So true!!!

Doret said...

I nominated one of the many angel books - Wildcat Fireflies by Kizer, its the only angel series that I like. Looking forward to seeing all the shortlist

Mary Lee said...

Your reading, Ms. T = WOW!
Your judging of GN, Ms. A.F. = I'm jealous!
My judging of Poetry = bring it on!

Sarah Stevenson said...

I cannot WAIT to see this list. I miss being part of SFF--you know I loves me some SFF. But I'm very excited to be part of graphic novels again.

Well done, you, and everyone on the committee!