The 2019 Locus Awards

The Locus awards are the honoring-the-writers (and writer-adjacent) wing of Locus magazine, the long-running house organ for sff, and, as such, are of particular interest to Our Hero who writes these things. 

I don’t usually write about them, but last year I wrote about the Shirley Jackson awards, and quite enjoyed having a fourth award in the mix 1, I decided to write up the Locus Awards. Easy-peasy, except for one tiny enormous problem. 

While availability isn’t a problem, and most of the stuff here is fairly well-known and therefore already more-or-less on my radar, there are so many things nominated that reading them all isn’t really in the cards 2. So while I did my best to read everything I could, there are, nevertheless, a bunch of them that I simply didn’t get to. 

And that’s only when you consider the categories in which I’m already generally involved. As far as it goes, my exposure to the magazines is generally limited to what’s going on in the wards here and what I find on my own, since I don’t regularly read any of them. I probably should, but I don’t. 

So, to recap: I didn’t read a bunch of this stuff, and I definitely didn’t look at the art books, so I’m going to do this anyway, but instead of writing anything particularly in-depth, like I usually do for book awards posts, I’m just going to move through everything fairly quickly and then circle back and catch the Hugos and the World Fantasy Awards as thoroughly as usual.

Still and all, it was fun to see how much of all this I could get through before this post went up. 

Art Book

As previously mentioned, I did not read the art books. I do not, in fact, read art books in general. However, the Hugos have a best art book category also, and there were several in the readers’ packet, so I have had to figure out how to do so. That said, I’m still not the dude that reads art books, and I don’t have a huge capacity for appreciating and evaluating visual art in and/or of itself, so I’m going to say that Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson & Sam Witwer’s Dungeons & Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History is the one that’s the most fun. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson & Sam Witwer’s Dungeons & Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History 

Non Fiction

The passing of both Gardner Dozois and Urusla K. Le Guin is very sad, and they both have entries here, which seems more concilliatory than something that got in on their own merits – one of the Le Guin books is a very brief set of transcription of some conversations she had with the book’s co-author. She’s a smart, erudite person who talks well about what she does and why she does it, and it’s nice to read, but it’s pretty slight and that’s all it’s got. The other Le Guin here nominated is an excellent overview of her nonfiction and, as such, is very very good. Gardner Dozois’s book reviews are good – he was a truly fantastic reader, which is what made him such an effective editor – but I don’t think they’re adding much to the stock of available critical thought 3. Jo Walton’s A People’s History of the Hugos is good, Jo Walton is another thoughtful critic and reader, and it’s interesting to read such a thing from the perspective of an individual. Jason Heller’s Strange Stars is a weird little look at a very specific set of times and places. I think I’m most impressed by Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding, because it manages to make a compelling and interesting story out of a very complicated and thorny set of legacies, centered around a deeply polarizing, problematic figure 4


This took some googling, and I still think I like Victo Ngai best. I’m pretty sure it lands up this way every single year.



So, the other thing that’s happening here is that the nominations for these awards were announced after the nominations for the Hugos, and these are happening before the Hugos, so the entire period in which to evaluate as many of the works nominated for Locus awards is basically surrounded by the Hugo awards. Which is all said by way of explaining why the things I’ve read and considered and all that are things that are also nominated for other awards. Anyway, I don’t know how to wrestle with the correspondent category in any other awards program, because I don’t really know what I’m meant to be evaluating. I’ll just assume that it’s John Joseph Adams, who seems to be doing the work that I find myself interested in the most of all these people.


Best Publisher

Andy Duncan, Jeffrey Ford, Mary Rickert and especially Sofia Samatar mean that Small Beer Press continues to be the best press. Also it’s run by literally my favorite writer on the planet.



Right, so, as mentioned, I don’t actually read many of these. I do, it turns out, read, so I guess that one has the prominence necessary to convince me to get involved with it, although that has a lot more to do with it being readily available by RSS than anything else. Seems like a bad reason to give an award, but hey, I’m not in charge. Of the awards, I mean. I’m totally in charge of what’s rightful. Obviously. 



I appreciate very much the existence of a six billion-page book about the history of the Targaryen family that is very much not another Song of Ice and Fire book. It makes me laugh. I laugh at your pain, Song of Ice and Fire fans, ha ha ha. Anyway, I mentioned Andy Duncan’s collection earlier as being one of the reasons Small Beer Press was great, and it totally is. I liked the Jemisen collection best of these, in any event.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: N.K. Jemisen, How Long Til Black Future Month?


There is some terribly good work here, but while I was disposed to be kind of snippy about Dozois’s inclusion in the other category, his Year’s Best Science Fiction is an absolute bedrock series for me 5. So while John Joseph Adams is doing terrific work with his branch of the Best American family, and Jonathan Strahan remains does a similarly-great job in the UK, I think Dozois wins it. That said, I keep not catching up with Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year series, and it’s also good, but I don’t know this one. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Gardner Dozois, ed., The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection

Short Story

This is a remarkably solid field, as one would expect. None of them are bad. I really loved “STET,” however, for finding a stimulating human way to tella  story about a thing tha thasn’t happened yet, but almost certainly will. The fact that it does so in the form of notes is an obvious source of pleasure for me, but the nature of the narrative, and the ultimate humanist message, is fantastic. That it does so without condemning the technology that makes the central device of the narrative happen, which would have been easier to do than not, I should think, is admirable and makes it better. Basically I wanted to take advantage of this excuse to write about how much I liked “STET”.



So these were also fairly easy to keep up, given that many of them were a matter of clicking on a link. These categories where I read everything I much easier on my ego, let me tell you. There was some excellent work all over this category, especially by Isabelle Yap and Tina Connolly. Elizabeth Bear and Ken Liu are extremely reliable, but honestly, it all falls down before Brooke Bolander’s amazing The Only Harmless Great Thing, which is probably going to win ever Novelette category on Earth until it’s no longer eligible for such things.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Brooke Bolander, The Only Harmless Great Thing


The Murderbot books are still great, but they still each feel more like a part of a larger story than like a satisfying standalone part. This is a problem with series books all over, certainly, and I don’t hold it against the Murderbot books more than other books, but it does prevent them from winning here. It’s part of why Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach is such a clear standout – it’s not an abbreviated novel, it’s not a blown-out short story, and it has a complete tale within it, with all the parts necessary. It’s also about a time-travelling octopus-person, which is kind of what I want every story to be about in the first place.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kelly Robson, Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach

First Novel

This is all a pretty exciting group of people. I’m not super-into (like on a personal taste level) much of this for its own sake, but the writers that I’m familiar with that are here nominated are all very good in terms of skill-level, and since nobody writes their first book more than once, it’s worth keeping an eye out to see how they develop. That said, I genuinely loved Trail of Lightning and would be happy to see Roanhorse walk away with it, even over the also-excellent Adeyimi.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rebecca Roanhorse, Trail of Lightning

Young Adult Novel

It must be the case that you can only be nominated in one category for a work, because otherwise I don’t really know how Children of Blood and Bone isn’t here. As it is, I’m happy that Dread Nation is nominated here as well, because I really liked it and I like pronouncing it the rightful winner of things.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Justina Ireland, Dread Nation

Horror Novel

I do love that there’s a Horror Novel category in the Locus awards. I so often don’t get to write about horror, despite it providing a huge chunk of my for-pleasure reading 6. Stepen King’s The Outsider was pretty well-assembled classic-style monster-focused King, and it brings in a character from his crime novels, which I haven’t read, but who seemed pretty cool. I didn’t like a lot of things about The Hunger, and I’m actually baffled by the amount of acclaim that it received. Like, super-baffled. Like when I say “I didn’t like a lot of things” I could also be saying that I basically didn’t like anything about it. I liked just about everything about The Cabin at the End of the World, but I liked everything and then some about We Sold Our Souls, and will probably never stop praising its joys to the world for the rest of my life. What a terrific book.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Grady Hendrix, We Sold Our Souls

Fantasy Novel

If my praise seemed effusive and evangelical for We Sold Our Souls or The Only Harmless Great Thing, then brother you have not heard me talk about The Mere Wife. Fantasy is only sort of my bag, and even then I really only like the outlier-y type stuff, and so Spinning Silver was also a solid choice, and I liked The Wonder Engine an awful lot, but it was only half a book. The Mere Wife was basically perfect, and is probably the best thing I’ve read all year, and probably for several years prior to that.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Maria Dahvana Headley, The Mere Wife

Science Fiction Novel

I wrote about the Locus awards once before 7, and the only thing I really remember about it was that it was the year that Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 came out, and I was deeply, hideously disappointed in it. I am also very disappointed in Red Moon. The moral of the story, obviously, is that I can only write about the Locus awards in years where I’m disappointed in Kim Stanley Robinson’s work. Sam J. Miller’s Blackfish City was as good as he usually is (which is very good), Cathrynne Valente’s Space Opera might have been the most fun a book can be. Record of a Spaceborn Few continues Becky Chambers’s work as being a really inventive space opera craftswoman. Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars was interesting and worthwhile. Yoon Ha Lee’s Revenant Gun managed to bring an extremely challenging series to a very satisfying end, and deserves all sorts of praise for doing so.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Yoon Ha Lee, Revenant Gun

And there we have it, at least until the Hugos at the end of next month, where I’ll write in more depth about a bunch of these same books!


  1. I’m not writing about the Shirley Jackson awards this year for the dumbest reason: my library doesn’t have access to most of the books that are nominated, and many of them are very expensive, and since I don’t know how many of them are the sort of thing I want to own, I opted to instead try out a different award. 
  2. The book awards writeups are usually the ones where I can guarantee I’ve read everything I’m talking about, which makes them just about the only ones. While I do my best to watch/listen to as much stuff as I can for, say, the Emmys or the Billboard awards or whatever, I find it much harder to talk about books I haven’t read than tv shows I haven’t watched. 
  3. especially given that his contributions to the available actual body of work is pretty incredible. 
  4. actually, when Asmiov is the least polarizing, least problematic figure in your book, that’s a real crazy set of people you’ve got there 
  5. I spent hours and hours with various and sundry with them as a lad, I mean, and most of my knowledge of science fiction short stories published during my lifetime and prior to my adulthood comes from these books. Eventually I’ll be writing a long recurring feature about them here, but they’re very long, so it will be some time before that manages to happen. 
  6. The Stoker awards provide much reading grist, but they’re positioned weirdly in the year, and also five is too many awards to write about reasonably. 
  7. the post appears to have been lost to some migration or other 

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