Friday, January 26, 2018

2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction

As everyone gets ready to start nominating works from 2017 for this year's Hugo Awards, we want to take one last look back at 2016, incorporating all the feedback from various reviewers, "year's best" anthologists, and awards that we thought were comprehensive. It's obviously too late to use for award nominations, since, by design, it comes after all the awards for that year are over, but it has good value to people who're just looking for good stories to read and don't mind reading slightly older ones.

In the future, we'll try to do this in the summer, but we decided to put this one out now, even if it's six months late.

We used recommendations from 5 SF/F awards, 5 "year's best" SF/F anthologies, and 5 prolific SF/F reviewers to compute scores for 887 stories. Sorting the stories by score identifies the best novellas, novelettes, and short stories of 2016 below. Grouping the stories by author, publication, and guide and calculating their average scores identifies the best of those in the next three articles.


A story got +2 points each time it was listed as an award finalist (Nebula+2, Hugo+2, Eugie+2, Locus+2, Sturgeon+2), included in a year's best anthology (GDozois+2, RHorton+2, JStrahan+2, NClark+2, BASFF+2), or placed on a reviewer's year's best list (RSR+2, SFRevu+2, CPayseur+2).

A story got +1 point each time it was listed as an honorable mention by a reviewer (GDozois+1, RHorton+1, RSR+1, SFRevu+1) or by an anthology (BASFF+1). (A story can also be marked with a Readers+0 recommendation, which means it was a finalist in a reader poll, but is worth 0 points because not every magazine runs such a poll.)

Here are the top five novellas by score:
  • Score 13: "The Ballad of Black Tom" by Victor LaValle
  • Score 10: "Every Heart A Doorway" by Seanan McGuire
  • Score 10: "The Dream-Quest Of Vellitt Boe" by Kij Johnson
  • Score 10: "A Taste of Honey" by Kai Ashante Wilson
  • Score 10: "The Iron Tactician" by Alastair Reynolds
  • Click here for all 34 novellas with Score > 0

Here are the top five novelettes by score:
  • Score 15: "The Visitor From Taured" by Ian R. MacLeod
  • Score 13: "Touring with the Alien" by Carolyn Ives Gilman
  • Score 12: "You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay" by Alyssa Wong
  • Score 11: "The Art Of Space Travel" by Nina Allan
  • Score 10: "The Future Is Blue" by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Click here for all 132 novelettes with Score > 0

Here are the top six short stories by score:
  • Score 16: "Things With Beards" by Sam J. Miller
  • Score 14: "Seasons of Glass and Iron" by Amal El-Mohtar
  • Score 10: "That Game We Played During the War" by Carrie Vaughn
  • Score 10: "The City Born Great" by N.K. Jemisin
  • Score 9: "A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers" by Alyssa Wong
  • Score 9: "Terminal" by Lavie Tidhar
  • Click here for all 298 short stories with Score > 0

If your time is limited, use the score to guide your reading. There are 90 stories (953K words, 53 hours) with a score of 4 or more, 138 stories (1.45M words, 81 hours) with a score of 3 or more, 267 stories (2.3M words, 129 hours) with a score of 2 or more, 450 stories (3.7M words, 204 hours) with a score of 1 or more, and 887 stories (over 7M words and 384 hours) total.

Sorting the 887 stories by score and adding up scores by quintile, we see that the top 20% of stories (#1-177) got 67% of the points, whereas the bottom 40% of stories (#531-887) got 0 points. This means that although different recommendation sources disagree with each other a lot, there is actually very broad agreement on what the best stories were.

The average score is 1.3 (1,165 points/887 stories) so in some alternate universe where everyone's favorite stories were different, most of the 887 stories would have had honorable mentions.

Note: This extends last year's RSR 2017 Hugo Awards page by adding the Eugie, Locus and Sturgeon awards, the BASFF anthology, and reviewer CPayseur. It also changes a Readers recommendation from +2 to 0 and removes reviewers LTilton and SFEP, who were not active for the entire year.

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