Monday, February 3, 2020

Annotated 2019 Locus Reading List for Short Fiction

Update 11/9/23: Tagged 37 honorable mentions in πŸ“™Neil Clarke's year's best anthology (click to highlight them).
Update 2/22/21: Tagged 1 πŸ†British Fantasy Award winner for Novella (click to highlight it).
Update 11/1/20: Tagged 2 πŸ†World Fantasy Award winners (click to highlight them).
Update 10/25/20: Tagged 6 πŸ†British Fantasy Award finalists (click to highlight them).
Update 10/22/20: Tagged 3 πŸ†Sturgeon Award winners (click to highlight them).

Here is the annotated 2019 Locus Recommended Reading List for short fiction, merged with RSR's 2019 Best SF/F list (aka our aggregated list of "outstanding" stories from 2019 that score 2 or more based on πŸ‘reviewers, πŸ†awards, and year's best πŸ“™anthologies). All the stories are grouped by length and score, with stories from the Locus list highlighted in red.

The merge lets us analyze the Locus list to see which stories that were broadly recognized as outstanding were left out, which publications stood out, which authors did particularly well (or not), how many were eligible for the Astounding Award, and how RSR's own recommendations stack up with Locus reviewers in general.

As with every RSR annotated list, there are links galore to the stories, their authors, the magazines, any award nominations/wins or "year's best" anthology inclusions, and search-links to find other reviews.

Anyone can vote for the Locus Awards at this link. Due date is Monday April 15, 2020.

If you want to skip the analysis and just start reading, click here (free stories highlighted).


(These observations are based on story scores as of February 3, 2020. The scores will automatically update and new stories enter RSR's Best SF/F list as πŸ†award finalists, winners, and year's best πŸ“™anthologies are released through November 2020.)

For the most part, we're going to focus on ways in which we differ with the Locus List. This should not overshadow the fact that we think they've produced an excellent list that reflects the hard work we know they put into it.

In the section below, the links support the claims in the text by jumping to a view of the table that shows the stories and data being discussed.

1. Overlooked πŸ’¬Stories

The Locus List contained many of the stories we expected to see there, but there were a few omissions that surprised us, given how broadly popular some of these stories were.
  • 5 of the top 6 short stories in RSR's list were in the Locus list. That's remarkable given that there were 99 and 59 short stories in each list, respectively, with just an overlap of 33.
    • Missing is "And Now His Lordship Is Laughing" by Shiv Ramdas, which got recommendations from 4 prolific reviewers.
    • Notable is Locus recommendation "In That Place She Grows a Garden" by Del Sandeen, which is not in RSR's Best SF/F list because we don't review Fiyah magazine, but it ranked high in the merged list thanks to recommendations by 3 prolific reviewers we follow.
  • 3 novelettes from the Locus list were in RSR's top 4.
    • Missing is "Better" by Tom Greene, which was recommended by 3 prolific reviewers.
  • 3 of the top 5 novellas in RSR's list were in the Locus list.
    • Missing are "Gremlin" by Carrie Vaughn and "The Savannah Problem" by Adam-Troy Castro, which got recommendations from 4 prolific reviewers.
  • Conversely, here's a view that shows the 51 stories in the Locus list from publications not reviewed by RSR. Twenty-one of them have non-zero scores because they were recommended by one or more of the prolific reviewers we follow. Over the course of 2020, more will have (or increase) scores as award finalists, winners and year's best anthologies are announced.

2. Notable πŸ“šPublications

A publication stands out if it has much more (or less) than an average percentage of its original stories included in the Locus list. Here, we'll define "average" to mean about 10% to 15%, which is roughly the typical percentage of a publication's stories recommended by RSR each year.
  • Publications getting an average share of its stories in the Locus list include paid-only magazines like Asimov's (6/66 stories; 9%) and F&SF (7/63; 11%) and free-online magazines like Beneath Ceaseless Skies (5/54; 9%) and Lightspeed (7/50; 14%).
    • RSR actually likes Asimov's (11/66; 17%) more than Locus.
  • Publications with a below average share include paid-only magazines like Interzone (0/36 stories; 0%) and Analog (1/122; <1%) and free-online magazines like Strange Horizons (1/43; 2%) and Apex (1/17; 6%).
  • Publications with an above average share include paid-only books like anthology "The Mythic Dream" (7/18 stories; 39%) and Tor novellas (14/25; 56%) and free-online magazines like (7/36; 19%) and Uncanny (11/36; 31%).
  • Fans of magazines not reviewed by RSR are welcome to provide the % (and #) of stories included in the Locus list for those magazines in the comments below.

3. Notable ✒️Authors

Of authors with 3+ stories in the RSR and/or Locus lists, here are the ones that stood out.

4. ✍New Writers

The Locus list includes 7 stories from Astounding Award-eligible writers, 4 in year 1 and 3 in year 2 of eligibility, versus the 16 in year 1 and 4 in year 2 stories from RSR's 2019 Best SF/F list. Eligibility is based on ISFDB, which can be wrong or incomplete, so please feel free to note corrections in the comments.

5. πŸ”΅Translated Stories

We have a reputation for being hard on translations, but the Locus list is even harder on translations than we are. Only 2 stories in the Locus list that RSR reviewed are translations (there may be others not reviewed by RSR), whereas there are 7 translated stories (yellow highlights) in RSR's 2019 Best SF/F list.

6. RSR Recommendations vs. Locus

Our 2019 Best SF/F list is an index of recommendations from many different sources, but we also wanted to compare the Locus List against RSR's own ratings.
  • RSR reviewed 76 (60%) of the 127 novellas/novelettes/short stories in the Locus list. Some of the 51 not reviewed by RSR (13 novellas, 13 novelettes, 25 short stories) were genres we don't cover such as horror magazines and anthologies, flash stories, or author collections.
  • Out of 76 reviewed stories, RSR recommended 18, was neutral on 40, and recommended against 18. RSR's curve normally results in 13 recommended (1/6) and 15 recommended against (1/5) out of 76 stories.
    • 19 Novellas: RSR recommended 6, was neutral on 6, and recommended against 7.
    • 22 Novelettes: RSR recommended 8, was neutral on 9, and recommended against 5.
    • 35 Short Stories: RSR recommended 4, was neutral on 25, and recommended against 6.

13 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Your counts for Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, and are missing the last 5 stories from 2019: 2 more for BCS, 2 for Strange Horizons, and 1 for Your total for F&SF includes the two 2018 reprints: Joe Diabo's Farewell by Andy Duncan and The White Cat's Divorce by Kelly Link.

    Dune Song by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (about 4,600 words) should be listed with short stories, not novelettes. For a total of 35 novelettes and 60 short stories on the Locus List.

    1. Good catch! I forgot to refresh the 2019 counts when I did the 2020 counts for the January 2020 ratings. I reduced the F&SF story count to 63 for the % calculation in the Notable Publications observation. I've also fixed Dune Song.

  2. Locus has Perihelion Summer by Greg Egan on the list under Science Fiction Novels.

    1. Thanks. I've tagged it as on the Locus list so it'll get a red highlight. We'll keep it as a novella because it's within the margin of error. (Flagging it as a novel will remove it from our short fiction list.)

    2. Weird that they decided to put it novels anyway. I think there are a couple others they put in novella that are similarly just over.

  3. Is there any way the rest of us can leave a comment on some of the works you have not reviewed, but are listed due to it appearing on Recommended lists like the Locus Reading List ?

    1. No, sorry. Maybe when we move to WordPress. I suppose you could leave such comments here in the Locus List article.

  4. The Sun From Both Sides (novelette) was listed on the Locus recommended reading list, but I'm not seeing any acknowledgement of that on the story itself, just the 2 thumbs up that were there before. Is that normal?

    1. A couple of the reviewers we follow are in the Locus panel that puts together the reading list, so we risk double counting their recommendations if we give a point for stories in the longlist. Locus Award finalists (10 per category) will get 3 points, and winners will get 4 points.

  5. Ah. I thought I read that you get another thumbs up for making the year end rec list for K. Burnham. I assumed that meant the rec list itself.

  6. I was very puzzled by why RSR gave so many stories 3-stars for 2019. Or maybe it is so few 5-stars ? Now that I have started reading off the Locus list, I can see why.

    I can't leave a comment on stories you have not reviewed, but I have now read a fair bit from the Locus reading list - Short Stories section. While many on the list are good stories, they seem to lack the bit extra that marks them as "award-worthy".

    The ones on the Locus Short Stories Recommended List AND not reviewed by RSR - that stood out for me was :

    “It’s 2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning“, Ted Chiang (New York Times 5/27/19)

    “I (28M) created a deepfake girlfriend and now my parents think we’re getting married“, Fonda Lee (MIT Technology Review 12/27/19)

    “Repatriation“, Nalo Hopkinson (Current Futures)

    1. PS - I am of the view that spending some money and/or regular trips to the library are needed, like "really needed" for the 2019 publication year. As well as swapping books with friends. I am doing all 3.

    2. It was a disappointing year for short SF/F for sure. I'm not sure what the problem was; I suppose it could just be me, but I don't think so.