Friday, February 5, 2021

Annotated 2020 Locus Reading List for Short Fiction

Update 11/9/23: Tagged 30 honorable mentions from πŸ“™Neil Clarke's year's best science fiction anthology (click link to highlight).
Update 4/19/22: Tagged 34 stories from πŸ“™Rich Horton's year's best science fiction and fantasy anthology (click link to highlight).
Update 12/19/21: Tagged 3 πŸ†Hugo Award winners (click link to highlight).
Update 11/7/21: Tagged 2 πŸ†World Fantasy Award winners (click link to highlight).
Update 10/18/21: Tagged 3 πŸ†Sturgeon Award winners (click link to highlight).

Here is the annotated 2020 Locus Recommended Reading List for short fiction, merged with RSR's 2020 Best SF/F list (aka our aggregated list of "outstanding" stories from 2020 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 Thursday April 15, 2021.

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 5, 2021. 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 2021.)

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.
  • 3 of the top 7 short stories in RSR's list were in the Locus list.
    • It's notable the Locus list left out two highly recommended F&SF stories, "Eyes of the Forest" by Ray Nayler and "Knock, Knock Said the Ship" by Rati Mehrotra.
    • Also unexpected was the omission of "St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid" by C.L. Polk, recommended by 5 reviewers, which is a free story, unlike the two F&SF stories.
  • 4 of the top 6 novelettes in RSR's list were in the Locus list.
    • Missing are "Beyond the Tattered Veil of Stars" by Mercurio D. Rivera, which was recommended by 4 prolific reviewers but is not free online, and "Monster" by Naomi Kritzer.
    • Novelettes is probably where the RSR and Locus lists have the most overlap. Besides 4 of the top 6 novelettes, there are overlaps with 8 of the top 14 novelettes and 12 of the top 25, with the ones only in RSR's list being mostly non-free stories from F&SF, Asimov's, Analog, and Interzone.
  • 1 of the top 5 novellas in RSR's list were in the Locus list.
    • Three of RSR's top 5 not in the Locus list are non-free stories from Asimov's and F&SF: "Come the Revolution" by Ian Tregillis (with 4 recommendations!), "Semper Augustus" by Nancy Kress, and "The Palace Of Dancing Dogs" by Allen M. Steele.
    • It's also surprising free story "Nine Words for Loneliness in the Language of the Uma'u" by M.L. Clark, with 4 recommendations, was not included in the Locus list.
  • Conversely, here's a view that shows the 55 stories in the Locus list from publications not reviewed by RSR. Thirty-five of them have non-zero scores because they were recommended by one or more of the prolific reviewers we follow. Over the course of 2021, more will gain 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 free-online magazines Lightspeed (5/50; 10%), Strange Horizons (6/49; 12%), Beneath Ceaseless Skies (9/62; 15%).
  • Publications with a below average share are all the paid-only magazines Interzone (0/25 stories; 0%), Analog (0/90; 0%), Asimov's (1/68 stories; 1%), and F&SF (2/65; 3%), and free-online magazine Clarkesworld (7/76; 9%).
  • Publications with an above average share include paid-only books from Tor novellas (12/25; 48%) and free-online magazines (13/46; 28%) and Uncanny (12/37; 32%).
  • 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

The merged RSR & Locus list, grouped by author, shows 217 stories by 184 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 14 stories from Astounding Award-eligible writers, 11  in year 1 and 3 in year 2 of eligibility, versus the 15 in year 1 and 5 in year 2 stories from RSR's 2020 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. This year no stories in the Locus list that RSR reviewed are translations (there may be others not reviewed by RSR), whereas there are 4 translated stories (yellow highlights) in RSR's 2020 Best SF/F list.

4 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Last year, heading into 2020, I ended up having the time to read a lot of what Locus was recommending.

    I found the Locus Novella recommendation good, the Locus Novelette recommendations very good, but the Locus Short Story recommendations were mostly not to my personal tastes. If I was already reading the author they were pretty good.

    I suspect some reviewers like experimental fiction or fiction that pushes the boundaries in some way.

    Readers Polls are are very good way to find good short fiction or recommendations from fans on fan sites.

  2. "Ancestries" by Sheree RenΓ©e Thomas has been reprinted online at Lightspeed 135 (Aug 2021).

  3. Test 4 Echo by Peter Watts from Jonathan Strahan's Made to Order has been reprinted online at Lightspeed 144 (May 2022).

  4. Your Rover Is Here by LP Kindred was reprinted online at Apex 135 (Jan 2023).