2003 In Review

Posted 19 January 2004

2003 was a bizarre year in many senses: several series and serial novels came to disappointing conclusions (most notably Jackson's film of The Lord of the Rings, which was nonetheless superior to most of the crap shovelled at us by Hollywood); publishing delays dominated, except for one "children's book" that probably caused most of them with its huge print run (can you guess?); the physical quality of "hardbacks" continued to deteriorate, with the notable exception of Golden Gryphon's offerings; and, perhaps most disturbingly, the content of the big three magazines showed substantial decline taken as a whole. For the first time, both of the best periodicals were online publications. On the other hand, there were several promising developments in book-length speculative fiction publishing, including a new high of about fifteen speculative fiction books from major and mid-major "mainstream" publishers. Despite their various flaws, these mostly showed a great deal more attention to editorial detail than did most of the "category" publishers (again, taken as a whole), perhaps because most of these books are from "name" authors recognizable outside of speculative fiction. Even more encouragingly, several books—including the best novel of the year—represented radical changes in approach by authors who frankly had fallen into ruts; not enough, by any means, but more than in most years.

Yet again, I simply have not had the time, energy, or motivation to review a very high proportion of the works I read last year.

And now, without further ado, the envelope, please:
Best Speculative Fiction Novel of the Year Elizabeth Moon, The Speed of Dark
Honorable Mention: Dan Simmons, Ilium
Honorable Mention: Terry McGarry, The Binder's Road
Most Overblown Big-Name Speculative Fiction Novel of the Year Anne Rice, Blood Canticle (hopefully the final sucking of all vitality from postmodernist vampire myth; but it too will arise from the grave…)
Best Speculative Fiction Anthology/Collection of the Year Ursula K. Le Guin, Changing Planes
Honorable Mention: Gary Turner & Marty Halpern, eds., The Silver Gryphon
Best Book Publisher Golden Gryphon Press
Golden Gryphon has established itself an enviable niche: the single-author collection that, for the last decade, has generally been so poorly marketed by New York publishers that it might as well not exist—particularly since Golden Gryphon is making such a large effort to publish the works of non-dinosaurs, and is doing so with much greater attention to product quality than one would expect from a small independent press that is not in a publishing center (ok, so there are six other publishers in town, but one of them is a university press, one is the press for an academic organization that just happens to be located here, and the others are all specialty nonfiction publishers).
The Aegean Stables Award A repeat award to Disney! Peter Pan is involved again; this time, Disney backed out of distribution agreements because it didn't want to share merchandising proceeds with the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. Meanwhile, to add insult to injury (or perhaps vice versa), Disney is continuing to fight merchandising-income battles on Winnie the Pooh, too—with even less justification. Oh, bother.
Best Professional Periodical SciFiction (even if the site design remains virtually unreadable, so much so that I'll strangle the designer if I ever meet him in person)
Honorable Mention: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Best Semiprofessional Periodical Speculations
Continues to be the top of the line in writing publications.

Overall rating for 2002: 2 stars
Almost Good.
The negative aspects this year, with the exception of the physical quality of books overall, do not outweigh the positive trends in "mainstream" publisher attention and in authors testing their envelopes (not just the ones used for manuscripts, silly!). A Powell's Books Partner

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