Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Andre Norton Breakdown

It's that time of year again and I'm within spitting distance of finishing my research on my vote for the Nebula Award, given every year by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Actually, I don't give two hoots about the Nebula itself most years; the Andre Norton Award for YA SF is almost always the only vote I cast. And that's plenty of work all on its own, because between my inability to keep up with my own field and the bizarro nature of the typical roster of nominees it's rare for me to have read any of them before the final ballot appears. I'm resolved to pay more attention this year, but I resolved that last year, too, and here we are.

The thing about the Andre Norton Award nominees is that, due probably to the way the nominations are made - with SFWA members who happen to think about it during the year nominating books that happen to impress them, and the ones that get the most nominations during that period making the final cut - and the nature of the SFWA membership, which is mostly authors of adult science fiction and fantasy, there isn't much overlap with the books that are buzzed, listed, and awarded in the YA industry. Most of the authors don't read YA on purpose, don't understand how it differs from juvenile or adult literature, and don't take it seriously. Many of them are trying to live down the dictum that "the Golden Age of Science Fiction is twelve," rather than embracing it as they should. On the other hand, the YA they read and like isn't influenced by the librarians, school review sources, and social networks that drive the awards within the industry. So the fact that the list often seems like it came from a different universe isn't necessarily a bad thing. At least there's almost always something wonderful I might not have run across without it.

On the other hand, it's a fair amount of work. This year, of the nominees, I had read Malinda Lo's Ash at the time the nominees were announced in February. John Scalzi's Zoe's Tale was at the Enchilada, but hidden away in the adult SF section where the odds of my running across it were approximately nil. Others were also in the library system, but either checked out, in process, or on hold at the central location I can bus to, so I planned the most efficient route and drove to branches. I got lucky and found both of the most "mainstream" nominees, Scott Westerfield's Leviathan and Rebecca Stead's Newbery-winning When You Reach Me at the same library on the near southeast side. However, to get Lisa Mantchev's Eyes Like Stars I had to drive several miles north of beyond and get on the Death Loop among all the evil subdivisions.

Sarah Beth Durst's Ice and Kage Baker's Hotel Under the Sand weren't in the San Antonio Library System at all, but I have an indy bookstore and I'm not afraid to use it. My special order on those two came in last Saturday and I've read Hotel and am about halfway through Ice.

The last book isn't even a book. The Girl Who Navigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente is available online for "donations" and won't be a real book I can read on the balcony or in the bathroom until next year. Although I could have read it at any time during the past month, I resent this a lot and have put it off till last. Also, I hate the title. But I'm an honest voter and will get it done.

The deadline to vote is March 30. I'm probably the only one going to all this trouble for this particular award. The fact that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows beat out The True Meaning of Smek Day in 2007 is proof enough of that. (I promise you, if everybody who voted for Potter had read Smek Day, it would have been a landslide for the funny SF!) But I'm not responsible for them; I'm responsible for me.

So go read them all and on Thursday I'll come back and discuss each title. I'll be finishing Ice at lunch, probably, and that leaves plenty of time to read that online thing. If I can sit at the computer that long.

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