The OF Blog: Two more Best of 2009 lists and associated problems

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Two more Best of 2009 lists and associated problems

Read two more year-end posts.  The first, an expansion of an earlier list posted over at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, is...well...

I guess the word for it is "defensive."

While I can understand to some extent why he'd be defensive in his opening comments, with each passing year in his Hotties posts, he has come across to me as taking criticism a bit too much to heart in all the wrong ways. Yes, I'm not one who's gone easy on him in the past, but nothing personal was ever meant and yet...all the references to "wankers" is a bit much, I suppose, in a yearly post that purportedly is designed to celebrate what he enjoys most about the year that is now passing.  For someone who seems to bristle at times when chided by a few vocal critics, he sure seems to be inviting accusations of hypocrisy in his comments about Lev Grossman's The Magicians.  Perhaps a laissez-faire approach would have been more wise than preemptively attacking the tastes of those (and in this case, my own would be involved, since I thought it was one of the better 2009 novels that I read this year) who did find more enjoyment out of it.  Even ignoring this, it is rather bemusing to see all those "I", "you", "your", "my," and "mine" comments peppered throughout his post.  Certainly not a post that shies away from trumpeting the reviewer's personal tastes and views on the industry, perhaps.

Compared to the sometimes-bombastic post by the apparent "most influential SFF book-reviewing blogger on the web" (I wonder where one gets one's influence rated, so I can know who ranks ahead of whom these days), the Wertzone Awards for Best SF&F Novels in 2009 is much more informative and certainly less centered around the presumed virtues and deficiencies of the poster.  Although my tastes don't align all that much with Adam's (nor did they with Pat's, as I don't believe I had more than a single book from both lists make my 25 Favorite Fictions list to be posted Thursday, despite having read around a half-dozen each of the books the two laud in their posts), I have found his list to be much more useful because a rationale is given and the focus centers around the stories themselves and not so much around the person who read/reviewed the books.  Certainly some of the unread books will be (re)considered, based on the original reviews and the summations given in the Awards post.

However, reading the comments to Adam's post raised an interesting problem that I've noticed in quite a few online lists (my own isn't totally excluded from this, I'll admit, as 4 out of my 25 Favorite Fictions are by female authors, with only two being SF stories, with several others referenced in other categories).  Oftentimes, female writers appear to be underrepresented in such year-end posts, especially when said posts are written by males.  While I'm not a bean counter at heart, I have noticed that since I began keeping closer tabs on what I read, that the percentage of stories written by or edited by women have steadily increased to near a quarter of my overall reads.  Of course, if I were to count anthologies edited by males but containing female writers, the number would increase significantly (it seems several of my favorite short fiction writers are women, which might make for something interesting in the coming months in regards to my reading), but the fact remains that if the majority of readers are women and there are a growing number of female writers, then why are female writers being underrepresented on several year-end lists?

Perhaps it's much ado about nothing and the sobering rays of the morning sun will make me reconsider my points in a few hours.  But maybe others here have things to share in regards to list-making and the related issues I raised above?


Jonathan M said...

Wow...that is quite weirdly defensive isn't it? "Elitist wankers"? It's always a bad sign when people who write about books start banging the anti-intellectual drum.

Lich said...

Pat's self-congratulations are getting ridiculous. It's nothing more than poorly veiled egocentrism.

"Im just a dumbass but this and this famous author says I'm the best".

Most influental blogger/book reviewer? I'm laughing here:)

Focusing more on the books and less on himself should do him good.

Larry Nolen said...

I often regret linking to his blog because I feel like all I'm doing is singling out the worst over there,'s hard at times to read things written in that tone. Then again, I probably have similar-sized faults in my own writing, so I perhaps ought to explore correcting those first before worrying about how another views his part in things.

Joe said...

Pat's defensiveness was the first thing that struck me. I thought it was way over the top and ultimately unnecessary.

Who cares? Really?

I think Adam does good work, though. I rather enjoy reading his coverage and series read-throughs.

Regarding gender and lists: wait for mine this week.

Larry Nolen said...

I suspect that those who care, Joe, are those who like to place themselves in the roles of being victims of some nefarious "elitist" conspiracy to poormouth their favorite works. It's all rather silly. I don't expect much agreement with the choices for my year-end awards (considering that several others' favorites did not crack that list, as I posted the other day), but at least it's my list and is meant to be a conversation-continuer more than anything else.

Looking forward to seeing your list. Any chance of The Red Tree appearing there?

Joe said... think The Red Tree is too elitest for me.

Or, I just happened to not read it this year.

Yeah, my list represents the stuff i felt was "best" out of what I read during the year. No more, no less.

Larry Nolen said...

Ha! :P Do hope you get the chance to read it in the near future, as I enjoyed it quite a bit. Going to guess that Cherie Priest's Boneshaker made it to your list as well, right?

Adam Whitehead said...

Due to unemployment and resulting financial woes, I was completely dependent on ARCs and Amazon Vine for almost all of my 2009 releases, and unfortunately between them I only received two books by female authors and one short story collection with female contributors in it. I did receive a few more ARCs I didn't get round to reading, but of those only one more (Justina Robson's latest SF/fantasy crossbreed) was by a female author.

So whilst I admit fully I do need to read more female authors, this year's problem was more down to what the marketing departments were sending me, which in itself is an interesting question.

Larry Nolen said...


I understand your situation (having been in it myself in recent years on occasion) and I didn't mean that as a personal criticism, but rather as an observation about trends I've noticed that includes myself. Perhaps the root might be publishers sending mostly-male authors to male reviewers? Who knows. I wouldn't worry about it any, to be honest. As I hope I made clear, I got much more out of your list than I did out of Pat's and the focus on the books rather than on the person was refreshing, to say the least.

Joe said...

There is a chance of Priest in the forecast, yes.

Interesting point about what the publishers send. The majority of what I've received was written by men, though I did get more female written books than Adam did. The books written by women, though, were almost all books I had a strong desire to read.

That's not necessarily the case with the men.

Larry Nolen said...

Three of the four women that did make it onto my 25 Favorite Fictions list were purchases; only The Red Tree was sent to me by a publisher. Oh, I received other books by female authors from publishers, but most of those were from a subgenre that I just do not enjoy that much in comparison to others. That being said, several collections and anthologies I read this year either were edited by women or contained several good stories by female authors. Again, most of those were not sent to me. Interesting, no?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunate that Pat took such a confrontational tone, but nothing new. Many people around the book scene tend to express their own taste by ripping on other people's, as if reading is some kind of competition for status.

- Zach H.

Aidan Moher said...

I intserted my name in whenever he used the word 'wanker' and had a good chuckle. Especially when he started talking about The Magicians.

Nice deconstruction of the two articles, Larry.

Larry Nolen said...


I thought one of the best comments on his post was made by Jeff VanderMeer, where he noted that when so many lists tend to exclude heroic/epic fantasies, lists like Pat's can serve as a corrective that represents the tastes of a significant portion of the spec fic reading audience. While my tastes don't align with Pat's, at least I can appreciate the list for covering what it sets out to cover.

Just rather amusing the lectures a couple of people gave Jeff about "accessibility," considering the book he recently had published.


Should we start a drinking game with "wankers"? :P

Aidan Moher said...

Ibve being plauyingg the drinjkging gasme by muself .

Im drrnk now an I jusy sstarted reading hus bloog posyt.



Larry Nolen said...

Pfft! :P Maybe next time, go piss on a live-wire electric fence each time such terms are employed? ;)

Neth said...

It's an interesting issue that I though about when I did my best of list - I also posted a few interesting stats and one I found most interesting is that I only read 3 female authors last year - a bit less than 10% of the books read and reviewed. Only one of those made the list, and that book wasn't in the top 10.

I'm not sure why - most of the books by female authors I'm getting these days are the new urban fantasy that I don't care for, but I do have a number of interesting books to choose from, so that reason only goes so far.

I'm guessing that the reason is that the books I want to read these are happen to be books written by men - the underlying reasons for that...well, I'm not sure of, but I plan to give it some thought.

Larry Nolen said...


I've found that when I made myself aware of the disparity, that the disparity shrunk somewhat...and that I discovered quite a few cool authors. Just finished reading one of the final anthologies for this year, Clockwork Phoenix 2 and I really enjoyed Kelly Barnhill's story in it, "Open the Door and the Light Pours..." Don't think I've read a bad story by her, come and think of it.

So maybe, just read a few more anthologies and short story collections in the coming year and that might help matters?

Neth said...

That's true Larry - it is a New Year's Resolution of sorts for me to be better this year (at least as far as I have New Year's Resolutions since as a New Year's baby I refuse to take part, but I digress).

And funny that you mention Kelly Barnhill - I didn't read many short stories this year, but one by Kelly Barnhill in the Fast Ships, Black Sails Anthology was one of my favorites.

Joe said...

Kelly has a good story in the VanderMeer's pirate anthology.

She's also a nice person. Which is completely independent of her being a good writer.

Her first novel is coming out from Little, Brown in the fall, titled The Boy Without a Face.

Larry Nolen said...

Agree on both counts (the story and what I recall hearing from others as well). That novel, whenever it comes to my door, will be read and reviewed. Simple as that.

Harry Markov said...

Can one develop a blogger paranoia? I mean after so many years and having been in people's mouths for a long time I am sure Pat is already preparing defensive posts on whatever he starts, so that he does not need to do so later. I am a bit on the over-exaggeration wagon, but just an observation on my part.

Anyway, I've read not enough 09 releases in 09, which makes my data screwed up [but seriously why publishers don't send to me is a mystery. Need to bug them in 2010 again.] I am more on the other spectrum. I have more female authors than male. 60 to 40 or sth like that.

The Mad Hatter said...

Of the close to 60 books I reviewed this year 9 were written by women and 4 warranted mention in my best of post.

Elena said...

Just my thoughts on the female authors thing...the site I work with gets a lot of review copies from both male and female authors, and an awful lot of the books from women authors are urban fantasy. That's a subgenre I myself don't read (at least, not above a YA level), and I sigh every time I walk through the SFF section at a bookstore to see how much of it is there. I think it does no favors for the representation of women authors on Best Of lists.

Nephtis said...

It's gratifying to see awareness of the gender disbalance issue.

Out of about 90 books read this year, 19 were by men. Plus the two Clockwork Phoenix anthologies - Mike Allen is the editor, but there's excellent gender mix in the stories he picks, and I also read The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter (very good, btw). I didn't read any urban fantasy (those damn Twilight books excepted, I will always bear the shame).

If you're curious, here's my best of 2009 reading list:

1. Palimpsest - Catherynne M. Valente. (And also A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, her second poetry collection, amazing.)

2. The Living Blood - Tananarive Due

3. The Maerlande Chronicles - Elisabeth Vonarburg

4. Fire - Krisin Cashore

5. Dread Empire's Fall: Convention of War - Walter Jon Williams (also Metropolitan)

6. Wings of Wrath - C.S. Friedman (also The Wilding)

7. Night's Master - Tanith Lee (and everything else I've read by her this year: Vivia, Elephantasm, Heroine of the World, reread of The Birth Grave)

8. The City and the City - China Mieville

9. Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness - Mike Allen, ed. (collecion of short stories)

(now this is where I cheat)

10. Air, or Have Not Have - Geoff Ryman
Pandemonium - Daryl Gregory
All the Windwracked Stars - Elizabeth Bear
The Steam Magnate - Dana Copithorne
The Burning Girl - Holly Phillips

Add to Technorati Favorites