The low-hanging fruit for any new genre blog is to talk about some of the many awards present in science fiction and fantasy. The Hugo Awards are the biggest, or at least most well-known, among them. In April, they announced their current finalists.
A unique feature of this award is the Hugo Voter’s Packet. It includes representative work of most of the finalists and is often well-worth the price of a $50 supporting membership. It also grants you the right to vote for the winner. We’ve been busily consuming the ebooks, audio files, and pdfs included in this year’s packet since its release in May.
During our latest Zoom session, our writing group discussed how we could add anything of value to the ongoing discussion of finalists. The fiction and dramatic presentation categories are already well-trodden, if perhaps a bit too rose-tinted for our liking. Then someone pointed out that there’s almost no discussion at all about the editors. We’re all actively writing or submitting fiction to magazines and anthologies, so we settled on Editor Short Form.
This year’s finalists are:
- Neil Clarke
- Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
- Mur Lafferty & S.B. Divya
- Jonathan Strahan
- Sheree Renée Thomas
- Sheila Williams
We were already familiar with these editors and their work and read the entries provided in the packet as refreshers. With one exception, six of us independently ranked the six finalists in the same order.
6. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
Ekpeki is a promising new editor and first-time finalist (and writer-finalist in novelette), but his only work for 2021 was The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction, a reprint anthology showcasing the work of other editors. There is some merit to assembling a reprint anthology, particularly one that shines a light on another part of the world, but all the other editors contributed original fiction they selected and edited.
5. Mur Lafferty & S.B. Divya
Lafferty and Divya edit Escape Pod, a well-known podcast. Both are established writers and Escape Pod is also a finalist for Best Semiprozine. Escape Pod is best known for being a reprint market, but also published about a dozen originals. Again, a case of enjoyed the reprints, but the originals didn’t particularly stand out to us and represented only a small portion of their output.
4. Jonathan Strahan
Strahan is the second of three year’s best anthology editors on this list, but also a prolific anthologist and one of the many freelance editors at Tor.com. He is also a finalist as one half of the team behind 2021 Hugo Fancast winning, Coode Street Podcast. Unfortunately, The Year’s Best Science Fiction 2021 was his only anthology in 2021. His seven Tor.com novellas, however, were enough to push him solidly to fourth place, but not past the next three, all of whom have open submissions and try to discover new authors. That’s a criteria we look for in editors.
3. Sheree Renée Thomas
Thomas started as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2021 and has previously edited anthologies. Her first year was a step up for the magazine, but a transition year is bound to be a bit uneven and that’s how it felt to us. This is where we had some disagreement. One of us ranked her as #2 simply based on the difficulty of such transitions and how well she’s handled it. All of us have high expectations for the magazine under her leadership.
2. Sheila Williams
Williams is the only previous winner on this year’s ballot and the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction. She’s also edited several anthologies, but none of those were published in 2021. Asimov’s output for 2021 was exactly what we’ve come to expect and Williams continued involvement with the Dell Award did not go unnoticed by us. There’s a reason she’s won two Hugos and continues to appear on this list.
1. Neil Clarke
Clarke is editor and founder of Clarkesworld Magazine. He also edits Forever Magazine–a reprint magazine–and anthologies, including the Best Science Fiction of the Year series. He didn’t publish any anthologies in 2021, but he did edit and publish a translated collection of stories by Xia Jia. Clarke’s work in support of translations and frequent encouragement of international or new authors is something that has made him stand out among his colleagues in a very positive way. We also love the transparency he’s shown with regards to his submission process. Clarkesworld had a strong year, producing some of our favorites, and Clarke, a ten-time finalist, is overdue for a win. This is also the editor each of us submits our work to first.