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The Locus Awards Ballot is now available, hot on the heels of the magazine editors’ Recommended Reading List. I’m rather critical of awards (especially after reading James English’s The Economy of Prestige), but I find the Locus Awards to be somewhat more democratic than others. That, of course, creates different sorts of limits and complications about the results. And yet, I enjoy toying around with the list and making my preferences known, while seeing what works I might still want to read.

The deadline for voting is mid-April, so I’ve decided to read a few works over the next few months for possible inclusion in my ballot. These include:

  • Heart of Iron, Ekaterina Sedia (Prime)
  • The Islanders, Christopher Priest (Gollancz)
  • The Company Man, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Orbit)
  • The Kingdom of Gods, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • Of Blood and Honey, Stina Leicht (Night Shade)
  • Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, Genevieve Valentine (Prime)
  • After the Apocalypse, Maureen F. McHugh (Small Beer)
  • The Book of Cthulhu, Ross E. Lockhart, ed. (Night Shade)
  • “Near Zennor”, Elizabeth Hand (A Book of Horrors)
  • “A Long Walk Home”, Jay Lake (Subterranean Winter ’11)
  • “What We Found”, Geoff Ryman (F&SF 9-10/11)
  • “The Paper Menagerie”, Ken Liu (F&SF 3-4/11)
  • “The Onset of a Paranormal Romance”, Bruce Sterling (Flurb Fall/Winter ’11)

I probably will not get to all of them (at least all of the novels), but I would like to read as much from this list as I can by the start of April. They are all works that I want to read and that have not gotten to the top of the TBR pile, but the Ballot gives me a little extra incentive to move them up. I started Stina Leicht’s book last night, by coincidence, and I hope to move on quickly from there.

Most lists are designed as part advertisement, part conversation starter, and the Locus Recommended Reading List is the largest, I believe, except for projects such as NPR’s “100 Best” list, which end up more as popularity contests, barometers of wider taste, and an arena of debate over genre membership and literary quality. The Locus list performs such functions to some degree as well, tightened up through the cultural mediators who assemble it. It also projects an idea of higher standards and in some ways even works as a representation of “the field.” Despite its gaps and problems, this list gets me to read and think more about the literature than most other lists.