This time last year, with the publication of the 2010 Locus Recommended Reading List, there was some “robust” discussion about the apparent anti-UK bias of the panel members recommending fiction for the list. You can get a taste of the debate here. And here.
This year the 2011 list, which you can find here, hasn’t generated the same level of discussion – at least not on the many blogs I frequent. Personally, I think it’s a pretty decent list. Yeah, Rob Shearman’s enormously brilliant collection, Everyone’s Just So So Special doesn’t feature (though his story “Restoration” from the same collection does) and I think Lisa Hannett’s Bluegrass Symphony deserved a rec, but overall the List features some fine quality work, including the brilliant The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood. Oh and Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts.
But going back to the issue of bias, Laird Barron noted it was a “travesty” that two “important” collections by Chesya Burke and Livia Llewellyn which I’d never heard of (but have since purchased) didn’t appear on the list.
Later on in the comments, Barron agrees that this might be the result of an anti-horror bias.
What was interesting though, was this comment from Ellen Datlow:
Yes. Of course. I was the only person who knows horror who was on the “panel” of recommenders and the way it works is that more than one person has to rec something to make the cut. I had to push very hard to get ANY horror on the list in any category.
I’m in no place to doubt what Ellen is saying here. And so it does raise the question as to why horror continues to get push back from the greater genre community – represented here by the Locus Panel. Is it because 99% of it is shit – where only 90% of fantasy and SF is shit? Or is it because long time readers, who’ve been burnt too many times by the same old misogynistic serial killer drek, are simply not willing to give horror another go? Or is this simply a blind spot on the part of the Locus Panel?
What I do know is that there’s a huge amount of fiction, short and long, published each year and Locus, for all it’s good intentions, can only cover so much. And it’s possible that collections and stories like those mentioned above by Laird Barron are simply not appearing on Locus’ radar because they’re not the sort of books they generally review.
Whether there is an anti-horror bias or not, the fact is that the LRRL is never going to please everyone. And neither should it. Instead it’s an interesting snap-shot of the scene, and only time will tell whether it was a genuine reflection of the good work published in a given year.