Subjective Chaos: 2019 finalists

Black and white photo of some pebbles, each painted with text: Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards

We’ve had six long months of reading our way through our 5 categories and 36 nominees. We have bluntly shared our first impressions (privately, thank you) and subjectively picked our individual favourites. But who has made our final selection?

I feel like this year has elicited much stronger opinions from our panel than last: either we have grown much grumpier in our one-year-older age, or we picked a far more divisive group of nominees. Every category has seen wildly divergent opinions, with very little agreement on best in class – our finalists reflect the group consensus, but there’s no clear favourites. However, if our discussions have been even more subjective, they have been no less courteous – we are all happy to accept that other opinions are valid.


I went into this category pretty clear where my heart lay. Unlike last year, the books I was less familiar with didn’t tempt me to stray – I declared The Poppy War one of the best books of 2018, and I stand by that. Happily, Rin has made it safely through to our final round, where she is facing off against the most unusual title in this category this year.


  • The Poppy War – R F Kuang
  • The Loosening Skin – Aliya Whiteley



Science Fiction

I didn’t read this category last year, so this year I was determined to stick my oar in. But oh my it proved particularly contentious. I couldn’t call my own votes a month ago, let alone guess the finalists. With almost every judge championing a different nominee, it has been a thriller at every step of the way – and will remain close-fought to the last gasp, I suspect.



Honourable mention here goes to Semiosis, which I found has grown on me (entirely appropriately) the longer I’ve had to think about it.


This category was a challenge last year with a clear front-runner and no agreement on the rest of the field. This year we have narrowed it down to two finalists, and I’m very excited as these are two of my favourite SF series of recent years!




This category had the most scrutiny, with 5 of us voting. It was our closest category last year; and this year has once again been wide open all along. However, our opinions have broadly converged at the end, with two clear favourites emerging here as well.


  • Prime Meridian – Silvia Moreno Garcia
  • The Tea Master and the Detective – Aliette de Bodard


Honourable mention here goes to The Black God’s Drums, which I particularly enjoyed but didn’t squeak through in the face of stiff competition!

Blurred Boundaries

I didn’t read for this category in the first round, so I have been watching with interest to see who our finalists would be. I am very excited to play catch up here for the final round of voting!


  • Trail of Lightning – Rebecca Roanhorse
  • The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas
  • The Mere Wife – Maria Dahvana Headley


What happens next?

We’ll be debating for the next month, and announcing our winners just before WorldCon.


Want to guess who our category winners will be? Leave your guesses in the comments – if you call all five categories correctly, your name will go in a hat – the winner will get a copy of the winner of their choice.