Before we get down to business, a quick question: why run a readers' poll?
This isn't the first time we've run one, but it's the first one for a few years, so it's a question we've thought about. My answer is that it's just part of what I expect a magazine like Strange Horizons to do. When I was a teenager, the annual polls in Interzone and, later, Asimov's, were something I looked forward to—I didn't always vote, but I wanted to see what won. Partly I think it was about wanting some sort of benchmark for my developing taste; partly it was the sense it gave of a connection to a community of readers, out there somewhere in the world; and partly it was the way it helped to give the magazines I was reading an identity and a history. Today, I can look at the lists of winners in those polls and see stories I remember fondly, and winners that have entered my personal canon. And—of course—some stories I think are terrible, and remain astonished anyone could have liked.
So all of that feeds into why I wanted to reinstate the Strange Horizons poll. There are a couple of changes to the last time we did this, back in 2005. (Which, as it happens, was the year I joined the magazine; some of the winners, such as the symposium on speculative poetry, I remember being things that helped convince me Strange Horizons was something I wanted to be part of.) We didn't run a columns poll this year, because the department was under strength; but we're rectifying that with the addition of Vandana Singh to our roster last week, and Genevieve Valentine today, and with more to come, so that category should be back next year. And we polled for Best Reviewer, rather than Best Review, partly because 150 different reviews would have made for an unwieldy drop-down menu, but mostly because what's valuable about a reviews department—for me—is the continuity of voices, the personality and perspective that evolves from a body of work.
The poll was open from 13.00 GMT on 21st February 2011 until 23.59 GMT on 6th March 2011. Here's how we scored it. Each person could vote for up to five works or nominees, ranking them 1 (first place) to 5 (fifth place). Each first-place vote was worth five points, each second-place vote was worth four points, and so on. It was not compulsory to vote in every category, nor to use all five slots in a given category. Multiple votes on one ballot for the same item were discarded, and we required a unique email address for the ballot to be submitted. Those addresses were only used to verify the validity of ballots, and were only saved for the duration of the poll.
In total, over 500 votes were cast; most ballots in each category used four or five nomination slots. And so, without further ado . . .
- First place: "The Mad Scientist's Daughter" by Theodora Goss
- Second place: "Seven Sexy Cowboy Robots" by Sandra McDonald
- Third place: "WE HEART VAMPIRES!!!!!!" by Meghan McCarron
- Fourth place: "Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions" by Saladin Ahmed
- Fifth place: "Iteration" by John Kessel
- First place: "Sightings" by Marge Simon
- Second place: "Idle Thoughts While Watching a Faun" by Sonya Taaffe
- Third place: "A Day in the Life Of" by Bruce Boston
- Fourth place: "Life Lessons" by Emily Jiang
- Fifth place: "How to Bake a Cake from Scratch" by Lisa Nohealani Morton
- First place: "The Condition of a Monster: A Personal Taxonomy of Supernatural Fiction" by Orrin Grey
- Second place: "Zombies are Just Undead Gentlemen: An Interview with The Widow's Bane by Molly Tanzer
- Third place: "Terra Incognita: A Brief History of Mexican Science Fiction" by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- Fourth place: "Herding Zombies: A Roundtable Discussion" by S. J. Chambers
- Fifth place: "The X-Files: Faith and Paranoia in America" by Cynthia C. Scott
- First place: Abigail Nussbaum
- Second place: Adam Roberts
- Third place: Niall Harrison
- Fourth place: Matthew Cheney
- Fifth place: Farah Mendlesohn
Congratulations to all the winners, who will receive a framed certificate marking their victory. And thanks to everybody who voted. Same time next year?