What Are the Locus Awards?

In the field of science fiction and fantasy literature, there are a number of awards to honor and recognize the year’s best. There are the Hugos, the Nebulas, and, the awards with the largest fan participation, the Locus Awards. The Locus Awards are an annual event held and sponsored by Locus Magazine, one of the largest magazines that cover the field of sci-fi and fantasy. The winners of the Locus Awards are chosen by a poll of the magazine’s readers. Fans of science fiction and fantasy can be die-hard in their obsession with their favorite genre. Even though the editors of Locus Magazine select the final nominees for consideration, it is up to the fans to choose the years best.

Locus Magazine and the Origins of the Locus Awards

Locus Magazine is a monthly magazine, published in the United States, that has been covering the science fiction and fantasy writing industry since 1968. The magazine contains reviews, articles, interviews with authors, and listings of new books.  They have won the Hugo award for Best Fanzine eight times and the award for Best Semiprozine 21 times.


The Locus Awards were created back in 1971, three years after the founding of Locus Magazine. The awards were originally created as a means of providing recommendations to the voters of the Hugo Awards. The first annual Locus Awards were given out for works published the previous year in 1970. Because the awards are voted on by fans and readers of Locus Magazine, it is easily larger than either the Hugo Awards or the Nebula Awards.

The actual trophy for the each category of the Locus Awards is a plaque whose design changes from year to year. Writers who win in each category receive a plaque while winning publishers receive just a certificate. The Locus Awards have always been presented at an annual banquet that has been held in different locations throughout the years. However, starting in 2006, the awards ceremony was moved to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and Museum in Seattle.

Locus Award Categories and Rules

There are a number of rules and requirements for the Locus Award nominations. The works to be considered must have been published in the previous year and are based on actual publication, not the official publication date.  The fans and readers of Locus Magazine go through a process to choose the year’s nominations for each category. The nominations are then presented to twenty publishers. Votes are counted according to what is known as the “Carr system”. This gives each nominee a set number of points according to how they are ranked. For instance, a first-place vote gets 8 points, second-place vote gets 7 points, etc. At the end of voting, the nominee with the most points wins. In 2005, the rules were changed so that the top five finishers in each category were revealed as ‘finalists’.

There are currently fifteen categories for the Locus Awards. They are: Best SF Novel, Best Fantasy Novel,Young Adult Book, First Novel, Novella, Novellette, Short Story, Collection, Anthology, Non-Fiction, Art Book, Editor, Magazine, Publisher, Artist

Locus Award Controversy

Despite the success of the Locus Awards, they have drawn their share of criticism. One main criticism is that Locus Magazine has too much influence on who gets nominated. The same month that the voting ballot is issued, the magazine publishes a recommended reading list. The claims are that this list is too suggestive and influential on readers. The ballot is not limited to the books on the reading list and fans can always write in their own nomination but the chances of these write-ins winning are slim.

Another big criticism is that Locus Magazine allowed anyone who visited their website to cast a vote. Traditionally, all voting had been done by subscribers to the magazine. When online voting was opened up, the results pushed away from the magazine’s recommended list of books. So in order to gain some control over the direction of the awards, Locus decided after the voting was complete to double the value of the votes of the Locus subscribers. This brought about harsh criticisms of unfair voting and favoritism by the Locus editors.

Locus Award Winners

The categories for the Locus Awards have changed over the years. Some categories have since been retired. To make things easy, here is a list of the winners for the top two categories, science fiction and fantasy novels, since 1971.


Best SF Novel: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon

Best Fantasy Novel: Making Money by Terry Pratchett


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge

Best Fantasy Novel: The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Accelerando by Charles Stross

Best Fantasy Novel: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman


Best Sci-Fi Novel: The Baroque Cycle: The Confusion; The System of the World by Neil Stephenson

Best Fantasy Novel: Iron Council by China Mieville


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Ilium by Dan Simmons

Best Fantasy Novel: Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold


Best Sci-Fi Novel: The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson

Best Fantasy Novel: The Scar by China Mieville


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Passage by Connie WIllis

Best Fantasy Novel: American Gods by Neil Gaiman


Best Sci-Fi Novel: The Telling by Ursula K. Le Guin

Best Fantasy Novel: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Best Fantasy Novel: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling


Best Sci-Fi Novel: To Say Nothing of the Dog byConnie Willis

Best Fantasy Novel: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin


Best Sci-Fi Novel: The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons

Best Fantasy Novel: Earthquake Weather by Tim Powers


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Best Fantasy Novel: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin


Best Sci-Fi Novel: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

Best Fantasy Novel: Alvin Journeyman by Orson Scott Card


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold

Best Fantasy Novel: Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Best Fantasy Novel: The Innkeeper’s Song by Peter S. Beagle


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Best Fantasy Novel: Last Call by Tim Powers


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Barraya by Lois McMaster Bujold

Best Fantasy Novel: Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper


Best Sci-Fi Novel: The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Best Fantasy Novel: Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Best Fantasy Novel: Prentice Alvin by Orson Scott Card


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh

Best Fantasy Novel: Red Prophet by Orson Scott Card


Best Sci-Fi Novel: The Uplift War by David Brin

Best Fantasy Novel: Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Best Fantasy Novel: Soldier of the Mist by Gene Wolf


Best Sci-Fi Novel: The Postman by David Brin

Best Fantasy Novel: Trumps of Doom by Roger Zelazny


Best Sci-Fi Novel: The Integral Trees by Larry Niven

Best Fantasy Novel: Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Startide Rising by David Brin

Best Fantasy Novel: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov

Best Fantasy Novel: The Sword of the Lictor by Gene Wolf


Best Sci-Fi Novel: The Many-Colored Land by Juliam May

Best Fantasy Novel: The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolf


Best Sci-Fi Novel: The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

Best Fantasy Novel: Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Titan by John Varley

Best Fantasy Novel: Harpist in the Wind by Patricia A. McKillip


Best Novel: Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre


Best Sci-Fi Novel: Gateway by Frederick Pohl

Best Fantasy Novel: The Silmarillion by J.R. R. Tolkien


Best Novel: Where the Late Sweet Birds Sings by Kate Wilhelm


Best Novel: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman


Best Novel: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin


Best Novel: Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke


Best Novel: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov


Best Novel: The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin


Best Novel: Ringworld by Larry Niven