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10 Locus Award Winners and Nominees That Were Instant Classics

These Locus-recognized books deserve a spot in your home library.

Locus Awards Goblin Emperor

Inaugurated in 1971, the Locus Awards are given out every year by the magazine of the same name to commemorate the best in that year's science fiction and fantasy. 

Over the years, Locus Award categories have adapted to meet changing times. The Best Novel award has been split into Best Science Fiction Novel, Best Fantasy Novel, and Best Horror Novel; other awards have been added or dropped. What has remained constant is the dedication toward highlighting some of the best and brightest writers, editors, publishers, and artists working in speculative fiction today.

RELATED: 50 of the Best Fantasy Books Ever 

These ten Locus Award-winning and nominated books represent some of the best of the best in speculative fiction, and deserve a place on your shelf. 

2020 Locus Award for Best First Novel

2019 Nebula Awards finalists

Gideon the Ninth

By Tasmyn Muir

NPR, BookRiot, Bustle, the New York Public Library, and The Portalist all named Gideon the Ninth one of the best books of 2019. 

Locus readers must have thought so, too, because it won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. 

Tamsyn Muir’s science fantasy tale of cavaliers, necromancers, reanimated corpses, and much more kicks off a swashbuckling trilogy starring the eponymous Gideon, a swordswoman with a lot of dirty magazines and not much patience for the undead.

RELATED: 16 Dark Fantasy Books You Won't Be Able to Put Down 

2015 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel

best fantasy books

The Goblin Emperor

By Katherine Addison

Sarah Monette had already won our hearts with her incredible Kyle Murchison Booth stories – collected in 2007 as The Bone Key – before she took up the pen name Katherine Addison and wrote this Locus Award-winning book that was also nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards.  

This dizzying fantasy tale of court intrigue follows the youngest son of the Goblin Emperor, who is suddenly thrust into power after his father and elder brothers are all assassinated at once. 

Unschooled in politics and unsure of who to trust, he has to learn the ropes while also watching his back, because whoever killed the other heirs may have their sights on him, next…

2013 Locus Award for Best First Novel

best fantasy books

Throne of the Crescent Moon

By Saladin Ahmed

Saladin Ahmed, known to comic fans as the author of Black Bolt, Exiles, Miles Morales: Spider-Man, and The Magnificent Ms. Marvel, to name a few, won the Locus Award for Best First Novel back in 2013 for this fantasy adventure. 

A finalist for the British Fantasy, Hugo, and Nebula Awards, Throne of the Crescent Moon is a story about djenn and ghuls, an enigmatic master thief, and a struggle for the throne of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms.

RELATED: 9 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Novels That Celebrate and Honor Rebellion 

2012 Locus Award for Best First Novel

the night circus erin morgenstern fantasy romance books

The Night Circus

By Erin Morgenstern

A pair of dueling magicians turn star-crossed lovers in this spellbinding tale by Erin Morgenstern that won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and catapulted its author to the top of everyone’s lists. 

Within the black-and-white striped tents of Le Cirque des Rêves, a deadly game is underway – one which can leave only the victor standing. 

Celia and Marco have been raised since infancy to play their scripted roles in this fatal duel, but their unexpected love will change everything.

2010 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel

steampunk books Boneshaker Cherie Priest


By Cherie Priest

The first book in her “Clockwork Century” series, Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker introduces an alternate history of the United States, one where the Civil War rages even as the gold rush draws inventors and opportunists to Seattle. 

Priest's world is filled with airships, unstoppable locomotives, and, yes, zombies. Leviticus Blue’s “Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine” shook more than bones, collapsing much of Seattle during its test run, and releasing a deadly gas that turns those who perish from it into “rotters.” 

Now, the infected portions of Seattle are walled off, as Blue’s widow and son embark on a deadly mission into a city filled with the walking dead…

RELATED: 17 Unique Steampunk Books from the Past 35 Years 

1985 Locus Award for Best Novelette 



By Octavia E. Butler

The title novelette in this collection won the Locus Award in 1985, having been published in Asimov’s Science Fiction the year before. But Octavia E. Butler is no stranger to award nominations, having won both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards multiple times, not to mention becoming the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.

RELATED: Octavia Butler Books: The Complete Canon 

1986 Best Novella Nominee

Sailing to Byzantium

Sailing to Byzantium

By Robert Silverberg

Robert Silverberg has been nominated for the Locus Award more than anyone else over the years, with over 150 nominations under his belt. 

His 1985 novella, Sailing to Byzantium, originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, very nearly took the top spot at the Locus Awards that year, and was only beaten out by James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Only Neat Thing to Do.”

1984 Best Anthology Nominee



By Jessica Amanda Salmonson

In 1979, Jessica Amanda Salmonson edited this anthology of fantasy stories featuring female protagonists written by authors including Tanith Lee, Andre Norton, and C. J. Cherryh. 

A first at the time, Amazons! made the list of Locus Award nominees that year. Salmonson later released The Encyclopedia of Amazons, which Library Journal called an “excellent” A-to-Z reference of female fighters in history and myth.


1980 Best Fantasy Novel Nominee

Tales of Nevèrÿon

Tales of Nevèrÿon

By Samuel R. Delany

Written by SFWA Grand Master Samuel R. Delany in 1978, this book, the first in the Return to Neveryon series, nabbed 3rd place in the Locus Awards list that year. 

Containing several stories set in Delany’s Neveryon world, this book “thoroughly expands, deepens, questions, and undercuts the premises” of the genre, according to critic Larry McCaffery, writing in his 1991 book, Across the Wounded Galaxies: Interviews with Contemporary American Science Fiction Writers.

1976 Best Single Author Collection Nominee

The Best of C.L. Moore

The Best of C.L. Moore

By C.L. Moore

C. L. Moore was a contemporary of Lovecraft, publishing her stories in Weird Tales under the editorial oversight of Farnsworth Wright. 

This collection brings together some of her best-known and most-loved tales, including the first Jirel of Joiry story, and was a nominee for the Locus Award when it was first released back in 1975.

RELATED: 9 Unforgettable Fantasy Short Stories 

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