- Yarn by Jon Armstrong (Night Shade Books)
- Chill by Elizabeth Bear (Spectra)
- The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell (Henry Holt)
- Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy (Eos)
- The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder (Pyr)
- Harmony by Project Itoh translated by Alexander O. Smith (Haikasoru)
- State of Decay by James Knapp (Roc)
The finalists are a diverse group in terms of subject matter and publisher. Yarn may be the biggest surprise--an interesting novel that came out so late in the year it seemed, until now, to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Elizabeth Bear has been nominated for the PKD Award before and thus might be considered an early front-runner. Another possible front-runner is Mark Hodder's novel, which received some excellent reviews and early praise from iconic writer Michael Moorcock.
Reached for comment, Hodder's editor, Lou Anders, told me that he was drawn to the novel because of "the way in which he justified the emergence of steampunk technology as a natural result of an alteration in our own timeline...[and,] in addition to being a great steampunk book, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack is also a wonderful time travel story. I'd go so far to say that it's one of the most brilliantly executed time-travel tales I've ever read. This makes Hodder's novel indisputably science fiction, despite such naysayers who don't believe that steampunk is true SF. For this reason, I'm double thrilled that such a prestigious science fiction award as the Philip K Dick has included it on the shortlist for 2010."
Meanwhile, Haikasoru, an imprint that translates Japanese genre fiction into English, scored its first PKD Award nomination with Harmony. A previous title from Haikasoru had been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award (manga from the parent company VIZ also won the Tiptree Award recently). Clearly, the imprint is beginning to make its mark, despite having released its first book only eighteen months ago.
About the honor, Haikasoru's tradebooks editor Nick Mamatas said, "We're absolutely thrilled to see Harmony nominated for the Philip K. Dick award. It was a Seiun and Japan SF Award winner—the equivalent of winning a Hugo and Nebula—in Japan, so it is great to see that quality is a global language."
But what of the other three nominees? The Alden Bell is a zombie novel with literary pedigree that has gotten some great reviews, and is clearly engaged in mortal combat with the Knapp, another zombie novel, which comes at the topic from a pulpier thriller perspective. Will zombies cancel out zombies? Only the judges know.
The only title unfamiliar to me was Creasy's Song of Scarabaeus, which received a starred Publishers Weekly review, so I asked Creasy's editor, Diana Gill, recently named to io9's top 20 SF/F movers and shakers, what drew her to the novel: "It’s smart science fiction about biotechnology, with a strong heroine, and reminds me of the C. J. Cherryh books I read and loved growing up."
First prize and any special citations will be announced on Friday, April 22, 2010 at Norwescon 34 at the Doubletree Seattle Airport Hotel, SeaTac, Washington. The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust and the award ceremony is sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society.The 2010 judges are William Barton, Andy Duncan (chair), Bruce McAllister, Melinda Snodgrass, and David Walton.