Neal Stephenson

Science-fiction writers are everywhere in the Northwest—they grow here like some weird, bespectacled fungus. The best of them all is Neal Stephenson, whose 1995 novel The Diamond Age defined the cutting edge of science fiction for 10 years after its publication. His World War II code-breaking novel Cryptonomicon broke into the mainstream, and he followed that with The Baroque Cycle, a nearly 3,000-page historical adventure that deepened Cryptonomicon's themes of codes and secret histories. Now he's returning to science fiction—particularly, the long-stagnant subgenre of space opera—with his new novel, Anathem. Stephenson's ambition always makes his books worthwhile, and we may have no choice but to celebrate him as a genuine Genius come next September. PAUL CONSTANT

Trisha Ready

Trisha Ready is writing the meatiest, drollest, most unflinching/curious/thrilling semiautobiographical long-form narrative nonfiction in Seattle. The genre used to be called "personal essay," but that phrase deserves to die (the essay has feelings? a very long personal ad?). She is currently pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology and writing abstract stuff about the relationship between the body and brain, between the idea and the concrete reality. Though she has published all kinds of writing in all kinds of places (Mother Jones, Forbes, Swivel, Exquisite Corpse, Raven Chronicles), she's been published a bunch in The Stranger. Not as much recently , although her excavation of the wreckage of the current U.S. economy—and her wandering-down-dark-hallways-of-the-mind about needing things and having things, about humans being defined by what they choose to buy, about the house she just sold and the sewer (a kind of subconscious) she had to descend into before she could sell it—is among the finest writing The Stranger has been lucky enough to publish this year. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE


Yes, he is the rapper for Blue Scholars. Why did we consider him for the literary prize? Because Geologic's raps are crafted with great care and intelligence. Raw urban documentation is his substance. In this way, he is a part of a literary tradition that goes all the way back to Baudelaire, whose poetry documented the major transformations and primary experience of Second Empire Paris. In "Joe Metro," Geologic documents the common experience of using our city's primary form of public transportation—the buses of Metro Transit; in "Proletariat Blues," he documents the soul-numbing realities of service work in the post-Fordist economy; and in "The Distance," he documents the linguistic and cultural deracination of an Asian immigrant in South Seattle. And it's not the cleverness of the rhymes that impresses the listener, but a wealth of urban details—life in the home, work at the store, nights wasted in dive bars, and flashes of political rage. Geologic wants his raps to be a spotless, scratchless mirror of the daily life of his city. CHARLES MUDEDE