The Philip K. Dick Award is for science fiction published as a paperback original, as most of Dick’s own work was in his lifetime. It’s an interesting award, precisely because of this. It tends to catch books that are good but haven’t had a lot of attention—so many paperbacks are reprints that paperback originals often don’t get reviewed, and don’t have much advertising budget from the publisher. The Dick list is one to watch to find new writers and books that may have slipped beneath the radar, interesting oddities, and small press releases from major writers. The purpose of awards is not to make writers feel good, although they do that, but to draw good books to the awareness of readers.
The Dick is a juried award, which means that the jury read through a whole pile of paperback originals and agreed on the best—they do this so you don’t have to. The shortlist is more interesting to me than the winner—it’s very hard to agree on what is “the best”, and then it’s just one book, but a list of half a dozen excellent books gives a good range. These cover the whole spectrum of science fiction, and just science fiction, not any shade of fantasy. I haven’t read any of them, but I commend them all to your attention.
This year’s nominees are:
Bitter Angels by C. L. Anderson (Ballantine Books/Spectra)
The Prisoner by Carlos J. Cortes (Ballantine Books/Spectra)
The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia (Harper)
The Devil’s Alphabet by Daryl Gregory (Del Rey)
Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald (Pyr)
Centuries Ago and Very Fast by Rebecca Ore (Aqueduct Press)
Prophets by S. Andrew Swann (DAW Books)
Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.