Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.
This week, as Awards Watch continues with news of this year’s British Science Fiction Association Award shortlists, science fiction’s invisible women can be seen a little more clearly, whilst Best Novel contender Kameron Hurley makes a rare repeat appearance in the course of a single column.
I’ve also got the lovely cover art for The Wizard’s Promise, and later on, in Odds and Sods, Neil Gaiman is taking over the telly, Gollancz have a cheeky secret to reveal, Voyager have bought two novels from a former firewalker, and—sigh—the local libraries are getting it again.
Awards Watch: Back to the BSFAs
The shortlists for the BSFA’s annual awards were released last week, and what a relief it was to see some women acknowledged by the Association—and the members whose nominations the shortlists are drawn from—after 2013’s middle-aged white man extravaganza.
There were a few of those, of course: Christopher Priest, Paul McAuley and Gareth L. Powell all got the nod... but the contenders in the Best Novel category also included Kameron Hurley for God’s War and Ann Leckie for Ancillary Justice—both of which push out the boundaries as regards the representation of gender in the genre.
And according to Award boss Donna Scott, “The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, and the Booker-shortlisted A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, just failed to make the final shortlist.”
More recognition of science fiction’s formerly invisible women came by way of the Best Short Fiction shortlist, which honoured Nina Allen, Sofia Samatar, E. J. Swift and Tori Trusluw for their contribution to the form.
Last but not least, our own Liz Bourke was named one of just three nominees for Best Non-Fiction for her Tor.com column Sleeps with Monsters. How abominably awesome!
Long story short, the shortlists made for such a substantial improvement over last year’s unfortunate sausagefest that it’s tempting to call it a day right there, but Kameron Hurley warns that the longstanding problem isn’t suddenly solved:
Let's be real. We're two out of five on the best novel shortlist, which isn't even parity. So I'm not going to hop up and down like “rah-rah no more sexism!” But it's better than we've seen in a while, and in no small part because both God's War and Ancillary Justice are core genre novels that earned a lot of love and support from the science fiction community. Every inch was earned.
Donna Scott was also cautiously optimistic, according to this article in The Guardian:
Science fiction as a genre is still a little skewed towards male writers in terms of the numbers of submissions to publishers, but the women are there. Just a few years ago, I could think of only one female science fiction writer who had a UK novel publishing deal, but there are more now, and there is a clamouring among fans to read something new. We want different voices and perspectives.
And by gum, we’re getting them. I can hardly express how happy I am about that, at last.
Lauren Beukes put her tuppence in too, saying that it was “fantastic to see so many women writers on the major genre award shortlists,” especially for “the kind of hard SF that is traditionally (wrongly) perceived as being a bit of a boy's club.”
She went on to talk about the community’s part in making this happen:
What does make me happy is that it seems that all the debate on blogs and social media about how women writers are perceived, reviewed, published and nominated for awards seems to have actually had an effect in the real world. Or maybe we've just had a bumper crop of awesome this year. I'd like to think that the way we talk about this stuff matters and I'm thrilled to see such talented female writers getting recognition alongside their equally talented male peers.
This. This exactly!
Kameron Hurley, Worldbreaker
Kameron Hurley made the news for another reason this week: the Clarion West graduate has teamed up with the folks at Angry Robot for her next several novels. The Worldbreaker Saga is, according to the author’s comments on A Dribble of Ink, “Game of Thrones meets Fringe [...] across three respectable doorstoppers.”
Passing odd, then, that her new deal is for “at least two books,” beginning with The Mirror Kingdom, which we already know quite a bit about:
On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past... while a world goes to war with itself.
In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy.
Stretching from desolate tundra to steamy, semi-tropical climes seething with sentient plant life, this is an epic tale of blood mages and mercenaries, emperors and priestly assassins who must unite to save a world on the brink of collapse. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler struggles to unite a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.
Through tense alliances and devastating betrayals, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.
In the end, only one world will rise—and many will perish.
Frustratingly, here in the UK we’re still waiting (less patiently by the day) for Infidel and Rapture to be released; that The Mirror Empire stands to beat the latter of those narratives to bookstores when it’s published worldwide this very September is no laughing matter.
Cover Art Corner: The Wizard’s Promise
Strange Chemistry recently revealed Sarah K. Coleman’s cover art for The Wizard’s Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke... and it’s simply exquisite, don’t you think?
You can see more of the artist’s work on Inkymole, and I’ve got a bit about the book for you, too:
All Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch—but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.
As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.
The Wizard’s Promise begins The Hanna Duology, which I understand shares a world with The Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish—though I'll come right out and admit I’ve read neither of these novels, despite the best of intentions. Anyone willing to recommend them?
The Wizard’s Promise be published in the UK this May, in any case.
Odds and Sods
Neil Gaiman is about to take over the telly! According to his blog, we “can expect a little smidge of news about two of my books being adapted into two TV series very soon, with a third to follow. Real news, very soon, promise.” I’ll keep you up to speed, readers.
Looks like the very public bloodletting behind the bookcases of Waterstones has lessened some of the financial pressure on Britain’s biggest bookseller. Managing Director James Daunt has said that the company’s recovery is “on track” after its losses more than halved in 2013.
Gollancz revealed a tongue-in-cheek sort of secret this week: that Miles Cameron, author of The Traitor Son Cycle, is actually a pen name for Christian Cameron, the bestselling historical novelist.
HarperCollins Voyager has bought two new fantasy novels—The Vagrant and The Malice—from debut author Peter Newman, a former firewalker.
Last week I wondered what impact the apparent collapse of Quercus might have on its genre fiction imprint Jo Fletcher. Jo Fletcher herself says it’s too early to tell, but reading between the lines of her open letter, there should be news about a resolution soon.
The winner of the Costa Book of the Year Award was announced... and it wasn’t Kate Atkinson! Oh well. Instead, the £30,000 prize went to Nathan Filer for his debut, The Shock of the Fall.
Not to end on a downer or anything, but be warned: local libraries are getting it again. Cuts in Birmingham mean that the library budget will be down £2m in 2014, whilst in Scotland the home of the internationally recognised Wigtown Book Festival has had its service hugely reduced.
Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.