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.
From Friday through Monday, thousands came to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Glasgow, the better to celebrate speculative fiction in all its forms, but judging by the conversation that followed, Satellite 4 (aka Eastercon) was all about the awards. For that matter, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the con was all about one award, the shortlists for which have dominated the conversation in the days since their unveiling.
We will of course touch on the Hugo Awards shortlist shortly, by way of comments from a couple of the country’s most insightful interpreters, but in the interests of balance, not to mention our focus on British genre fiction, I want to talk about the other honours announced and awarded at this year’s Eastercon.
The David Gemmell Awards for Manly Fantasy
Saturday saw the unveiling of the sixth set of shortlists for the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy—“one of fantasy fiction’s most prestigious prizes,” per the press release—including the Legend for Best Novel, the Morningstar for Best Debut, and the Ravenheart for Best Cover Art.
The Legend Award for Best Novel includes three of America’s biggest names in fantasy, with titles from Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan, Peter V. Brett and Scott Lynch, as well as superb titles from British authors Mark Lawrence and Adrian Tchaikovsky.
The Morningstar Award […] features an intriguing mix of titles. Whilst the major fantasy imprints are represented by first novels from Antoine Rouaud and Brian McLellan, independent and tie-in publishing are strongly represented by debuts from Luke Scull (Head of Zeus), Mark T Barnes (47 North) and David Guymer (Black Library).
The Ravenheart Award for Best Cover Art is a unique award acknowledging and celebrating the superb work done by fantasy artists, and this year features a truly international set of nominees in Benjamin Carre, Jason Chan, Michael Frost and Gene Mollica, Cheol Joo Lee and Rhett Podersoo.
Stan Nicholls, Chair for the Gemmell Awards, asserted that this year’s shortlist “represents a fascinating mixture not only of international names but also different aspects of the publishing world, showcasing the depth of quality in modern fantasy.”
And that’s as may be… but there’s something wrong with this picture, isn’t there?
Go on. Look over the nominees again.
Can you tell what it is yet?
It’s the complete lack of female nominees. Of the seventeen authors and artists nominated, not one was a woman.
For serious, people? This is how you see the field?
I don’t know where to go from here except to say that the winners of the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy will be named and shamed at “a stunning ceremony this June at London’s glamorous Magic Circle.”
Want to bet that they’ll all be all men as well?
Well Done, BSFA Award Winners
At a ceremony on Sunday, Steve and Alice Lawson announced the winners of the British Science Fiction Association’s annual awards.
Beating out some serious competition from E. J. Swift, Sofia Samatar and Tori Truslow, the Best Short Fiction Award went to Nina Allan for ‘Spin,’ a novella published by TTA Press which I’m sorry to say I haven’t read.
The Best Artwork Award shortlist served to alert me to some very attractive images, including Kevin Tong’s poster for Fritz Lang’s 1927 movie Metropolis (seen here), and Richard Wagner’s incredible illustration of Aliette de Bodard’s story, ‘The Angel at the Heart of the Rain,’ in an issue of Interzone—again from TTA Press.
In the end—a little predictably, perhaps, but not for a second undeservedly—the Best Artwork Award went to Joey Hi-fi for the cover of Tony Ballantyne’s Dream London… which sets the bar even higher for the sequel, Dream Paris, to be released—as discussed in the Focus a few weeks ago—next September.
Trumping John J. Johnston’s essay for Jurassic London’s Unearthed anthology and Sleeps With Monsters, Liz Bourke’s awesome Tor.com column, Jeff VanderMeer won Best Non-Fiction for Wonderbook, an alarmingly elaborate and winningly articulate writer’s guide.
Last but not least, there was a tie for Best Novel between two very different texts, namely Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and… Ack-Ack Macaque? If I’m honest, I’m glad that God’s War didn’t win, if only because it’s been acclaimed often enough already, but absolutely baffled by the fact that Gareth L. Powell’s perfectly fun monkey mayhem simulator beat both Evening’s Empires by Paul McAuley and The Adjacent by Christopher Priest to tie with Leckie’s dizzying debut. That said, the recognition that science fiction doesn’t need to be serious to be superb is a worthy one.
The ceremony on Sunday also acknowledged the winner of the James White Award:
Instituted to honour the memory of one of Ireland’s most successful science fiction authors […] the James White Award is an annual short story competition open to non-professional writers with the winner chosen by a panel of judges made up of professional authors and editors.
The judges—namely Sophia McDougall, Emma Newman and Adam Roberts—decided that DJ Cockburn’s story, ‘Beside the Dammed River,’ was the best of the bunch, but they also awarded a special recommendation to Vina Jin-Mae Prasad for her story ‘Flesh and Bone.’
I’d like to read these, please!
The Hugo Awards Shortlists Happened Too
Both of the aforementioned awards have been rather overshadowed, sadly, by the fallout from the announcement of the Hugo Awards shortlists. Reactions have run the gamut from unbridled delight to disgusted derision, and though we haven’t a hope in hell of discussing everyone’s opinions in detail here, Tor.com contributor Stefan Raets has been collecting links on the fantastic Far Beyond Reality.
I’d very much recommend you peruse as much of this great debate as you dare, because the quotes I’m going to bring today’s column to a close with reflect my personal perspective on the problems with the shortlists. I dare say it did have its highlights—the fan categories made me fabulously happy—but if the nominees for Best Novel, Novella and Novelette are indicative of anything, it’s Larry Correia’s continuing influence.
Here’s Niall Harrison, Editor in Chief of Strange Horizons, talking about how he felt as the nominees were named:
The first few categories to be announced seemed about as good as I could have hoped for. I was delighted to see Sofia Samatar and Benjanun Sriduangkaew up for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer; and new names in Best Fan Artist; and The Writer and the Critic and The Skiffy and Fanty Show (the latter featuring our own Julia Rios) in Best Fancast; and Abigail Nussbaum finally (finally!) recognised in Best Fan Writer (as part of what is the strongest shortlist for that category for many years). This Hugo slate was, as in 2005, painting a picture of the genre that I recognised, felt a kinship with.
Hearing the shortlists for Best Novelette, Best Novella and Best Novel, however, gave me whiplash. It’s not just the near-absence of British writers, though that is disappointing (just one prose fiction writer on the whole ballot, although there are at least a couple of other Europeans); it’s who is there instead. One person I spoke to after the announcement was sanguine, even cheerful, because of the way one nomination in particular had been received: as a middle-aged woman of mixed race who’d worked in several professions, she said, she was used to being the sort of person whose presence was objectionable, and it was refreshing to find that here, now, it’s the other way around. That’s the glass half-full view, and I admire it, and am trying to hold to it: because it’s true that in each of those categories there are writers I admire and stories I will be happy to vote for. It’s true that even with the questionable nominations, those three categories contain twice as many women as the equivalent slates from 2005.
But it is, nonetheless, an uncomfortable feeling to be part of the same award ballot as Vox Day, given his past behaviour, even at several categories’ remove. More than uncomfortable: I am angry. His nomination doesn’t represent the field I know, the field that Strange Horizons tries to showcase, or the field that Loncon 3 is working to celebrate later this year. I hope and trust that when the votes are counted in August, the SF community will demonstrate that it feels the same way.
As do I, other Niall.
Finally, for a rather more barbed reaction, let’s give the floor over to Adam Roberts’ comments on Sibilant Fricative:
I have occasionally blogged my reaction to previous years’ Hugo shortlists. After all: it used to be the genre’s blue riband award. Still, I think most folk would agree that it’s been in quite serious credibility trouble for some years now. And now we have this year’s shortlist, which rather puts me in mind of Tom Lehrer’s stated reason for quitting writing his satirical songs: “political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” Some of the fan categories are strong, and there are one or two worthwhile works dotted here and there; but taken as a whole, and noting especially its leap-up-and-grab-you-by-the-lapels elements (Robert Jordan? Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles? Vox Fucking Day?) it is the SF Award Shortlist equivalent of Kissinger’s Nobel. It is self-satirising. It renders any subsequent comment by the likes of me superfluous.
And that’s it for the British Genre Fiction Focus for the moment. I’ll talk to you all again next time, but remember, as ever… the conversation continues in the comments.
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.