Each year, Dartmouth College’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science presents a literary award for the works that best act “as gadfly for the good, provocateur and satirist when the sciences overreach, but also far-seeing prophets of scientific potential.”
The institute has announced this year’s winners: Cadwell Turnbull for his novel The Lesson, and Ted Chiang for his collection Exhalation.
The award was first handed out in 2017, and prior winners include Juan Martinez for Best Worst American, Lavie Tidhar for Central Station, and Peng Shepherd for The Book of M. The winners of the award get a $5000 prize. Author Sam J. Miller served as this year’s judge.
This year’s nominees covered two categories: one for debut authors (in which Turnbull was a finalist), and another “Open” category (where Chiang was a finalist.)
According to Dan Rockmore, the institute’s director, “speculative fiction has always challenged and enlarged our ideas of what the world can be,” and “this year’s winners continue this important tradition and recognize two wondrous and wonderful additions to this vibrant genre.”
In its description of Turnbull’s novel, the institute said that The Lesson “provides a spec-fic twist to the complexities of colonialism, and of interactions between people.”
According to Miller, “few science fiction storylines are more overused than tales of alien first contact and invasion, which makes Cadwell Turnbull’s achievement in The Lesson all the more astonishing.”
“He’s managed to make it fresh and alive and painfully relevant for a moment where our histories of colonization and exploitation are poised to teach us all some terrible lessons, and we should all be paying attention. It’s the kind of debut that makes me so excited for the future of speculative fiction.”
For Exhalation, Miller called Chiang the “greatest living science fiction writer, and each new story of his is cause for celebration.”
“It’s been 17 years since his last collection, and Exhalation is exactly the kind of brain-exploding, superhuman, profoundly human work we need right now. Far and away the best speculative book of the year, and probably the decade. Ted’s stories rewrite the rules of the world and widen the scope of our dreams, and we are all in his debt.”
The two authors will be invited to an online event later in October for a discussion along with Rockmore and Miller.