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Awards news

Here’s a round-up of some literary award winners, shortlists and other bits and pieces…

Costa Book Awards

The category winners were announced this week:

  • Novel: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Doubleday)
  • First Novel: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer (HarperCollins)
  • Biography: The Pike by Lucy Hughes-Hallett (Fourth Estate)
  • Poetry: Drysalter by Michael Symmons Roberts (Jonathan Cape)
  • Children’s Book: Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell (Macmillan)

The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday 28 January. There’s also a Short Story Award, which is voted for by the public. You can read (or listen) to the shortlisted stories and vote here.

Transmission Prize

A prize for the communication of ideas, organised by Salon London. (The descriptions of the nominees here are taken from the prize’s website.)

  • Olivia Laing for her exploration of what drives writers to drink, in her psycho-geographic journey across the USA.
  • Professor David Nutt for giving us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the absolute truth about drugs.
  • John McHugo who, based on decades of experience, has created an understandable, and concise history of the Arab world.
  • Biologist Aarathi Prasad showed us how biology is redefining the rules of sex, and predicted the end of men.
  • Lloyd Bradley for piecing together 100 years of black music in the capital and giving us his sounds of London.
  • Perfumer and writer Sarah McCartney showed us how we can move both in time and our own experience through smell.
  • Barbara Sahakian who explored the ethical and moral questions surrounding neuro-cognitive enhancers, aka smart drugs.
  • Epigeneticist Tim Spector who showed us how we can change our genes, both those we inherit and those we pass on.

The winner will be announced on Thursday 6 February.

BSFA Awards

BSFA members can nominate works for this years awards until next Tuesday, 14 January.

Fiction Uncovered

Not strictly an award, but does a valuable job all the same of recognising writers who may otherwise be overlooked. It was announced today that Fiction Uncovered has received funding for another two years, with 2014’s list of titles to be announced in June. I look forward to seeing what’s on there!

Award shortlists: BSFA and Kitschies

Some thoughts on two sets of sf award shortlists which were announced today.

BSFA Awards

The BSFA Awards are voted on by the membership of the British Science Fiction Association. The shortlists are made up of the works which received the most nominations from members.

Best Novel
“Dark Eden” by Chris Beckett (Corvus)
“Empty Space: a Haunting” by M. John Harrison (Gollancz)
“Intrusion” by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
“Jack Glass” by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
“2312” by Kim Stanley-Robinson (Orbit)

No great surprises here. Harrison, Roberts, and Robinson all felt like shoe-ins to me; Beckett and MacLeod are well-respected names within the genre. It’s a solid, albeit familiar, list – but the fact that it’s all-male is not good at all.

Best Short Story
Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (“Clarkesworld” #69)
“The Flight of the Ravens” by Chris Butler (Immersion Press)
“Song of the Body Cartographer” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (“Phillipines Genre Stories”)
“Limited Edition” by Tim Maughan (1.3, “Arc Magazine”)
Three Moments of an Explosion” by China Mieville (“Rejectamentalist Manifesto”)
“Adrift on the Sea of Rains” by Ian Sales (Whippleshield Books)

A more diverse list in terms of its authors (though, as Niall Harrison pointed out to me on Twitter, these writers are still ‘known’ names within the field). The only one I’ve read myself is the Sales, and I think it deserved its place; though I have also heard good things about the de Bodard and Maughan. My overall impression of both fiction shortlists is of works mostly from the centre of the field which are trying to push outward in terms of what they do. That’s no bad place for the BSFA Awards to be.

Best Artwork
Ben Baldwin for the cover of “Dark Currents”(Newcon Press)
Blacksheep for the cover of Adam Roberts’s”Jack Glass” (Gollancz)
Dominic Harman for the cover of Eric Brown’s”Helix Wars” (Rebellion)
Joey Hifi for the cover of Simon Morden’s “Thy Kingdom Come “(Jurassic London)
Si Scott for the cover artwork for Chris Beckett’s “Dark Eden” (Corvus)

The Jack Glass cover is the standout piece here for me – I think it’s just beautiful.

Best Non-Fiction
“The Complexity of the Humble Space Suit” by Karen Burnham (“Rocket Science, “Mutation Press)
The Widening Gyre” by Paul Kincaid (“Los Angeles Review of Books”)
“The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature” by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge University Press)
The Shortlist Project” by Maureen Kincaid Speller
The World SF Blog“, Chief Editor Lavie Tidhar

An essay on technology and history. A review of three anthologies that becomes a meditation on the state of sf. A critical survey of fantasy. A set of in-depth reviews. A blog which continues to be a key resource for the field. Quite a task of comparison!

The Kitschies

The Kitschies are juried awards intended to ‘reward the year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic.’

Red Tentacle (Novel)
Jesse Bullington’s The Folly of the World (Orbit)
Frances Hardinge’s A Face Like Glass (Macmillan)
Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker (William Heinemann)
Adam Roberts’ Jack Glass (Gollancz)
Julie Zeh’s The Method (Harvill Secker)

Given their remit and juried nature, I’d expect the Kitschies to range more widely than the BSFA Awards. I think they have with this list, which takes in YA and mainstream-published works. I’ve read the Harkaway and Roberts, and am happy to see them here. My previous experience of Hardinge’s work has been positive, though my previous experience of Bullington’s hasn’t. I’m pleased to see the Zeh as a book from beyond genre circles that’s been well received as far as I’ve seen. Yes, this is an interesting list.

Golden Tentacle (Debut Novel)
Madeline Ashby’s vN (Angry Robot)
Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon (William Heinemann)
Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina (Doubleday)
Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo (Jo Fletcher Books)
Tom Pollock’s The City’s Son (Jo Fletcher Books)

Well, the Lord was one of my favourite reads of last year, so I’m very pleased to see that on this list. The other books, I don’t really know. I’ve seen or heard positive opinions of the Ashby and Pollock, but nothing either way about the Hartman. The Fagan is a mainstream title which I know has been received positively, but I didn’t have it down as fantastic – I must take a look.

Inky Tentacle (Cover)
La Boca for Ned Beauman’s The Teleportation Accident (Sceptre)
Oliver Jeffers for John Boyne’s The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket (Doubleday)
Tom Gauld for Matthew Hughes’ Costume Not Included (Angry Robot)
Peter Mendelsund for Ben Marcus’ Flame Alphabet (Granta)
Dave Shelton for his own A Boy and a Bear in a Boat (David Fickling Books)

A strikingly different list from the BSFA equivalent. I think I’d go for Shelton’s cover myself – there’s something about its starkness.

My BSFA short fiction nominations

Midnight tomorrow is the deadline to submit nominations for this year’s BSFA Awards. I sent mine in yesterday, with a view to suggesting things that might otherwise be overlooked. I won’t go over the novels I nominated, because they’re mostly covered elsewhere. But coming up with  short fiction ideas made me dig further into my reading from last year, and it might be a little more interesting.

I’m aware that most of these will be long shots (though you never know…); I’ll probably be the only person in the BSFA who’s read some of them. But I can highlight stuff all the same; so here, in no particular order, is what I nominated:

‘Countless Stones’ – Lucy Wood

I couldn’t neglect my favourite book of short fiction from 2012, so here’s a story from Diving Belles. ‘Countless Stones’ is probably the strongest fantasy story in the collection (some of the tales have a lighter fantastic touch than others), and it really illustrates Wood’s approach to combining the supernatural and mundane, as her protagonist treats turning to stone yet again as just another inconvenience, no worse than having to deal with an ex-partner.

‘Black Box’ – Jennifer Egan

This is the story from the New Yorker‘s science fiction issue that was also serialised on Twitter. We had a good discussion about it on the blog last summer. It’s a flawed story, but also an interesting one, and I thought it should have a chance to be considered.

‘The Lonely Hunter’ – John Grant

John Grant is a friend, but I nominated this novella (published as a stand-alone volume by PS) because of how much I enjoyed its blurring of reality and fiction.

‘How We Ran the Night’ – Keith Ridgway

A story/chapter from Hawthorn & Child. I couldn’t call the book as a whole speculative fiction, for all that it shares some of the same sensibilities. But this particular piece toys with the idea of a fantastical society of wolves living in London, and is worth attention in its own right.

‘Ghost in the Machine’ – Christopher Parvin

There are a number of sf stories in the latest Bristol Prize anthology, but I decided to limit my nominations to one story per book, and this is it. I found Parvin’s take on the idea of robots living alongside humans amusing – and its collage structure works well, too.

‘Switchgirls’ – Tania Hershman

This piece from Still is particularly short, but carries emotional heft and is nicely ambiguous.

‘The Kendal Iconoclasm’ – Paul Rooney

One of a handful of fantastic stories from Rooney’s collection Dust, this weaves horror out of characters’ awareness that they’re in a story and can’t escape.

Before I finish, a note on one of my non-fiction nominations. John Mullan’s dismissive attitude towards science fiction is well documented, but I nominated him for his Guardian Book Club series on Iain M. Banks’s Use of Weapons. This nomination wasn’t entirely frivolous: when he’s focused on analysing the book, Mullan’s critique is engaged and engaging. Yet there’s still the odd swipe at the genre; the shifts in tone are quite bizarre. But, for all that, I thought the articles were worth acknowledging.

The BSFA Award shortlists will be published next week – I look forward to seeing what’s on there.

Changes are being rung…

There are some changes underway at a couple of the blogs I visit regularly, which I’m going to mention here.

Niall Harrison recently stepped down as editor of the BSFA’s journal, Vector, and became editor-in-chief of Strange Horizons — so now he’s changing blogs. Niall is handing the reins of Torque Control over to his successor, Shana Worthen (and Vector‘s reviews editor, Martin Lewis), and beginning to post at the Strange Horizons blog. Good luck to all, and I look forward to seeing how both blogs develop.

Elsewhere on the internet, Scott Pack has started a project to read and blog about a different short story on every day of 2011. That should yield some good recommendations. Check out Me and My Short Stories to see what Scott has read so far.

Surveys and wolves: Vector, Autumn 2010

The latest issue of the BSFA‘s critical journal, Vector, has been mailed out to members — and it’s the first  issue which has contributions from me. There’s a transcript of the Eastercon panel in which I took part earlier this  year, on the BSFA’s author surveys; and a review of M.D. Lachlan‘s impressive Viking fantasy Wolfsangel (well worth a look even if epic fantasy is not your usual bag). Of course, there’s plenty more to read in there besides these; if you’re at all interested in fantastic fiction as a literary form, you should check the BSFA out.

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