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.


  1. It was an interesting discussion on Twitter, but it’s sometimes hard to get a point across given the character limit. Like you, I’m disappointed the novel shortlist is all male. But the BSFA Award typically chooses works from the core of the genre by authors with profiles of some standing in the UK. Sadly, no works by women writers which fit that description were published in the UK in 2012. There were debut works – vN, Alif the Unseen, Osiris; there were borderline works – The Method, The Uninvited; there were also works which were published in the UK more than a year after their original US publication – Redemption in Indigo, God’s War… Typically, the BSFA Award has not picked such works, but if that’s where the only women sf writers are, perhaps we need to do more to get word of those books to the BSFA membership.

    Having said that, Niall Harrison did point out that there has been an uptick in sf by women being published by UK imprints in 2013. So hopefully those books will drive the conversation.

    • David Hebblethwaite

      18th January 2013 at 6:03 pm

      Like you, I’m disappointed the novel shortlist is all male. But the BSFA Award typically chooses works from the core of the genre by authors with profiles of some standing in the UK. Sadly, no works by women writers which fit that description were published in the UK in 2012.

      You’re quite right, Ian – when I say it’s not good, I’m also talking about this wider situation. And of course the problem exists on multiple fronts: it’s about what gets published where, as well as how that gets filtered down to the nominating membership. We can hope, as you say, for more positive developments with this year’s titles.

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