Posted by Niall Harrison
24 January 2012
1. Announced today: the winner of the William L Crawford Award for first fantasy book is Genevieve Valentine, for Mechanique. Shortlisted were Erin Morgenstern for The Night Circus, Tea Obreht for The Tiger's Wife, Stina Leicht for Of Blood and Honey, and Ransom Riggs for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Many congratulations to Genevieve and to the shortlisted writers; I had the honour of contributing to the selection process, and I think it's a good result.
2. Announced yesterday: the BSFA Award shortlists, which gives us the following selection for Best Novel:
Cyber Circus by Kim Lakin-Smith (Newcon Press)
Embassytown by China Mieville (Macmillan)
The Islanders by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)
By Light Alone by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
Osama by Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)
Which, if not the most surprising selection of nominees looks like a good strong list. Three established authors from major genre imprints; two earlier-career writers from small presses. Two authors (Mieville and Tidhar) racking up their second UK award nomination, following the Kitschies (and surely they're very likely candidates for the Clarke list). Two returning BSFA winners, in Mieville and Priest, which sets up an interesting head-to-head: I'm inclined to think Priest is still the favourite, given the voting population, but it might be close.
In some ways, though, the categories I'm most interested in this year are the short fiction and non-fiction. The former because I think it's a good, varied list, and because it contains three stories I nominated: Nina Alla's "The Silver Wind" [pdf], which even isolated from its context is a very fine, unsettling story; Kameron Hurley's "Afterbirth" [pdf], which is a rewarding new angle on the world of her novels; and China Mieville's "Covehithe", which is built around one of those original and compelling images that Mieville does so well.
And the non-fiction category is always both interesting and frustrating. This year the contenders are a 5,000 word review-essay, a curated blog, a group blog, a collection of academic essays, a book accompanying a museum exhibition (the British Library's Out of This World, which was excellent and fully deserves the separate special commendation the BSFA is giving it), and the incomplete third edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. It's not that any of the nominees are undeserving (although I'd prefer to see the Encyclopedia up next year, I think), it's just that that they seem to be deserving in three or four different categories, and they're lumped into one. I understand why the category is this way: the aim is to be inclusive and eclectic, and this shortlist certainly succeeds in that. But a large part of me wishes the BSFA would choose a narrower field for this award -- my preference would be essay-length work, since that seems to me to chime with the BSFA's mission and activities best, but an award for best book, or best related book-length work (so that a year of blog would count), would do just as well. Something to make comparing one nominee to another a little less ludicrous, is all I'm asking. (Admittedly any year with the Encyclopedia in it is going to be a little bit lopsided.)