2015 Award Season: BSFA and Kitschies Shortlists
The 2015 SFF Award season has kicked off in earnest with the shortlists of the British Science Fiction Award and the Kitschies, joining the Philip K. Dick Award. All are lightly predictive of the Nebula and Hugo, with the lists usually overlapping by one or two nominees each (winning a BSFA or Kitshie is less predictive).
Each SFF award has different rules, biases, histories, and tastes. Since both the BSFA and Kitschies are British awards, they tend to lean in a British direction; both lean heavily towards SF instead of fantasy. To predict the Hugos and Nebulas, we’re looking for multiple nominations running up through Hugo and Nebula season. So where are we at today?
The BSFA first. The BSFA is a fan-voted award by the members of the British Science Fiction Award:
The BSFA awards are presented annually by the British Science Fiction Association, based on a vote of BSFA members and – in recent years – members of the British national science fiction convention Eastercon. They are fan awards that not only seek to honour the most worthy examples in each category, but to promote the genre of science fiction, and get people reading, talking about and enjoying all that contemporary science fiction has to offer.
BSFA Best Novel:
Nina Allan, for The Race, published by Newcon Press
Frances Hardinge, for Cuckoo Song, published by Macmillan
Dave Hutchinson, for Europe in Autumn, published by Solaris
Simon Ings, for Wolves, published by Gollancz
Anne Leckie, for Ancillary Sword, published by Orbit
Claire North, for The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, published by Orbit
Nnedi Okorafor, for Lagoon, published by Hodder
Neil Williamson, for The Moon King, published by Newcon Press
That short-list follows the BSFA traditions: a heaping slice of British-focused SF with a few American novels sprinkled in. Allan, Hutchinson, Ings, and the Okorafor have been very popular in the UK critical scene, and none of them have crossed over to the US. Expect that to be a theme in this year’s awards. While the internet is bringing the global SFF scene closer together than ever, publishing has yet to catch up. I’m looking at a BSFA short list where half of the books are either unavailable in the US or were published here with minimal promotion (such as Europe in Autumn or The Race). The Lagoon would be a strong Nebula candidate if it had received any kind of American release. Now, it’s going to get buried (in the US at least) behind Okorafor’s 2015 release of The Book of Phoenix.
The Kischies are a smaller, quirkier award that is a juried award (i.e. impossible to predict) based on open nominations. Here’s there description:
The Kitschies reward the year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic. Now in our sixth year, we are proud to be sponsored by Fallen London, the award-winning browser game of a dark and mysterious London, designed by Failbetter Games.
The Kitschies’ 2014 finalists were selected from 198 submissions, from over 40 publishers and imprints. Congratulations to all who made the shortlists, and thanks to everyone who submitted a title for consideration.
Kitschies Novel (Red Tentacle award):
Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder & Stoughton)
Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith (Egmont)
The Peripheral, by William Gibson (Viking)
The Way Inn, by Will Wiles (4th Estate)
The Race, by Nina Allen (NewCon Press)
Okorafor and Allan show up again, although Allan’s last name is misspelled. Never a great sign for your chance of winning! The Peripheral is the slightly unexpected choice. If Gibson can grab 2-3 other award nominations this season, his Hugo chances will be greatly improved.
Normally, I’d move Okorafor and Allan up in my Hugo and Nebula predictions as a result of their strong showing here. Without print copies available to an American audience, I don’t think these nominations help their chances. To nominate a book you’ve got to have read it . . .
Niall Harrison over at Strange Horizons—who knows the British SF scene far, far better than I do—has some good analysis of these awards. He mentions that VanderMeer’s Annihilation missed both awards, as it did the PKD. I’m not worried (yet) about VanderMeer’s chances—the BSFA and Kitschies awards have usually been SF focused, and VanderMeer’s book is more of an “inbetween” genres book. I expect VanderMeer’s Nebula nomination to fuel his Hugo chances, just like what happened with Jo Walton’s Among Others a few years ago. A lot of Hugo voters wait until after the Nebula noms come out to nominate, and anything that shows up on the Nebula list usually gets a big Hugo boost. Sofia Samatar almost made last year’s Hugos based on that kind of Nebula updraft.
I expect Okorafor to do very well in the British awards this year. That’s going to kick off quite a conversation about the differences between US and British and world publishing, which should make for some interesting reading.