We have some awards for you!
If you're newer to this whole genre awards scene, the first place I would recommend you start (besides this article) is the Science Fiction Awards Database. There's quite a bit to peruse and a full directory of all the genre awards.While it is certainly possible that they are missing something, it does seem pretty darn exhaustive.
Since there are a horde of genre awards out there, the real question, then, is "What are you looking for from a literary award?"
While we can say that we just want to find the "best" books, it isn't very helpful to do so. Most, if not all, awards are designed to recognize the best of a particular field. Notable exceptions are The Razzies and the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. But let's work with the idea that we're talking about awards that recognize the best in science fiction and fantasy literature.
When I think of genre awards, the first three that come to mind are the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award. Your mileage may vary. The point I would like to make about these three is that while they are all recognizing the best in science fiction and fantasy, they each go about things in a different manner and tend to have different results.
You may be somewhat familiar with the Hugo Awards and are tired of hearing about it, but this will be the last time for this essay, I promise. The process the Hugo Awards uses is to allow all members of that year's Worldcon convention to nominate and vote, whether you are registered as a Supporting or Attending Member. So, ultimately, anyone can nominate and vote if they want to become a member of the convention (there's a little bit more to it, but that's the really short version).
Nominating and voting for the Nebula Awards, on the other hand, are restricted to members of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) organization. There are a number of different ways one can become a member with different levels that have different privileges associated.
The World Fantasy Award, on the other hand, is a juried award. The jury is selected by the World Fantasy Awards Administration team.
Because each of these awards have their own processes and restrict who is able to participate in nominations based on different standards, and those individuals have different ideas as to what "best" actually means, we may see very different short lists and winners across the spectrum of awards. Because "best" and "excellence" can be subjective, it can sometimes be challenging to find an award that reflects the tastes of any given reader.
As mentioned, there a lot of genre awards out there. Here's a brief overview of a few of them.
The Tiptree Award is presented to "works of speculative fiction which explore and expand gender". The award is given to one or two winners selected by a jury and the jury also selects and "honor list" of other worthy works.
The Arthur C. Clarke Award is presented to "the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year. The Clarke Award is a juried award.
The British Fantasy Awards include an open (to members of the British Fantasy Society) nominating period to select a short list, then an appointed jury (which can add up to two works to the short list) select the winner.
The David Gemmell Legend Award is presented to the best overall fantasy novel in an open vote. This award tends recognize more popular epic fantasy.
The Philip K. Dick Award recognizes "distinguished original science fiction" which is first published as a paperback - so in this case, format counts. This is a juried award.
The John W. Campbell Award is juried award presented to the best science fiction of the year. It should not be confused with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which is technically not a Hugo Award but is presented alongside of the Hugo Awards at the annual Worldcon.
Similar to the Campbell, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award is presented to the best science fiction short story. This is a juried award.
The Locus Awards are perhaps most similar to the Hugo Awards in that they cover a wide range of categories, though they break out science fiction, fantasy, debut novels. They are a partially open vote, meaning that anyone can vote, but the votes of subscribers count twice. The nominees are selected by Locus Magazine editors, but voters have the ability to write in their own nominees. The nominees are then ranked voted, and the work with the highest point total wins.
This only scratches the surface of genre awards. There are the Kitschies, Prometheus, Sidewise, Stoker, Carl Brandon Society, Shirley Jackson, and others. Next year DragonCon is presenting their literary awards for the first time.
The point is that there are a lot of awards out there, and while it is great that the individual organizations wish to recognize great works of speculative fiction and present awards to the writers, the real value of these awards is to readers.
What literary awards do, whether it is the Pulitzer, PEN / Faulkner, Hugo Award, Locus Award, or the Joe Sherry Award for Really Great Fiction*, is provide readers with a list of books they might not otherwise have discovered. For readers, literary awards are opportunities for discovery. If you or I don't like what one particular award is representing as best of the year, there is almost certainly an award which better lines up with our taste and preferences.
I'll leave you with this...
"a hopeless case if --- listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go"
POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Writer / Editor at Adventures in Reading since 2004. Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2015, editor since 2016. Minnesotan.
*not an actual award...yet. You'll call it The Sherry. Trophy to be designed at a later date.