A Guide To The Fantasy And Science Fiction Awards Scene

I’ve been working in books and publishing since 2004, I’ve been a sci-fi/fantasy fan since my mom read us The Hobbit, complete with voices and songs, and I still manage to mix up my Hugos with my Nebulas, fail to remember which formerly-known-as award is now called what, and lose track of newly-created awards. So, to do a favor for both myself and anyone else who has this problem but still wants to at least pretend to keep track, I present to you this deep dive into fantasy and science fiction awards! 

Some notes and caveats: This is not a comprehensive list, and an omission of an award is in no way a judgement upon it. These are the ones I am most familiar with and that came up when I polled fellow SF/F aficionados (with especial thanks to Alex Acks, writer of our Swords and Spaceships newsletter). This is also entirely organized around English-language publications and prizes, since that’s the only language I’m fluent in. (For now! Rosetta Stone is on my homescreen and I have Ambitions.) All the below information came from publicly available sources, with a preference for the awards’ sites; I have to note that it’s kind of surprising how many do not list basics (like, for example, what the prize literally is!). These have been organized by date first awarded, from most recent on, since many of these prizes have been around for decades and I wanted to show some love to the new folks on the scene. 

Before we dive in, may I also present: Jenn’s Theory Of Why To Care About Awards. Let’s start with a given: all awards, no matter their voting system, are inherently subjective and biased. Whether it’s decided by a public popularity contest, a committee, or a single judge, literary merit is in the eye of the beholder. A book that has won science fiction or fantasy awards isn’t guaranteed to be great (for you) and a book that hasn’t won an award isn’t guaranteed to be a dud (for you). To quote S.R. Ranganathan: “Every book its reader.” So why should we care?

Firstly, awards are a great starting point if you’re looking to dive into a specific type of SF/F. Maybe you are trying to read more inclusively, or you want to know more about Australian sci-fi, or need a good starting point for novelettes. Secondly, awards are a great way to spot trends in the genre. If you like knowing which books are making waves, which are getting lots of buzz and critical praise, which are considered to be the best current examples of what is happening, you can learn a lot from shortlists. This isn’t always, of course, fair or positive — fantasy and science fiction awards have a long history of rewarding a very specific kind of writer (read: white, male, cisgender, able-bodied), and the pushback when change comes can be extremely ugly. But if you want to be an active citizen in the SF/F community, it’s important to know what is currently valued in that community — especially if you want to help shift those values. Which brings me to my third reason: your nomination and/or vote might count! Several of these awards are open to public nominating, voting, or member-voting, with membership requiring a fee but no other professional or creative credentials. Your voice matters. 

Now we all know why we’re here; let’s get into the nitty-gritty. I attempted to collect the same information for each fantasy and science fiction award, with minimal editorializing, although some is inevitable. That being said, “bragging rights” is my own language, and is a stand-in for “prestige and the glory of being able to put Award Winner and/or Nominee on your book cover and in your author bio,” which are not only valid prizes but can be career-changers for an author.

person holding round purple case
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

The Analog Award for Emerging Black Voices

  • Awarded by: Analog Science Fiction And Fact Magazine
  • For: An unpublished short work of hard science fiction by a writer who customarily identifies as Black
  • First awarded: 2021 (exciting!)
  • Categories: Just the one
  • When Are Finalists Announced: This has not yet happened
  • When Are Winners Announced: During the Annual City Tech Symposium on Science Fiction (2021 date not yet announced)
  • Nominating and Voting: Anyone can submit; entries will be judged by a committee of science fiction professionals selected by Analog
  • Prize: Finalists will be chosen and awarded a mentorship session with Analog editors including a critique of their submission and a chance to ask questions about the field. In addition, the Magazine intends to purchase and publish the winning story in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, with the intent of creating a lasting relationship, including one year of monthly mentorship sessions and general support from Analog editors and judges. Plus, of course, bragging rights!
  • More info here.

Ignyte Awards

  • Awarded by: FIYAHCON, FIYAH Lit Magazine
  • First awarded: 2020
  • For: “The Awards seek to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the current and future landscapes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror by recognizing incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts toward inclusivity of the genre.”
  • Categories: 
    • Best Novel — Adult
    • Best Novel — YA
    • Best in Middle Grade
    • Best Novella
    • Best Novelette
    • Best Short Story
    • Speculative Poetry
    • Critics Award
    • Best Fiction Podcast
    • Best Artist
    • Best Comics Team
    • Best Anthology/Collected Works
    • Best in Creative Nonfiction
    • The Ember Award for Unsung Contributions to Genre
    • Community Award for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre
  • When Are Finalists Announced: Most recently, April of 2020 and 2021
  • When Are Winners Announced: At FIYAHCON, which this year will be held September 16–19, 2021
  • Nominating and Voting: Unclear on the nominating process, appears to be by committee; anyone can vote during the voting period
  • Prize: Bragging rights
  • More info

The Nommo Awards

  • Awarded by: The African Speculative Fiction Society
  • For: Works of speculative fiction by Africans
  • First awarded: 2016
  • Categories:
    • Best Novel (The Ilube Nommo Award)
    • Best Novella
    • Best Short Story
    • Best Graphic Novel 
  • When Are Finalists Announced: End of May, generally
  • When Are Winners Announced: At the Ake Festival in October
  • Voting: Members of the ASFS nominate works and vote for winners
  • Prize: Bragging rights, and:
    • Ilube Award, $1000 USD
    • Novella and Short Story, $500 USD
    • Graphic Novel, $1000 USD to be shared
  • More info

Imagining Indigenous Futurisms

  • Awarded by: The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA)
  • For: Recognizing “emerging authors who use science fiction to address issues of Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination.” 
  • First awarded: 2010
  • Categories: Just the one!
  • When Are Finalists Announced: Unclear
  • When Are Winners Announced: Generally at the ICFA Awards Banquet; announced online in January 2021
  • Nominating and Voting: No voting, the winner is selected by a prominent SF author in partnership with IAFA
  • Prize: Bragging rights and $1,000
  • More info

The Kitchies

  • Awarded by: The Kitchies, a nonprofit association “promoting the discussion of genre literature in its many forms”
  • For: The year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining fiction that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic, published in the UK
  • First awarded: 2009
  • Categories:
    • Red Tentacle (Novel)
    • Golden Tentacle (Debut)
    • Inky Tentacle (Cover Art)
    • Black Tentacle (Special)
  • When Are Finalists Announced: Varies
  • When Are Winners Announced: Varies 
  • Voting: Publishers and authors can submit their works for consideration by a panel of judges
  • Prize: Bragging rights, £2,500 in prize money, and a hand-crafted Tentacle trophy
  • More info

Shirley Jackson Awards

  • Awarded by: The Shirley Jackson Awards, Inc.
  • For: Outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.
  • First awarded: 2007
  • Categories:
    • Best Novel
    • Best Long Fiction (Novella)
    • Best Mid-Length Fiction (Novelette)
    • Best Short Fiction
    • Best Collection
    • Best Anthology
  • When Are Finalists Announced: Tends to be in May, not yet announced for 2021
  • When Are Winners Announced: at Readercon, currently August 13–15, 2021
  • Nominating and Voting: Done by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors.
  • Prize: Bragging rights
  • More info

Heinlein Awards

  • Awarded by: The Baltimore Science Fiction Society, with funding from The Heinlein Society
  • For: “Outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings to inspire the human exploration of space.” Point of interest: can be given to more than one person! Or not at all.
  • First awarded: 2003
  • Categories: Just the one
  • When Are Finalists Announced: Unclear
  • When Are Winners Announced: Most recently, March 3, 2021; formally awarded at Balticon, May 28, 2021
  • Nominating and Voting: “The award committee consists of science fiction writers […] As of 2013 the award is fully administered by, and funding ensured by, the Baltimore Science Fiction Society”
  • Prize: A medallion with an image of Heinlein, along with two lapel pins and a certificate, plus bragging rights
  • More info

Sir Julius Vogel Awards

  • Awarded by: Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand Inc (SFFANZ)
  • For: Excellence in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents
  • First awarded: 2002
  • Categories:
    • Professional Categories:
      • Best Novel
      • Best Youth Novel
      • Best Novella or Novelette
      • Best Short Story
      • Best Collected Work
      • Best Artwork
      • Dramatic Presentation
      • Best Production/Publication
    • Best New Talent
    • Fan Categories:
      • Best Fan Writing
      • Best Fan Artwork
      • Best Fan Production/Publication
    • Special Awards:
      • Services to Fandom
      • Services to Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror
  • When Are Finalists Announced: Varies
  • When Are Winners Announced: After voting closes at the National Science Fiction convention of a given year
  • Nominating and Voting: Anyone can nominate a work; voting is restricted to members of SFFANZ or the National Science Fiction convention in the given year
  • Prize: Bragging rights and a trophy
  • More info

The Aurealis Awards

  • Awarded by: The Continuation Foundation (ConFound)
  • For: Works of speculative fiction by authors, editors and illustrators, who are Australian citizens or permanent residents, published in the last year
  • First awarded: 1995
  • Categories:
    • Science Fiction: Best Novel, Novella, Short Story
    • Fantasy: Best Novel, Novella, Short Story
    • Horror: Best Novel, Novella, Short Story
    • Young Adult: Best Novel, Short Fiction
    • Children’s
    • Best Collection
    • Best Anthology
    • Best Illustrated Book/Graphic Novel
    • Occasional: the Sara Douglass Book Series Award, the Convenors’ Award for Excellence
  • When Are Finalists Announced: Most recently, March 31, 2021
  • When Are Winners Announced: At the Awards ceremony, details TK
  • Nominating and Voting: Anyone can submit a work for nomination; a panel of judges decide on the finalists and winners. Judges are volunteers from the speculative fiction community, selected by the Awards management team.  
  • Prize: Bragging rights and maybe a medallion?
  • More info

Otherwise Award

  • Note: Formerly the Tiptree Award
  • Awarded by: WisCon, a feminist science fiction & fantasy convention held annually
  • For: Science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender
  • First awarded: 1991
  • Categories: Just the one
  • When Are Finalists Announced: Unclear
  • When Are Winners Announced: A month or so prior to WisCon; no WisCon will be held in 2021, and the Award for 2021 will be given in 2022
  • Voting: Anyone can nominate; the Award Motherboard appoints a panel of five jurors to choose the winner(s)
  • Prize: Bragging rights, $1000, a piece of original art, chocolate, a plaque, a T-shirt, a SpaceBabe pin, and their trip to the ceremony
  • More info

The Lambda Literary Awards, AKA the Lammys

  • Note: The Lammys are not a specifically speculative fiction prize, but they do award one prize for genre fiction
  • Awarded by: Lambda Literary Foundation
  • For: Literary merit and content relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer lives
  • First awarded: 1989
  • Categories: A single award for LGBTQ Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror; novels, novellas, and short story collections are eligible but anthologies are not
  • When Are Finalists Announced: Spring
  • When Are Winners Announced: Summer
  • Nominating and Voting: Anyone can submit a work for consideration; it is actually not specified on their site who judges!
  • Prize: Bragging rights
  • More info

Arthur C Clarke Awards

  • Awarded by: A partnership between the British Science Fiction Association, the Science Fiction Association, and the Sci-Fi London film festival
  • For: The best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year
  • First awarded: 1987, established by a grant from the eponymous author
  • Categories: Just the one! 
  • When Finalists Announced: Most recently, June 18, 2020
  • When Winners Announced: Most recently, September 24, 2020
  • Voting: A panel of judges organized by the associations
  • Prize: Bragging rights, an engraved bookend, and a prize consisting of a number of pounds sterling equal to the current year (which is an extremely fun detail IMO)
  • More info

The Aurora Awards 

  • Awarded by: The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA)
  • For: The best Canadian science fiction or fantasy professional and fan works and achievements from the previous year
  • First awarded: 1980
  • Categories:
    • Professional Categories:
      • Best Novel
      • Best Young Adult Novel
      • Best Novelette/Novella
      • Best Short Story
      • Best Poem/Song
      • Best Graphic Novel/Comic
      • Best Visual Presentation
      • Best Related Work
      • Best Artist
    • Fan Categories:
      • Best Fan Writing and Publication
      • Best Fan Organizational and
      • Best Fan Related Work
  • When Finalists Announced: Most recently, May 8, 2021
  • When Winners Announced: Currently at CAN*CON 2021, October 16–18, 2021
  • Nominating and Voting: All Canadians can nominate and/or vote once they’ve become a member, for an annual fee. “The official nominees are chosen by the awards committee from all of the works that have received at least 5 nominations by CSFFA members throughout the year, and then the shortlist is voted on by every member of the CSFFA.”
  • Prize: Bragging rights
  • More info

The Rhysling Award

  • Awarded by: The Science Fiction Poetry Association
  • For: The best science fiction, fantasy, or horror poem of the year
  • First awarded: 1978
  • Categories: Best Long Poem, Best Short Poem
  • When Finalists Announced: After nominations have closed in February
  • When Winners Announced: After the voting deadline in June
  • Nominating and Voting: Nominees are selected by SFPA members, who then vote on all nominated works.
  • Prize: Bragging rights
  • More info

World Fantasy Awards

  • Awarded by: The World Fantasy Convention
  • For: “The outstanding achievement in fantasy fiction published during the previous calendar year.”
  • First awarded: 1975
  • Categories:
    • Lifetime Achievement
    • Novel
    • Novella
    • Short Fiction
    • Anthology
    • Collection
    • Artist
    • Special Award Professional
    • Special Award Non-professional 
  • When Are Finalists Announced: Not yet announced for 2021; in 2020, they were announced in July
  • When Are Winners Announced: At the World Fantasy Convention, November 4–7, 2021
  • Voting: A panel of judges is organized by WorldCon. “A ballot is posted in June for attendees of the current and previous two conferences to determine two of the finalists, with the two most-nominated selected, and a panel of five judges adds three or more nominees before voting on the overall winner.” (Sourced from Wikipedia, since I had trouble deciphering this.) 2021’s judges: Tobias Buckell, Siobhan Carroll, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Brain Evenson, Patrick Swenson 
  • Prize: Bragging rights and a trophy, notably redesigned in 2017
  • More info (Note: the site is not great and extremely out of date)

British Fantasy Award

  • Awarded by: The British Fantasy Society and the British Fantasy Convention
  • For: Not explicitly stated, presumably the best works of fantasy and/or horror in a given category
  • First awarded: 1972
  • Categories:
    • Anthology
    • Audio
    • Artist
    • Collection
    • Comic/graphic novel
    • Fantasy Novel
    • Film/television production
    • Horror novel
    • Independent press
    • Magazine/periodical
    • Newcomer
    • Non-fiction
    • Novella
    • Short fiction
    • The Special Award
  • When Finalists/Short List Announced: April
  • When Winners Announced: usually September
  • Nominating and Voting: Decided by a jury deliberating on a shortlist determined by the members of the Society
  • Prize: Bragging rights and a trophy
  • More info

Locus Awards

  • Note: Locus has shockingly little (basically zero) information about these on their site
  • Awarded by: Locus Magazine
  • For: One assumes, excellence in science fiction, fantasy, and horror
  • First awarded: 1971 (Source: SFADB
  • Categories:
    • Science Fiction Novel
    • Fantasy Novel
    • Horror Novel
    • Young Adult Novel
    • First Novel
    • Novella
    • Novelette
    • Short Story
    • Anthology
    • Collection
    • Magazine
    • Publisher
    • Editor
    • Artist
    • Nonfiction
    • Illustrated and Art Book 
  • When Are Finalists Announced: Most recently, May 1, 2021
  • When Are Winners Announced: June 26, 2021 during the Locus Awards Weekend
  • Voting: An annual Locus readers’ poll, formerly just subscribers but now open to all
  • Prize: Bragging rights and a plaque or certificate
  • More info here (sort of).

The BSFA Awards

  • Awarded by: The British Science Fiction Association
  • For: “To honour the most worthy examples in each category, but also to promote the genre of science fiction, and get people reading, talking about, and enjoying all that contemporary science fiction has to offer.”
  • First awarded: 1969
  • Categories:
    • Novel
    • Shorter Fiction
    • Artwork
    • Nonfiction
  • When Finalists Announced: Most recently, February 2021
  • When Winners Announced: Most recently, April 2021
  • Nominating and Voting: Open to members of the BSFA; any fan can join for an annual membership fee
  • Prize: Bragging rights 
  • More info

Nebula Awards

  • Awarded by: The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
  • First awarded: 1965
  • For: The best work in a given category, as judged by members of the SFWA
  • Categories:
    • Novel
    • Novella
    • Novelette
    • Short Story
    • Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction
    • Dramatic Presentation
    • Game Writing
  • When Finalists Announced: Most recently, March 15, 2021
  • When Winners Announced: Most recently, at the Nebula Conference Online, June 4th–6th, 2021 
  • Voting: The Nebula Awards® are voted on, and presented by, full members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.; membership eligibility is determined by a specific set of publication requirements, which you can find here
  • Prize: Bragging rights and a very outer-spacey trophy
  • More info

The Hugo Awards

  • Awarded by: World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”)
  • First awarded: 1953 
  • For: Excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy
  • Categories:
    • Best Novel
    • Best Novella
    • Best Novelette
    • Best Short Story
    • Best Series
    • Best Related Work
    • Best Graphic Story or Comic
    • Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
    • Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
    • Best Editor (Long Form)
    • Best Editor (Short Form)
    • Best Professional Artist
    • Best Semiprozine
    • Best Fanzine
    • Best Fancast
    • Best Fan Writer
    • Best Fan Artist
    • The Lodestar Award (Not A Hugo, for YA SF/F)
    • The Astounding Award for Best New Writer (Not A Hugo)
  • When Finalists Announced: Usually April
  • When Winners Announced: Usually at Worldcon; this year’s will be held on December 15–19, 2021
  • Voting: Members of the Worldcon; anyone can become a voting member for an annual fee
  • Prize: Bragging rights and a statue of a chrome rocket ship
  • More info

Got details I missed, awards you think I should have on my radar, or other feedback? Send it over to sffyeah at bookriot.com, especially since I’ll be talking about this and doing follow-ups on the SFF Yeah! podcast.

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