2017 Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize

The Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize, named for the late sff author, was awarded September 14.

The winner is:

  • Tim Ellis – Harklights

(Note: When the shortlist was announced two weeks ago, the Ellis work had a different title, assuming it’s the same entry).

Publisher A.M. Heath and Lizza Aiken, Aiken’s daughter, launched the competition to find a standout new voice in middle grade children’s fiction.

The judges for the prize were Julia Churchill, children’s book agent at A.M. Heath, and Lizza Aiken, daughter of Joan Aiken and curator of her Estate. They considered over 350 submissions. Some were genre stories, and the description of the winner shows it has some of those characteristics.

The entries ranged from magical adventures, to gritty modern dramas, some were set in exotic landscapes, some in the past or in futuristic societies; they were written in language that ranged from poetic flights of the imagination to the harsher dialogue of 21st century urban life.

And the winner  we chose – a joyfully inventive and gripping adventure which encompassed many of these alternative realities – is Harklights, by Tim Ellis.

…The setting, like one of Joan Aiken’s own Wolves Chronicles could be sometime in the past, but also speaks of the possible future disaster that affects us all, the loss of our green world through greed and the exploitation of the miraculous gifts of nature – our old shared world of myth, magic, and mystery.

Wick, the orphan hero, escapes the brutal mechanised world (and an Aikenesque orphanage!) and finds a family home and a life in the forest, where he has a chance to stop the terrible destruction.  He is able to go back into a society that has almost been lost – a world of magic, where there is love between all creatures, where children are cherished, not abandoned as he was – but then he must also return and confront the monstrous machinery which is mercilessly eating it all up…

Joan Aiken was the prizewinning writer of over a hundred books for young readers and adults. Her best-known series was ‘The Wolves Chronicles’, of which the first book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was awarded the Lewis Carroll prize. Aiken was decorated with an MBE for her services to children’s books.

The winner will receive £1,000 and a full set of ‘The Wolves Chronicles’.

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