The Underground Railroad Wins Pulitzer Prize

Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad has won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The citation says Whitehead’s book was chosen “For a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.”

As the publisher describes the story:

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

The Pulitzer Prize, worth $15,000, goes to “distinguished fiction published in book form during the year by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.”

The winner was determined by a jury composed of Eric Banks (Chair), Director, New York Institute for the Humanities, New York University; Lan Samantha Chang, Director and May Brodbeck Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa Writers’ Workshop, University of Iowa; Mary Ann Gwinn, Book Editor, Seattle Times.

Overcoming a historic mainstream bias, in the past two decades speculative fiction has contended for the Pulitzer several times. In 2016 Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble: Stories was one of two finalists, while past winners have included The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (2007) and The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (2001).

2017 Audiobook of the Year Audie Award Finalists

The Audio Publishers Association announced the finalists for 2017 Audiobook of the Year, as well as for Excellence in Design, Excellence in Marketing, and Excellence in Production on March 22. These are in addition to the individual nominees posted in February.

Genre works are up for Audiobook of the Year and all three Excellence categories, including audiobooks of novels by Kameron Hurley, John Scalzi, and Colson Whitehead.

Audiobook of the Year

  • Boys in the Trees, written and narrated by Carly Simon, published by Macmillan Audio
  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, written and narrated by Amy Schumer, published by Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, narrated by Mariska Hargitay, with the authors, published by Hachette Audio
  • The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead, narrated by Bahni Turpin, published by Penguin Random House Audio / Books on Tape
  • Year of Yes, written and narrated by Shonda Rhimes, published by Simon & Schuster Audio

Excellence in Design

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain, design by David Drummond, published by Audible Studios
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, design by Levente Szabo, published by Audible Studios
  • Alien: Out of the Shadows: An Audible Original Drama, by Tim Lebbon and Dirk Maggs, design by James Jackson, published by Audible Studios
  • Geek Feminist Revolution, by Kameron Hurley, design by Jessica Daigle, published by HighBridge/Recorded Books
  • Grimm’s Fairy Talesby the Brothers Grimm, design by Divya Srinivasan, published by Listening Library

Excellence in Marketing

  • Alien: Out of the Shadows: An Audible Original Drama, by Tim Lebbon and Dirk Maggs, narrated by Rutger Hauer, Corey Johnson, Matthew Lewis, Kathryn Drysdale, Laurel Lefkow, Andrea Deck, and Mac McDonald, published by Audible Studios
  • Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000, by L. Ron Hubbard, narrated by Josh Clark, Scott Menville, Jim Meskimen, Phil Proctor, Stefan Rudnicki, Fred Tatasciore and a full cast, published by Galaxy Audio
  • Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, by Pappy Pariah, narrated by Sean Penn, published by Audible Studios
  • The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi, narrated by Zachary Quinto, published by Audible Studios
  • Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, narrated by Mariska Hargitay, with the authors, published by Hachette Audio

Excellence in Production

  • Alien: Out of the Shadows: An Audible Original Drama, by Tim Lebbon and Dirk Maggs, narrated by Rutger Hauer, Corey Johnson, Matthew Lewis, Kathryn Drysdale, Laurel Lefkow, Andrea Deck, and Mac McDonald, published by Audible Studios
  • Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000, by L. Ron Hubbard, narrated by Josh Clark, Scott Menville, Jim Meskimen, Phil Proctor, Stefan Rudnicki, Fred Tatasciore, and a full cast, published by Galaxy Audio
  • Beric the Briton, by G.A. Henty. narrated by Brian Blessed, Brian Cox, Tom Baker, Honeysuckle Weeks, John Rhys-Davies, and a full cast, published by Heirloom Audio Productions
  • The Oedipus Plays: An Audible Original Drama, by Sophocles, narrated by Jamie Glover, Hayley Atwell, Michael Maloney, Samantha Bond, Julian Glover and David Horovitch, published by Audible Studios
  • The Secret History of Twin Peaks, by Mark Frost, narrated by a full cast, published by Macmillan Audio
  • A Wild Swan, by Michael Cunningham, narrated by Lili Taylor and Billy Hough, published by Macmillan Audio

2017 Audie Awards Nominees

SF and fantasy are heavily represented across the entire spectrum of 2017 Audie Awards categories. The shortlist of the best audiobooks of the year was announced February 8.

The audiobooks in the Science Fiction and Fantasy categories are shown below. In addition —

  • Neil Gaiman is a finalist in the Narration by Author category for his work on The View from the Cheap Seats.
  • Original Work is dominated by familiar sf/f names and series — The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent by Larry Correia, narrated by Adam Baldwin, Alien: Out of the Shadows: An Audible Original Drama by Tim Lebbon and Dirk Maggs, with seven voice talents, and The Dispatcher by John Scalzi, narrated by Zachary Quinto.
  • The Alien and Doctor Who franchises claimed three of the five Audio Drama finalist spots
  • One finalist in Short Stories/Collections is The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke by Arthur C. Clarke, narrated by Ray Porter, Jonathan Davis and Ralph Lister.
  • And there is some kind of yin/yang dynamic at work in having a Best Female Narrator nominee for The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (narrated by Bahni Turpin) and a Best Male Narrator nominee for Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters (narrated by William DeMeritt).  Also recognized as Best Narrators are the men who voiced End of Watch by Stephen King and Jerusalem by Alan Moore. And The Underground Railroad received a second nomination, in the Literary & Classic Fiction category.
  • There is even a genre entry for the best Business Book — Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek by Manu Saadia, narrated by Oliver Wyman

Winners will be revealed at the Audie Awards® Gala on June 1, 2017. A roll-call of all the nominees, many with samples you can listen to, appears here.

The Audie Awards generated extra attention this year by having guest presenters tweet each set of finalists — genre participants included Brandon Sanderson, John Scalzi, Marissa Mayer, Neil Gaiman, Colson Whitehead, and Locus Magazine.

ORIGINAL WORK

FICTION

NONFICTION

AUDIO DRAMA

EROTICA

LITERARY FICTION & CLASSICS

BEST FEMALE NARRATOR

BEST MALE NARRATOR

INSPIRATIONAL FAITH-BASED FICTION

INSPIRATIONAL FAITH-BASED NONFICTION

THRILLER/SUSPENSE

LITERARY FICTION & CLASSICS

SCIENCE FICTION

FANTASY

MIDDLE GRADE

NARRATION BY THE AUTHOR

YOUNG ADULT

ROMANCE

PARANORMAL

AUTOBIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR

HISTORY/BIOGRAPHY

SHORT STORIES/COLLECTIONS

BUSINESS/PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

YOUNG LISTENERS

HUMOR

MYSTERY

MULTI-VOICED PERFORMANCE

Underground Railroad Wins National Book Award

underground-railroad-whitehead

Colson Whitehead won the 2016 National Book Award for fiction for Underground Railroad, the story of Cora, a young slave who escapes captivity in the South. In Whitehead’s novel the historical Underground Railroad is a literal rail network.

“Two steel rails ran the visible length of the tunnel,” Whitehead writes, “pinned into the dirt by wooden crossties. The steel ran south and north presumably, springing from some inconceivable source and shooting toward a miraculous terminus.”

And the stops along the way often are also excursions into the fantastic.

(Note for clarity: This is a different book than Ben Winters’ alternate history Underground Airlines.)