2017 James White Award Finalists

The judges’ shortlist for the 2017 James White Award was announced on June 18. The competition is open to original, unpublished short stories of not more than 6,000 words by non-professional writers. The award, established in 2000, offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading sf magazine.

The stories on this year’s shortlist are:

  • “Don” – Steve Dubois
  • “May the Pain Guide You Home” – Daniel Roy
  • “The Morrigan” – Stewart Horn
  • “Skin and Bone” – Beth Plutchak
  • “The Cut” – Elsie WK Donald
  • “The Dying Glass” – Cameron Johnston

The winner will be announced next week.

The judges are:

  • Lorna Gibb

Lorna is a novelist, short story and non fiction writer. She has published two biographies, Lady Hester (Faber 2005), the Sperber shortlisted West’s World (Pan Mac 2012) and the critically acclaimed novel A Ghost’s Story (Granta 2015), as well as short fiction for literary magazines and radio broadcast and the award winning memoir, ‘The Two Gardens’.

  • David Gullen

David is a white African writer whose short fiction has appeared in various magazines and anthologies. His work has won the British Fantasy Society short story competition and his collection, Open Waters, is published by Exaggerated Press. In 2016 he was also a judge for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. His SF novel, Shopocalypse, is due to be re-issued by NewCon Press this summer.

  • Konrad Waleski

Editor, writer, anthologist, literary critic and translator, Konrad is a prominent figure in the Polish sff scene. He is co-founder of, and editor for, the Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy in Poland. He has translated works such as Synners by Pat Cadigan and Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link and his anthologies include three volumes of Kroki w nieznane (Steps into the Unknown) and Wielkie dzie?o czasu (Great Work of Time).

[Thanks to  Mark-kitteh for the story.]

2017 James White Award Taking Entries

The James White Award Short Story Competition is accepting entries through Friday, January 20.

The award was established in 2000 and offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading sf magazine.

It is open to writers of any age and nationality, but it is not open to professional authors. For purposes of the award, a “professional author” is defined as one who is eligible for active membership of the Science Fiction Writers of America – that is a writer with three short story sales to qualifying markets or one novel sale to a qualifying market.

Entries should be previously unpublished stories no longer than 6,000 words, written in English. Stories are judged anonymously, with no names on the manuscripts. Complete submission guidelines are on the award’s Rules page.

The winner will be announced during Innominate, Eastercon 2017 – April 14-17 in Birmingham, UK.

 [Thanks to Mark-kitteh for the story.]

Jason Sanford and the Appeal of Sci-Fi Strange

“Few SF/fantasy writers generate a buzz through short fiction alone, but Jason Sanford is an exception. Over the past few years, he’s created a growing fan base through his brand of modern speculative fiction, something he called ‘SF Strange.”  –  Jeff VanderMeer

Interzone devoted a special issue exclusively to Jason Sanford’s stories.  In this interview, he delves into the nature and influences of sci-fi strange.

CARL SLAUGHTER:  Define “sci-fi strange.”

Jason Sanford

Jason Sanford

JASON SANFORD:  I started using the term a few years ago after David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer described one of my stories as “new weird SF.” That comment tickled me since I’ve long been a fan of the New Weird movement, with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and China Miéville ranking among my favorite fantasy writers. But the comment also set me to thinking about the science fiction authors who excited me the most. I wondered if there was a trend here, decided there was, and eventually started calling it sci-fi strange.

To me, sci-fi strange stories exhibit well-crafted language, a strong sense of wonder, and reflect the truth of our multicultural world. Sci-fi strange stories cross back and forth across the boundaries of what is scientifically and realistically possible, often flirting with the fantasy genre. But these stories aren’t fantasy. Instead, they’re an updated version of the “literature of ideas” theme within the science fiction genre. I see sci-fi strange as science fiction for a world where the frontiers of scientific possibility are almost philosophical in nature.

CS:  What are the genre, story, and author influences for sci-fi strange?

JS:  A number of authors I love create what I’d call sci-fi strange, including Paolo Bacigalupi, Aliette de Bodard, N.K. Jemisin, Ted Chiang, Yoon Ha Lee, Ken Liu, Nnedi Okorafor, Rachel Swirsky, Lavie Tidhar and Caroline M. Yoachim, among many others.

I’d say Paolo Bacigalupi is the prototypical sci-fi strange author, as exhibited by many of his short stories along with novels like The Windup Girl. Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya continuity of short fiction is also very much sci-fi strange (there are many great stories in this series, including her novella On a Red Station, Drifting). Most of Ted Chiang’s fiction feels like sci-fi strange, as does Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station stories. I’d also place within sci-fi strange Nnedi Okorafor’s novella “Binti,” which is pure SF, and Who Fears Death, which actively blurs the lines between fantasy and SF in very exciting ways.

Who Fears Death actually ties in with an interesting point, which is that many of the authors I’ve named go back and forth between the science fiction and fantasy genres. For example, some of Ken Liu’s best short fiction is pure science fiction, yet his first novel is an epic fantasy. Makes me wonder if authors who defy being pegged down to a single genre with their writings are also people willing to defy the accepted tropes of science fiction.

CS:  Give us some examples of premises, plots, and characters for sci-fi strange.

My new novelette “Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” (in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, March 2016) features a world where bio-technology is embedded in all aspects of the environment, allowing the lands around us to communicate and protect themselves from harm. The story’s main character is Frere-Jones Roeder, a woman who “anchors” the land she lives in by being connected to the environment’s bio-technology and responding to the land’s needs and desires. A connection which, as Frere-Jones learns to her horror, can lead her to do truly horrific acts.

“Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” is grounded in science yet reads in many aspects like fantasy, such as through the inclusion of technology-created fairies. I believe this mixing of tropes creates a sense of wonder and a contemplation of ideas which (I hope) resonates with readers.

CS:  Does sci fi strange fit into the New Weird movement?

JS:  Can this be the part where I disavow everything I’ve previously said about sci-fi strange? I use the term to describe the type of SF I both write and enjoy reading, but it’s totally pretentious to try and name a new subgenre by one’s self. Whether or not sci-fi strange truly exists and is useful as a term is for other people to determine.

Damien G. Walter recently wrote an essay on the “8 Tribes of Sci-Fi”, which I highly recommend people read. His point is that there are multiple genres within science fiction and fantasy, which he calls communities and cultures, and that the genre will likely continue to break into these distinct subgroups for years to come. I both agree with his view of SF and see this fragmentation as a great thing. All the genres within SF contain multiple worlds and ideas and beliefs. There’s room for everything we love within the universe of speculative fiction.

In addition to sci-fi strange I also love space operas and dystopian SF and New Weird and countless other types of speculative fiction. But don’t pretend that these labels ever take the place of the stories themselves. Genres and subgenres exist to help readers and fans find stories which resonate with them. Nothing more or less than that.

So is sci-fi part of the New Weird? I’d say that’s a call for others to make. And if a term like sci-fi strange helps some people find stories they like, then more power to the term. And if it doesn’t then the term is beyond worthless.

CS:  Why do your stories connect with Interzone readers much more than other magazines?

JS:  I wouldn’t say my stories connect more with Interzone readers. Instead, I’d say my stories received their first big exposure thanks to Interzone and editors Andy Cox and Andy Hedgecock (along with Jetse de Vries, who found my first Interzone story in their slush pile). Interzone has long been known as a magazine which takes chance on new writers and I’m thrilled they took one with me.

In regards to your question, I do find it amusing that my biggest exposure as an American SF writer was initially overseas. I’ve published more than a dozen stories in Interzone and have had my fiction reprinted in a number of languages, including Chinese, Spanish, French, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Italian and Czech. I even write a monthly column for the Czech SF magazine XB-1. And most of that happened before I began publishing stories on a regular basis in the U.S.

But in the last few years I’ve found a readership in the U.S., with magazines like Asimov’s Science Fiction and Apex and Beneath Ceaseless Skies printing a number of my stories. These days most of my short fiction is first published in the U.S., followed by reprints and translations in other countries.

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CS:  In 2007, your career took an abrupt turn from literary to speculative.  What happened?

JS:  I’ve always been a science fiction fan. I grew up on science fiction, worshipped as a kid at the SF altar, and dreamed about one day being a SF author.

Yet I’ve also long been a fan of other types of fiction—in particular Southern Literature with its beautiful cadences and tragic themes and magic realism form of storytelling. I can still remember where I was when I first read stories by William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy and so many others.

Because I grew up in the American South and love Southern Literature I’ve also written within that genre, and even founded a literary magazine called storySouth which focused on the genre. But I eventually realized the best way to write the stories I needed to tell was by generally staying within the SF genre.

CS:  What’s the criteria for the Million Writers Award?  Who are the judges?

JS:  The Million Writers Award grew out of my work on storySouth, which was one of the earliest online literary journals. At that time many people ignored or put down online fiction. The award was an attempt to bring more exposure to authors publishing online.

Obviously the situation has changed in the 12 years since I started the award—now online and e-publishing are the equal of anything published in print, and actually bring in more readers in many cases.

I no longer run the Million Writers Award or publish storySouth. Spring Garden Press, a not-for-profit independent literary press located in Greensboro, North Carolina, now manages both the journal and the award. But the way the award works is that online editors and readers nominate their favorite stories each year. The only criteria is that the story must have been first published online. Then a group of judges pick the finalists and the general public votes on the overall winner.

CS:  What’s on the horizon for Jason Sanford?

JS:  I’m completing work on a young adult SF novel which is very much sci-fi strange. I’ll begin submitting the completed novel to agents in the next few months.

I’m also writing a number of short stories. My novelette “Toppers”—which mixes together time travel with a weirdly strange version of New York City—will appear in the August 2016 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. This will be my fifth appearance in Asimov’s and I’m eager to see what readers think of the new story.

2016 James White Award

The winner of this year’s James White Award is “Rock, Paper, Incisors” by David Cleden.

The winner was announced during the BSFA Awards ceremony on March 26.

The James White Award Short Story Competition was established in 2000 and offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading and longest established science fiction magazine.

The shortlisted stories were:

  • “Deadly Dance” – Trina Marie Phillips
  • “If Only Kissing Made It So” – Jason Kimble
  • “Let the Bells Ring Out” – Morgan Parks
  • “(Perhaps The Answer Is) That We Question At All” – Matt Dovey
  • “Wreckwalkers” – Jon Lasser
  • “Rock, Paper, Incisors” – David Cleden

The judges were Ruth EJ Boot, Ian Sales and Neil Williamson.