The 2020 Otherwise Award will be presented in a virtual ceremony on Saturday, October 30 at 2:00 p.m. Central. You can register to attend here.
Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, the author of the winning work, “Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon,” will attend from his home in Nigeria. In addition to speaking at the ceremony, Ekpeki will be doing a reading of his work.
Liz Henry, the chair of the 2020 jury, will announce the Honor List and members of the jury will discuss the winning work.
As is traditional at the Otherwise Award ceremony, the winner will be serenaded with an original song, composed for the occasion by Sumana Harihareswara. Those attending the ceremony are encouraged to sing along.
The event is sponsored by A Room of One’s Own Bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin.
The 2020 Otherwise Award winner is Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki for “Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon” (in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora, edited by Zelda Knight and Ekpeki Donald Oghenechovwe, Aurelia Leo, 2020). This novella was a unanimous favorite of the jury. [Note: The winner’s name is given first as it appears in his social media, then also as it appears on the cover of the anthology.]
The Otherwise Award (formerly known as the Tiptree Award) honors stories that expose the many ways we experience gender in this world and others.
About the winner: “Ife-Iyoku” is set in a post-apocalyptic world devastated by nuclear war. Survivors gather in Ife-Iyoku, the spiritual capital of Africa’s ancient Oyo Empire, where they are altered in fantastic ways by its magic and power.
In their statement about about this year’s award, the jury writes:
“What could have easily slipped into a stereotypical depiction and affirmation of patriarchal norms among African societies presents itself instead as the struggle of a community in the context of colonialism and colonization, a context that pits the impetus for communal survival against the dictate toward individuality. What does it look like to have gender roles enlisted in the pursuit of a community’s survival against larger, aggressive, unreasoning entities? How does the threat of annihilation further entrench that social schema?”
The jury found much to praise:
“A story that contains everything that‘Ife-Iyoku’ contains could easily have burst at the seams, but one of this work’s most stunning and impressive qualities is its cohesion. In the exciting cinematic opening, a team of psychically gifted hunters battles a mutant, winged, lava-breathing dinosaur. Over the next few chapters, the complex web of the community, its history, its divisions, and its context in the world are revealed, leading us to a situation that shows the disruptive power of a single woman’s choices, and her insistence on self-determination. Not once did it feel like the story’s many themes and aspects existed in isolation. That the story, as much as it holds within it, reads as a seamless piece is a testament to the craft on display.”
About the Honor List: In addition to selecting the winners, each year’s jury chooses an Otherwise Award Honor List. The Honor List is a strong part of the award’s identity and is used by many readers as a recommended reading list.
This year, the jury noted overlapping themes that stood out in the winning work and the Honor List. Like “Ife-Iyoku,” many of the honor-listed stories treat gender in the context of intersectionality — showing how racialized, national, and ethnic identity, as well as disability, affect gendered experience. Several stories grapple with how the world experience of trans men, trans women, nonbinary people, and other embodied entities is affected by the different paths that they walk.
A number of stories deal with queer elders, demonstrating that age does not stop a person from growing, healing, hurting, or being lost and in need of re-forging community and place. Exile was another theme that came up repeatedly, with characters who have been cast out of their homelands and must find a way to construct new kinds of home, with their chosen communities.
Often, this sense of exile is compounded by environmental destruction, the multi-generational legacy of industrial production and agricultural waste. In these stories, the environment isn’t just a force “out there”—it affects people’s bodies, both physical and political, as well as their social roles. These stories depict people who can wring rain out of the air, build floating cities, transform themselves into clouds of gas, merge with machines, and transcend the world altogether. Human identities do not end where our skin meets the air, but instead are part of ecosystems. And when those ecosystems are under attack, so are we.
Many of the Otherwise honorees grapple with this idea by showing how human bodies are permeable to the environment. This is especially apparent when it comes to characters whose bodies have been rebuilt to function as weapons or hyper-productive workers—a literalization of the ways that patriarchy and capitalism demand that we refashion ourselves as things-to-be-used rather than people.
The notes on each work in the Honor List are excerpted and edited from comments by members of this year’s jury.
Anya Johanna DeNiro’s City of a Thousand Feelings(novella, Aqueduct Press), a swooping poetic allegory, takes us with trans exiles into battle as they try to enter a city of dreams and wonders, only to be turned away by militant patriarchal villains. Relationships form under pressure, lapse, and are taken up again years later, as the protagonists hide in exile or continue to fight in wars. Finally, new generations are born with new goals, creating their own amazing city, built on the work of the elders who fought so hard to make a world where that was possible. Deeply moving.
Isabel Fall’s “Helicopter Story” (short story, Clarkesworld Magazine), which extols the triumphant gender/sex-messiness of the protagonist’s transition into a military weapon, exposes the ways that the military industrial complex can co-opt some of our deepest human social structures to weave our identity construction into components of a bigger machine, a military force. With beauty, depth, and sensitivity, Fall describes Barb’s gendered precision, feelings, fierceness, and relationships built on the trust developed in battle. It is a love story in the mil-sf tradition, one where its heroes, whose identities are tied to war, begin to question the ethics behind that war.
Amy Griswold’s “Custom Options Available” (short story, Fireside Magazine) explores mechanization and gender-modelling in a joyous romp. A retired mining robot chooses gender and sexuality configurations, then cruises for partners. The protagonist then starts to uncover feelings and preferences that they didn’t choose, including a fierce desire for freedom and self-determination.
Sim Kern’s Depart, Depart!(novel, Stelliform Press)follows Noah, whose escape from climate disaster in Houston to a refugee camp further north is complicated by more specific needs for safety and key resources as a young trans man. Luckily, he has a ghostly ancestor for an ally, and a wealth of ethno-familial history to lean on as he navigates his distinct instant of a struggle for a sense of home, belonging, and acceptance that stretches back eons.
R.B. Lemberg’s The Four Profound Weaves (novella, Tachyon Publications) explores the intertwined lives of genderfluid and trans elders who live in a world that hovers between dreams and ancient history. It centers on a nameless man, exiled from his home for moving between genders. He’s on a quest to find an old friend, Benesret, who has the power to weave textiles that embody the four “profound” human experiences of hope, change, wanderlust, and death. Haunting and delightful by turns, the story explores a world of nomads and city-states, magic and art, youth and age, and ultimately what it means to remain friends even as the world and our identities shift like desert sands.
Chana Porter’s The Seep(novella, Soho Press), set in San Francisco in homage to Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing, takes a somewhat bitter, leather-jacket-wearing butch dyke protagonist into a post-singularity future where alien nanobots ingested as a drug make almost everyone super happy. Her search for meaning and connection takes place within a community indifferently giving up specific embodied histories, to become whoever and whatever they wish with seemingly no adverse consequences, while she questions whether identity can have meaning without its histories.
Maria Romasco Moore’s “The Moon Room” (short story, Kaleidotrope) brings us into a glittering, but gritty, urban world of drag bars and clandestine identities as seen through the eyes of an alien. Trained from a young age to hide her true nature, she takes photographs of drag queens and revels in their ability to be seen—while the pressures of hiding her polymorphous body drives her to drink and blackouts. Luckily, queer joy saves her from a life of hiding—and she’s finally able to come out as the beauty she is.
Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea (novel, Candlewick Press) is an exciting, complex story about a young nonbinary pirate and an aristocratic young woman figuring out who they are in the face of danger. Unable to return to their homelands, pursued by nasty colonizers, they form an alliance that grows into a fierce and wonderful romance. We can’t wait to return to the world of The Mermaid to learn more about these delightful characters, their cool magic system, and the ways they might start to resist a tyrannical empire!
Award Ceremony: A virtual award ceremony will be held on Saturday, October 30, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Details on how to join us will be posted at the beginning of October on the website for A Room of One’s Own Bookstore, which is hosting the event.
The winner will receive $1000 in prize money, a specially commissioned piece of original artwork, and (as always) chocolate.
Recommendations and more: Each year, a jury selects the Otherwise Award winner and Honor List. The 2020 jury members were Liz Henry (chair), Chesya Burke, M.L. Clarke, Annalee Newitz, and Tochi Onyebuchi.
The Otherwise Award invites everyone to recommend works for the Award. Please submit recommendations via the recommendation page of the Otherwise Award website. On the website, you can alsodonate to help fund the award and read more about past winners and works the Award has honored.
In addition to presenting the Otherwise Award annually, the Award Council presents two annual $500 fellowships to provide support and recognition for the new voices who are making visible the forces that are changing our view of gender today. Applications for Otherwise Fellowships are currently open. Deadline for applications is October 31. Apply here.
The Otherwise Award began in 1991 as The James Tiptree, Jr. Award, named after Alice Sheldon, who wrote under the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr. By her choice of a masculine pen name, Sheldon helped break down the imaginary barrier between “women’s writing” and “men’s writing.” In 2019, the Award’s governing body, the Motherboard, decided, in response to community concerns, to rename the Award. The Tiptree Award became the Otherwise Award. (For more on the reasons behind the change, visit the history section of the Award’s website.)
The Otherwise Award, under any name, is an award with an attitude. As a political statement, as a means of involving people at the grassroots level, as an excuse to eat cookies, and as an attempt to strike the proper ironic note, the award has been financed through bake sales held at science fiction conventions across the United States, as well as in Britain and Australia. Fundraising efforts have included auctions conducted by Ellen Klages and Sumana Harihareswara, the sale of T-shirts and aprons created by collage artist and silk screener Freddie Baer and others, and the publication of four anthologies of award winners and honor-listed stories. Most of these anthologies, along with other publications, can be purchased through the Otherwise Award store.
Mood can take two forms – the mood of the story or novel you abandoned and the mood you’re in when you try to get back into it – that is, your emotional state of mind. As any writer can tell you, the mood you’re in makes a great difference when you tackle any work of fiction. But let’s say this project’s been gathering dust for several years. Are you charged up enough to take it on? Do you have the right inspiration?
Lois McMaster Bujold, speculative fiction writer and four-time winner of the Hugo Award, can speak to these very questions. She returned to an abortive novella after a seven-year hiatus. In 2011, she had completed 15,000 words on a “high-concept tale” about bioengineering, which she nicknamed Radbugs! Then she ran into a brick wall: “Radbugs, and then what?”
Plot-wise she had drawn up short: “The internal problem was that of making the Radbug bioengineering project central, as semi-realistic science (fiction) – it didn’t have a novella-like time frame or structure.” She considered two options, the first being a story that concentrated more on the research. “But scientific research like that is just a whole lot of tedious back-and-forthing on experiments and data collection for several years until the concept either becomes viable or is proved not to work.” Her second option didn’t seem viable, either. “Letting the story focus instead on some of the human problems encountered in those first 15,000 words seemed too much like another story I’d written. I eventually stopped and went on to other things, thinking I’d finally own a trunk story. But it itched. It was half done.”
In 2018, she was in the right frame of mind to return to it….
…This year’s summer reader poll was also shaped by a series of “what ifs” — most importantly, what if, instead of looking at the entire history of the field the way we did in our 2011 poll, we only focused on what’s happened in the decade since? These past 10 years have brought seismic change to science fiction and fantasy (sometimes literally, in the case of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series), and we wanted to celebrate the world-shaking rush of new voices, new perspectives, new styles and new stories. And though we limited ourselves to 50 books this time around, the result is a list that’s truly stellar — as poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi put it, “alive.”…
How We Built This
Wow, you’re some dedicated readers! Thanks for coming all the way down here to find out more. As I said above, we decided to limit ourselves to 50 books this year instead of our usual 100, which made winnowing down the list a particular challenge. As you may know, this poll isn’t a straight-up popularity contest — though, if it were, the Broken Earth books would have crushed all comers; y’all have good taste! Instead, we take your votes (over 16,000 this year) and pare them down to about 250 semifinalists, and then during a truly epic conference call, our panel of expert judges goes through those titles, cuts some, adds some, and hammers out a final curated list….
(4) DODGY PRACTICES. Smashwords informed Nigerian writer and editor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki that they cannot pay him outstanding e-book royalties, because he doesn’t have a PayPal account – which is due to PayPal not operating in Nigeria.
In this clip, author Paolo Bacigalupi discusses how he writes fictional solutions into the personas and experiences of the characters that populate his novels
(1) Ecological message fiction provides a space for authors to imagine inspired, inventive technology for the future. Bacigalupi believes that crafting these ideas for a better life within dystopian settings ultimately creates a more powerful message for his readers. Do you agree? Why or why not? Can you think of any examples of message fiction that are not set within a dystopian context?
(2) The focus on a ‘chosen one’ or set of heroes as the solution to the problems presented in values fiction can be limiting for a narrative’s overall message. Why do you think this would be? Are there any broader societal implications for ‘chosen one’ style-plots? Is there a situation in which this narrative structure would be useful?
(3) Bacigalupi says that writing fully “lived-in”, interesting characters with varied perspectives on the topic at hand is more effective in getting your message across than creating characters who specifically espouse your values. Do you agree with Bacigalupi? As a reader, what do you find you relate most to in the characters you read?
(4) Bacigalupi cites Gene Wolfe’s claim that those who want to write values fiction need to be able to argue all sides of the argument they’re engaging with in order to make their own point as strong as possible. Can you think of any topic in which arguing all sides would completely contradict your own values as a writer? Would you do it anyway?
“Not for sale,” reads the fine print on the back of an advance reader copy (ARC) of Sally Rooney’s forthcoming novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, which days ago sold on eBay for $79.99 (with tote bag). Another advance copy sold earlier this summer for around $200—roughly 10 times what it costs to preorder the hardcover. An ARC of Jonathan Franzen’s forthcoming Crossroads was recently listed on eBay for $165.
Free copies of forthcoming books—in the form of ARCs, galleys and uncorrected proofs—are typically sent by publishing houses to authors, reviewers, bookstores and, increasingly, celebrities and influencers months before publication. The copies can draw a bidding frenzy, especially inside the literary world. One publicist described Rooney’s galleys, along with Ottessa Moshfegh’s, as “almost like trading cards” among junior publishing employees.
Early, unfinished versions of classic novels have long been collectible, with some fetching astronomical prices. This is especially true for early-20th-century books, when advance copies were rare and tended to be made with higher-quality materials. They can also provide a window into a canonical author’s process—highlighting revisions made between drafts, say—and may include handwritten corrections.
An uncorrected advance copy of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row is currently available for $35,000; an early version of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is on sale for $28,000. More recent releases from bestselling authors—such as an uncorrected proof of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, on sale for $3,000—typically sell for less. And then there’s Harry Potter. This May, an uncorrected version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold for over $29,000….
(7) NEW B5 COMMENTARY. J. Michael Straczynski has released another Babylon 5 commentary, on the episode “Signs and Portents”. These commentaries originally were only available through his Patreon page.
…In 1960 she married Robert G. Youngson, a renowned movie producer and historian, and that same year she launched a career as an independent filmmaker, winning numerous prizes as an animator. She also produced medical documentaries, including “My Name Is Debbie,” about the life of a post-operative male to female transsexual. The film is still being shown at Gender Identity conferences in tandem with a Canadian documentary featuring the actual operation.
The idea for a Dracula Club came to Youngson in 1965 while on a trip to Romania. Society Headquarters were set up in London, England, and New York City upon her return; and by the beginning of the 1970s the club had become a growing concern. In the meantime she found it necessary to give up filmmaking to devote her energies to the Dracula and Bram Stoker genres….
(9) MEMORY LANE.
1950 – Seventy-one years ago on this date, Destination Moon, produced by George Pal, premiered in the United Kingdom. It would be voted a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon. It was directed by Irving Pichel from the screenplay by Alford Van Ronkel and Robert A. Heinlein and James O’Hanlon. It’s based off Robert A. Heinlein‘s Rocketship Galileo novel. It starred John Archer, Warner Anderson, Erin O’Brien-Moore, Tom Powers and Dick Wesson. Mainstream critics usually didn’t like it but Asimov said In Memory Yet Green that it was “the first intelligent science-fiction movie made.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre 48% rating though the critics overall give a sixty four percent rating there. It is not in the public domain but the trailers are and here is one for you.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born August 18, 1925 — Brian Aldiss. Fiction wise, I’ll single out his Helliconia series, Hothouse and The Malacia Tapestry as my favorites. He won a Hugo at Chicon III for “The Long Afternoon of The Earth”, another at Conspiracy ’87 for Trillion Year Spree which he co-authored with David Wingrove. He’s edited far too many collections to know which one to single out. (Died 2017.)
Born August 18, 1929 — Joan Taylor. Her first genre role was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers as Carol Marvin, and she followed that with 20 Million Miles to Earth as Marisa Leonardo. Her last genre role was as Carol Gordon in Men into Space, a late Fifties series about a USAF attempt to explore and develop outer space. She retired from acting in the early Sixties. (Died 2012.)
Born August 18, 1931 — Grant Williams. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in The Incredible Shrinking Man though he did have the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch’s The Couch. Of course he shows up in Outer Limits where he plays Major Douglas McKinnon in “The Brain of Colonel Barham”. And he’s Major Kurt Mason in The Doomsday Machine. (Died 1985.)
Born August 18, 1934 — Michael de Larrabeiti. He is best known for writing The Borrible Trilogy which is noted by several sources online as being an influence on writers in the New Weird movement. Ok folks, I’ve not read it so please explain how The Borrible Trilogy influences that literary movement as it doesn’t seem like there’s any connection. (Died 2008.)
Born August 18, 1954 — Russell Blackford, 67. Writer resident in Australia for awhile but now in Wales. Author of Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles, and editor of the Australian Science Fiction Review in the Eighties. With Van Ikin and Sean McMullen, he wrote Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction, and Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics which is just out.
Born August 18, 1958 — Madeleine Stowe, 63. She’s in the Twelve Monkeys film as Kathryn Railly, and she’s in the Twelve Monkeys series as Lillian in the “Memory of Tomorrow” episode. Her only other genre work was a one-off in The Amazing Spider-Man which ran for thirteen episodes nearly forty years ago. She was Maria Calderon in “Escort to Danger” in that series, and she also played Mia Olham in Impostor which scripted off Philip K. Dick’s “Impostor” story.
Born August 18, 1966 — Alison Goodman, 55. Australian writer who’s won three Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Speculative Fiction for Singing the Dogstar Blues, The Two Pearls of Wisdom and Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact. The Two Pearls of Wisdom was nominated for an Otherwise Award.
Born August 18, 1967 — Brian Michael Bendis, 54. He’s both writer and artist, a still uncommon occurrence. Did you know he’s garnered five Eisner Awards for both his creator-owned work and Marvel Comics? Very impressive! He’s the primary force behind the creation of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, launching Ultimate Spider-Man which is an amazing series which I read on the Marvel Unlimited app.
…Anya Combs, director of games outreach at Kickstarter, says one of the key reasons that 2020 was such an explosive year of growth for tabletop gaming was the Covid pandemic, which forced everyone indoors for months on end.
But to chalk up all of tabletop’s recent success to the pandemic would be shortsighted. Tabletop gaming has been enjoying expansion for years. In 2019, Grand View Research estimated that the playing cards and board games market would reach $21.56 billion by 2025.
“Tabletop has been having a moment for a long time,” Combs says. “A lot of it stems from this retro nostalgic aspect, and many point to Stranger Things and the resurgence of role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons. Tabletop provides a level of play that people needed during Covid. There’s something very genuine about sitting with your friends and sharing in a communal way.”…
Presenting the Star Trek the Next Generation Bluetooth Communicator Badge! Since its debut in 1987 the TNG Communicator Badge has been a sought-after future tech we all wish we had. Now available, a few centuries early, connect to your phone, tablet or computer to enjoy hands and ear. The Star Trek TNG ComBadge features an accurate on-screen matte gold with black outline & silver delta plate. High quality ABS & Zinc materials.
The Star Trek Communicator connects to all phones or tablets that have Bluetooth (any modern phone) with Bluetooth version 5 for longer range and extended payback time. It features a built-in Microphone and Speaker for phone calls and music playback. Strong magnet backplate so no holes in your clothes! | 2 hours constant music or phone usage / 48 hours Cos-play “Chirp” mode.
HIGH QUALITY SOUND | Plays the classic Star Trek TNG ComBadge chirp sound effect when you press it for Cosplay, when you receive phone calls or enable Siri, Google, Cortana or Alexa! With 30 to 300 foot Bluetooth “Badge to phone” range you can keep your phone in your pocket while you make phone calls, listen to music or use voice your voice assistant.
(14) FLIPPER. A pair of Boston Dynamics robots run a complicated course.
Parkour is the perfect sandbox for the Atlas team at Boston Dynamics to experiment with new behaviors. In this video our humanoid robots demonstrate their whole-body athletics, maintaining its balance through a variety of rapidly changing, high-energy activities. Through jumps, balance beams, and vaults, we demonstrate how we push Atlas to its limits to discover the next generation of mobility, perception, and athletic intelligence.
NASA’s tiny Mars helicopter, which has a fuselage about the size of a small toaster, has successfully flown above the planet for the 12th time.
Nearly half a year after the Perseverance rover landed on Mars, the Ingenuity helicopter is still going strong on the surface of the planet. The small flyer has done so well that it has been separated from Perseverance for some time as it scouts ahead on the red planet….
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “Old Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, the producer, when he learns that the aging powers of the mysterious beach enables two six-year olds to mature so fast that they have a baby that dies 20 minutes after it is born, says “I could have been a doctor!” The shocking third act plot twist is SO ridiculous that George makes you very glad you didn’t spend any money on this stinker.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Cliff, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]
The table of contents has been revealed for The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021), the first ever Year’s Best African speculative fiction anthology, edited by Oghenchovwe Donald Ekpeki. There are 29 stories by 25 authors from Africa and the diaspora published in the year 2020. The book will be released September 28 and is available for pre-order.
Table of Contents:
“Where You Go” by Somto O. Ihezue Originally Published in Omenana (Issue 16, December 2020)
“Things Boys Do” by Pemi Aguda. Originally Published in Nightmare (Issue 89, February 2020)
“Giant Steps” by Russell Nichols Originally Published in Lightspeed Magazine (Issue 118, March 2020)
“The Future in Saltwater” by Tamara Jerée Originally Published in Anathema Magazine (Issue 20, April 2020)
“The ThoughtBox” by Tlotlo Tsamaase Originally Published in Clarkesworld (Issue 163, April 2020)
“The Parts That Make Us Monsters” by Sheree Renée Thomas Originally Published in Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future (Third Man Books: May 26, 2020)
“Scar Tissue” by Tobias S. Buckell Originally Published in SLATE (Future Tense Fiction: May 30, 2020)
“Ancestries” by Sheree Renée Thomas Originally Published in Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future (Third Man Books: May 26, 2020)
“Breath of the Sahara” by Inegbenoise O. Osagie Originally Published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies (Issue #305, June 4, 2020)
“The Many Lives of an Abiku” by Tobi Ogundiran Originally Published in by Beneath Ceaseless Skies (Issue #309, July 30, 2020)
“A Love Song for Herkinal as composed by Ashkernas amid the ruins of New Haven” by Chinelo Onwualu. Originally Published in Uncanny Magazine Issue 35
“A Curse at Midnight” by Moustapha Mbacké Diop Originally Published in Mythaxis (Issue 23, August 2020)
“A Mastery of German” by Marian Denise Moore Originally Published in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora edited by Zelda Knight and Oghenchovwe Donald Ekpeki (AURELIA LEO: August 17, 2020)
“Are We Ourselves?” by Michelle Mellon Originally Published in Augur Magazine (Issue 3.2, Fall 2020)
“When the Last of the Birds and the Bees Have Gone On” by C.L. Clark Originally Published in Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World That Wouldn’t Die edited by dave ring (Neon Hemlock Press: September 15, 2020)
“The Goatkeeper’s Harvest” by Tobi Ogundiran Originally Published in The Dark (Issue 64, September 2020)
“Baba Klep” by Eugen Bacon Originally Published in Hadithi & the State of Black Speculative Fiction edited by Eugen Bacon & Milton Davis (Luna Press Publishing: October 6, 2020)
“Desiccant” by Craig Laurance Gidney Originally Published in Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire edited by Nicole Givens Kurtz (Mocha Memoirs Press: October 13, 2020)
“Disassembly” by Makena Onjerika Originally Published in Fireside Fiction (October 2020)
“The River of Night” by Tlotlo Tsamaase Originally Published in The Dark (Issue 66, November 2020)
“Egoli” by T.L. Huchu Originally Published in Africanfuturism: An Anthology edited by Wole Talabi (Brittle Paper: October 19, 2020)
“The Friendship Bench” by Yvette Lisa Ndlovu Originally Published in BREATHE FIYAH: A Flash Fiction Collaboration Between FIYAH Magazine and Tor.com (October 19, 2020)
“Fort Kwame” by Derek Lubangakene Originally Published in Africanfuturism: An Anthology edited by Wole Talabi (Brittle Paper: October 19, 2020)
“We Come as Gods” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa Originally Published in BREATHE FIYAH: A Flash Fiction Collaboration Between FIYAH Magazine and Tor.com (October 19, 2020)
“And This is How to Stay Alive” by Shingai Njeri Kagunda Originally Published in Fantasy Magazine (Issue 61, November 2020)
“The Front Line” by WC Dunlap Originally Published in BREATHE FIYAH: A Flash Fiction Collaboration Between FIYAH Magazine and Tor.com (October 19, 2020)
“Penultimate” by ZZ Claybourne Originally Published in Community of Magic Pens edited by E.D.E. Bell (Atthis Arts: May 4, 2020)
“Love Hangover” by Sheree Renée Thomas Originally Published in Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire edited by Nicole Givens Kurtz (Mocha Memoirs Press: October 13, 2020)
“Red_Bati” by Dilman Dila Originally Published in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora edited by Zelda Knight and Oghenchovwe Donald Ekpeki (AURELIA LEO: August 17, 2020)
The publisher’s post also lists titles of “Other notable short fiction of 2020 Short stories and novelettes we loved but didn’t get to publish.”
Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is an African speculative fiction writer and editor from Nigeria. His short story “The Witching Hour” won the 2019 Nommo award for best short story by an African. He has received the 2020 Horror Writers Association diversity grant. For his writing and editing; the novella Ife-Iyoku, Tale of Imadeyunuagbon and the groundbreaking Dominion anthology where it appears, he’s been a finalist in the Nebula, Locus, BSFA, BFA, Sturgeon, Nommo and This is Horror awards. He is editor of the first ever Year’s Best African speculative fiction anthology, the Bridging Worlds non-fiction anthology forthcoming in 2021, and the Africa Risen anthology alongside Zelda Knight and Sheree Renee Thomas, forthcoming on Tordotcom in 2022.
[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]
TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2020 Novellas. What did you think?
I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:
31 of the novellas published in 2015,
35 of the novellas published in 2016,
50 of the novellas published in 2017,
38 of the novellas published in 2018,
57 of the 2019 novellas,
and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas from my library, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 59!
I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.
It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.
Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.
Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and I do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.
Novellas are listed in two sections below. The first section, those with cover art, are the ones I have read, and they include mini-reviews by me. These are in approximate order from most-favorite to least-favorite (but bear in mind that after around the first dozen listed, there was not a large degree of difference in preference among most of the remainder, with the exception of a handful at the bottom). The second section is those novellas I haven’t read, in alphabetical order by title.
I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Some short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included, and in a couple of cases, novelettes which were long enough to be in the Hugo Novella tolerance were also included.
Please feel free to post comments about 2020 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your File 770 comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!
If you see something that looks like gibberish, it is text that has been ROT-13’ed to avoid spoilers. (Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)
The Horror Writers Association (HWA) has announced the recipients of the 2020 HWA Diversity Grants.
The grants were created because “The Horror Writers Association believes barriers—often unseen but very real—exist which limit the amount of horror fiction being published by diverse voices. The goal of these Grants is to help remove some of the barriers and let those voices be heard.” They are open to “underrepresented, diverse people who have an interest in the horror writing genre, including, but not limited to writers, editors, reviewers, and library workers. Like the Diverse Works Inclusion Committee, the Diversity Grants have adopted the broadest definition of the word diversity to include, but not limited to, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabled, and neurodiverse.”
Supported by NoveList, LibraryReads, ARRT, and RA for All, each 2020 Grant is worth $500 and may be spent on approved expenses for a period of two years following the awarding of the Grant.
The 2020 grant recipients are —
Jacqueline Dyre (they/them) is the editor and publisher of Novel Noctule. You can find them in the sunshine state, drinking poorly-made coffee and consuming psychological horror in lieu of meals.
Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (he/him) is a Nigerian speculative fiction writer, slush reader and editor. He has been awarded an honourable mention in the L Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest, twice and won the Nommo award for best short story by an African with his short story The Witching Hour. He has been published in the Selene Quarterly, Strange Horizons, Tor, Omenana Magazine and other venues, and has works forthcoming in several anthologies and magazines. He has co-edited several publications, including the Dominion Anthology (2020), the Best of African Speculative Fiction Anthology and the Bridging Worlds non-fiction anthology, forthcoming in 2021. He is a first reader in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and a member of the African Speculative Fiction Society, Horror Writers Association, Codex, BSFA, BFA, and the SFWA.
Sumiko Saulson (they/them) is an award-winning author of Afrosurrealist and multicultural sci-fi and horror. Ze is the editor of the anthologies and collections Black Magic Women, Scry of Lust, Black Celebration, and Wickedly Abled. Ze is the winner of the 2016 HWA StokerCon “Scholarship from Hell”, 2017 BCC Voice “Reframing the Other” contest, and 2018 AWW “Afrosurrealist Writer Award.”
Ze has an AA in English from Berkeley City College, and writes a column called “Writing While Black” for a national Black Newspaper, the San Francisco BayView. Ze is the host of the SOMA Leather and LGBT Cultural District’s “Erotic Storytelling Hour.”
Nicole Givens Kurtz (she/her) is an author, editor, and educator. She’s a member of Horror Writers Association, Sisters in Crime, and Science Fiction Writers of America. She’s the editor of the groundbreaking Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire. She’s written for White Wolf, Bram Stoker Finalist in Horror Anthology: Sycorax’s Daughters, and Serial Box’s The Vela: Salvation series. Nicole has over 40 short stories published as well as 11 novels and three active speculative mystery series. You can support her work via Patreon and find more about her at http://www.nicolegivenskurtz.net.
Tejaswi Priyadarshi (he/him) is a dreamer in the horror/thriller genre. He derives inspiration from Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Dean Koontz, Takashi Miike, Alexandre Aja, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, and the Ramsay Brothers.
His first book The Psychopath, The Cannibal, The Lover was India’s first splatterpunk novel. It was released in July 2020, and has since remained on multiple bestselling charts, scaling its way up to be Amazon India’s highest rated Horror Thriller with 175+ ratings.
He is currently working on his second novel, trying to amalgamate Horror, Crime, Thriller, and Social Satire. You can often find him writing fiction at a bar counter, appreciating Independent Pop music gigs, and holding screenings of all sub-genres of horror/thrillers. However, nobody knows why he adamantly screens Purani Haveli so often. Email him at email@example.com if you want to discuss anything under the sun; “How to Prep for a Zombie Apocalypse” is his favorite topic, because, what if!
Gabino Iglesias (he/him) is a writer, editor, professor, and book critic living in Austin, TX. He is the author of Zero Saints and Coyote Songs and the editor of Both Sides. His work has been nominated to the Bram Stoker and Locus awards and won the Wonderland Book Award for Best Novel. His nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. His fiction has been published in five languages and optioned for film. His reviews appear in places like NPR, Publishers Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Criminal Element, Mystery Tribune, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and other venues. He’s been a juror for the Shirley Jackson Awards twice and has judged the PANK Big Book Contest, the Splatterpunk Awards, the horror category of the British Fantasy Awards, and the Newfound Prose Prize. He teaches creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University’s online MFA program and runs a series of low-cost online writing workshops. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.