2019 Sunburst Award Winners

The Sunburst Award Society has announced the winners of the 2019 Sunburst Awards for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic in the Adult, Young Adult, and Short Story categories.

Adult Award

The winner of the 2019 Sunburst Award for Adult Fiction is Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano Lax [Penguin Random House Canada].

The Sunburst Jury commented:

Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano Lax is a masterpiece, a story set in a future Japan so deftly drawn that it makes its world seem inevitable. The main characters’ lives and relationships are steeped in, and grow from, a past which is both historical and personal, built on a century of colonialism and exploitation: social, sexual, and economic. Woven into the novel is a unique exploration of an Artificial Intelligence story, incorporating both fast-forward developmental psychology and an analysis of the facets of empathy. This brilliant, character-driven novel examines individual reactions to threats to survival and autonomy. In the process, it challenges notions of insularity, suggesting that loyalty comes primarily from personal connection rather than group association. The interrogation of the notions of Outsider/Insider, connection, belonging, and compassion drive a story that is all too relevant to our present-day world.

Andromeda Romano-Lax has been a journalist, a travel writer, and a serious amateur cellist. She is the author of The Spanish Bow (translated into eleven languages and chosen as a New York Times Editors’ Choice), The Detour, and Behave, among others. Plum Rains draws inspiration from her family’s experience living in rural Taiwan. Andromeda co-founded and continues to teach for 49 Writers, a nonprofit organization. She currently lives with her family in Ladysmith British Columbia.

The other shortlisted works for the 2019 Adult Award were:

  • Amber Dawn, Sodom Road Exit [Arsenal Pulp Press]
  • Kate Heartfield, Armed in Her Fashion [ChizinePublications]
  • Rich Larson, Annex [Orbit/Hachette Book Group]
  • Eden Robinson, Trickster Drift [Penguin Random House Canada]

Young Adult Award

The 2019 winner of the Sunburst Award for Young Adult Fiction is Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman [Penguin Random House Canada]

The Sunburst Jury commented:

Rachel Hartman’s Tess of the Road is a tour de force, a novel that dives headfirst into its heroine’s complex, messy, morally multifaceted world while never losing sight of the story at its heart. Hartman’s Tess is on a journey whose point is less self-discovery than it is a simple acceptance of self-worth. Her credo, “Walk on,” comes to encompass not just her physical journey but her struggle to accept that she matters and that it is possible for others to find worth in her. Tess’s progress takes place in a richly imagined fantastic landscape where even the deeply alien quigutl are so deftly painted that the unfamiliar becomes known and comforting. The reader is able to journey with Tess into an understanding that the seemingly strictest and most unshakeable beliefs can be based on lack of knowledge or unwillingness to embrace change.

Rachel Hartman is both an author and comics creator; she currently lives in Vancouver. Tess of the Road is a companion novel to her first two YA books, Seraphina and Shadow Scale, the former of which won the Sunburst Award, the William C. Morris Award, and the Cybilis Award. Tess itself was shortlisted for the Andre Norton Award and the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book.

The other shortlisted works for the 2019 Young Adult Award were:

  • Sebastien de Castell, Spellslinger [Orbit/ Hachette Book Group]
  • Regan McDonell, Black Chuck [ Orca Book Publishers]
  • Rebecca Schaeffer , Not Even Bones [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]
  • Patrick Weekes, Feeder [Simon & Schuster Canada]

Short Story Award

The winner of the 2019 Sunburst Award for Short Story is “The Glow-in-the-Dark Girls” by Senaa Ahmad [Strange Horizons, 15 Jan 2018]

© 2017 Sam Guay, “The Glow-in-the-Dark Girls”

The Sunburst Jury commented:

In a remarkable year for short speculative fiction, Senaa Ahmad’s The Glow-in-the-Dark Girls stands apart, its horrific scenario etched in cool crisp prose: A group of young girls hope to better their lives by volunteering to be deployed as living incendiary devices, razing cities and their inhabitants, and accelerating their own decay and death in the process. A cunning inversion of the real-life Radium Girls, factory workers who were gradually and grotesquely poisoned by the material they worked with, Ahmad’s story turns the titular girls into weapons of mass destruction, objectified and vilified by the larger world even as they yearn for normalcy, grapple with their mortality and the consequences of their choices–and set each other on fire.

Senaa Ahmad is a writer living in Toronto. Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Lightspeed Magazine, Uncanny Magazine, and Strange Horizons. A Clarion 2018 alumnus, she is working concurrently on her first two short story collections.

The other shortlisted works for the 2019 Short Story Award were:

Sunburst medallion.

The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic has celebrated the best in Canadian fantastic literature in both Adult and Young Adult publications since 2001. Winners receive a medallion that incorporates the Sunburst logo. Winners of both the Adult and Young Adult Sunburst Award also receive a cash prize of $1,000, while winners of the Short Story Sunburst Award receive a cash prize of $500.

The Sunburst Award takes its name from the debut novel of the late Phyllis Gotlieb, one of the first published authors of contemporary Canadian speculative fiction.

SUNBURST JURORS. The 2019 Sunburst Award novel jury was comprised of Greg Bechtel, Susan Forest, Kari Maaren, and Susan Reynolds. Jurors for the 2019 short story awards were S.M. Beiko, David Demchuk, and Gemma Files.

The jurors for the 2020 Sunburst Awards have been named. Novel Jury: Kristyn Dunnion, Michelle Butler Hallett, John Jantunen, Michael Johnstone, and Peter Darbyshire. Short Story Jury: Omar El Akkad, Ruth Clarke, and Sarah Tolmie.

Submissions of eligible works published in 2019 for the 2020 awards will be accepted October 15, 2019. Submissions will close January 31, 2020. See the Sunburst Award News Page for details.

[Based on a press release.]