2021 Future Worlds Prize Announced

Future Worlds Prize for Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers of Colour has announced M H Ayinde is the winner of the 2021 prize, for her novel A Shadow in Chains.

The runner up is Salma Ibrahim, with her novel Frankincense.

The winner and runner-up were chosen from a shortlist of eight by judges Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Lloyd Bradley, Valerie Brandes, Shobna Gulati, Zahra Hankir and Tasha Suri.

Ayinde wins £4,000. Her novel is set in a place called the Nine Lands, where only those of noble blood can summon their ancestors to fight in battle. But when a commoner from the slums accidentally invokes a powerful spirit, she finds it could hold the key to ending a centuries-long war.

The judges said of A Shadow in Chains: “A Shadow in Chains is a cool and confident novel, excellently written, that feels very now. We wanted to be in the world of the novel as we read it, and felt this was a book doing something very exciting in the SFF space.”

Ibrahim wins £2,000. Frankincense follows a character called Sidra Ali, who on her way to work on a London bus finds herself arriving in a parallel universe in modern day Mogadishu, Somalia. There she discovers what life would be like if her family hadn’t left Somalia during the civil war.

The judges said of Frankincense: “This is an evocative and layered novel with great potential. It feels original yet recognisable, and we loved that it centred working class experiences.”

The six runners-up of the prize will each receive £800. They are (in alphabetical order by author surname):

  • The Sawling by Jordan Collins
  • In the City of Villages by Franchesca Liauw
  • Margot, Who Is Beautiful Now by Bea Pantoja
  • The Warden by Madeehah Reza
  • Contracts Made in Gold by Aqeelah Seedat
  • A Box Full of Stories by Fatima Taqvi.

The winner and runner-up were announced at an event held at The London Library on Wednesday, February 16.

Future Worlds Prize for Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers of Colour aims to find new talent based in the UK writing in the SFF space, from magical realism and space operas to dystopia and more. 

All shortlisted writers, the runner-up and the winner will also receive mentoring from one of the prize’s publishing partners: HarperCollins’ SFF imprint HarperVoyager, Penguin Random House UK’s Del Rey UK, Gollancz, Hachette’s SFF imprints including Orbit, and Pan Macmillan’s Tor. 

Future Worlds Prize, first run in 2020 and founded by bestselling author Ben Aaronovitch, was previously called the Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME SFF Award. As part of the prize’s long-term aim of opening science fiction and fantasy publishing to more people, it has been rebranded for its second year. The prize is sponsored by Aaronovitch, with additional financial support from Bridgerton actor Adjoa Andoh. It is administered by Cityread, a registered literature charity.

The 2020 prize was won by Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson for The Principle of Moments, a space-based adventure story. Jikiemi-Pearson has since secured a publishing deal with Gollancz, and her debut novel will be released this year.

[Based on a press release.]