Actress Adjoa Andoh and New York Times bestselling author, Dhonielle Clayton are amongst the five strong judging panel who will be picking winners and runners up from the submissions for The Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME SFF Award, delivered in partnership with National Novel Writing Month and others.
Completing the panel will be Daphne Tonge, founder of the Illumicrate subscription box, as well as marketer for the inclusive children’s publisher Knights Of; Rachel Winterbottom, Gollancz’s commissioning editor and author of Would Like To Meet; and Abi Fellows, literary agent at The Good Agency.
Nielsen’s results for science fiction and fantasy published in 2019 show almost double the amount of BAME British authors published in this genre but as the numbers were so small to start with, this only increases the authors represented from five to nine.
These include authors such as Tade Thompson, whose book Rosewater won 2019’s Clarke Award; physicist and broadcaster Jim Al-Khalili with Sunfall, his first foray into science fiction; and the second book from Zen Cho, who has won both the British Fantasy Award and a Hugo Award.
Even with this increase, BAME authors are still less than three per cent of British authors published in SF and fantasy, lagging far behind the representation of authors of colour in the US market.
British SF and fantasy also lacks in representation when it comes to female writers. While America has basically achieved gender parity for the last few years of publishing, 2019’s figures show women to only represent 21 per cent of the British SFF authors.
The Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME SFF Award was launched in October 2019 when Gollancz, the UK’s oldest science fiction and fantasy imprint, teamed up with Sunday Times Bestselling author Ben Aaronovitch, who founded and funded the award.
Submissions for the inaugural award closed on the 31st January with the shortlisted authors being announced on the 30th April 2020 and winners and runners up, picked by these five newly announced judges, to be announced in July 2020.
Applicants were asked to submit 5,000 – 10,000 words consisting of either a self-contained short story or the opening of a novel that fits into the scifi, fantasy or horror genres; a one page synopsis summarising their story; and a cover letter containing a little bit about themselves.
The Award is open to People over the age of 18, who identify as Black, Asian or an ethnic minority, people who are resident of the UK or Ireland and People who have not previously had a novel traditionally published by a UK publisher.
The First Prize will be £4,000 prize money, alongside a critique of work submitted and a year long mentoring programme with Gollancz commissioning editor Rachel Winterbottom. (This mentoring programme will consist of four, one hour-long, phonecalls to talk through the writer’s progress and continue opening up the publishing process.) This prize will be awarded to one person.
Second Prize will be £2,000 prize money, alongside a critique of work submitted. This prize will be awarded to one person.
Five runners up will all receive a cash prize of £800 each. All of the above will be invited to London to take part in an insight into publishing day when the prize’s shortlist is announced in Spring 2020.
Adjoa Andoh is a British film, television, stage and radio actress, known on the UK stage for lead roles at the RSC, the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre and the Almeida Theatre, and is a familiar face on British television, notably in two series of Doctor Who as companion Martha’s mother Francine Jones, 90 episodes of the BBC’s long-running medical drama Casualty as Colette Griffiths (née Kierney) and a year in the BBC’s EastEnders.
Andoh is the voice of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency as well as notable SFF authors including Naomi Alderman, Ann Leckie, David Gemmell and Nnedi Okorafor; she won “Audio Book of the Year” for Tea Time for the Traditionally Built.
She made her Hollywood debut in autumn 2009 starring as Nelson Mandela’s Chief of Staff Brenda Mazibuko alongside Morgan Freeman as Mandela in Clint Eastwood’s Invictus.
“I’m thrilled to be a judge for the inaugural BAME SFF Award.,” says Adjoa. “I have recorded and won awards for science fiction audiobooks and am a real fan of all the possibilities this genre offers to reflect on the challenges and excitements of our world.
“There is a long tradition of BAME science fiction writing stretching back to Octavia Butler in the 1970s, which I am delighted this award acknowledges and is encouraging to flourish.”
“The lack of inclusion of BAME authors in the world of SFF is an act of systemic censorship,” say New York Times bestselling author Dhonielle Clayton, “purporting the lie that authors from these underrepresented communities don’t spin tales of other worlds and far off futures or imagine alternate histories and portals to other places or have searing critiques of the psychological horrors plaguing modern society.
“The need for representation in this genre is paramount to its survival and continued ability to be the most thriving and innovative, imaginative landscape in publishing.
“The Gollancz BAME SFF Award will support writers of colour in scifi, fantasy and horror, and bring much needed attention to the lack of access those writers have to genre fiction.”
“I’m thrilled to be involved with an award that celebrates and offers support for aspiring BAME writers of sci-fi and fantasy.,” commented Daphne Tonge, Founder of Illumicrate. “As a huge fan of the genre, it’s important to recognise the lack of diversity and the need for initiatives to tackle this problem.
“This award provides the right encouragement to writers from under-represented backgrounds to tell their stories and I am really looking forward to discovering exciting new voices through it.”
“Science fiction, fantasy and horror are genres that help us look to the future, explore possibilities, examine our past and ourselves,” said Gollancz Commissioning Editor Rachel Winterbottom. “So it is unacceptable that, there are still so many voices that are woefully underrepresented in the genre. It’s so important that we not only acknowledge the lack of representation but do something tangible to combat it.
“As modern speculative fiction publishers, we at Gollancz have a responsibility not just to say our doors are open, but to actively seek out and support writers whose backgrounds and experience have historically been – and still are – under-represented.
“I hope this award will encourage writers who have perhaps not always felt welcome in the world of science fiction and fantasy publishing and I’m looking forward to discovering exciting new writing talent within the submissions. The future of SFF needs every story – especially yours.”
“We are thrilled to be working with Gollancz to find BAME writers in the genres of fantasy, science fiction and horror,” said Abi Fellows, agent at the Good Literary Agency. “The statistics speak for themselves: this is a much-needed initiative and a fantastic opportunity for writers to receive meaningful mentoring and support as well as insights into the publishing industry.
“We can’t wait to read and work with the amazing writers that this process will undoubtedly reveal.”
Ben Aaronovitch was a screenwriter for Doctor Who and a bookseller at Waterstones. He now writes full time, and every book in his Rivers of London series has been a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller. He is published in 14 languages and has sold more than two million copies around the world. Aaronovitch is also a trustee on the board of Cityread London and is a long-time supporter of Nigeria’s premiere arts and cultural festival, The Aké Festival. He still lives in London, the city he likes to refer to as “the capital of the world”.
Gollancz is the oldest specialist SF and Fantasy publisher in the UK. Founded in 1927 and with a continuous SF publishing programme dating back to 1961, this imprint of the Orion Publishing Group is home to a galaxy of award-winning and bestselling authors. Through our long-running SF Masterworks programme, and major digital initiative the SF Gateway, Gollancz has one of the largest ranges of SF and Fantasy of any publisher in the world. Authors include Brandon Sanderson, Ben Aaronovitch, Ursula K. LeGuin, Aliette de Bodard, Nalini Singh, Emma Newman, Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Dhonielle Clayton, and Joanne Harris.
Award partner National Novel Writing Month is a nonprofit that believes your story matters. They provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds – on and off the page.
The Good Literary Agency is a social enterprise literary agency from the team behind the award-winning book The Good Immigrant. Inspired by a desire to increase opportunities for representation for all writers under-represented in mainstream publishing, the agency is focused on discovering, developing and launching the careers of writers of colour, disability, working class, LGBTQ+ and anyone who feels their story is not being told in the mainstream.
The agency is supported using public funding by Arts Council England as well as through support from publishers and other industry organisations and through money raised via their crowdfunding for The Good Journal, a quarterly literary journal for writers of colour.
Headquartered in Bristol, the agency is committed to working with writers across the UK and has a focus on helping writers develop their craft as well as helping them find the perfect publisher.