Major Literary Awards in Science Fiction and Fantasy

June 7, 2019

This article contains a no-nonsense summary of the major awards in science fiction and fantasy. In the past, I’ve been confused about what the main awards are and I’ve got them mixed up so here I explain what they are.

The two most prestigious awards are undoubtedly the Hugos and the Nebulas. The World Fantasy Award is also highly prestigious. 

You may wonder why Goodreads is included. This is the only award on the list that isn’t specifically devoted and confined to the science fiction and fantasy genre. In fact the Goodreads Choice Awards has categories for many genres. The ones we’re interested in are the Science Fiction category and the Fantasy category. I don’t think we can dismiss the Goodreads Choice Awards because it is so well-known and pervasive. And for people who aren’t SFF fans, it is often the only way they learn about SFF titles and may decide to give them a go. As such, it’s a way for SFF authors to garner mainstream readers. A downside of the Goodreads Choice system though is that it heavily weights titles in respect of their Goodreads statistics rather than simply asking what titles people want to win an Award.

So without further ado then, here is the table! 

Name Where What it’s for Who can enter Who judges it 2018 winner
Arthur C Clarke Award. Awarded by the British Science Fiction Association, Science Fiction Foundation, Sci-Fi-London
UK The best science fiction novel published in the United Kingdom in the prior calendar year. An official call for entries is issued to UK publishers every year and members of the judging panel and organisation committee also actively call in titles they would like to see submitted. A title must be actively submitted in order to be considered.  A panel of judges from the British Science Fiction Association, the Science Fiction Foundation, and a third organisation, which as of 2019 is the Sci-Fi-London film festival. Dreams before the start of time by Anne Charnock.
Aurealis Award. Awarded by  Chimaera Publications, the publishers of Aurealis Magazine in association with the Western Australian Science Fiction Foundation (WASFF).
Australia Excellence in speculative fiction. Many categories across science fiction, fantasy and horror. Only Australians are eligible. Any work of speculative fiction written by an Australian citizen or permanent resident and published for the first time in the prior year is eligible to be entered. Titles must actively enter to be considered. Judges are volunteers drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts.  Best fantasy novel: The witch who courted death by Maris Lewis. Best horror novel: Tide of Stone by Kaaron Warren.
British Fantasy Award. Awarded by the British Fantasy Society (BFS).
  Fantasy and horror. No SF. A number of categories, including novels, short stories, artist and graphic novel. Eligibility: Fiction published for the first time in the English language in any part of the world in any format during the relevant year. You don’t have to actively enter. The membership of the BFS vote to determine the shortlists of the awards, and the winners being decided by juries.The Jury comprises individuals directly or indirectly related to the writing, publishing and bookselling fields. Fantasy novel: The Ninth Rain, Jen Williams. Horror novel: The Changeling, Victor LaValle
Goodreads Choice Awards. Awarded by Goodreads.
Global A book may be nominated in no more than one genre category, but can also be nominated in the Debut Author category. Goodreads determines what category a book is in. Books published in the United States in English, including works in translation and other significant rereleases, during the relevant year. You don’t have to actively enter. To start off, Goodreads comes up with 15 books per category that people can vote for. It comes up with them by analysing their site statistics. People can also write-in with their own nominations. Write-in nominees join the process at round 2. The titles are weighted by their Goodreads statistics to determine which ones go through on round 2.  There are three rounds of voting open to all registered Goodreads members. The write-in nominees join at round 2. There are 5 per category. Best science fiction novel: Vengeful
by V.E. Schwab. Best fantasy novel: Circe
by Madeline Miller.
Hugo Award. Awarded by WorldCon.
Global Best science fiction or fantasy works of previous year. There are a LOT of categories, including art, best editor and many many others. Works are eligible for an award if they were published in the prior calendar year, or translated into English in the prior calendar year. You don’t have to actively enter. There are no written rules as to which works qualify as science fiction or fantasy, and the decision of eligibility in that regard is left up to the voters. Hugo Award nominees and winners are chosen by supporting or attending members of the annual World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon, and the presentation evening constitutes its central event.  Best novel: The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin
Locus Awards. Awarded by The Locus Science Fiction Foundation (LSFF), a non-profit organisation which also manages the science fiction and fantasy magazine, Locus.
US To recognize excellence in science fiction and fantasy literature. There are a lot of categories including best publisher and best artist.  I wasn’t able to find any information online that states what works are eligible. It doesn’t appear that you have to actively enter.  The award winners are selected by polling magazine readers and awarded at a banquet at a Locus Writers Weekend anyone can attend. Best SF novel: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi. Best fantasy novel: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin.
Nebula Award. Awarded by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).
US The best science fiction or fantasy works of the previous calendar year published in the United States. 6 categories for fiction and game writing. All works first published in English, in the United States, during the calendar year, in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, or a related fiction genre are eligible. You don’t have to actively enter. There are no written rules as to which works qualify as science fiction or fantasy, and the decision of eligibility in that regard is left up to the voters. The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. Best novel: The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
Philip K Dick Award. Given annually at Norwescon and sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and  the Philip K. Dick Trust.
US The best science fiction paperback novel published in the United States in the previous calendar year. All works of science fiction published originally in the United States as paperbacks during the year are eligible. The nominees are announced in January. Five judges are chosen. Publishers who issue eligible titles during the calendar year are asked to provide copies to each of the judges. Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman.
World Fantasy Awards. Awarded by the World Fantasy Convention.
Global Best fantasy works of the previous year. A small number of categories, including artist. Eligibility requirements are loosely defined: works must have been published in the prior calendar year, and professionals must still be living. All types of fantasy works are accepted. Whether a given work is considered to be fantasy is left up to the discretion of the nominators and judges. Nominees and winners are decided by attendees of the convention and a panel of judges, typically made up of fantasy authors. Best novel: Joint winners: The Changeling by Victor LaValle and Jade City by Fonda Lee.

What are your thoughts? Tell me in the comments below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *