by Kris Vyas-Myall
This year our SCKA awards had a larger number of women and non-binary people and as such I wanted to give my thoughts on the categories:
I am not as big a fan of the Wayfarers series as some, so unfortunately To Be Taught, If Fortunate did not grab me as much as it has other people. The concepts were certainly interesting, but neither the style nor character work were to my tastes.
Silver in the Wood has a lot going for it that I liked, with folk horror, the sense of melancholy and the queer elements. I did wish it had more of an emotional punch but still a strong contender.
My choice of We Are Made of Diamond Stuff was a curveball but I really enjoyed a story that revels in being this stylistically interesting whilst also exploring the near-future through metaphor.
This is the third iteration of The Deep and as such Solomon keeps the myth evolving. They produce a story with a beautifully musical rhythm and major world-building to tell us about how our past still impacts us today. A show of real skill being able to show this in novella length.
But there is a reason why This Is How You Lose The Time War was the most acclaimed work of science fiction last year. An epistolary novel that unfolds beautifully and brimming with ideas, themes and metaphors that I see new things every time I go through it. An instant classic.
Additional Nominees: Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Incompleteness Theories by Wole Talabi
Black Matter is a fun urban fantasy idea. I didn’t feel like it was doing anything particular new but a very enjoyable piece. Also from Pseudopod we have another intriguing piece.
I enjoy monologues that tell a story in themselves ever since we started exploring the concept in primary school. As such In Regards to Your Concerns About Your Scare BnB Experience was one I really liked. It wasn’t as deep as some of the other stories but still great.
I felt Even When The World Has Told Us We Have Ended had a lot of interesting ideas in it they were not all as fully developed as I would have liked. One which definitely shows a lot of promise and I will keep my eyes out for more work by Hellisen.
Doll Seed is a germ of a story that I feel like could do with being grown. I like the imagery but felt like it should have been longer and have more to it.
This Book Will Find You is a fascinating collaboration to open the great collection, The Outcast Hours. The story does interesting things with the concept and has a wonderful atmosphere.
Do Not Look Back My Lion is the only piece of the SCKA shortlist and also on the hugo shortlist, and it is easy to see why. It is a great piece of epic fantasy, really well made. Alix E. Harrow is definitely proving to already be one of the great talents of the fantasy genre.
The Blanched Bones, The Tyrant Wind is almost flash fiction but Karen Osborne manages to do a very interesting take on standard fantasy tropes in such a short space of time. I really liked it a lot.
But my personal favourite of these has to be The Ocean That Fades Into Sky. Since I first read it I was entranced. Amazing imagery, great ideas and wonderfully weird
Additional Nominees: In This Moment, We Are Happy by Chen Quifan, The Migration Suite: A Study in C Sharp Minor by Maurice Broaddus
The Winternight Trilogy is a great atmospheric work. It really manages to capture the feel of the Russian winter as well as the magic of the folktales of the region. It is also very well-written marking Aden out as a great writer. I didn’t feel it had as much to say as many other recent stories we have set in a fantastic version of Eastern Europe or Russia, but purely as a work of enjoyment, it is wonderful
The Empires of Dust series is one I admired more than liked myself. To be honest I am not a big fan of this kind of grimdark story and so, whilst I had a lot of appreciation for Anna Smith Spark’s craft, subjectively it was not one I enjoyed reading.
One of the more interesting choices this year is Laurie J. Marks’ Elemental Logic series. This definitely has very traditional fantasy routes but was also willing to open up to new areas with modern vernacular, new concepts and some great character work.
In our first repeat nominee, The Winnowing Flame returns after The Ninth Rain won our inaugural SCKA. What was present in our reason for choosing the first volume as a great novel continues throughout the trilogy, with memorable characters and Williams’ lightness of touch but that makes these a fast paced but also fascinating read.
Finally, The Swords and Fire trilogy is one of the most complex nominees. On one level it is a fun fantasy romp about two people finding themselves whilst caught up in diplomacy and intrigue of a great empire, it is a story about enslavement and autonomy within a colonial power. Whilst it is not quite as successful as I might have hoped it is one of great ambition and thoroughly enjoyable.
Additional Nominees: Rosewater by Tade Thompson, Luna Series by Ian McDonald, Children of Time Duology by Adrian Tchaikovsky,
But which will go through to the final round? Watch this space to find out.