Quite frankly, 2013 was a bit of a piss-take for the science-fiction genre, with both the BSFA and Arthur C Clarke shortlists being men-only pools of self-congratulation. It prompted a rallying for a definitive effort to acknowledge women writers of sci-fi and quash the constantly reinforced masculine perception of the genre.
It appears that more than a few people have responded positively to this outcry, as BSFA’s 2014 shortlist sees both Kameron Hurley and Ann Leckie make the cut. Admittedly, two out of five does not herald a revolution, as corroborated by Hurley: “Let’s be real. We’re two out of five on the best novel shortlist, which isn’t even parity… So I’m not going to hop up and down like ‘rah-rah no more sexism!’ But it’s better than we’ve seen in a while.”
the greater milestone lies with the Association's short fiction list, which is entirely womenIn fact, the greater milestone lies with the Association’s short fiction list, which is entirely women. It certainly feels like a progressive move for an award that has bestowed just four women with the title in its 35 year history. Nina Allan, Sofia Samatar, E.J. Swift and Tori Truslow mark a tangible subversion of the science-fiction standard, which has proved itself one of the most resistant to gender and racial equality.
Personally, we think there’s some serious ground to cover both in terms of recognising the massive amount of women sci-fi writers and the authors’ diversity, but progress is progress. Especially, when one of the novel contenders’ (Hurley’s) protagonist is a womb-selling bounty hunter.
Chair of the BSFA, Donna Scott said, “This year’s shortlist for best novel… allows us to focus on a few names from outside the usual roll call of white middle-aged men whose names continue to dominate the field”. It remains to be seen if the focus has re-aligned for good and whether these “few” acknowledgements grow to reflect the long-existing community of women in the genre.
The full shortlist for the BSFA’s best novel prize:
God’s War by Kameron Hurley
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Evening’s Empires by Paul McAuley
Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell
The Adjacent by Christopher Priest
The shortlist for the BSFA’s short fiction prize:
Spin by Nina Allan
Selkie Stories are for Losers by Sofia Samatar
Saga’s Children by E. J. Swift
Boat in Shadows, Crossing by Tori Truslow
Who do you think will take the top spots?