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April/May, 2006 : Feature:

Awards We'd Like to See

We begin with a truism.

There are only two awards in speculative fiction that people outside the genre have ever heard of—the Hugo and the Nebula. A lot of people inside the field can't explain exactly how either award works, but we all know they're there. If you work in the field, chances are very good you're familiar with the World Fantasy Awards, the Locus Awards, the Campbell Award, the other Campbell Award, the Sturgeon, the Sidewise, the Tiptree...

You get the drift.

The purpose of this column is not to provide exhaustive analysis of the history of our field's major and minor awards. (For those interested, see here, here and here, as well as many other fine and highly detailed resources.) Nor are we going to complain about the flaws in the existing awards. No, we prefer to elucidate awards we'd like to see. Recognitions and honors that emphasize the finest aspects of our field.

Note: Out of consideration for the authors we know or might chance to meet in the future (as well as concerns for our personal safety), we will forgo offering opinions on what stories might be honored in each category.

The Brass Monkey Award for Stylistic Excess

Said to be given out next year at MonkeyCon, no one has ever produced evidence of this award, so we must presume it does not exist. The Brass Monkey would go to the author whose story did the most to advance stylistic excess in the field. Special attention will be given to those stories which cause the judges to consult the Oxford English Dictionary or the American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

The Tortured Syntax Award For Most Striking Architectural Accomplishment in Construction of Extremely Lengthy and Divergent Sentences—Complete With Asides and Discursions of Various Natures—to Have Been Published in Our Field in a Recognized Professional Market While Developing a Complex Interwoven Weltanschauung Amid the Thickets of the Parts of Speech the Point of Which Was Long Since Herein Lost

Also known as the Tortured Syn awards, this honor would go to the author who successfully perpetrated the most egregious jawbreaker of a sentence. Possible categories include one-sentence stories, one-sentence stories in excess of 1,000 words, and translations from the German.

The Purity In Science Fiction Award

The Purity would be extended to the author who most effectively defended the proudest retrograde traditions of the field of science fiction, effectively eschewing gender issues, race, social science of any kind, or indeed, comprehensibility, in defense of the Silver Age fortress which is our genre's heart tree. Aristocratic social forms in a galactic empire setting prefered.

The Precious Unique Snowflake Award

The Precious would be the companion award to the Purity, handed out to the author whose work presents the greatest success at achieving racial and gender inclusivity, combined with an obvious effort to firewall any source of offense from readers. It is anticipated that these two awards would be given together in a self-abnegating ceremony, the fissile energies released thereby being used to supply the power needs of the host city for up to a year.

The Really, Really Big, Manly Rocket Award

Intended to honor space opera and adventure fiction in general, the Manly would be given to the author whose story included the best example of long, stiff rockets thrusting through the soft void of space, or possibly penetrating hyperspace. Bonus consideration for having substantial spherical fuel tanks at the base, or a bell-shaped conn at the head of the rocket.

The Glam Vamp Award

This award would honor the best use of the vampire motif in a glamorous or romantic context. Special attention would be given to those works featuring Mary Sue elements, or elucidating the dangerous charms of pale-skinned, hollow-chested men with black lips and leather wardrobes and/or their female equivalents. The Glam Vamp ceremony should of course feature a prominent costume contest, as well as an annual prize for the best romantically consumptive disease which does not impair sexual attractiveness.

Deus Ex Machina

Typically given to novelists, this award would honor fresh applications of one of our most persistently successful plot devices. Because this is a genre award, the god in question should emerge from something which could literally be interpreted as a machine. For example, a team of ninja SFWA Grand Masters debarking from a BMW Isetta during the denouement of the book.

The Big Fat Fantasy Award

This award is meant to honor series fantasies of no less than six hundred pages per book, three book minimum. To qualify for the BFFA, the books should follow the standard fantasy quest plot, as summarized by the Net.Generic.Adventure.Maker. Frequent consultation of Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey is advised as well for those writers who aspire to this award. It is not necessary to consult Joseph Campbell's original treatment of the archetype of the quest hero, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, as it does not contain specific writing instructions.

It is the quantity which would count for this award, not the quality.

The Facilitating Supervillain Award

Honoring supervillains who make the job of heroism easier, this award would be given for the antogonist who most obviously allowed the hero or heroine to win in the climactic scene of the story. Methods of facilitation may include the impulse to explain his or her motivations to the protagonist at length; refraining from using an evil technology which would ensure the villain's success; or simply tying the hero up instead of killing him while the chance presents itself.

The Garret Award

Given only to writers who are dead, or at least whose careers are dead, the Garret Award honors the traditional suffering and bad business deals which plague writers everywhere. This award is intended to commemorate the absolute lack of success available to speculative fiction writers. It is generally handed out in the bars of hotels near conventions. In order to be on the awards committee, a prospective member must have had at least two cars repossessed.

The Prodigy Award

This award honors writers who sold on first submission, or self-published on their blogs before receiving a six-figure book contract. In order to be considered, the writer must also have made public statements wondering why everyone else finds this business so difficult when it so obviously is not. Rather than the typical commemorative statue or plaque, this award consists of a bullet-proof vest and a year's contract with a bodyguard service.

Of necessity, this awards list is incomplete. The authors urge others to develop their own award descriptions and promulgate those awards in the hope that someday, every writer everywhere might meet suitable recognition. We propose April 1st as World Awards Day in commemoration of this effort.

Works Referenced

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1949.

Flynn, George. "Hugo Voting: Letís Look at the Record (Again)."

Kube-McDowell, Michael P. "A Slightly Irreverent Look at SFFWA's 31-Year Love-Hate Relationship With The Nebula Award."


Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 1989.

Vogler, Christopher. The Writer's Journey. Mythic Structure for Storytellers and Screenwriters. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Michael Wiese Productions, 1992.

Watkins, Calvert. American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, 2nd ed. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

Whyte, Nicholas. "Ages of the Hugo and Nebula Winners,"

Copyright © 2006, Ruth Nestvold and Joseph E. Lake, Jr.. All Rights Reserved.

About Ruth Nestvold

Ruth Nestvold has published in Asimov's and Realms of Fantasy, and was a recent finalist for both the Tiptree and Sturgeon awards. She holds a PhD in literature with specializations in genre issues, gender issues and hyperfiction. After getting out of academia, she switched to translation and software localization to feed the writing bug. She maintains a web site at

About Jay Lake

Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon, where he works on numerous writing and editing projects. His 2008 novels are Escapement from Tor Books and Madness of Flowers from Night Shade Books, while his short fiction appears regularly in literary and genre markets worldwide. Jay is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and a multiple nominee for the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. Jay can be reached through his blog at or his Web site at


Apr 24, 17:02 by IROSF
Thread for the discussion of Jay and Ruth's column, or awards you'd like to see...

The article is here.
Apr 24, 18:05 by Louise Marley
Perfect! Jay and Ruth have provided our publishers with all sorts of new material to put on book covers . . . and at least as meaningful as what we have now. Great laugh, guys. I want to be on one of these juries.
Apr 25, 11:10 by Sean Melican
You forgot the Illiterate Artist Award, given to artists for magazine or book covers in which the artwork shows a scene or image which explicitly contradicts the manuscript.

Also, the A'p'o's't'r'o'p'h'e A'w'a'r'd given to the writer who most pointlessly overuses apostrophes in made up words to give an alien flavor to an otherwise bland story.
May 10, 13:26 by Matt Kirby
I'd like to see the "Qrhwx Award" for the SF/F name that most successfully stops the reader dead in their tracks as they try to figure out how to pronounce it.
May 10, 14:44 by Scott Sandridge
And let's not forget the "As you Know, Bob" Award.
May 11, 10:53 by Lois Tilton
A gilt toy dumptruck?

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