If you like fantasy books, you’ve probably seen stickers or announcements highlighting the fact that a particular book has won a Hugo, a World Fantasy Award or another prestigious fantasy and science fiction prize. If you’re a big fan of the genre, you might even follow these awards more closely and vote in them.
I don’t usually vote (either because I’m not a member of whichever group organises them, or because I haven’t read all the shortlisted works and feel bad voting for one if I can’t fairly compare it to the others), but I do check out winners when I see them announced online. While an award doesn’t always mean I’ll like the book, it’s usually a good sign and it gets me interested, and I’ve loved several books I learned about through book prizes. I’m keen to start doing yearly round-ups of award-winning fantasy novels as a reminder of which books have been recognised.
However, I often find it hard to keep all these fantasy awards and book prizes straight in my head and remember where they happen, who organises and votes for them, and what the categories are… let alone which books won! So I thought before I launch into any round-up posts, I’d put together a list of the popular awards that focus solely on fantasy fiction, or have fantasy literature categories. I’ve chosen 10:
1. The Hugo Awards (The Hugos)
The Hugos are probably the most prestigious and talked-about fantasy and science fiction awards out there. They are named after Hugo Gernsback, founder of the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and award literature, artwork, film, performance and other accomplishments in science fiction and fantasy published in the previous year. While marred by a slate voting controversy in 2015, the awards seems to have recovered since then.
- Started: 1953
- Organiser: World Science Fiction Society
- Where: World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), USA and other countries (location changes each year)
- When: nominations usually start in January, the winners are usually announced in August
- Who votes: members of the current, previous and following year’s Worldcons can nominate. Only members of the current Worldcon can vote (for voting rules see here)
- Fantasy-specific categories: all of the award categories are open for both science fiction and fantasy work. The awards for best novel, novella, novelette, short story and graphic story focus on written works
2. The Nebula Awards
The Nebula Awards recognise works of science fiction and fantasy published in the United States in the previous year. The awards are organised and awarded by the SFWA, a nonprofit association of professional science fiction and fantasy writers.
- Started: 1966
- Organiser: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)
- Where: SFWA Nebula Conference, USA
- When: nominations usually run from November to February, voting is in March, and the awards are presented at the Nebula Awards Banquet in May or June
- Who votes: active members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (associate members are also able to nominate, but not vote)
- Fantasy-specific categories: all categories are for fantasy and science fiction writing and vary by length (best novel, novella, novelette and short story) or form (film script, game writing). The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, technically a separate award, is announced at the same ceremony
3. The British Fantasy Awards (BFAs)
The British Fantasy Awards are probably the most prestigious and longstanding fantasy awards outside of the USA. Despite the “British” in the name, they award fantasy works published in the previous year anywhere in the world in the English language. They recognise literature, artwork, films or TV shows, and other related achievements.
- Started: 1972 (renamed and expanded 1976)
- Organiser: British Fantasy Society (BFS) and British Fantasy Convention (FantasyCon)
- Where: British Fantasy Convention (FantasyCon), UK
- When: recommendations are sought January–March, the shortlist is usually announced in April, and the winners are usually announced in September at FantasyCon
- Who votes: BFS members and attendees of the previous and next Fantasycons vote to determine the shortlists. The winners are decided by juries.
- Fantasy-specific categories: all categories are for fantasy, but best novel awards are divided into horror and fantasy. Most of the categories focus on literary works of varying length and format.
4. The World Fantasy Awards
The World Fantasy Awards recognise fantasy writing and artwork published in the previous year anywhere in the world. All sub-genres of fantasy are eligible (e.g. high, epic, dark, contemporary, literary) and the author of the work must be living.
- Started: 1975
- Organiser: World Fantasy Convention
- Where: World Fantasy Convention, USA or Canada
- When: submissions are gathered in the first half of the year and winners are announced at the convention, usually held in October or November
- Who votes: a panel of judges (which changes every year) nominates and votes
- Fantasy-specific categories: all of the awards are for fantasy, most of the categories are for fantasy writing (best novel, short fiction, long fiction, etc.)
5. The Locus Awards
Organised and presented by prominent American publication Locus Magazine “The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field”, the Locus Awards recognise fantasy, science fiction and horror works published anywhere in the world in the previous year. They also award genre-related achievements.
- Started: 1971
- Organiser: Locus Science Fiction Foundation (the publishers of Locus Magazine)
- Where: Locus Awards Weekend, Seattle, USA
- When: a recommended reading list is released in February, voting happens February-April, and the winners are announced in June
- Who votes: the recommended reading list is put together by Locus editors, reviewers, and other professionals, and the winners are chosen by a survey of readers in an open online poll
- Fantasy-specific categories: the “best novel” awards are split into three categories: fantasy, science fiction and horror. The other categories (e.g. first novel, novella, short story, anthology, young adult book) are open to works in all three genres
6. The Aurealis Awards
The Aurealis Awards are the premier speculative fiction awards in Australia, recognising literary works of fantasy, science fiction and horror written by Australian citizens or residents and published in the previous year. They also award other achievements in the field. The awards were founded by Chimaera Publications, the publishers of Aurealis fantasy and science fiction magazine.
- Started: 1995
- Organiser: Western Australia Science Fiction Foundation (WASFF)
- Where: Australia (the host event/convention can change from year to year)
- When: the shortlist is usually announced early in the year, and the winners are announced in March or April
- Who votes: shortlists and winners are chosen by panels of judges
- Fantasy-specific awards: the various award categories are usually divided into fantasy, science fiction and horror. Some categories, like best collection, children’s fiction, graphic novel and young adult novel, can apply to any of the three.
7. The Gemmell Awards
The David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy were established in memory of fantasy author David Gemmell, and recognise fantasy novels that are in the spirit of Gemmell’s work (i.e. usually in the traditional heroic, epic or high fantasy genres).
- Started: 2006
- Organiser: a team of organisers chaired by Stan Nicholls
- Where: UK (the host event/convention can change from year to year)
- When: announcement dates vary, but usually two rounds of voting happen between January and June, and winners are announced in June or later.
- Who votes: two rounds of voting in an open online poll.
- Fantasy-specific categories: all awards are for fantasy novels. The original ‘Legend’ award recognises best novel, while the ‘Morning Star’ recognises best debut author/novel, and ‘Ravenheart’ best fantasy book cover
8. The Mythopoeic Awards
The Mythopoeic Awards specifically recognising outstanding works of “mythopoeic” fantasy, or writing that is in the spirit of Inklings, which was an informal group of writers who met weekly in Oxford in the 1930s and 40s and included J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. They focus on myth and myth-inspired in fantasy.
- Started: 1971
- Organiser: The Mythopoeic Society (MythSoc)
- Where: Mythcon, USA
- When: dates vary, but the winners are usually in or after July at Mythcon
- Who votes: members of the Mythopoeic Society can nominate works, finalists and winners are selected by a committee of society members
- Fantasy-specific categories: all categories are for fantasy. The ‘adult literature’ and ‘children’s literature’ categories are for fiction, and there are also two categories for works of scholarship that focus on the genre.
9. The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO)
While this is not a traditional award with a ceremony and a trophy, it’s becoming ever-more prominent in the online fantasy world, and the publicity a win brings is a highly sought-after prize. Started by fantasy author Mark Lawrence, and judged by a team of respected fantasy bloggers, it’s a competition that aims to recognise the best self-published fantasy books entered each year. It brings some great work to light, and has helped to change attitudes toward self-published fantasy.
- Started: 2015
- Organiser: Mark Lawrence (he started it with this blog post in 2015)
- Where: online
- When: dates vary (the entries for SPFBO 3 closed on July 1st 2017, finalists were announced in November 2017, and the winner will be announced soon)
- Who votes: 10 fantasy bloggers each choose and review a finalist to put forward from their allocated entries, they then all read and score the finalists to decide the winner
- Fantasy-specific categories: there are 10 finalists and one winner, and all books are fantasy books (self-published ones)
10. The Goodreads Choice Awards
These awards aren’t specifically for fantasy, but they do have fantasy categories, and get a lot of attention due to the importance of the Goodreads in the online book world. This is the only award on this list that recognises books published in the same year as the awards take place – books are eligible if published in the USA since the previous year’s November cut-off.
Their byline is “the only major book awards decided by readers” and by ‘readers’ I imagine they mean by open vote and not by judging panels (as compared to major general book prizes like the Man Booker or the Nobel Prize). While I’m not always a big fan of the way the books get chosen – it sometimes feels more like a who-has-the-biggest-fan-base or what-got-read-the-most contest than a quality contest – it has brought some good books to my attention.
- Started: 2009
- Organiser: Goodreads
- Where: online (but books must be published in the USA to be eligible)
- When: nominations usually start in October, with voting in November and winners announced in December
- Who votes: Goodreads users (staff use statistics such as ratings and reviews to nominate 15 books in each category, a further 5 are nominated by users, then users vote for the finalists and winners in several rounds)
- Fantasy-specific categories: There are categories for ‘fantasy’ and ‘young adult fantasy’. There is also a ‘Goodreads debut author’ category, which could ostensibly go to a fantasy book, and has in the past
The Audie Awards (The Audies)
The Audies are “the premier awards program in the United States recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment.” I will admit, these are not especially fantasy-focussed awards or very well known in the SFF world. But I personally LOVE a well-read audiobook, audiobooks have been on the rise popularity-wise, and fantasy audiobooks get a category in these awards – so I’ve decided to include them as an honourable mention.
- Started: 1996
- Organiser: Audio Publishers Association (APA)
- Where: USA (the awards gala changes location each year)
- When: nominees are announced in February, and winners are usually announced at a gala held in May
- Who votes: publishers submit entries and a panel of “diverse and experienced” judges decides the winners
- Fantasy-specific categories: there is a ‘fantasy’ category as well as a ‘paranormal’ category. General categories like best male narrator and best female narrator would presumably be open to fantasy books too
The Chesley Awards (The Chesleys)
The Chesley Awards (named in honour of astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell) recognise fantasy and science fiction artwork, rather than writing, so I’m including them on this list as an honourable mention. They have an award for best fantasy cover that gets a lot of publicity, so the winning cover art can still get its book a lot of attention, even if the award is not for what’s written inside!
- Started: 1985
- Organiser: Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA)
- Where: any country (depending on the event or convention they’re announced at)
- When: suggestions made earlier in the year e.g. February-April, winners usually announced in July or August
- Who votes: anyone can suggest entries but you must be an ASFA member to nominate and vote
- Fantasy-specific categories: all categories are for fantasy and science fiction artworks
There are undoubtedly some fantasy book awards I have left out of my list (this Wikipedia list of fantasy and science fiction literary awards offers a more complete list), but I wanted to focus on the main ones I know and often see announcements for online.
Do you pay attention to any of these awards, or vote in them? Have I left out an important award? Feel free to mention it in the comments!