Tuesday 8 May 2012

A few comments on the shortlist of the British Fantasy Awards 2012

The British Fantasy Award shortlist for 2012 has been announced. It's the product of BFS/FantasyCon members making up to three recommendations in each category (two sets of three in best novel), the top four in each category going through, and the juries then adding up to two "egregious omissions". Here are the nominees and a few of my thoughts. I have to admit I didn't recommend much this year, not having read much contemporary fiction in 2011.

Note that I'm just using that picture to the right because this lot are nominees, not us: we missed out this year!


Two awards will be made out of this one category, one for horror and one for fantasy. As many people have commented on Twitter, it’s an odd set-up, but that’s what most BFS members voted for. The explanation given before the vote was this, and I think the way the new BFS awards admin who inherited the new rules has handled it makes sense. Although the voting was divided into fantasy and horror, all those votes were counted together at the end. So four of these were the books that got the most votes, regardless of genre. Half the novel votes being ringfenced that way for fantasy does seem to have led to a more varied shortlist. The judges added two titles to this category – the books by George R.R. Martin and Jo Walton, I'd guess. I didn't read many novels from 2011 during 2011, but I went for Revenants by Daniel Mills. Though it didn't get in here, I hope it might still have a shot at best newcomer.

  • The Heroes, Joe Abercrombie
  • 11.22.63, Stephen King
  • Cyber Circus, Kim Lakin-Smith
  • A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin
  • The Ritual, Adam Nevill
  • Among Others, Jo Walton


Four nominations from one book! The jury added two titles to this category. I'd guess at Elizabeth Hand and Lavie Tidhar, but I could be completely wrong. I'm reading Gorel now, and it's very good, but haven't read any of the others.

  • Terra Damnata, James Cooper
  • Ghosts with Teeth, Peter Crowther (from A Book of Horrors)
  • Alice Through the Plastic Sheet, Robert Shearman (from A Book of Horrors)
  • Near Zennor, Elizabeth Hand (from A Book of Horrors)
  • The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer, John Ajvide Lindqvist (from A Book of Horrors)
  • Gorel and the Pot Bellied God, Lavie Tidhar


Another two nominations for A Book of Horrors; launching at FantasyCon always stands you in good stead for the BFAs. The jury added one title to this shortlist, but I couldn't guess which. I was expecting at least one story, maybe more, from last year's winner in this category, so I was pleasantly surprised by that. (And, okay, a little disappointed, because I don't like being wrong.)

  • Dermot, Simon Bestwick (from Black Static)
  • King Death, Paul Finch 
  • Sad, Dark Thing, Michael Marshall Smith (from A Book of Horrors)
  • Florrie, Adam Nevill (House of Fear)
  • The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter, Angela Slatter (from A Book of Horrors)


I have to admit, Ranjna and I recommended The Weird – a very, very lengthy book – at least partly out of devilry. But glad to see it’s on there. I haven't read the others.

  • A Book of Horrors, ed. Stephen Jones
  • House of Fear, ed. Jonathan Oliver
  • The Weird, eds Jeff and Ann Vandermeer
  • Gutshot, ed. Conrad Williams


I thought Zombies in New York and Other Bloody Jottings was a definite for this category, so that shows how little I know! I'm disappointed that Cat Valente's Ventriloquism didn't make the list, but I hadn't heard any other BFS members talking about it, so it was a bit of a long shot.

  • Rumours of the Marvellous, Peter Atkins
  • Mrs Midnight, Reggie Oliver
  • Everyone’s Just So So Special, Robert Shearman
  • A Glass of Shadow, Liz Williams


This category has five titles listed because there was a tie on number of votes and first place choices. I'm utterly amazed that no Doctor Who episodes made the shortlist: I thought "The Doctor's Wife", especially, a dead cert, given that Neil Gaiman wrote it and how much he is loved by BFS members. In fact I thought we’d have an all- or near-all Who shortlist. There were fourteen episodes of Who on last year, so maybe the vote got split. We’ll have a better idea when the BFS releases its complete list of everything that was recommended. I’m delighted to see Midnight in Paris on there (which was my pick), and Attack the Block too. I haven’t seen the others yet. Kill List doesn’t look like a fantasy film; but I'm afraid to ask about it in case finding out about the fantasy element turns out to be a spoiler!

  • Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen
  • Attack the Block by Joe Cornish
  • The Awakening by Stephen Volk and Nick Murphy
  • Melancholia by Lars Von Trier
  • Kill List by Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump


That last one is cruel - T, H, E - wait, what, where’s the A-K-E-R?!! Obviously I'm biased here towards the two magazines I've written for (albeit not during 2011), Interzone and Black Static, and hope that one of them wins. I have to admit I know Jeani Rector best from her battles with Dave Byron, but the zine looks to have some decent contributors. I used to love SFX – I bought the first issue the day finals began, and have the first hundred or so in binders. I stopped subscribing after they stopped putting any text on the subscriber covers. Sounds like a little thing, but it made them look so boring. Plus, I could never resist ripping open the spoiler section. In a member vote this would have gone to Black Static, no doubt, but a jury could go any way.


This category has five titles listed because there was a tie on number of votes and first place choices. The Walking Dead was my vote here, but I was kicking myself for not recommending Clint, which had a great year, and Kirby Genesis, which I just love. I've enjoyed what I've read of Locke and Key and the new Animal Man.

  • Animal Man, Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman
  • Batwoman, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
  • Locke and Key, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  • The Unwritten, Mike Carey and Peter Gross
  • The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard


It still seems completely inappropriate to me that the BFS decided to let the sponsors of this category pick the entire jury, but I have to admit they've picked good people. No disrespect to the other contenders, who have all produced interesting stuff, but it’s hard to see anyone but Chômu winning this award, given the quality and quantity of their books.


Nothing to say about this one – all super artists.


This category has five titles listed because there was a tie on number of votes and  first place choices. Generally a very quiet category for recommendations; last year I think the longlist was shorter than the shortlist, though I might be misremembering! Good job no one went for the SF Encyclopedia – I was kicking myself the day after voting for not recommending it – or the jury would have had an awful lot to read. It’s funny how I’m more surprised by the things that I didn’t vote for that didn’t get in, than I am by the things I did vote for that didn’t get in. This looks like a very readable shortlist to me.

  • Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares: A biography of Herbert Van Thal, Johnny Mains
  • Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero, Grant Morrison
  • Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen since the 1960s, Kim Newman
  • Studies in Terror: Landmarks of Horror Cinema, Jonathan Rigby
  • Case Notes, Peter Tennant (from Black Static)

More general thoughts....

Well, it’s a typically BFS shortlist! The focus hasn't broadened that much from previous years - most nominations have still gone to writers and/or publishers who are FantasyCon regulars, to horror, and to men. I don't think those things will change without taking BFS members out of the equation, and we wouldn't want to do that. But it does look like the juries might have been using their powers to balance those things out, which is brilliant.

The absence of much of the small pressier stuff – which led one writer to declare "Order is restored"! – is probably down to there only being four nominees from the membership, instead of five. All those nominations for stories from one book, that was launched at FantasyCon by three BFS stalwarts, look just as cliquey as anything that happened last year. The difference being, I'd imagine, that this book is much better.

Looking at the numbers, the shortlist was produced by 952 recommendations from BFS members across 14 categories (fantasy and horror were listed separately on the recs form), with each person able to give I think up to 38 recs (three in twelve categories, one in each of the two special awards). So 952 recommendations is the equivalent of about 25 people using all their recs in each category.

It's odd to compare that with 2010, where we had 999 votes across twelve categories in the final round, or 2011, where 1248 votes were cast – and in both those cases people could only cast one vote per category, not three.

Membership has apparently soared since then. More members, allowed to cast three times the votes, but actually casting fewer in total – why would that be?

The difference can be explained, I think, by there being a big difference between proffering a recommendation, and voting for something off a list. Most people wouldn’t generally think to recommend something they hadn’t read, but asked to choose from a checklist they’ll draw on whatever knowledge they have about the books to make the best decision they can.

Anyway.... good to know that it comes down now to people actually reading the books. I was always really disappointed in previous years to see BFS members saying they had cast their votes the second the shortlist was announced. If I get time I'd love to work my way through some of the nominees as usual, even if this year it won't make any difference to the results.

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