Aaronovitch expands SFF prize for writers of colour

Aaronovitch expands SFF prize for writers of colour

A prize for fantasy and science fiction writers of colour founded by Rivers of London author Ben Aaronovitch has been rebranded for its second year and will now work with publishers across the industry.

Previously called the Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME SFF Award, it is now named the Future Worlds Prize. It continues its long-term aim of opening science fiction and fantasy publishing to more people.

The Future Worlds Prize is sponsored by Aaronovitch, with additional financial support from "Bridgerton" actor Adjoa Andoh. It is administered by literature charity Cityread and project-managed by freelance journalist Sarah Shaffi.

One winner will receive a prize of £4,000, the runner-up £2,000 and up to six additional shortlisted authors will each get £800. All shortlisted writers, the runner-up and winner will also receive mentoring from one of the prize’s publishing partners.

The 2020 prize was won by Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson for The Principle of Moments, a space-based adventure story. Jikiemi-Pearson has since secured a publishing deal with Gollancz, and her debut novel will be released in 2022.

Aaronovitch said: “It was really great to have been introduced to so many talented people in the initial award; so many brilliant writers of colour, writing such a dazzling variety of incredible stories. My only regret was that we couldn’t have a great big awards ceremony just so I could meet them in person. We’ll have to do something about that.

“I’m extremely excited that this year we’re expanding our reach by working with more UK publishers, agents, bookshops, librarians and anyone else we think can help spread the word and share their expertise with these upcoming writers. I’d always hoped that the award would widen its scope but the speed with which this has happened has been gratifying.

“Last year’s winner, Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson, has got a well-deserved publishing deal, and we are determined to build on that to ensure that the breadth of talent revealed amongst the runners up will make their own impact on the publishing world.

“There’s still a long way to go before UK publishing is the meritocracy it aspires to be but I’m hoping that Future Worlds Prize can be a small step in the right direction.”

The prize is continuing its partnership with Gollancz but is also working with all Hachette’s SFF imprints including Orbit, and Pan Macmillan’s Tor for the first time, with more publishing partners to be announced.

This year's prize opens for submissions from unpublished writers of colour based in the UK at 9 a.m. today (28th April) and closes at 11.59 p.m. on 25th June.

Andoh said: “As a black actor and award-winning audiobook narrator of sci-fi and speculative fiction, it has been my great joy to see more and more authors of colour follow in the mighty footsteps of Octavia Butler, diving into other worlds to reflect on this world, drawing their readers into adventure, danger and mystery to spectacular effect. 

“With Future Worlds Prize our hope is to further increase the pool of writers of colour choosing to work in this genre, by encouraging those on the journey to first publication to bring their work to us, to apply for this prize, receive expert support and advice and flourish in their chosen field to the great benefit of all of the readership.”

Marcus Gipps, publisher at Gollancz, commented: “As a founding partner in the inaugural prize, Gollancz was thrilled to be part of such an important and vital initiative. We are excited to work with SFF publishers across the market to continue to break down barriers to access and make this the biggest possible prize with the broadest reach. We look forward to many years of collaboration.”

Anna Jackson, publisher at Orbit UK, added: "We’re proud to be the UK publisher of some of SFF’s most popular and award-winning writers of colour, but we’re very aware that there’s still a significant need for progress to be made in terms of representation within the genre. That’s why we’re delighted to be able to support this fantastic award which aims to discover and champion more underrepresented voices within SFF."

For submission details and more on the prize, visit the website.