Gollancz and author Ben Aaronovitch are launching a writing prize championing under-represented voices in science fiction, fantasy and horror after stats showed less than 1% of the genres' books come from British BAME authors.
Open to submissions of a short writing sample from 1st October, the Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME SFF Award offers prizes including £4,000 for the overall winner alongside a critique and year-long mentoring programme with Gollancz commissioning editor Rachel Winterbottom.
Supported by National Novel Writing Month and the Good Literary Agency, it is a response to analysis of Nielsen Bookscan figures showing, of 4,589 sci-fi and fantasy books published during 2018, only five British writers of BAME background were represented.
Aaronovitch (pictured right), author of the Rivers of London series, said: “There’s a problem with British speculative fiction – it lacks diversity. It is, in fact, whiter than a polar bear in a snowstorm who’s decided to redecorate their cave with Dulux’s brand new white, with a touch of white collection.
"Since it’s inconceivable that there are no potential SF writers of colour looking to get published, we have to assume that something is getting in their way. A great many somethings, in fact, not least the monolithic monocultural nature of publishing itself and the direct effect racism has on constraining people’s freedom of action. This is a great loss for the writers because they’re not getting published, and a greater loss for British SF because it is denied their talents and perspective.
"SF is a hungry beast of a genre that constantly devours new ideas and perspectives to drive the churning engines of our collective imagination. It needs to be fed – we need to feed it. Something has to be done and this competition is my small contribution. Will it solve the problem? No, systemic racism is not going to be defeated by a literary competition, but it will, hopefully, draw a great deal of neglected, undiscovered and tentative talent into the hungry gaze of the devouring SF beast."
The award runs over several months, offering writing advice and insights aimed at demystifying publishing across a long submissions period. A shortlist will be announced in spring 2020, with a winner selected in the summer by a panel of well known SFF authors and industry figures.
Applicants will be able to submit entries to the prize - 5,000 to 10,000 words consisting of either a self-contained short story or the opening of a novel that fits into the scifi, fantasy or horror genres - from 1st October 2019.
The open submissions period will then run into the new year and will cover the entire month of November when National Novel Writing Month launches in full, encouraging writers to create a novel in a month. Submissions will close on midnight, 31st January 2020.
Alongside the top prize, the second place author will get £2,000 and a critique of their work. Five runners-up will receive £800 and a Gollancz goodie bag.
Gollancz publisher Anne Clarke said: “The current lack of representation in science fiction and fantasy is no secret and it has to change. As modern speculative fiction publishers, we at Gollancz have a responsibility not just to say our doors are open, but to actively seek out and support writers whose backgrounds and experience have historically been – and still are – under-represented in our genre. I hope this award will encourage writers who have perhaps not always felt welcome in the world of science fiction and fantasy publishing and I’m looking forward to discovering exciting new writing talent within the submissions."
Picture credit: Lawrie Photography