Actor Adjoa Andoh and author Dhonielle Clayton are among the five judges who will be picking winners of the Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME SFF Award.
Completing the panel will be Daphne Tonge, founder of the Illumicrate subscription box and marketer for inclusive children’s publisher Knights Of; Gollancz’s commissioning editor Rachel Winterbottom, also the author of Would Like to Meet (Trapeze); and Abi Fellows, literary agent at The Good Agency.
The prize was launched by Gollancz and author Ben Aaronovitch last year to champion under-represented voices in science fiction, fantasy and horror and offers prizes including £4,000 for the overall winner alongside a critique and year-long mentoring programme with Winterbottom.
According to Gollancz, Nielsen’s results for science fiction and fantasy published in 2019 show BAME authors still make up less than 3% of British authors published in sci-fi and fantasy, at nine authors, up from five authors the year before. Women meanwhile only represent 21% of the British SFF authors.
Clayton called the lack of inclusion of BAME authors "an act of systemic censorship", after Aaronovitch, who helped fund the prize, branded British SFF "whiter than a polar bear in a snowstorm".
"The lack of inclusion of BAME authors in the world of SFF is an act of systemic censorship purporting the lie that authors from these underrepresented communities don't spin tales of other worlds and far off futures or imagine alternate histories and portals to other places or have searing critiques of the psychological horrors plaguing modern society," said Clayton. "The need for representation in this genre is paramount to its survival and continued ability to be the most thriving and innovative, imaginative landscape in publishing. The Gollancz BAME SFF Award will support writers of colour in sci-fi, fantasy and horror, and bring much needed attention to the lack of access those writers have to genre fiction."
Winterbottom said: "It’s so important that we not only acknowledge the lack of representation but do something tangible to combat it. 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. 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. The future of SFF needs every story–especially yours."
Submissions for the inaugural award closed on the 31st January. The shortlisted authors will be announced on the 30th April 2020 and winners and runners up, picked by the five newly announced judges, are to be announced in July 2020.