Namwali Serpell has won science fiction's Arthur C Clarke Award for her novel The Old Drift (Hogarth/Vintage).
She will receive a trophy in the form of a commemorative engraved bookend, and prize money of £2,020.
Announcing this year’s winner, 2019 Clarke Award winner Tade Thompson said: "The Old Drift is, to me, the great African novel of the 21st century. The scale, the characters, the polish and lyricism of the passages all conspire to tell an unforgettable tale.
“At last, a book that acknowledges that the African lives with the fantastic and mundane. At last, an African book of unarguable universality. Namwali Serpell has created something specifically Zambian and generally African at the same time. The Old Drift is everything fiction should be, and everything those of us who write should aspire to. Hats off. Well-deserved win. This is why my faith in the Clarke Award is unshakeable."
Dr Andrew M Butler, chair of the judges, said: “Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift is, as one of our judges put it, 'stealth sf”', with inheritance and infection at its heart. She has created an extraordinary family saga that spans eras from Cecil Rhodes to Rhodes Must Fall, and beyond. It is a timely novel which interrogates colonialism from within and points to the science fictionality of everyday events. Our pandemic-ravaged world reminds us how connected our world has been for the last century or more – and this book points to the global nature of science fiction.”
The judging panel for the award comprised Stewart Hotston and Alasdair Stuart, both representing the British Science Fiction Association, Farah Mendlesohn and Chris Pak from the Science Fiction Foundation and Rhian Drinkwater from the Sci-Fi London film festival.
The award, originally established with a grant from the author, is presented for the best science fiction novel of the year, and selected from a list of novels whose UK first edition was published in the previous calendar year.