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Horror and Speculative Fiction Awards

Shadows Awards 2012 trophyWriters are funny creatures. We all aim high, yet often miss. We all get back up and keep trying, without letting failure get in the way. Rejection after rejection, we keep sending our word-babies out there for everyone to judge. There is a saying that “If you aim for the stars, you’re more likely to at least hit the moon”. This seems, to me, to be true. Successful writers are the ones who don’t give up. “Success is when persistence meets preparation,” said Sherrilyn Kenyon. A part of not giving up is the occasional validation by readers and/or publishers, through either fan mail and positive reviews, and acceptance of tales for publication. Another part is peer recognition. Awards usually represent this part of the cycle.

Awards can be one of the benchmarks many writers use to ascertain whether they have reached success or not. We have all been conditioned by society to acknowledge achievement in others through award systems. From the Grammys to the Oscars, our society judges and applauds others’ work with trophies and renown. Writers and publishers have their own awards. From the Booker Prize to the Stoker Awards, from the Australian Shadows Awards to the Chronos Awards, for many writers these ‘peer-pats-on-the-back’ are as much a part of literary life as rejections from publishers.

Recently, the Australian Horror Writers Association (AHWA) announced the winners of the Australian Shadows Awards. These awards “… are the annual literary awards presented by the AHWA and judged on the overall effect – the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance – of horror fiction written or edited by an Australian”. The awards have been run by the AHWA since 2005. The Shadows are awarded to the stories and collections that best typify the horror genre, delivering a sense of ‘creeping dread’, leaving the reader with chills, and reluctant to turn out the light. Past winners of the Shadows include a who’s who of Australian Horror Writers: Lee Battersby, Terry Dowling, Paul Haines, Brett McBean, Kirstyn McDermott, Bob Franklin, Kaaron Warren, Will Elliott, Deborah Biancotti, Amanda Spedding.

Since 2011, the award has had five categories: Novel; Long Fiction (novellas and novelettes); Short Fiction (short stories); Collection (single author collections); and Edited Publication (anthologies and magazine issues).

The AHWA have just announced the winners for 2012 publications, and once more the winners are both renowned and deserving.

Here are the winners:

Novel: Perfections – Kirstyn McDermott

Long Fiction: ‘Sky’ – Kaaron Warren

Short Fiction: ‘Birthday Suit’ – Martin Livings

Edited publication: Surviving the End – Ed. Craig Bezant

Collection: Through Splintered Walls – Kaaron Warren

I know all of these writers – and the editor – personally. All work long and hard to perfect their craft, and are, in my opinion, fully deserving of the accolades bestowed upon them by the Australian Shadows Awards. Many of these works are also nominated for other awards. They are deserving of those, as well.

Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron WarrenKaaron Warren is a noteworthy writer, having won two Shadows Awards this year, and with a respectable list of prior wins. Through Splintered Walls won the Canberra Critics’ Award for Fiction 2012. Kaaron has also won three Ditmars and an Aurealis, as well as numerous non-genre awards.

There are other awards running now, both nationally in Australia and internationally. The Bram Stoker Awards, the Aurealis Awards, the Chronos Awards, and the Ditmar Awards, to name a few. These ones are genre-specific, and these are the ones that I, as the president of the Australian Horror Writers Association, tend to focus on.

Here is a list of a few of the most awarded Australian speculative fiction writers:

  • Cat Sparks – eleven Ditmar Awards (2002 Best New Talent up to a 2011 tie for Best Short Story) and four Aurealis Award wins(from the 2004 Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for Excellence to 2009 Best YA Short Story, and the 2007 Golden Aurealis).

  • Rob Hood – five awards, including an Australian Golden Dagger for crime fiction in 1988 to a Ditmar in 2006 for Best Collection.

  • Terry Dowling – eleven Ditmar Awards (from multiple wins –1983/85/86/87/88/90 – for Best Australian Short Science Fiction to various Long Fiction and Collection Awards), the 1991 Prix Wolkenstein (Germany) and four Aurealis Awards (including the Aurealis Convenor’s Award for Excellence, 1999), as well as many other award wins, too numerous to go into here. Terry has also won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Collection in 2007, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award twice and the Bram Stoker Award once.

Cat and Terry seem to be having an informal competition here in regard to having the most wins in the awards, and as you can see, they are now neck-and-neck.

We have many other award winners amongst the Australian spec-fic writing community, not the least of whom is Rocky Wood, current president of the Horror Writers Association (US) and winner of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction for Stephen King: A Literary Companion (McFarland 2011).

With the current award shortlists and finalist lists either under consideration or just announced, the Australian speculative fiction community is holding its breath to see who will come out on top this year. By looking at the list of Australian Shadows Awards winners, it is possible to see who is also most likely to win the other awards. Kaaron Warren’s collection Through Splintered Walls, is nominated across a number of awards. Having read it, I would be surprised if it didn’t take out more of the awards to come in the next few months.

Australians seem to get very little distribution overseas, although that is changing with the new distribution paradigm. I feel that Aussies will take more and more international awards by storm, as we have some of the greatest speculative fiction writers around. Let’s see how well that pans out, shall we?

GEOFF BROWN

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