For those of you who are unfamiliar with this element of ReaderCon, it is one of my favorites. It is often one of the important ingredients in building my to-read list for the rest of the year. If you missed out on it and are curious, I brought extra copies of the programs from this year's award back to the shop for all of you -- just ask for one at the counter!
But in real-world terms, the Shirley Jackson award recognizes "outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic." Nominees are gathered from published work of the prior year, and assessed by a panel of jurors, assisted by both a Board of Advisors and a Board of Directors.
This event occurs at the tail-end of ReaderCon each year, and gathers in one room a very exciting and formidable conclave of extraordinary writers, editors, and creators. The award was created in honor of the legacy of Shirley Jackson's writing, and with the permission and support of the author's estate, for which we are all grateful, and for which fine gesture our hearts burst with gladness every year.
It was with great regret that two authors were mentioned In Memoriam: Kit Reed, whose work received two nominations over the years and who gave the opening address at the awards not long ago, and Jack Ketchum, who was an early advisor to the jury.
Among her remarks was the observation that she had learned from Shirley Jackson to "make the familiar strange." She had some interesting thoughts to relate on how that ties into the field of science fiction, and how it can be used to break up the taboo authors encounter in the SF field against that most familiar part of life -- domesticity.
An additional seasoning of levity was contributed by John Langan's continual return to the podium, as he cheerfully accepted awards on behalf of authors who were unable to attend the ceremony in person. We were assured that he was not any of those people, but by the end of the affair, one wonders if perhaps Mr. Langan has been sweeping the awards by applying vast numbers of pseudonyms to his works in varying styles...? Naaaaahhh...! Couldn't be, right? He did reassure us.
|Nisi Shawl & Justin Steele|
The winner in the Single Author Collection category was Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado.
|Nisi Shawl & Michael Kelly|
Here just a tiny bit of his acceptance speech, which made me want to yell, "Hear hear!" afterwards:
"This is a truly humbling moment. [...] I'm heartened by your belief in me and the books. And thank you to all the readers, reviewers, artists, and others who have supported the press. Finally, it's safe to say that many of us wouldn't be here today without the influence of Shirley Jackson. So, here's to Shirley Jackson. May her memory be eternal." Hear hear!!!
The Novella category was no picnic for the jury either, because a rare tie occurred! The award was given to both Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, and to The Lost Daughter Collective by Lindsey Drager.
The Novelette category was awarded to Chavisa Woods for "Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street," part of her collection titled Things to Do When You're Goth in the Country.
The prize for best Novel was awarded to The Hole by Hye-young Pyun, another battle that must have caused some deliberations, considering the other heavy-hitters on that list of finalists.
All in all it was a terrific affair, and big thanks to everyone involved, including award administrator JoAnn Cox, who ties all the loose ends together and without whom the ceremony wouldn't even happen.
CONGRATULATIONS to all those who were nominated and those who won, it is wonderful to see all your hard work honored in this way. I look forward to next year's awards with (if possible) even more enthusiasm!
This year's nominees (plus those from prior years, and all sorts of other info about the award) can be found on their website here: