What This Project Is
Our Most Award Winning Science Fiction & Fantasy Books series is going to document the most award-winning Science Fiction and Fantasy books of the last 47 years (starting in 1970 and working up year by year until we hit 2017). If we manage to stick to our goal of one a week we will hit present day sometime in early 2018. At the end of each decade, we will look back on the previous 10 years as a whole and see which books reigned supreme. Obviously, a book winning awards doesn’t mean it is better than others. In fact, unless your name was Ursula K Le Guin, “Award Winning” in the 1970’s pretty much only meant books written by men.
Overlooked and underappreciated books of each year or decade could, and probably will, be good lists to do on their own in the future, but for these, we are just going to look at which books were nominated and won the most awards. Which brings us to the awards themselves.
About The Awards Sources
We wanted a pool of several awards to gather our info from, but not too many that this became an impossible task. As a result, we ended up choosing 20 different Awards (see the bottom of this post for complete list) that have been given out at one point or another over the last 46 years.
A quick rundown about the award sources:
- The awards are heavily weighted toward the last 15 years, so these lists are going to get longer and longer as we go.
- They include much more Science Fiction than they do Fantasy.
- They include International awards. This is one reason why we decided to do one big look back at the end of each decade. International books take some time to win awards in countries they weren’t written in. That means a book written in America this year could win an award in Japan four years from now, and vice-versa (rarely, but it has happened).
- Some lists have only a single book listed as their winner where others have a pool of finalists along with a winner. Whenever the data was easily accessible, we included the pool of finalists.
- Very American and British award heavy.
- They include multiple awards by the same body (3 from Locus for example).
- There are awards (2) for best first book. These are rarely ranked very high on the lists and were included because they are still technically “Best Sci-fi / Fantasy” book awards, and we figured they gave a better snapshot of books that came out during a certain year.
- When an award is given out it isn’t necessarily the same year a book was released. For 2015 we looked at the Nebula Awards for 2015. Those might all be 2014 releases which throws everything off. Again, this is why we group everything together in our look back at the end of each decade.
- We probably missed “big awards” that could have been included. Just in the last year alone, dozens of book awards have been created. We tried to keep it to awards that have been going (or went) on for a few consecutive years. We also avoided awards that were too localized. British Awards = Alright. Homedale Idaho Awards = Not Alright.
Why We Used The Dates We Did
“Why start at 1970 when the Hugos have been giving out awards since 1954?” You might ask before continuing “Olaf Stapleton probably won some awards, and don’t forget about HG Wells. There has to be more awards from earlier in the century!”
Well my dear fictional friend, if we went back any further than 1970 it was hard to find a single year where more than one bigger award was given out. There were a few years previous when both Nebula and Hugo awards were given out, but that is literally all a 60’s lists would be, just recaps of those two awards. The first few years in the 70’s aren’t much better, but they at least have three different awards for each.
How The Rankings Work
If all of these caveats weren’t enough, there is also the actual ranking of the books. For our normal lists we don’t look at a books rank on a list, only it’s inclusion, deeming that to be worthy enough. We changed that a bit for these lists, although not by much. Each inclusion in a finals pool for an award is worth 5 points. If a book wins the award that is another 5 points. That way a book that is nominated and wins a single award is equal to another book that is nominated for two different awards but wins none. There are no second place points or anything like that. We kept it simple while still trying to allow a book that was nominated a bunch, but never won, to rank high.
Why 5 points instead of 1, 10, 100, or literally any other number?
Because we felt like it. Also, it’s easier to add together.
Why Do This At All?
Long story short, this all started because we were curious about award-winning books from previous decades and couldn’t find a good source that grouped them all together (Goodreads and a few other places have some lists, but nothing comprehensive…yet). After a few google searches a (somewhat) simple excel sheet was started in an attempt to see a snapshot of what those previous years award winners looked like. Eventually, more awards were added and then, well, we decided to just do this.
So, if parts of this process seem haphazardly planned out, it’s because they were. This wasn’t started as a project, it was started out as a curiosity. It is almost guaranteed that as soon as we post this, someone will show us the exact comprehensive list we were looking for, which would actually be amazing. More SFF articles the merrier!
The Awards Used
Arthur C. Clark Award– Best Novel First Published In the United Kingdom in Previous Year
Years Active: 1987-Present
BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) – Best Novel
Years Active: 1969 – Present
The Ditmar (Australian) Award – Best International Long Fiction
Years Active: 1969 – 1989 (Not awarded 1974, 1987, & 1988)
(The Ditmar Awards still exist, but they no longer have International Awards)
Hugo Award – Best Novel
Years Active: 1953-Present (Not awarded 1954 & 1957)
James Tiptree Jr. Award – Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Exploring Gender
Years Active: 1991 – Present
John W. Campbell Memorial Award – Best Science Fiction Novel
Jupiter Award – Best Novel
Years Active: 1974 – 1978
Kitschies – Red Tentacle (Best Novel)
Kurd-Lobwitz-Preis (German) – Foreign Fiction
Years Active: 1981 – Present
Locus Award – Best Science Fiction Novel
Years Active: 1971 – Present (1971-1977 & 79 Were awarded for “Best Novel”)
Locus Award – Best Fantasy Novel
Years Active: 1978-Present (-1979)
Locus Award – Best First Novel
Years Active: 1981 – Present
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award – Adult Literature
Nebula Award – Best Novel
(Stories of 40,000 words or more)
Years Active: 1966-Present
Philip K. Dick Award
Years Active: 1982 – Present
Primio Ignotus (Spanish) – Best Foreign Novel
Years Active: 1991 – 2015
Prometheus Award – Best Novel
Years Active: 1979 – Present
SF Chronicle Award – Best Novel
Years Active: 1982 – 1998
Seiun (Japanese) Award – Best Translated Novel
Years Active: 1970 – Present
Shirley Jackson Award – Best Novel
Years Active: 2007 – Present
The World Fantasy Award – Best Novel
Years Active: 1975 – Present