2020 World Fantasy Award Finalists Announced - Comic Years
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2020 World Fantasy Award Finalists Announced

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BY April 14, 2021

The 2020 World Fantasy Award finalists were announced this week, encompassing a staggering number of great works published in the last year. Like so many live events of 2020, the World Fantasy Awards have also gone virtual. The event was originally scheduled to take place during the last weekend of October 2020 in Salt Lake City. However, organizers made the decision early on to move the event online. The awards have run annually since 1975 and focus specifically on fantasy novels. Let’s take a look at 2020 finalists for the World Fantasy Awards.

2020 World Fantasy Finalists For Best Novel

Queen of the Conquered, by Kacen Callender (Orbit)

The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow (Redhook Books/Orbit UK)

The Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)

Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com)

The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa (trans.Stephen Snyder) (Pantheon/Harvill Secker)

Ten Thousand Doors of January Image via Orbit Books

A surprising lineup in the best novel category sees several debut novels nominated. Kacen Callender got their start publishing YA fiction, but the bold and ambitious Queen of the Conquered is their first adult fantasy novel. Alix E. Harrow, whose stunning debut The Ten Thousand Doors of January has also been nominated for several other awards this year. Ann Leckie is a popular sci-fi author who has won many awards for her work in recent years. The Raven Tower is her first fantasy novel. Of course the favorite to take home this award is Tamsyn Muir for her wildly popular novel Gideon the Ninth, which has already won this year’s Locus Award for Best First Novel.

The only book I was unfamiliar with in this list was The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa. Interestingly this book is listed as a science fiction novel in several places, so it is curious as to how it ended up on the shortlist for the fantasy awards. The Memory Police was also originally published in 1994, and was only released as an English translation last year. It is surprising to see this novel receive a nomination over other successful fantasy novels from last year such as The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, or The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. We are sure that The Memory Police is a great book and worthy of recognition, but this is still an odd choice in a year dominated by so much excellent fantasy.

2020 World Fantasy Finalists For Best Novella

“The Butcher’s Table,” by Nathan Ballingrud (Wounds: Six Stories From the Border of Hell)

Desdemona and the Deep, by C.S.E. Cooney (Tor)

In an Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire (Tor)

The Deep, by Rivers Solomon with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes (Saga
Press/Hodder & Stoughton UK)

Silver in the Wood, by Emily Tesh (Tor)

The Deep by Rivers Solomon Image via Simon & Schuster

Another stacked category, the Best Novella finalists include Seanan McGuire whose Middlegame just won the Locus Award for Best Novel. She has some stiff competition in Rivers Solomon and Emily Tesh whose novellas have been widely acclaimed.

2020 World Fantasy Finalists For Short Fiction

“For He Can Creep,” by Siobhan Carroll (Tor)

“Read After Burning,” by Maria Dahvana Headley, (A People’s Future of the United States)

“The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye,” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny Magazine)

“Blood is Another Word For Hunger,” by Rivers Solomon (Tor)

“Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun,” by Jerome Stueart (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)

“Everyone Knows That They’re Dead. Do You?,” by Genevieve Valentine (The Outcast Hours)

2020 World Fantasy Finalists For Best Anthology

Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories, edited by Ellen Datlow (Saga Press)

The Outcast Hours, edited by Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin (Solaris)

The Mythic Dream, edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe (Saga Press)

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl (Solaris)

The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Vintage Books)

New Suns Anthology Image via Solaris

It should be noted that editor Ellen Datlow has won more World Fantasy (and Locus) Awards in history. She also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Awards in 2014. She is a force that cannot be stopped. However Nisi Shawl is also a strong contender for this year’s award and probably the one who should win.

2020 World Fantasy Finalists For Best Collection

Homesick: Stories, by Nino Cipri (Dzanc Books)

Song For the Unraveling of the World: Stories, by Brian Evenson (Coffee House Press)

Unforeseen, by Molly Gloss (Saga Press)

A Lush and Seething Hell: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror, by John Hornor Jacobs (Harper Voyager)

Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea: Stories by Sarah Pinsker (Small Beer Press)

2020 World Fantasy Finalists For Best Artist

Tommy Arnold

Galen Dara

Julie Dillon

Wendy Froud

Kathleen Jennings

Wendy Froud Image via FaerieWorlds

I can’t help but root for fantasy artist Wendy Froud for this one. I’ve been a long-time fan of the Frouds (Wendy is married to fellow artist Brian Froud). They are the artists behind so many cult fantasy classics like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. Fun fact: Wendy Froud designed the original Yoda puppet for The Empire Strikes Back. And she never gets enough credit for it.

2020 World Fantasy Finalists For The Special Award: Professional

C. C. Finlay, for F&SF editing

Leslie Klinger, for The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft: Beyond Arkham (Liveright)

Ellen Oh, for We Need Diverse Books

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, for The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games (New York University Press)

Sheree Renée Thomas, for contributions to the genre

2020 World Fantasy Finalists For The Special Award: Non-Professional

Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Laura E. Goodin and Esko Suoranta, for Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science
Fiction and Fantasy Research

Michael Kelly, for Undertow Publications and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction

Jonathan Strahan & Gary K. Wolfe, for the Coode Street Podcast

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, for Uncanny Magazine

Terri Windling, for Myth & Moor

Uncanny Magazine Image via Uncanny Magazine

2020 Lifetime Achievement Awards

Rowena Morrill

A long-time fantasy artist who has created the iconic cover art for so many of our favorite fantasy novels. Morrill has been working as an artist in the fantasy genre since the 1970’s.

Karen Joy Fowler

A science-fiction and fantasy author who has been writing since the 1980’s. Fowler’s work often involves themes of isolation in women’s lives, particularly in the 19th century. She has previously won the World Fantasy Award in 1998 and 2010 for her collections Black Glass and What I Didn’t See, and Other Stories respectively.

What do you think of the 2020 World Fantasy Awards finalists? Are there any novels that didn’t make the list that you think should have been nominated? Join the conversation with Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter today to share your thoughts.


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Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.

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