Thoughts on the 2021 Ignyte Awards

The finalists for the second ever Ignyte Awards were announced a few days ago. Last year I reviewed the short stories and novelettes that were up for the award, and I intend to do the same this time around, but for now here’s a quick look over the entire ballot…

Best Novel — Adult

  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Vagabonds, Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu (Saga)
  • The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones (Saga)
  • Midnight Bargain, C.L. Polk (Erewhon)
  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Well, the only one I’ve read is The City We Became, although I’m also planning to read and review Black Sun as part of my Hugo coverage. The Only Good Indians and Midnight Bargain are already on my to-read list from various horror awards and the Nebulas respectively, but the Hao Jingfang book is new on me.

Best Novel — YA

  • Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (Margaret K. McElderry)
  • Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko (Amulet)
  • Elatsoe, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)
  • A Song Below Water, Bethany Morrow (Tor Teen)
  • A Sky Beyond the Storm, Sabaa Tahir (Razorbill)

Best in MG

  • Maya and the Rising Dark, Rena Barron (HMH)
  • Frightville: Curse of the Wish Eater, Mike Ford (Scholastic)
  • Ghost Squad, Claribel A. Ortega (Scholastic)
  • Race to the Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Disney)
  • A Wish in the Dark, Christina Soontornvat (Candlewick)

I don’t pay close attention to contemporary YA/children’s literature, so most of these are unfamiliar to me. I recognise Legendborn, Raybearer and Elatsoe from this year’s Lodestar line-up.

Best Novella

  • Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)
  • Stone and Steel, Eboni Dunbar (Neon Hemlock)
  • The Four Profound Weaves, R.B. Lemberg (Tachyon)
  • Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom)
  • Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tordotcom)

Ring Shout and Riot Baby are among the award juggernauts of the year, the two also being Hugo and Nebula finalists. Empress of Salt and Fortune is also up for a Hugo, while The Four Profound Weaves is a Nebula contender. Eboni Dunbar is a new name to me; she appears to be a newcomer to the field with three Goodreads credits, so it’s good to see the Ignytes recognising fresh talent.

Best Novelette

Only one overlap with the Hugos (the Aliette de Bodard story) and none at all with the Nebulas. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into these.

Best Short Story

One Nebula contender (“My Country is a Ghost”) and, again, four stories that are new to me.

Best in Speculative Poetry

Now we get to the pushing-the-boat-out categories that help to distinguish the Ignytes from established awards. A poetry category is a welcome novelty, although as we can see, it’s dominated by two outlets.

Critics Award

I’ll admit, I’ve got some catching up to do: I don’t follow any of these people. Incidentally, I notice that the line-up includes one vlogger and four bloggers.

Best Fiction Podcast

  • PodCastle, Jen R. Albert, Cherae Clark, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, Setsu Uzume & Peter Adrian Behravesh
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Scott H. Andrews, ed.
  • Escape Pod, Mur Lafferty, S.B. Divya, Benjamin C. Kinney, Tina Connolly, Alasdair Stuart, Summer Brooks, Adam Pracht & the entire Escape Pod team
  • Nightlight Podcast, Tonia Ransom
  • The Magnus Archives, Jonathan Sims, Alexander J Newall, Lowri Ann Davies & Rusty Quill

I’m not a massive podcast consumer, but all of these are series I’ve either listened to or recognise by reputation. Incidentally, this appears to be only the second time the well-regarded Magnus Archives has been honoured at a dedicated SF/F award, the other being a runner-up spot at This is Horror.

Best Artist

A talented bunch and no mistake…

Best Comics Team

  • Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Abrams)
  • Cuisine Chinoise: Five Tales of Food and Life, Zao Dao, Diana Schutz & Brandon Kandor (Dark Horse)
  • Far Sector, N.K. Jemisin & Jamal Campbell (DC)
  • Giga, Alex Paknadel & John Lê (Vault)
  • You Brought Me the Ocean, Alex Sanchez & Jul Maroh (DC)

Far Sector is on my monthly pull-list and I’ve bagged (but not yet read) Parable of the Sower. I still need to catch up on the other three…

Best Anthology/Collected Works

  • A Phoenix First Must Burn, Patrice Caldwell, ed. (Viking)
  • Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with a Fresh Bite, Zoraida Cordova & Natalie C. Parker, eds. (Imprint)
  • Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World that Wouldn’t Die, dave ring, ed. (Neon Hemlock)
  • Nine Bar Blues, Sheree Renée Thomas (Third Man)
  • Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction, Joshua Whitehead, ed. (Arsenal Pulp)

Haven’t read any of these, but they certainly sound intriguing. Pity my swelling to-read list.

Best in Creative Nonfiction

In the past I’ve suggested that the Hugos could introduce a category for non-fiction articles; if they did, it’d probably look something like this. The line-up includes literary analysis (Tamara Jerée explores race and sexuality in vampire fiction), research (Suyi Davies Okungbowa documents the history of African superhero comics), autobiography (Nibedita Sen discusses her experiences as an immigrant in relation to gatekeeping in the publishing world) and boundary-crossing work (Tochi Onyebuchi‘s two articles each talk about police brutality and racism, along with the ways in which SF/F has reflected, distorted or ignored such atrocities).

The Ember Award

This award recognises “unsung contributions to genre” and I’ll admit, I’m scratching my head at how Clarion West fits that bill. I thought it was already widely known that many prominent SF/F authors are Clarion West alumni. Plus, considering the amount of privilege it requires to join the workshop (which costs $4200, charges upwards of $35 to apply and is open only to people in a position to step away from their day jobs for six weeks) I can’t help but feel there’s something a tad ivory tower about its inclusion here.

The Community Award

Finally, we come to an award that honours “outstanding efforts in service of inclusion and equitable practice in genre” and has an interestingly varied line-up. We have a magazine, a hashtag campaign exposing racism in the publishing industry, two individuals (one nominated for their work as an agent, the other as a developmental editor) and a series of online workshops.

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