Thursday, December 31, 1981

1981 World Fantasy Award Nominees

Location: World Fantasy Convention, Berkley, California.

Comments: In 1981, although no one knew it at the time, the World Fantasy Awards became an example of the limitations of genre when the judging panel bestowed the Best Novel award on Gene Wolfe's Shadow of the Torturer.  This is not to say that Wolfe's novel was not deserving of recognition, as it is a magnificent piece of speculative fiction, but it isn't fantasy fiction. In fairness, this fact wasn't readily apparent in 1981, with only the first book in the Book of the New Sun series having been published by that point, but as the succeeding volumes were released, it became clear that despite having some of the superficial trappings of fantasy, Severian's story was actually a science fiction story, and not a fantasy story.

But this is illustrative of a larger issue in genre fiction, which is that the borders between different genres such as science fiction and fantasy are blurry and indistinct. There are some books, such as Stephen Baxter's Ring, that are clearly science fiction, and could never be mistaken as an example of any other genre, and others, such as J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, that are unmistakable as anything other than fantasy. But there are vast numbers of works that exist in a nether region between the two genres, and many others that live in the shadowy space between science fiction and horror or fantasy and horror. Trying to set clear guidelines around the various speculative fiction genres is a fool's errand, and someone who claims to love science fiction but turns their nose up at fantasy is doing themselves a disservice. Genre is fluid, and should be treated as such.

Best Novel

The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

Other Nominees:
Ariosto by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Firelord by Parke Godwin
The Mist by Stephen King
Shadowland by Peter Straub

Best Short Fiction

The Ugly Chickens by Howard Waldrop

Other Nominees:
Cabin 33 by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Children of the Kingdom by T.E.D. Klein
Unicorn Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas

Best Anthology or Collection

Dark Forces edited by Kirby McCauley

Other Nominees:
Dragons of Light edited by Orson Scott Card
Mummy! A Chrestomathy of Crypt-ology edited by Bill Pronzini
New Terrors 1 edited by Ramsey Campbell
Shadows 3 edited by Charles L. Grant
Shatterday by Harlan Ellison

Lifetime Achievement

C.L. Moore

Other Nominees:
Joseph Payne Brennan
Avram Davidson
L. Sprague de Camp
Andre Norton
Jack Vance

Best Artist

Michael Whelan

Other Nominees:
Alicia Austin
Thomas Canty
Don Maitz
Rowena Morrill
Gahan Wilson

Special Award, Professional

Donald A. Wollheim

Other Nominees:
Terry Carr
Lester del Rey
Edward L. Ferman
David G. Hartwell
Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller

Special Award, Non-Professional

Pat Cadigan and Arnie Fenner

Other Nominees:
Charles de Lint and Charles R. Saunders
W. Paul Ganley
Stephen Jones and David Sutton

Special Convention Award

Gahan Wilson

Other Nominees:

Go to previous year's nominees: 1980
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 1982

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