2011 Crawford Award

Straight from the Locus Online newsroom:

Karen Lord has been named the winner of the 2011 William L. Crawford Award for her first novel Redemption in Indigo (Small Beer Press). The award, presented annually at The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, is for a new fantasy writer whose first book appeared in the previous year. This year’s conference will be held March 16-20, 2010 in Orlando FL.

The award committee shortlisted Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City (Angry Robot), N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Orbit), and Anna Kendall’s Crossing Over (Gollancz/Viking Juvenile), and wanted to commend two other authors: Robert Jackson Bennett for Mr. Shivers (Orbit) and Amelia Beamer for The Loving Dead (Night Shade), which was viewed by some nominators as centrally a science fiction work. Science fiction is excluded under the terms established by the award’s founding sponsor, Andre Norton.

Those participating, in varying degrees, in this year’s nomination and selection process included Niall Harrison, Cheryl Morgan, Graham Sleight, Paul Witcover, John Clute, Jonathan Strahan, Liza Trombi, Farah Mendlesohn, Ellen Klages, and Kelly Link (who, as publisher of Small Beer Press, recused herself from final voting).

Jeff VanderMeer reviewed Lord’s book in the New York Times:

Lord’s first novel is a clever, exuberant mix of Caribbean and Senegalese influences that balances riotously funny set pieces (many involving talking insects) with serious drama initiated by meddlesome supernatural beings. The catalyst? Ansige, a glutton of historic proportions, travels to the hometown of his estranged wife, Paama, to persuade her to return to him. Complications ensue because of Ansige’s urge to eat anything he encounters on his journey. Lord, however, also weaves into these scenes the story of Ansige’s relationship with Paama, showing his charm as well as his stupidity. Ansige’s visit sets off an intricate series of events: Paama’s village is infiltrated by spirit-spies, Paama comes into possession of the magical Chaos Stick and a mysterious stranger readies the perfect love poem to woo her. Paama, in all her complexity and contradictions, becomes the real center of the story and a truly memorable character. What had seemed to be a novel about a husband’s attempt to save his marriage escalates in ways both absurd and deadly serious. Throughout, Lord manages to compress her story while balancing the cosmic and the personal — all with a verve that would be the envy of many veteran novelists.

Have you read it? Added it to your to-read list? I haven’t picked it up yet, but I’m hoping to get to it this year. The only book on the short list I managed to read last year was N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and I have to admit that I figured that it had the debut-fantasy-novel category locked up. I’d also heard good buzz about Zoo City. It’s interesting to see a book from a small press with relatively little publicity come out and win this early-season award.

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