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Black Static

New Horror Fiction BLACK STATIC ISSUE 70 OUT NOW!

Pete's Picks Part One

4th Sep, 2009

Author: Peter Tennant

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Well, all the votes are in and presumably have been counted. Somebody somewhere will almost certainly know who has won in each category of the British Fantasy Awards, even if the rest of us have to wait until FantasyCon or after to find out.

Having featured the Awards throughout July, with a series of interviews with all the nominees who were willing, I thought it was about time to cast my own jaundiced eye over the field and pick some winners, and so...

Best Anthology

I've only read three of the six contenders, and of those three I'd say that any one would be a worthy winner. We Fade to Grey is perhaps the least innovative of the three, providing solid, reliable entertainment from authors with proven track records. Cone Zero and Subtle Edens were more into risk taking, casting a wider net both as regards contributors and scope of the content. Stories by Bob Lock and Stephen Bacon in Cone Zero were among the very best I read last year, but overall I think the fiction in Subtle Edens had a slight edge for consistency, and so Allen Ashley's volume would get my vote.

Best Novel (The August Derleth Fantasy Award)

Again, I've only read three of the six contenders. I'd be pleased as punch to see Gary McMahon win, but good as it is Rain Dogs is still very much a first novel and not quite as polished or assured as the other two that I've read. Ramsey Campbell's Thieving Fear is the more ambitious work, even though aspects of it grated on me slightly, but The Victoria Vanishes by Christopher Fowler was a pure pleasure to read, and so that's the one I'd vote for. However, while I haven't read it and can't express an opinion as to quality, I have a sneaking suspicion that Neil Gaiman will follow up his Hugo success with another trophy for The Graveyard Book.

As an aside, none of these titles made my own Top 20 list of the year, and I much preferred The Perils & Dangers of This Night by Stephen Gregory, Coffin County by Gary A. Braunbeck and The Fallen by Tim Lebbon. The latter, to my surprise, didn't even make the BFA long list.

The PS Publishing Best Small Press Award

Huge kudos to Peter Crowther of PS Publishing for withdrawing from this category and stumping up £200 as prize money, and the absence of PS leaves the field wide open for the others.

Of course, this blog is hosted by TTA Press and I contribute in one way or another to most of the publisher's magazines, which leaves me in an invidious position. To say TTA should win invites the response, 'well you would say that', while if I pick somebody else then it becomes particularly damning ('even your own contributors don't think TTA is the best').

Nonetheless TTA is the one that should win it. With two bi-monthly magazines, each considered among the very finest in their particular genre, plus Crimewave and the occasional book, not to mention dedicated review site The Fix, TTA has a much higher level of activity than any of the other contenders, and in terms of quality I'd say only Elastic Press is on an equal footing (albeit Newcon is an unknown to me).

Of course, I would say that.

Best Collection

I've not read the Samuels or the King, and of the other three, while Bull Running for Girls by Allyson Bird and How to Make Monsters by Gary McMahon are both very fine collections and would be worthy winners, I have to plump for Islington Crocodiles by Paul Meloy. Good as the others are, with his lush prose and sleazily appropriate imagery, and the unifying vision behind these stories, Meloy is simply the more distinctive and original writer.

In parenthesis, Crocodiles was one of only three collections to make my personal Top 20 for 2008. The other two were Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti, which was a reprint and therefore not eligible, and Shadows and Other Tales by Tony Richards, which would have got my vote had it been in contention, but the book appeared late in the year and from an American publisher, so probably didn't get as much attention as it deserved in the UK.

Best Novella

This is the only category in which I had read all the contenders and so was in a position to make an informed choice, or at least that was the situation until they moved Stephen King's N from the short story to the novella category.

Of the others, the Clark, Hill and McMahon are all very good, with nary a wrong or ill chosen word, but on an emotional level I find that the Bestwick and Lebbon resonate more with me. The Narrows has a grim, bleak, apocalyptic vision at back of it, and an almost unbearably claustrophobic atmosphere, but The Reach of Children is one of Tim Lebbon's finest works, a tale of loss and remembrance that touched me in a more personal way, so that would be the one I'd vote for.

Again, being a contrary sod, I'd have to say that I read some equally fine novellas in 2008 that didn't get a look in here, as for example the superb The Enigma of Departure by Nicholas Royle, which made the long list but not the transition to short, and knocks everything here into one of those cocked hat things.

To be continued.

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