Awards, kind of: subjective with a hint of chaos

Black and white photo of some pebbles, each painted with text: Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards

I’m delighted to announce that the Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards are back for 2020 – as subjective as ever and even more chaotic.

Kind of Awards?

In December 2017, C of the Middle Shelf enquired about interest in setting up a new set of informal awards, nominated, debated and awards by a group of bookworms. Before she knew it, she had a panel quivering to champion their darlings and dissect their favourites (don’t worry, we put them back together again after). We’re doing this for the joy of discussing the books we love.

This year, we will be celebrating works from 2019 that were either:

  • published for the first time in any format
  • republished after substantial revision (e.g. a novella became a novel)
  • printed for the first time in English; in the UK; and/or by a major publisher having previously had a self-published or independent release

…where the original work was published no earlier than 2009. Eligibility will be checked in and publisher information; any author objections will be taken into account.

We are adopting a new category this year! In 2020, we will be awarding:

  • best fantasy
  • best science fiction
  • best blurred boundaries (cross-genre speculative fiction)
  • best series
  • best novella
  • …and our newcomer, best short story

Why subjective? Our shortlists reflect our reading, and we can’t possibly read everything published each year. We nominate from what we’ve chance and time to read; and we’ve always been honest that we have opinions. As a small group of European bookworms, no doubt we have missed many worthy candidates.


As of last year, we have rules. Well, sort of. As one of our rules is that we can change the rules at any time following a majority vote of the panel after rational arguments or impassioned pleading, let’s call them guidelines.

The rules guidelines codify important topics like eligibility, nomination and voting processes. I’m not going to include them here, because I’d rather talk about our underlying principles. We solemnly swear:

  • we are up to no good
  • to read at least 100 pages or 50% of every novel/novella nominee in a category – or the first 2 books of a series – before we vote
  • to keep our discussions good-humoured (put what you like on your pizza) and quiet (shouting disturbs the bookworms)
  • to listen to the concerns of marginalised voices
  • to have fun (dancing optional)
  • to embrace chaos, not try to contain it

Our process will include 2 rounds of voting: one to winnow our nominees down to our finalists; and a second to choose our winners. The awards will be announced at a venue two or more panellists can attend (previous years were announced at Nine Worlds and Worldcon).

MOAR Chaos

For 2020, we are welcoming some new panellists to our team so that we can cover more books and include more voices in each category. All panellists may nominate in every category, but each of us will choose which categories to read for (and may read in one or both rounds of voting in each category). So, who will be reading with us this year?

I’ll go first: I have been reading for almost as long as I’ve been walking (with fewer obvious bruises). I shares FEELINGS and other opinions about fantasy, scifi and speculative fiction here and on Twitter as @imyril.

My colleagues are:

C fell into scifi and fantasy at 13 and has been hopelessly addicted ever since. The creation of the web provided the means to talk about and share that with actual people, so C can be found nowadays at The Middle Shelf, and on Twitter @ themiddleshelf1.

Kris (@hammard_1987) blogs at Cloaked Creators and in various venues around the internet. They spend far too much time reading genre fiction and insist on telling people about them. They love trying everything, the weirder the better.

Matt aka Womble is a book tempter – ahem, blogger – at Runalongtheshelves and is the sweet voice on your shoulder telling you that it’s ok to get a new book. Can also be found on Twitter as @runalongwomble for additional book tempting.

Sara ( @SharadeeReads) is a blogger at The Fantasy Inn. Moroccan-born, French resident, she’s a fan of kissy and stabby books. Ideally both at the same time.

Jane (@pipsytip) is a book blogger and podcaster at Dumpy Little Unicorn who has found herself living in the depths of South East London. She loves Science Fiction and Fantasy and blurred genres in-between.

KJ is a South African book blogger specialising in all things speculative fiction with a particular love for science fiction. He can be found plodding away at the keyboard trying to make words make sense whenever inspiration, work and power blackouts allows. Occasionally he even posts the reviews. Worlds in Ink celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. He can be found on Twitter at @Crusaderofchaos.

Adri is a semi-aquatic mammal currently living in the UK, where she divides her spare time between reading, interacting with dogs, and making resolutions about doing more baking. She is a co-editor at 3x Hugo nominated fanzine Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together, and can also be found on Twitter at @adrijjy.

What Happens Next?

We are currently marshalling our nominations – look out for an announcement of the nominees at the end of the month!