The Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards 2021

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

Welcome to 2021: more subjective and more chaotic (yes I mean later) than ever – but we’re still giving out some kind of awards! Our shortlists are as enticing as ever, and we have a new category added to our roster this year: along with Short Stories (returning from last year) we’ll be picking a Best Debut in addition to the usual genre, series and novellas categories.

Subjective Chaos

The Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards were the brainchild of C of The Middle Shelf: a celebration of the best works in genre during the previous calendar year – selected, debated and voted on by a panel of book lovers. Panellists may rotate each year and rules may be revised on a regular basis (they’re more like guidelines anyway), but our commitment to chaos and to finding our consensual favourites through good-natured discussion and animated gifs never wavers.

As ever, our guiding principles for our fourth year are to have fun, to be respectful, to read every novel/novella nominee in a category (at least in part), and to embrace chaos. So without further ado, let’s take a look at our nominees for the best in class of 2020. Drumroll please…

Best Fantasy

  • The Once and Future Witches – Alix E Harrow
  • The Midnight Bargain – CL Polk
  • Comet Weather – Liz Williams
  • The Wolf of Oren-Yaro – KS Villoso
  • Black Sun – Rebecca Roanhorse
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea – TJ Klune

Best SF

  • Deal With The Devil – Kit Rocha
  • Nophek Gloss – Essa Hansen
  • The Vanished Birds – Simon Jimenez
  • Goldilocks – Laura Lam
  • Repo Virtual – Corey S White
  • The Space Between Worlds – Micaiah Johnson

Best Blurred Boundaries

  • Harrow the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir
  • The City We Became – NK Jemisin
  • The Bone Shard Daughter – Andrea Stewart
  • Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Interior Chinatown – Charles Yu

Best Debut

  • A Song of Wraiths and Ruin – Roseanne A Brown
  • Legendborn – Tracey Deonn
  • The Scapegracers – Hannah Abigail Clarke
  • Cemetery Boys – Aiden Thomas
  • Year of the Witching – Alexis Henderson
  • Raybearer – Jordan Ifueko

Best Novella

  • Upright Women Wanted – Sarah Gailey
  • The Four Profound Weaves – RB Lemberg
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune – Nghi Vo
  • Riot Baby – Tochi Onyebuchi
  • Sweet Harmony – Claire North
  • Ring Shout – P Djèlí Clark

Best Series

  • Dominion of the FallenAliette de Bodard
  • Islands of Blood and Storm – Kacen Callender
  • Sweet Black Waves – Kristina Pérez
  • The Poppy War – RF Kuang
  • Daevabad – SA Chakraborty
  • Witches of Lychford – Paul Cornell

Short fiction

  • Tiger Lawyer Gets It Right – Sarah Gailey (from Escape Pod: the Science Fiction Anthology)
  • Convergence in Chorus Architecture – Dare Segun Falowo (from Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction From Africa and the African Diaspora)
  • In Kind – Kayla Whaley (from Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite)
  • Volumes – Laura Duerr (Cast of Wonders 435)
  • You Perfect, Broken Thing – CL Clark (Uncanny Magazine)
  • Yellow and the Perception of Reality – Maureen McHugh (
  • Juice Like Wounds – Seanan McGuire (

The Panel

In spite of my protestations to the contrary, I’m delighted to confirm that I’m participating in the Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards again this year. For all I was trying to be a reader without a plan this year, I love this process too much not to take part in the end. So, who else has signed up to be a proponent of merry chaos this year?

Adri (@adrijjy) is a semi-aquatic mammal who divides her spare time between reading, interacting with dogs, and resolving to do more baking. She is a co-editor at Hugo-nominated fanzine Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together.

Arina (@voyagerarina) is a curious reader long fascinated by speculative fiction, and an advocate for indie, self-published, and inclusive lit. She blogs at The Bookwyrm’s Guide to the Galaxy and at Queen’s Asylum, as well as contributing to The Nerd Daily and The Lesbrary.

Fabienne (@flschwizer) is an aspiring editor and a girl who reads too much for her own good, who reviews at Libri Draconis and Grimdark Magazine.

Jonny (@SFFjonbob) reviews SFF at Parsecs & Parchment, and can be found shouting about books, spewing left wing propaganda and posting general nonsense on Twitter.

Kris (@hammard_1987) blogs at Cloaked Creators and other venues including Geek Syndicate and Galactic Journey. They spend far too much time reading genre fiction and insist on telling people about them. They love trying everything, the weirder the better.

L.A. (@mistyaquavenatus) is an avid reader and a writer of many WIPs, who blogs at Aquavenatus and contributes to Fantasy Faction.

Lisa (@deargeekplace) is a dragon in a human suit who enthuses about books at Dear Geek Place. Co-host of Wyrd and Wonder and SciFiMonth.

Matt aka Womble (@runalongwomble) is a book tempter – ahem, blogger – at Runalongtheshelves. The sweet voice on your shoulder telling you that it’s ok to get a new book.

Noria (@noriathereader) discusses books on BookTube at Chronicles of Noria and is the founder and host of The Fuckathon (which I dearly hope comes back this July!)

Sean (@DowieSean) is Assistant Editor at Augur Magazine. He writes about SFF at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together and occasionally FIYAH.

Sun (@suncani1) is a genre fan who can be found getting overly excited about a bunch of things on Twitter and occasionally pausing to pass longer comment on Dreamwidth.

…and I’m Anna, blogger here at There’s Always Room For One More and spreadsheet dragon for Wyrd and Wonder, SciFiMonth and Subjective Chaos (even chaos benefits from a little organisation, shh).

What happens next?

The reading begins! All of us have read some of the nominees, and all of us have more reading to do. As usual, different panellists will read and vote on different categories in this first round: I’ve only committed to reading Series and Novellas initially, although I’m sorely tempted to jump into SF, Blurred or Short Stories as well – I’ll see how the rest of my spring reading goes…

Watch out for an announcement of our finalists in July.

We will then commence a second round of voting – in which I plan to try and read everything I haven’t already read – to find our winners, who will be announced at an as-yet unconfirmed date and location (chaos, remember? But also, who knows what 2021 will bring..).