The Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards: 2022 finalists

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

Our fifth annual Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards have been simmering away over the summer as our panellists have read and agonised their way through the excellent shortlists. It’s time to turn up the heat as we reveal our finalists in each category!

The Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards are an annual celebration of science fiction, fantasy, and stories that blur the boundaries between genres. Each year, a rotating panel of book lovers nominates, reads, debates and votes to award the very best across a number of award categories. Our guiding principles are to have fun, to be respectful, and to embrace chaos.

Chaotic or not, Awards benefit from a bit of process – ours involves three rounds of voting: nominations to identify a shortlist; a first round to find our finalists; and a final round to confirm our winners. Panellists don’t have to nominate in every category, but in the first round they do have to read (at least part of) all the books in the categories they nominated in; in the final round, panellists can adopt additional categories to read all the finalists and vote for our winners. It makes for an unpredictable outcome, as different people get involved at different stages with different opinions!

The first round of reading is now complete, so with no further ado – who has made it through to become a 2022 Subjective Chaos Kind of Finalist?

Best Fantasy

The shortlist for Fantasy this year was long and packed with very different examples of the genre. Voting was as chaotic as you’d expect from our panellists – the sapphic rebellions of The Unbroken by CL Clark and She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan face stiff competition from Zoraida Córdova’s fabulist family epic The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina in the final round.

Best SF

Whilst our SF shortlist featured thrillers, comedies, dystopia and romance, it’s the two big space operas that have won through. Will Adrian Tchaikovsky’s excellent series starter Shards of Earth stop Arkady Martine from becoming the first author to win the SF award two years running with A Desolation Called Peace?

Best Blurred Boundaries

Blurred Boundaries can be the hardest category to define, but this year the chaos has coalesced around almost Gothic themes. The Faustian pact of Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars goes up against TL Huchu’s Edinburgh ghost-talking fantasy The Library Of The Dead.

Best Debut

Our debut shortlist spanned enough genres to make your head whirl, so it’s no surprise that our finalists are two books as different as Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao’s feminist-mecha reimagining of China’s only ruling Empress – and This Is Our Undoing, Lorraine Wilson’s haunting dystopian thriller of family feuds and angry ghosts.

Best Young Adult

One of our shortest shortlists, all the YA nominees garnered praise, but there was no doubting which two dominated the field. Namina Forna’s The Gilded Ones and Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season are our 2022 finalists.

Best Series

The Series category often feels like an impossible choice. While there was clear consensus on which two series we loved most, the only way to choose between a nine-volume epic space opera (The Expanse by James S A Corey) and a tightly-crafted fantasy trilogy of politics, witchcraft and the heart (The Kingston Cycle by CL Polk) is subjectively. Probably. Or possibly chaotically. Huh, guess we’ve got this.

Best Novella

In a chaotic first, we have two titles by the same author going head to head as finalists as all four of my favourite novellas from 2021 go through (…so now I get to agonise all over again. HOW CAN I PICK ONLY ONE? HOW).

Our finalists are:

Best Graphic Novel

The Graphic Novel finalists feature lives on the cusp of change – from two very different perspectives. Molly Ostertag’s The Girl From The Sea focuses on adolescence and first love where Hiromi Goto’s Shadow Life gives us a retiree on the run from from her family and Death itself.

Short fiction

While all four of our nominees were glorious in different ways (undead poet society! academic fantasy field research!), our finalists share a poignant beauty that suggests our jurors are here to have their heart gently ripped apart. Homecoming Is Just Another Word For The Sublimation Of Self by Isabel J Kim (Clarkesworld) reflects on the way moving to another country divides our souls no matter how much we love and embrace our new home; and The Amazing Exploding Women Of The Twentieth Century by AC Wise (Apex) focuses on the transformative power of grief, rage and desire in a world that tries to squish us into controlled boxes.

What happens next?

All going to plan, we hope to announce our winners at FantasyCon this September. But – as the name suggests – we are creatures of chaos; so watch this space for further updates. At this point, two of our panellists are bowing out – a huge thanks to Sia of Every Book A Doorway and Arina of Queen’s Book Asylum for their contributions through the first two rounds; I really appreciated their nominations and getting to discuss the shortlisted titles with them.