The Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards 2023

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

After a mammoth fifth birthday extravaganza last year, this year’s Subjective Chaos Awards are back – a little older, a little wiser, and a little more focused. Once again, a chaotic panel of readers and reviewers have read, wrangled and agonised our way into an entirely subjective selection of the best works of speculative fiction published in the previous calendar year. Let’s take a look at this year’s nominees…

If this is the first you’ve heard of The Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards, they 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 eventually votes to award the very best (in our opinion) across a number of categories. Our guiding principles are to have fun, to be respectful, to champion voices that may not have received the attention they deserve, to read every nominee in a category (at least in part) before we vote, and to remember that chaos is always at our shoulder.

Drumroll please…

Best Fantasy

  • The Spear Cuts Through Water – Simon Jimenez
  • The Unbalancing – R B Lemberg
  • The Book Eaters – Sunyi Dean
  • Spear – Nicola Griffith
  • Swallow – Ayọ̀délé Ọlọ́fintúàdé
  • Nettle and Bone – T Kingfisher
  • The Bone Orchard – Sara A Mueller

Best SF

  • Goliath – Tochi Onyebuchi
  • The Coral Bones – EJ Swift
  • Eyes of the Void – Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Bluebird – Ciel Pierlot
  • The Mountain In The Sea – Ray Nayler
  • Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak – Charlie Jane Anders

Best Blurred Boundaries

  • The Way The Light Bends – Lorraine Wilson
  • Things They Lost – Okwiri Oduor
  • Tell Me An Ending – Jo Harkin
  • The Genesis of Misery – Neon Yang
  • Mage of Fools – Eugen Bacon
  • Ordinary Monsters – JM Miro

Best Novella

  • Kid Wolf and Kraken Boy – Sam J Miller
  • The Bruising of Qilwa – Naseem Jamnia
  • Rosebud – Paul Cornell
  • Uncommon Charm – Emily Bergslien & Kat Weaver
  • The Entropy of Loss Stewart Hotston
  • The Queen of the High Fields – Rhiannon Grist
  • One Arm Shorter Than The Other – Gigi Ganguly

Best Short Fiction

The Panel

Each year’s Kind of Awards are shaped by the subjective choices of our chaos minions panellists: we nominate based on what we’ve read and we vote with our hearts as much as our heads. Bringing the chaos this year are: Adri, C, Kris, Matt, Misty Aquavenatus, Gautam, Robin, Roseanne, Sara, Sun and myself (imyril).

What happens next?

We read! Each panellist must read at least half of every book in every category they have nominated in (and any other category they wish to judge) before we reconvene to vote for our finalists in the summer. I am only committing to read novellas this year as I am set to have a torrid year, although the shortlists are – as ever – so good I may be tempted to lend my vote to other categories if I can get them read.

We aim to announce our finalists in summer and the winners in early autumn.