This year, the world of science fiction and fantasy has become home to a new set of prizes: the Ignyte Awards. Presented at the 2020 Fiyahcon, a convention held under the banner of Fiyah: Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, the Ignyte Awards have the stated aim of celebrating diversity within speculative fiction:
In the tradition of FIYAH, when we see a need going unfulfilled, we correct it. To that effect, we are thrilled to announce the creation of the Ignyte Awards series as part of the inaugural FIYAHCON event. The Awards seek to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the current and future landscapes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror by recognizing incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts toward inclusivity of the genre.
The nominees were chosen by a FIYAHCON jury while the winners were picked by a public vote, with 1,431 valid ballots being cast. Finally, on Saturday, the recipients of the inaugural Ignyte Awards were announced.
The awards include three categories for novels, divided by age range. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mayan-inspired Gods of Jade and Shadow won in the adult category, while Hafsah Faizal won in the YA section with her debut novel We Hunt the Flame, about a girl who disguises herself as a man in a land ruled by a cruel sultan. The award for middle-grade fiction – which does not specify length or format – went to Kwame Mbalia’s novel Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, the first volume in a series about a boy who visits a world populated by African-American folk heroes.
In the categories for shorter fiction, Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar won Best Novella for their history-warping This is How You Lose the Time War, while N. K. Jemisin’s cheerfully scathing satire “Emergency Skin” was named Best Novelette – both stories having previously won awards at this year’s Hugos. Meanwhile, the award for Best Short Story went to Rebecca Roanhorse’s cyberpunk reimagining of Tewa folklore “A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy”.
New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl, won the award for Best Anthology/Collected Works. Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vitorio Astone, Aditya Bidikar and Tim Daniel were named Best Comics Team for their work in These Savage Shores, a supernatural saga set in the time of the East India Company. Grace P. Fong, a narrative designer on Magic: The Gathering, won the award for Best Artist.
Unusually for an SF/F prize, the Ignyte Awards include a category for poetry: the inaugural winner here was “A Conversation Between the Embalmed Heads of Lampião and Maria Bonita on Public Display at the Baiano State Forensic Institute, Circa Mid-20th Century”, in which poet Woody Dismukes takes a melancholy look at two Mexican bandits-turned-folk heroes. Strange Horizons, which published the poem, also won the Community Award for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre.
In the categories for criticism and nonfiction, Tor.com blogger Alex Brown won the Critics Award while the prize for Best in Creative Nonfiction went to Tananarive Due’s Uncanny Magazine essay “Black Horror Rising”.
Finally, we come to the first person to win two Ignyte Awards. LeVar Burton earned the prize for Best Fiction Podcast with LeVar Burton Reads, and also won the Ember Award for unsung contributions to the genre.
The winners of the inaugural Ignyte Awards include a mixture of big names familiar from other SF/F awards and lesser-known talents with plenty to gain from this profile boost. Between them, however, they have certain things in common – including a commitment to fiction that confronts colonialism and reflects cultures from around the world.