I was lucky enough to attend the Shirley Jackson Awards ceremony at ReaderCon in Burlington, Massachusetts, this past weekend. These awards reward excellence in "outstanding achievement in literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic." Jackson, of course, was the author of the short story "The Lottery," The Haunting of Hill House, and numerous other classics"”a fittingly iconic choice to have an award named after her. And, in general, the Jackson award goes much farther afield than comparable awards for dark fiction and thus provides readers with a wealth of interesting fiction to consider.
The announcement of the winners was preceded by the two ReaderCon guests of honor, Peter Straub and Caitlin R. Kiernan, talking about Shirley Jackson's work, before Jackson's daughter Sarah Hyman DeWitt came up to share some tender, insightful, and often funny anecdotes about her mother and her family. All three made an outstanding contribution to the proceedings, and you can see their speeches in their entirety on the YouTube video of the awards ceremony, which is located below.
The very worthy winners for this year were then announced:
Witches on the Road Tonight by Sheri Holman (Grove Press)
"Near Zennor," by Elizabeth Hand (A Book of Horrors, Jo Fletcher Books)
"The Summer People" by Kelly Link (A Book of Horrors (Tin House 49/Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, Candlewick Press)
- Short Fiction
"The Corpse Painter's Masterpiece" by M. Rickert (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sept/Oct, 2011)
- Single-Author Collection
After the Apocalypse: Stories by Maureen F. McHugh (Small Beer Press)
- Edited Anthology
Ghosts by Gaslight, edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers (Harper Voyager)
It's worth noting that most of the winners are women, and this corroborates my own thought that"”especially at the novella, novelette, and short fiction lengths"”women writers of this kind of fiction have consistently and overwhelmingly been producing the best and most interesting work over the past several years. Things seem more even in that regard when it comes to novels, although I would argue the best work is produced at the shorter lengths. The reason being that there is a difficulty for certain kinds of dark fantasy and horror in sustaining across the length of a novel the kinds of visionary and phantasmagorical effects necessary to produce something truly outstanding.
For a complete list of the finalists, visit the Shirley Jackson Awards website.