Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

September 16, 2011

Towards a Hope Mirrlees Award

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Sam @ 11:27 am

A brief discussion on Twitter (brief because nobody disagreed) has resulted in the conclusion that a) we need more genre awards named after women, and b) there should be one named after Hope Mirrlees.

Why? — well, to address point a), it’s pretty much universally recognized that women’s contribution to fantastika is greatly undervalued. Not enough gets to market; not enough of that gets reviewed; and not enough of that gets nominated or chosen for awards. Having almost all our high-profile awards named after men or gender-neutral objects (the Tiptree is the sole exception that springs to mind) doesn’t help this; it flags the field as one dominated by men, and for men, and that “women’s fiction” is something unique and separate and lesser.

(Just to clarify, I do think there’s something qualitatively distinct about fantastika by women, as there is about fantastika by members of other underrepresented groups. However, discussing this here would be derailing, so we can do that some other time.)

As for point b), Mirrlees is an amazing author; in Lud-in-the-Mist she produced something utterly unique and strange, fantastic in the oldest senses of the word, and something that’s rarely given the acclaim it deserves.

I propose that we (collectively) establish such an award, for fantasy published in the previous year. There are a few questions that need to be nailed down, though.

  • Eligibility: All authors, women only, or a requirement for shortlists to be more-or-less balanced? English-language, for practicality as much as anything else. Should there be a geographical restriction?
  • Prize: Realistically, there would need to be a monetary award as well as an art object. Sponsorship or donation drives should deal with that.
  • Operating requirements: eg. website design & hosting, publicity, promotional materials, fundraising overhead, ceremony costs. Quite a bit of it can be crowd-sourced or donated, but some will require actual money.
  • Judging model: jury, popular vote, or a combination of the two? The same model for the shortlist as for the final choice?
  • Mission: basically, what’s it for? To encourage good writing & inclusive publishing, or to encourage a particular style or characteristic of fantasy literature?

A lack of reliable health & energy, combined with a lack of most of the relevant skillset, means I can’t take a proper lead on this, but if anyone fancies setting up a proper committee then I’m very much in. (Also, I’m about to go away for a week and a half. But I wanted to make a proper post for discussion first.)

Fundamentally, though, this is very much doable.


  1. A fantasy version of the Arthur C Clarke Award is an idea that has been rolling around UK fandom for a while and Hope Mirrless is definitely the sort of name you could attach to that project.

    Comment by Martin — September 16, 2011 @ 11:59 am

  2. [...] Also on the issue of promoting diversity within the SFF genre, a previously unknwon to me blog called Cold Iron and Rowan Wood calls for establishing a Hope Mirrlees Award, that is a sort of Orange Priz…. [...]

    Pingback by Lots of election analysis and some links | Cora Buhlert — September 19, 2011 @ 5:25 am

  3. I’m in favour (both of a good, inclusive fantasy award and of recognising Mirrlees’ brilliance) but I wonder if the fact that Mirrlees didn’t write *much* fantasy would matter?

    As for eligibility, I’m generally in favour of women-only awards but I think a general -but with a commitment towards inclusivity- award named after a woman might have more symbolic power – as well as filling what I perceive to be a gap in fantasy awards (as Martin said, the space occupied by the Clarke award for SF)

    Comment by Aishwarya — September 20, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

  4. [...] Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood have proposed a major genre award should be named after Hope Mirrlees, author of Lud-in-the-Mist, which I heartily endorse for the reasons cited in the post: “in [...]

    Pingback by Magpie Monday | Robert E. Stutts — September 26, 2011 @ 4:57 am

  5. [...] Towards a Hope Mirrlees Award [...]

    Pingback by Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood » Blog Archive » Towards a Hope Mirrlees Award, Redux — October 7, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

  6. Count me in on the basic principle. Fine print can come later, but basically, all fantastika not just epic, s&s or mainstream, UK published.

    Comment by kev mcveigh — October 14, 2011 @ 8:55 pm

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