This year, because I am a Clarke judge, I won’t have time to read the BSFA Awards’ YA category and I also won’t be commenting on Best Novel. But that still leaves three categories, and the easiest in term of research is Best Art. It’s also easy in that all six finalists are book or magazine covers, and indeed four of the six feature single human or humanoid figures as the centre of attention. (One of the other two is centred on a single non-humanoid creature, and the other has two humanoids.)
6) You’ve got to start winnowing them down somewhere, and I’m afaid my last place goes to Vincent Sammy’s cover of Parsec 4. We lose a bit by not seeing the hooded central figure’s face, and there’s something not quite right about the dynamics of the posture. (Also, though this is hardly the artist’s fault, I was surprised to see a couple of pilcrows ¶¶ on the cover text.)
5) Jay Johnstone’s cover of The Way the Light Bends, by Lorraine Wilson, has a very pretty dragonfly with Celtic knotwork, but others are more eloquent.
4) There’s a lot to like about Alyssa Winans’ cover of The Red Scholar’s Wake, by Aliette de Bodard, with the central couple of the story in front of a starscape, their attention on each other. In the end I just like the others a little more.
3) Manzi Jackson’s cover for Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donal Ekpeki and Zelda Knight, has a young woman in a spacesuit regarding us implacably from a flower-filled dell. I hope there is a good story there.
2) There is clearly a story in Miguel Co’s cover for Song of the Mango and Other New Myths, by Vida Cruz-Borja. It’s graphically the simplest of any of the finalists, but I feel that it says a lot very economically.
1) Fangorn/Chris Baker’s cover for Shoreline of Infinity 32, edited by Teika Marija Smits, hints not just at a story but at a whole universe. On the front we see a feminine robot, plugged into the ceiling (which itself is held up by classical columns), examining a fragment which seems suspended in space; but over on the back cover, we see that this is just part of a wider scene with two more sprawled robots, various discarded pieces of equipment and several masks, and you know that there is more going on. It gets my vote.