Genre fiction is recognized with this year’s alternative Nobel prize for literature

Earlier this year, the Swedish academy announced that it would not issue a prize for literature. The announcement prompted a flurry of handwringing within the literary community, and the creation of an alternative award to ensure that a literary prize would still be issued in 2018. Today, the organization behind the alternative award announced that authors Maryse Condé, Haruki Murakami, Kim Thúy, and Neil Gaiman have been selected as the four finalists for the 2018 New Prize in Literature.

This year has been a difficult one for the Swedish Academy. The organization behind the literary prize was rocked by a sexual assault scandal involving the husband of one of its members, and in May, it announced that it would not issue a Nobel for literature as a result, instead awarding two prizes in 2019. In response to this year’s cancelation, a number of members of Sweden’s cultural establishment set up The New Academy, which would issue an award in place of the Nobel Prize for literature, The New Prize in Literature.

This summer, the organization consulted the country’s librarians, who produced a long list of nominees, which included a number of well-known speculative fiction authors, including Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Nnedi Okorafor, J.K. Rowling, and others, which was then voted on by the general public. Condé, Murakami, Thúy, and Gaiman were the public favorites, and a jury will now select a final winner from that shortlist.

That two authors known for their genre fiction are included on the list is notable, as works of of science fiction and fantasy rarely earn this type of recognition. The Nobel Prize for literature has rarely recognized speculative fiction authors — Doris Lessing is the sole genre author to have earned the prize (awarded in 2007), although Gabriel García Márquez (who earned the award in 1982) is also known for his fantastical novels. Gaiman is particularly known for his Sandman comics and novels like American Gods and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, while Haruki Murakami has played with genre with novels like 1Q84 and Kafka on the Shore.

The winner of the award will be announced on October 12th, with a celebration on December 9th. Once the award is issued, The New Academy will be dissolved.