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2019 Sunburst Award Shortlists


TORONTO, ONTARIO (July 29, 2019) The Sunburst Award Committee is pleased to announce the shortlists for the 2019 Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic.

Adult Fiction

Eden Robinson, Trickster Drift [Penguin Random House Canada]

The down-to-earth prose of Trickster Drift, by Eden Robinson, plunges readers into the fully realized story of a young boy mired in a milieu of addictions, magic, and family, battling to make something of himself. Humorous and filled with memorable characters with entangled relationships to each other and to their world, this novel considers to what extent a person can remake himself, and how much he is influenced by his universe and the people in it.

Andromeda Romano-Lax, Plum Rains [Penguin Random House Canada]

In a future dystopian Japan populated by the aging, Angelica, a Filipina nurse, cares for Sayoko, a moody, one-hundred-year-old Japanese woman. But the arrival of a robot "friend" for Sayoko triggers a complex exploration of the historical and cultural underpinnings of this challenging future. Gorgeous and unusual, Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano-Lax deals in an interconnected way with technology, biology, memory, environmentalism, law, and criminality, ultimately examining the question of where to draw the line between being AI and being human.

Kate Heartfield, Armed in Her Fashion [Chizine Publications]

In Armed in Her Fashion, Kate Heartfield paints a darkly fantastic, humourously grotesque portrait of the European Middle Ages. Heartfield’s deep knowledge of art and literature from and about the medieval period allows her to approach her setting in a way that is simultaneously affectionate and subversive. Her engaging characters wander through a landscape in which horror and absurdity combine, seemingly rigid truths are deconstructed, and it very much matters who is telling the story.

Amber Dawn, Sodom Road Exit [Arsenal Pulp Press]

When Starla drops out of university and returns home to Crystal Beach, she knows what traumas will haunt her: her mom, her childhood, being queer in a small town. But the ghost she frees from a haunted carnival stunt will peel back the skin of the town's hidden histories of queer desire, seducing and consuming her in the process. Simultaneously poetic and page-turning, this visceral ghost story of 1990s Ontario plumbs the deep links between trauma and desire, history and liberation, self-destruction and healing.

Rich Larson, Annex [Orbit/Hachette Book Group]

In Rich Larson’s Annex, an alien scouting operation has targeted Earth as their new home—but young humans are key to making that happen. Though their parents have been lobotomised and mined for psychic access, the children resist being warehoused, and a group of escapees are doing all they can to sabotage the aliens' plans. If Under the Dome met Lord of the Flies and interbred with Arrival, this heart-stopping thriller might be the lovechild. Told through different points of view, this book explores identity, family, loyalty, courage, and sacrifice.

Young Adult Fiction

Rebecca Schaeffer, Not Even Bones [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]

What is a monster? Not Even Bones, a fast-paced horror by Rebecca Schaeffer, explores the divisions between "us" and "them" through biology, behavior, law, and social expectation. Rather than make excuses for the extreme violence it depicts, this novel shows that good does not negate evil, even as evil does not negate good. Complex characters draw the reader in to a fully believable world of shifting morality.

Patrick Weekes, Feeder [Simon & Schuster Canada]

Feeder is several things at once: an environmentalist critique, a futuristic fantasy, and a fresh take on the superhero origin story, all wrapped up in a tale of family and friendship. Diverse, complex characters, brought to life via writing that is at once humorous and emotional, find their way together to face a threat whose implications are world changing but still deeply personal.

Rachel Hartman, Tess of the Road [Penguin Random House Canada]

Rachel Hartman’s superb fantasy, Tess of the Road, takes the comfortable old idea of the protagonist on a journey of self-discovery and gives it a twist to the left. Rather than undertaking a journey to find her place in the world, Hartman’s Tess undertakes a journey to convince herself she deserves such a place. The trajectory of the story echoes the complexity of its heroine: prickly, surprising, and not quite fitting into any one category.

Regan McDonell, Black Chuck [Orca Book Publishers]

When his best friend dies, Réal knows that the Windigo isn't "just" a story, that his dreams aren't "just" dreams, and that something happened that night—something he can't remember. Evie knows her dead boyfriend was both more and less than he seemed, but Réal remains a mystery to her. In taut, vivid prose, Black Chuck pulls no punches in its genre-bending portrayal of the friendship, secrets, lust, and love that bind together the teens at its living, beating heart.

Sebastien de Castell, Spellslinger [Orbit, Hachette Book Group]

In Sebastien de Castell’s riveting fantasy, Spellslinger, the young protagonist Kellen is desperate to pass his mage trials. Kellen’s magic fails, dooming him to a life beyond a spellcaster’s privilege in a society whose hierarchy is based on magical ability—and a secret history of genocide. Kellen must find a place for himself where he can be enough, just as he is. This novel challenges notions of privilege, politics, and transactional relationships in a brilliantly told story.

Short Story Fiction

The Jury:

The Jurors for the 2019 Sunburst awards are:

Novel Jury: Greg Bechtel, Susan Forest, Kari Maaren, and Susan Reynolds.

Short Story Jury: S.M. Beiko, David Demchuk, and Gemma Files.

Sunburst Award winners will be announced in Fall 2019.

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The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic has celebrated the best in Canadian fantastic literature in both Adult and Young Adult publications since 2001. Winners receive a medallion that incorporates the Sunburst logo. Winners of both the Adult and Young Adult Sunburst Award also receive a cash prize of $1,000, while winners of the Short Story Sunburst Award receive a cash prize of $500.

The Sunburst Award takes its name from the debut novel of the late Phyllis Gotlieb, one of the first published authors of contemporary Canadian speculative fiction. Last year's winners were David Demchuk and Cherie Dimaline; previous winners include Johnathan Auxier, Andrew Davidson, Martine Desjardins, Gemma Files, Hiromi Goto, Nalo Hopkinson, Guy Gavriel Kay, Thomas King, Ruth Ozeki, Geoff Ryman, and Margaret Sweatman.  

For additional information about the Sunburst Award, the nominees, juries, as well as previous awards, eligibility, and the selection process, please visit the official website at or 2019 Shortlist.