A speculative look at fantasy and science fiction

Part of a series introducing each genre, written by the organizer.

Science fiction and fantasy take us to realms of the imagination: places and times and realities where the rules of life may be different than our own and where the impossible and improbable become real. But good science fiction and fantasy does more than that: it asks, "What if?" It makes us think. It holds up a mirror to our own society and lets us see ourselves in a different light.

Like our counterparts in the other categories, we'll be looking for books that combine the best writing with kid or teen appeal, but we'll also be looking at some of the unique requirements of the genre, such as world building and internal consistency. The elements in a science fiction or fantasy book don't have to be possible, but the writer must make us believe that they really could exist, perhaps do exist, if only we could find them.

This is a diverse category that includes a wide range of subjects, from wizards, demons, ghosts and vampires to outer space adventures, alternate history and dystopian futures. If a book has any unreal, otherworldly or mystical elements in it, chances are that it belongs here. Even if the fantastic elements are only a small part of the story, it should probably be nominated here. After all, some of the best science fiction and fantasy is about ordinary people who encounter the extraordinary and are changed by it. The only exception would be if the fantastic elements seem to be only in the imagination of a character, or are otherwise "not real" in the context of the story. Those books should probably be placed in the regular Middle Grade or YA categories.

SFF-oriented text novels with graphic sections belong here. If the book is primarily graphica, or a hybrid, it might fit best in the Graphic Novels category. Easy Readers, Early Chapter Books and Picture Books go in those categories even if they have Fantasy or Science Fiction content.

Finding the line between SFF and the other categories isn't always easy, so just nominate it where you think it best fits, and we'll move it if we think it would be better in a different category.

New this year: we are accepting born digital ebooks with no corresponding print version in the SFF Teen category (but not for the younger readers).

–Sheila Ruth

Go to the Science Fiction and Fantasy nomination page.