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The JG Ballard Award

Guest blogger Tom Hunter reveals an alternative history of a great literature prize

In advance of the 25th anniversary of the UK's most prestigious, and occasionally controversial, science fiction book award, director Tom Hunter offers us an alternative history of a literature prize named in honour of one our greatest genre writers.

The JG Ballard Award
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

The JG Ballard Award for science fiction literature is a British award given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year.

The award was first established with a generous grant from JG Ballard to promote UK science fiction following the critical and commercial success of his mainstream literature novel Empire Of The Sun and its subsequent adaptation into a Hollywood film by director Steven Spielberg. The first prize was presented in 1987, the year the film adaptation was released.

The winning book is chosen by a panel of judges currently drawn from the British Speculative Fiction Association , the Shepperton Fiction Foundation and a third organisation, currently the website and archive .

Present day
Today the award is most commonly referred to as The Ballard, and has also been nicknamed the Crash-Test amongst a high number of dedicated genre fans. This is in reference to both to Ballard's most influential science fiction novel, Crash , and also the high degree of psychopathological responses recorded online after the announcement of each year's winner (see critical reception below).

Critical reception
While highly regarded and influential, the award has garnered a reputation amongst certain critical and fan circles for the often controversial nature of its shortlist selections, and the judges' willingness to actively push at the popular definition of science fiction as established by writers like Ballard.

The history of controversy dates back to the Award's inception when the hard science fiction novel Eon by Greg Bear was declared best science fiction novel of the year over more popular critical choices such as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale , and this additional level of speculative fiction has remained a popular narrative amongst award-watchers ever since.

The prize
The prize is currently presented as a highlight of the SCI-FI-LONDON film festival, with the winning author receiving a cash prize and commemorative trophy.

In a nod to the increasing influence on the genre of hard science fiction writers such as Arthur C Clarke, the prize fund was increased to £2001 in the year 2001, and has continued to increase at the rate of £1 a year since then.

The commemorative trophy itself is traditionally presented as a retro-fitted metal sculpture fashioned from parts of a crashed Lincoln town car.

Find out more about Tom Hunter's genuine plans for Wednesday 27 April right here .