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Aeon Award: Grand Judges

Ian Watson

Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest Grand Judge, 2004-Present

Ian Watson became a full-time writer in 1976 following the success of his first novel, The Embedding (1973), which won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and in France the Prix Apollo, and The Jonah Kit (1975), which won the British Science Fiction Association Award and the Orbit Award. Numerous novels of SF, Fantasy, and Horror followed, and several story collections. His stories have been finalists for the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and widely anthologised. Ian is also a poet, releasing his first book of poetry, The Lexicographer’s Love Song, in 2001. This included the poem ‘True Love’ which won the 2002 Rhysling Award of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. His recent story collection, The Great Escape (Golden Gryphon Press, 2002) was chosen by The Washington Post as one of the eight Best SF & Fantasy books of the year. Golden Gryphon Press released his latest novel, Mockymen, in Autumn 2003. Ian is the longest serving Grand Judge for the Aeon Award writing contest, from 2004 to 2009 shouldering the weighty burden of being sole Grand Judge. See Ian Watson’s homepage for more.

What he looks for in a winning Aeon Award contest entry: “I like to be surprised by a story, and to feel a bit envious, but it’s also important that the story sustains itself all the way through; sometimes great starts, and even middles, peter out. I couldn’t care less if a story is SF, fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, so long as it maintains momentum (and not necessarily in the action sense). I also like vivid and varied prose, by which I don’t mean pretentious prose. I abhor careless repetitions, the lazy overuse of that wretched word “it”, and most sentences that start feebly with “There is/are/was/were,” for instance.”

Priya Sharma

Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest Grand Judge, 2017-Present

Priya SharmaAlbedo One is delighted to welcome Priya Sharma to the Grand Judges panel, starting from 2017. Priya’s fiction has appeared in Albedo OneInterzoneBlack Static, Nightmare, The Dark and on She’s been anthologised in several of Ellen Datlow’s  Best Horror of the Year series, Paula Guran’s Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror series, Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014, Steve Haynes’ Best British Fantasy 2014 and Johnny Main’s Best British Horror 2015. She’s also been on several Locus’ Recommended Reading Lists. Her story, “Fabulous Beasts”, was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist and won a British Fantasy Award for Short Fiction. “All the Fabulous Beasts” is a  collection of her selected works, available from Undertow Publications. Her website is

Todd J. McCaffrey

Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest Grand Judge, 2012-2016

Todd J. McCaffrey

Todd Johnson McCaffrey wrote his first science-fiction story when he was twelve and has been writing on and off ever since.  On top of the New York Times Bestselling novel Dragon’s Fire, he has written eight books in the Pern universe both solo and in collaboration with his mother, Anne McCaffrey. His work has appeared in many anthologies, most recently with his short story, “Coward’, in When the Hero Comes Home (2011), and with “Robin Redbreast’ in the forthcoming When the Villain Returns (August 2012), and the mini-anthology Six. See Todd McCaffrey’s website for more, or check out his February 2012 interview with Albedo One Co-Editor Robert Neilson.

What he looks for in a winning Aeon Award contest entry: “An interesting tale well-told with convincing characters.”

Juliet E. McKenna

Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest Grand Judge, 2016-Present

Albedo One welcomes esteemed fantasy author, Juliet E. McKenna, to the Aeon Award Contest Grand Judges’ Panel, beginning with the 2016 contest. Juliet has always been fascinated by myth and history, other worlds and other peoples. After studying classical history and literature at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, she worked in personnel management before a career change to combine book-selling and motherhood. Her first novel, The Thief’s Gamble was published in 1999. The Tales of Einarinn series was followed by The Aldabreshin Compass sequence and her most recent trilogy, The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution, explores divided states, personal conflict and the rights and responsibilities of power. She is now working on a new fantasy trilogy and a couple of other projects. As well as writing assorted short fiction, she teaches creative writing from time to time and writes articles and reviews for online and print magazines. She is one of the leading lights of The Write Fantastic, an authors’ initiative promoting the fantasy genre. She fits in all this around her teenage sons and husband and vice versa. Living in the Cotswolds, England she regularly visits family and friends in Ireland. Check out Juliet’s website.

Eileen Gunn

Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest Grand Judge, 2013-2015

Eileen Gunn, Aeon Award Contest, Grand JudgeAlbedo One thanks renowned Nebula Award-winning science fiction author and editor, Eileen Gunn, for her expert and excellent service as Aeon Award Contest Grand Judge in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 contests. Originally from the Boston area, she has lived recently in New York and San Francisco, and is a long-time resident of Seattle. Eileen’s short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies — Eclipse One, Wired, Hayakawa’s Sf Magazine, Nature, Asimov’s Magazine, and others around the world. Her fiction has received the Nebula Award in the United States and the Sense of Gender Award in Japan, and has been nominated for the Hugo, Philip K. Dick, and World Fantasy Awards, and shortlisted for the James Tiptree. Jr. Award. Eileein is also the publisher and editor of The Infinite Matrix and for twenty years she has been on the board of directors of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, which numbers among its graduates a significant number of the SF/fantasy field’s writers and editors. She is also a 1976 graduate of its sister workshop, Clarion. Check out Eileen’s website.

Michael Carroll

Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest Grand Judge, 2011-Present

Michael Carroll, born 1966, is a respected Irish writer of novels and short stories for adults and children. His work has been translated into Italian and German, and he is perhaps best known for his 2001 novel, The Throwback, the Pelicos Trilogy (comprising The Last Starship, Reclaiming the Earth, and The Dead Colony), his romantic fiction under the penname Jaye Carroll, and more recently his acclaimed series of superhero novels The New Heroes (known in the U.S. as Quantum Prophecy). Michael is also the author of such esoterica as his “Sprout” columns and comics for, as well as for Judge Dredd Megazine and 2000AD itself. See Michael Carroll’s homepage for more.

What he looks for in a winning Aeon Award contest entry: Good, solid story-telling is a must! The stories must have a beginning, a middle AND an ending: no more fantasy stories that end with the hero about to set off on a quest, please! Likewise, a good story is more than just a series of odd events that happen to a disposable character. The character and story must be interconnected: the character drives the story just as the story drives the character. Originality is also high on my “wants” list… It’s often been said that every possible story has already been done, but I don’t hold to that – the past Aeon Award contest winners have shown that there’s ALWAYS a new angle: the writer’s job is to find that angle and exploit it. Of course, some genres and sub-genres tend to be more heavily-mined than others, so those intending to submit vampire stories should be warned that the hard shoulders of the road to success are piled high with the corpses of their predecessors… A good SF story must actually BE science fiction: if the “science fiction” element can be replaced with something more mundane and the story still works, then that story is not really science fiction… Writers should strive to avoid what I call “Space-Hammer Syndrome”: the idea that something can be made “science-fictiony” by using “hovercar” when “car” will do just as well, or – as the syndrome’s name suggests – having a character utilise a “space-hammer” instead of a “hammer.” (This also applies to horror and fantasy!)”

Mike Resnick

Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest Grand Judge, 2010-2012

Mike Resnick has won no less than five Hugo Awards, a Nebula Award and several prestigious international awards. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award 34 times, the Nebula Award 11 times, and many international awards as well. In 1993 he was awarded the Skylark Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction, by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA). His short fiction has appeared in all the major speculative fiction magazines, including Asimov’s Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, as well as in a range of other venues. Mike’s fiction has been translated into some 26 languages, including French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Bulgarian. His latest books include Blasphemy and The Buntline Special. See Mike Resnick’s homepage for more.

What he looks for in a winning Aeon Award contest entry: “Like with any other story, Aeon Award competition contenders should grab and hold my interest from the start, make me care about the characters, and not leave me wondering “Was this trip really necessary?” when I reach the end.”

Anne McCaffrey

Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest Grand Judge, 2010-2011

Anne McCaffrey (1 April 1926 – 21 November 2011) was the author of numerous novels and short stories, perhaps the most famous of which comprise the Dragonriders of Pern series. The short story “Weyr Search”‘, originally published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact in 1967, also being the first story in the Pern series, won a Hugo Award for Best Novella in 1968. Her novella Dragonrider won a Nebula Award the following year. Her first novel, Restoree, is regarded as an important and influential riposte to stereotypical portrayals of women in the science fiction of the decade. In 2005, Anne was named the 22nd Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writer’s of America (SFWA) and in 2006, she was Inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. More details on Anne’s work can be found on the Anne McCaffrey’s homepage. Anne sadly passed away in November 2011 but has left behind a world much enriched by her writings and wonderful generosity and humour. A statement from Anne’s son, Todd, can be found here.


Sam Millar

Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest Grand Judge, 2010

Sam Millar is a revered Irish author of crime and horror, born in Belfast, 1955. His horror fiction includes the 2003 novel, Dark Souls, and short stories such as “The Barber”, published in Albedo One and awarded a prestigious Honourable Mention by Ellen Datlow in the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. Sam’s crime fiction includes the novels The Redemption Factory and The Darkness of Bones. His work has won many literary awards, including the Aisling Award for Art and Culture, 2003/2004, the Martin Healy Short Story Award, the Brian Moore Award for Short Stories, and the Cork Literary Review Writer’s Competition. Warner Brothers have acquired the rights to Sam’s bestselling 2003 autobiography, On The Brinks, vividly telling of his experiences and involvement in the “Troubles” of Northern Ireland. Sam was a Grand Judge for the Aeon Award short fiction contest in 2010, and we hope he will act as Grand Judge again in future years. For more on Sam Millar, see here.