We are excited to announce the finalists in the second group of categories of 2015 Association for Mormon Letters awards, Novel, Short Fiction Collection, and Short Fiction. We previously announced Creative Non-Fiction and Religious Non-Fiction, and soon will announce Comics, Criticism, Drama, Film, Lyrics, Middle Grade Novel, Picture Book, Poetry, and Young Adult Novel. The final awards will be announced and presented at the AML Conference on March 4-5, at BYU Hawaii. The finalist announcements include blurbs about each of the books and author biographies, usually provided by the publishers or authors.
J. Scott Bronson, The Agitated Heart. Arc Point Media.
“A typical Mormon family: two parents, two kids. Mother and father love each other deeply. Enough that they’ve committed to stay together for eternity. A son on the brink of priesthood initiation. A daughter preparing for official membership; a covenant decision. Like any typical family anywhere, trouble brews beneath the surface. The marriage strains at the ties that bind. The boy quails beneath a looming threat. The girl despairs that she will ever qualify. Still, the beliefs they tangle with each day of their lives—individually, and as a unit—may offer them just enough direction to give them hope for a bright and glorious future.”
J. Scott Bronson is a frequent actor and director on Utah stages, perhaps best known for his frequent portrayals of Handel in Tim Slover’s Joyful Noise. Among his produced written plays are Quietus & Other Stories, Polyphony, Dial Tones, City of Peace, and Stones, which won a 2001 AML Drama award. His short fiction has appeared in Writers of the Future and Irreantum.
Larry Correia, Son of the Black Sword. Baen.
“Epic Fantasy. Ashok Vadal has been chosen by a powerful ancient weapon to be its bearer. He is a Protector, the elite militant order of roving law enforcers. No one is more merciless in rooting out those who secretly practice the old ways. Everything is black or white, good or evil, until he discovers his entire life is a fraud. Ashok isn’t who he thinks he is, and when he finds himself on the wrong side of the law, the consequences lead to rebellion, war—and destruction.”
Larry Correia is a New York Times bestselling fantasy novelist. His first self-published novel, Monster Hunter International, reached the Entertainment Weekly bestseller list and was republished by Baen Books, where it made the Locus bestseller list. The next two sequels were also NY Times bestsellers. Correia was a finalist for the John W. Campbell award for best new science fiction/fantasy writer of 2011. Other recent novels include Hard Magic, Spellbound, and Warbound (which was nominated for a Hugo Award) from the Grimnoir Chronicles urban fantasy series, and Dead Six, a military adventure series he co-authored.
Mette Ivie Harrison, His Right Hand. Soho Press.
“A tight-knit Mormon community is thrown into upheaval when their ward’s second counselor — one of the bishop’s right-hand men — is found dead in an elaborately staged murder on church property . . . Linda Wallheim, the wife of the ward’s bishop, can’t rest as long as the ward is suffering. She is particularly worried about Carl’s grieving family. But the entire case is turned upside down by the autopsy report, which reveals Carl Ashby was a biological female . . . Linda realizes that if the police are to catch the killer, they are going to need an ally on the inside — and she is the only one who can help. Carl was living a life of secrecy for twenty years. What else was he hiding — and can Linda ferret out the key to his death before the rumors tear her community apart?”
Mette Ivie Harrison is the author of 8 Young Adult books, including Mira, Mirror, and The Princess and the Hound Series. This is her second adult mystery, after The Bishop’s Wife. She writes a regular blog about faith and Mormonism at The Huffington Post. She holds a PhD in Germanic Languages and Literatures from Princeton University and is a nationally ranked triathlete.
Jennifer Quist, Sistering. Linda Leith Publishing.
“The second novel by award-winning novelist Jennifer Quist is a black comedy of birth, death, love, marriage, mothers-in-law—and five sassy sisters. When Suzanne’s role as the perfect daughter-in-law ends in a deadly accident, she panics, makes a monumentally bad decision, and upends her world. The bond with her sisters is the strongest force Suzanne knows, and it may be the one that can keep her from ruin. Quist’s new novel is hilarious, spine-chilling, satisfying, and original. A romp.”
Jennifer Quist is a novelist, journalist, talker, and firstborn of five sisters. Her debut novel, Love Letters of the Angels of Death, won her an Alberta Lieutenant Governor’s Emerging Artist Award in 2014. The book was longlisted for the 2015 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was a finalist for a 2013 Whitney Award. She lives in the Edmonton area.
Short Fiction Collection
William Morris, Dark Watch and Other Mormon-American Stories. Self-published.
“Morris explores how Latter-day Saints navigate the challenges of living in the modern U.S. and participating in the modern Church. Spanning from the early 1980s to the present and into the next century, these 16 stories portray moments that are uniquely, thoroughly and sometimes bittersweetly Mormon-American.”
William Morris is the founder of the Mormon arts and literature group blog A Motley Vision, and his writing there won an AML Criticism Award in 2005. His short stories have been published in Irreantum and Dialogue. He created and co-edited the speculative fiction anthology Monsters & Mormons. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and from San Francisco State University with a master’s degree in comparative literature.
Steven L. Peck, Wandering Realities: Mormonish Short Fiction. Zarahemla Books.
“Peck’s highly imaginative stories run the gamut from Mormons reverting to a medieval society on Mars to a bishop who is killing the neighborhood dogs. These stories not only entertain and delight, but they challenge and provoke as well.”
Steven L. Peck is a biologist at Brigham Young University, where his focus is on evolution and ecology. His creative works include the novels The Gift of the King’s Jeweler, The Scholar of Moab (2011 AML Novel award), The Rifts of Rime, and A Short Stay in Hell. He won the 2014 AML Short Fiction award for “Two-Dog Dose”. His collection of poetry (Incorrect Astronomy) and collection of essays (Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist) were recently published. He blogs at By Common Consent and The Mormon Organon.
Karen Rosenbaum, Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Wives. Zarahemla Books.
“The female protagonists of these fourteen short stories are daughters of devout Mormon women. Some choose to leave the family faith; some choose to stay. All hum the hymns of their forebears. They are women of the American West, but some have also journeyed a bit beyond those borders. One swims in a tributary of the Colorado; another dips her elbow into the Ganges. Each finds her own way to ask (not answer) the big questions. They represent four distinct families. They are separated by mountain ranges and deserts. But they share a common birthright. They are sisters.”
Karen Rosenbaum was a professor of English at Ohlone Community College in 1967-2001. Her published work comprises short stories, personal essays, and newspaper articles, some of which have won awards from Sunstone, Exponent II, and Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. She won an AML Short Story awards in 1978 (“Hit the Frolicking, Rippling Brooks”), an AML honorable mention in 2002, and an AML Honorary Lifetime Membership in 2014.
Spencer Hyde. “Remainder”. Bellevue Literary Review. Fall 2015.
“Klaus has spent decades disarming thousands of unexploded World War II-era bombs that are, as Hyde writes, ‘waiting for an errant machine to set them off, for a child to kick a soccer ball into a loaded ditch and carry back a mud-covered grenade.’ In the tense concentration of munitions-clearing, Klaus tries to connect with his past.” (Review by Melissa Olivera).
Spencer Hyde‘s nonfiction can be found in Hobart, The Pinch, Word Riot, and Sweet, and his short humor has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He holds an MFA in Fiction from Brigham Young University. He is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of North Texas. He edits for elsewhere mag.
Theric Jepson. “The Naked Woman”. Pulp Literature Spring 2015: Issue 6.
“”The Naked Woman” tells of children in a small town observing a mysterious figure the adults around them cannot see. Their fascination with this ghost (as they call it) and their interactions with it push them to the edges of childhood and innocence.”
Theric Jepson (Eric W. Jepsen) is the author of the comic romance Byuck and many poems, short stories, and critical works. As the proprietor of the publisher Peculiar Pages he has published key Mormon literary collections, and edited The Fob Bible, Monsters & Mormons, and Dorian: A Peculiar Edition with Annotated Text & Scholarship. He received a 2010 AML Editing award for his work on a special comics issue of Sunstone. He lives and teaches in El Cerrito, California.
Scott Parkin. “Absolute Zero” 1st & Starlight, edited by Sky McKinnon, Lunopicta Publishing.
“A tale of perception, discovery, and the search for one tiny aspect of simple, universal truth. When Matt Williams wonders if it would be possible to come to an absolute stop relative to universal motion, and thus see reality from a state of perfect objectivity—as if through the eyes of God—he enlists the aid of a close friend to mount an expedition to deep space and test the hypothesis. In the process, Matt is confronted by the limits of his own perception as he uses the tools of technology and scientific inquiry to explore a fundamentally spiritual question in the darkness of deep space.”
Scott R. Parkin writes science fiction, fantasy, and slice-of-life stories as well as reviews and light criticism. A recent winner in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, Scott it working to turn a long-time hobby into a new career path. He published a number of short stories in anthologies last year and is currently at work on a series of science fiction novels that explore questions of transhumanism and the impacts of technology on government and commerce.
Eric James Stone. “An Immense Darkness”. Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March 2015.
““An Immense Darkness” looks at the boundaries for the ethical treatment of AI. Locus magazine comments, “This one is timely, very much so. Antonio and his wife were partners in a team developing programs simulating human minds, until a terrorist attack killed Shanisha. Antonio slips into depression, spending every night in the lab talking with her simulation, until a Federal agent comes to tell him they’ve caught the terrorist and want to interrogate a simulation of his mind in ways that the law wouldn’t allow to treat a living person . . . What we have here isn’t really an ethical problem. It goes beyond that, when the ethical problem is solved and all that’s left is the opportunity for revenge. Even if the torturer’s victim is only a collection of zeros and ones, the problem is in the mind of the torturer, which is real.” You can hear an audio version here.
Eric James Stone won the 2004 Writers of the Future contest. His 2010 novelette “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” won the Nebula Award and was a finalist for the Hugo Award. He has had stories published in Year’s Best SF 15, Analog, Nature, and Kevin J. Anderson’s Blood Lite anthologies of humorous horror, among other venues. His first novel, Unforgettable, was published by Baen in January 2016.
About the Awards
The AML Awards have been presented annually since 1977. You can see the list of past awards here. Besides the main categories, there are also the Smith–Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
I am the Awards Committee chair this year, which means I picked the judges, a mixture of authors, scholars, and reviewers, who at least during the judging process remain anonymous. The judges and I worked together to come up with long lists of potential finalists, but I am not involved in any of the decisions on finalists and winners. Works “by, for, or about Mormons” were considered. Authors/creators who are non-Mormon or ex-Mormon are considered if their works deal with Mormonism. Many of the judges created their own panel of assistant judges who shifted through the many applicable works. Then the judges and their panels chose the finalists. Those same judges/panels will pick the final awards this month.
There was previously an established AML practice that an author/creator could not be awarded in the same category two years in a row. That practice was discontinued this year.
Congratulations to all of the finalists!