On Monday, July 15, 2019, the North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation was proud to announce the winner of the 2019 Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy, the result of juried selection from the list of finalists, in turn the result of juried selection from an eligibility list of over 80. The award was presented on Friday, July 12, 2018 at Congregate 6 at the Red Lion Hotel High Point to Raleigh author Christopher Ruocchio for Empire of Silence, published by DAW:
Pitched variously as Dune meets The Book of the New Sun or Dune meets Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, Empire of Silence begins a science fantasy trilogy recounting the story of Hadrian Marlowe, heir to an interplanetary fortune, rogue, fugitive, slave pit gladiator, and infamous star-killer, combining deep world-building and beautiful, quotable prose.
Presenting the award, award administrator Samuel Montgomery-Blinn said, “All of these finalists are fantastic novels. How, then, to choose between a nearly pitch-perfect dark fantasy modern fairy tale, a parable of the end of the world, the uncanny synthesis of the voices of Austen and Shelley, high-stakes, high-adventure science fiction, and more?
“In the end there was one novel which, after reading, I returned directly back to the bookstore to pick up a stack of copies as gifts for my father, sister, brothers, and friends, accompanied by the note ‘You have to read this!’ While perhaps no novel really can quite set out to aim for “Dune meets The Book of the New Sun” and reach it, to dare and achieve so much as a 20-something debut author is nearly criminally unfair.”
Accepting the award on Ruocchio’s behalf, Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf read Ruocchio’s acceptance speech, which follows:
Thank you! This is my first time winning an award for my writing, and so I’m not quite sure what to say beyond just that: thank you. It’s an honor—and frankly, a surprise—but a delightful one. I’ve lived here in North Carolina since I was born and plan to remain here until I die, and so to receive an award that marks me as a part of this state and country that means so much to me is a wonderful thing, and I am grateful to each and every one of you who took a chance on a new writer like me, and who enjoyed it enough to vote for it.
As chance would have it, today is also the day my fiancee returns home from 2 years in Miami, and so I cannot be there in person—for which I hope you will all forgive me.
If you will indulge me, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who helped midwife Empire of Silence into being: my editors Sarah and Katie, my agents Shawna and Danny, Josh and Betsy and everyone at DAW. Sam Weber, for the cover art; as well as everyone at Gollancz in the UK. I’d like to thank Toni Weisskopf (and not just for reading my words to you, but for employing a poor college student), and Marla, Jim, Tony, and everyone at Baen Books as well. I don’t imagine many authors have the privilege of two publishing families, but I suppose this just makes me luckier than most.
Being a writer has been my main ambition since I was very small. Hadrian’s story has been with me a long time, and I am grateful to have been given a chance to share it with the world.
Thank you all.
The Manly Wade Wellman Award was founded in 2013 to recognize outstanding achievement in science fiction and fantasy novels written by North Carolina authors. The 2019 award covers novels published in 2018.
The award is named for long-time North Carolina author Manly Wade Wellman with the permission of his estate.