The North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation was proud to announce the winner of the 2022 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 nearly 80 titles.
The Award was presented at ConGregate 8 on Friday, July 22, 2022 in Winston-Salem, NC, to Durham author Monica Byrne for The Actual Star, published by Harper Voyager:
Byrne’s novel, her second after 2014’s The Girl in the Road, follows three timelines: 1012, where twins Ajul and Ixul rule a Maya kingdom; 2012, where Leah Oliveri travels from Minnesota to Belize; and 3012, where Niloux DeCayo begins a long pilgrimage from Persia. Exploring themes of religion and gender, engaging with climate change and political anarchism, Byrne’s interwoven narrative envisions a utopian society emerging from the drowned ashes of the “Diluvian Age” and extrapolates from Mesoamerican history and her own travels and experiences to create a truly special novel.
Accepting the award, Byrne began by thanking her fellow authors who shared the shortlist and longlist, adding that she was “so happy just to be named alongside you all.” She went on to say:
Receiving this award is especially poignant right now, for reasons I will try to get through without crying. As it turns out, I’m leaving North Carolina at the end of this summer, seventeen years to the day when I first moved here, with the express intention of becoming a science fiction writer. I think I did it! But I could only do it because, as soon as I arrived, I realized I was surrounded by circles upon circles of people who cared. Who believed, not only that a community was incomplete without art, but that artists were the lifeblood of a community. And who put their love AND time AND resources AND money toward that belief. Who gave me, and so many others, firm ground to stand on and bright skies to reach for.
I feel very clear on the fact that I wouldn’t have been able to become the artist I am, if I’d moved to New York or Los Angeles, instead. And though North Carolina has changed since I moved here, and is continuing to, I will always be grateful to her communities—including this one—for welcoming me for so many years. In six weeks I’ll be taking to the road, indefinitely. Some might say I’m subscribing to my own invented religion (hopefully with a better track record than some other science fiction authors).
But a part of me will always live here, on this coast, in these forests, and these mountains. A part of me will never leave.
Thank you for this award. Thank you for having me. And may North Carolina always be a home for artists.
Byrne joins previous winners Mur Lafferty (2014, 2015), John G. Hartness (2016), A.J. Hartley (2017), Gail Z. Martin (2018), Christopher Ruocchio (2019), Michael G. Williams (2020), and Natania Barron (2021).
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 2022 award covers novels published in 2021.
The award is named for long-time North Carolina author Manly Wade Wellman with the permission of his estate.