The 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest will be coming up soon, and as we hit year 5 of this exciting writing competition, I continue my plea that those of us who write outside the mainstream be given a real shot at the prize.
On average, you can group mystery, romance, thriller, suspense, and other various sub-genres in with what they call "mainstream" these days, but Science Fiction & Fantasy works are still considered outside the norm. They lurk in a category all by themselves, and are still shunned by certain segments of the publishing community for being "escapist garbage." As such, it is really unfeasible to expect these fantastic tales to compete with more traditional literary stories.
The ABNA contest has proven itself over the past years to be a venue that favors human interest stories formatted in pretty traditional literary styles. With the exception of Fresh Kills (ABNA's 1st winner), all the winners have been pretty dry. I don't buy that that's caused by a lack of qualified submissions in the non-literary genres, and the obvious explanation lies with the personal tastes of the judges picking the finalists. They clearly prefer stuff geared toward Oprah's Book Club, rather than finding the next Heinlein or Asimov.
Sci-Fi & Fantasy are two categories that could probably be dropped from the ABNA completely, though that would upset a lot of writers, and paint those running the contest as exclusionary. Instead, they settle for a weak compromise, where they "accept" entries in those genres, but weed them out before the finals. Some headway has been made in the "Young Adult" category, but there is no viability for serious, adult Sci-Fi & Fantasy in the contest.
What I suggest as a perfect solution is for Amazon to add a third category for the ABNA, which would give those who write Sci-Fi & Fantasy the chance to truly compete. It would run en-tandem with the Mainstream and Young Adult categories, and it would give those of us who write "speculative fiction" a real shot at winning. I know, people writing Romance or Mystery might want their own award as well, but like I said, they're able to fit in with the literary stuff to some degree. They're "normal," unlike us weirdos who write about space travel or warlocks.
There is a financial payout to be had from this. Sci-Fi & Fantasy may be the furthest from the mainstream of any genre, but it also has one of the largest fan-bases of any genre. It only makes sense for Amazon and their publishing partner(s) to attempt to cash in on this subset of the population. They have an untapped market, just waiting to buy the first book to win the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Speculative Fiction!