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Nobel Prize

Entry updated 13 May 2024. Tagged: Award.

The Nobel Prize for Literature, chosen annually by the Swedish Academy – with occasional no-award years during World War One and World War Two – is not of course a genre Award. Below are listed the twenty-four Nobel laureates in this category who have written sf or near-sf to the extent that they receive entries in the present encyclopedia. In addition to the honour, laureates receive a cash prize currently set at 11,000,000 Swedish kronor, roughly £800,000 or a little over $1,000,000 in 2023. The award was first presented in 1901. Only living authors are eligible. There has been some inevitable controversy about the Academy's failure to honour various writers of great international repute – including but not restricted to Jorge Luis Borges, Don DeLillo, Haruki Murakami, Vladimir Nabokov, Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Pynchon and Salman Rushdie – despite many years of eligibility. With the arguable exceptions of Kazuo Ishiguro, Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014), Rudyard Kipling and perhaps José Saramago, no author whose work is primarily sf or fantasy has been awarded the prize. In other categories, however, Baroness Bertha von Suttner received the 1905 Peace Prize, becoming the first female winner; and Roger Penrose, co-author with Brian W Aldiss of White Mars; or, The Mind Set Free: A 21st Century Utopia (1999), shared the 2020 Physics Prize for his work on Black Holes.

Although the Nobel Prize can hardly be called an sf theme, its Chemistry, Medicine and Physics awards offer a convenient shorthand to establish a fictional Scientist's credentials. Examples of such use include John Buchan's The Gap in the Curtain (1932); Theodore Sturgeon's "The Comedian's Children" (May 1958 Venture), whose Nobel-winner is female; Isaac Asimov's "The Billiard Ball" (March 1967 If), whose physicist character is a double winner; Doomwatch (1970-1972), which eponymous organization is run by Nobel laureate Dr Spencer Quist; Larry Eisenberg's The Best Laid Schemes (coll 1971) and other tales of Emmett Duckworth, a laureate for both Chemistry and Peace; Algis Budrys's Michaelmas (August-September 1976 F&SF; exp 1977), with another double winner in a quasi-Villain role; Andrew Greeley's Angel Fire (1988); and Ian McEwan's Solar (2010). [DRL]

Literature winners in this encyclopedia


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