Author Ben Aaronovitch teamed up with science fiction and fantasy publisher Gollancz in 2019 to launch what was then the Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME SFF Award.

The prize was in response to statistics that showed that less than 1% of books in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres were from British authors of colour. The analysis of the Nielsen Bookscan figures showed that of 4,589 SFF books published in 2018, only five British writers of colour were represented.

On launching the award, Aaronovitch said: “There’s a problem with British speculative fiction – it lacks diversity. It is, in fact, whiter than a polar bear in a snowstorm who’s decided to redecorate their cave with Dulux’s brand new white, with a touch of white collection.”

Actor Adjoa Andoh came on board in 2020 and is contributing financially and in an advisory capacity.

The first year of the prize was judged by Andoh, author Dhonielle Clayton, founder of Illumicrate subscription box Daphne Tonge, Gollancz’s senior commissioning editor Rachel Winterbottom and Abi Fellows, literary agent at The Good Agency.

The winner was Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson for her novel The Principle of Moments. Read an interview with Esmie here.