Stephen Graham Jones was awarded the 2021 LA Times Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction for his novel The Only Good Indians. This is the second year for the prize sponsored by the Ray Bradbury Foundation. This year’s LA Times Book Prizes were awarded in a live streamed ceremony kicking off the LA Times Festival of Books, whose exciting and edifying week of literary events remains available to watch online.
Jones, a prolific author who spent the last year working on 2 new novels, television & movie scripts, short stories, and a few essays, often draws on his Blackfeet Nation roots. But although The Only Good Indians tapped Jones’ experience as a hunter committed to respecting his prey, he denies that he writes social commentary. Instead, he insists perhaps disingenuously, he simply throws real people onto the page and lets them tell their own compelling stories–before they meet their fates.
The Only Good Indians, a beautifully written and taut psychological thriller as well as a horror story, follows four men of the Blackfeet Nation stalked by the spirit of a pregnant cow Elk slaughtered, along with a herd of bulls, a decade before. The need to fill their family freezers and the prospect of an impressive kill had convinced the young friends to venture into restricted lands of Nation elders. When they are caught in the act, they must abandon most of the meat–dishonoring the sacrifice of the animals’ lives. In the years that follow the ill-fated hunt, all four work to build good if different lives and families inside and outside the Nation but that atonement does not appease the spirit of the slaughtered Elk or eradicate their lingering guilt.
Jones’ great talent for creating a nuanced balance of complex, likable characters, engaging fantasy, and stark horror capable of upending reader expectations rightly made him this year’s winner of the LA Times Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction, an award named for a writer who prided himself on doing something similar in short stories that found horror in suburban basements and humanity in supernatural beings and creatures on Mars. The Only Good Indians was also a finalist for the 2021 Locus Award for horror novels and received this year’s Shirley Jackson Award for best novel.
Stephen Graham Jones, the Ivena Baldwin Professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder, is the New York Times bestselling author of science, speculative, crime, and horror fiction. He has published 27 novels and novellas including The Only Good Indians, Mongrels, Mapping the Interior, All the Beautiful Sinners, and Demon Theory; 7 short story collections; and has works in numerous anthologies and online publications. Among his many awards are the Bram Stoker Award, four This is Horror Awards, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, and the 2020 Shirley Jackson Award for best novel (The Only Good Indians) and best novella (Night of the Mannequins). His newest novel, My Heart is a Chainsaw, will be available August 31.
Read more at the LA Times
Watch the Book Prize announcement
Listen to an excerpt of The Only Good Indians
Purchase The Only Good Indians