Gemma Files wins 2016 Sunburst Award for "uniquely Canadian" novel

Gemma Files picks up another win for Experimental Film, which won a Shirley Jackson Prize earlier this year.
Gemma Files picks up another win for her novel Experimental Film, which also won the Shirley Jackson Award earlier this year. (

Gemma Files has won the 2016 Sunburst Award for adult fiction for her novel Experimental Film. The $1,000 prize honours the best in Canadian speculative literature.

"This novel is uniquely Canadian, both in the exploration of a past disappearance of a troubled spiritualist socialite filmmaker and the struggles of the 21st century narrator whose life is increasingly tied to that of the filmmaker with whom she is obsessed," the jury wrote in a press release.

"A complex blend of the supernatural, technological and social forces that shape life, Experimental Film is an unsettling tale that draws the reader into the mystery while expanding our understanding of so many subjects: autism, film, Canadian social history and the perception of reality."

Experimental Film also won the Boston-based Shirley Jackson Award earlier this year.

Other finalists for the Sunburst Award included Heather O'Neill's Daydreams of Angels, which was shortlisted for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Signal to Noise, Katherine Fawcett's The Little Washer of Sorrows and Robert Charles Wilson's The Affinities.

Leah Bobet takes home the $1,000 Sunburst Award for young adult fiction for An Inheritance of Ashes, which won an Aurora Award in August. The judges praised her storytelling ability as "masterful."

Bobet's fellow finalists in the young adult category included Kenneth Oppel for The Nest, which is nominated for a TD Children's Literature Award, David Carroll for Sight Unseen, Mikaela Everett for The Unquiet and Neil Smith for Boo.

The Sunburst Award also announced the inaugural winner of its $500 short story prize. Nova Scotia author Catherine MacLeod won for her "creepily resonant" story "Hide and Seek," published in the collection Playground of Lost Toys.


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