The 2013 Hugo Awards are set to be announced on September 1 at San Antonio’s “LoneStarCon.” Among the five shortlisted for the “Best Novel” award is debut author Saladin Ahmed, the first Arab-American and first Muslim shortlisted for the prize:

throne-of-the-crescent-moonAhmed, who was featured in last Sunday’s Detroit Free Press, called himself “very much the dark horse,” nominated for his debut work, Throne of the Crescent Moon. However, the whole list is surprisingly diverse, and includes a translated story in the “best novellette” category. According to the World SF blog:

The Hugos are changing, I think. Or SF as a whole is changing. The surprise is not that popular American writers are nominated for a Hugo – but that diversity is increasingly represented on the ballots.   

The Free Press asked Ahmed if he thought of himself as a trailblazer as an Arab-American author of science fiction. He said:

What kind of obnoxious person calls himself a trailblazer? (laughs) I wouldn’t use that word to describe myself. This is less about me than it is about the state of the field. There aren’t a lot of writers out there who aren’t from white-American backgrounds.

Just by nature of who I am, I’m carving out a new space. Part of it is demographics. I’m part of a generation now that’s increasingly diverse in the field. … There’s very, very, very few books with Middle Eastern material in the fantasy genre. … It’s changing from a couple different directions but I’m … nowhere near single-handedly (breaking new ground), but I like to think I’m playing a small part.

Ahmed described Throne as “‘Arabian Nights’ meets ‘Lord of the Rings’ — that’s one of the elevator Hollywood pitches you might give it.” It’s the first of a trilogy, and it would be interesting to see the book translated into Arabic.