The Darrell Awards were begun by Tim Gatewood and other members of the Memphis Science Fiction Association (MSFA) in 1995, as a result of comments by then-and-long-time MSFA Chairbeing Greg Bridges that “we should have a list of SF that mentions Memphis or was written by Memphis writers.” Noting that the New England SF Association gave Awards that recognized SF from their area, Tim began to talk about MSFA doing something similar.
Early on, it was decided that we would name the Awards in honor of Dr. Darrell C. Richardson, who was one of the founders of MSFA. Darrell liked the idea so much that he made a nice donation to the MSFA Treasury in support.
By 1997, we were ready to pick a few winners and we selected one novel and one short story for works published in 1996. Details of how and where and when we would present the Awards delayed us until 1998, when we gave combined 1996 and 1997 Awards at MidSouthCon, which was held that year in Tunica, MS.
Gary Holleman won both the 1996 and 1997 Darrell Awards for Best Midsouth Novel. DB Smith won both years for Best Midsouth Short Story.
The following year, there was no MidSouthCon, so we presented the 1998 Darrell Awards at Borders Books in Germantown, TN. That year, we added a Hall of Fame for authors who had a body of work that had not already been considered for the Darrell Awards and at least some of which was eligible.
The first Hall of Fame inductee was Kathleen Ann Goonan.
In 2000, we changed the name of the Hall of Fame to the Dal Coger Memorial Hall of Fame in memory of Dalvan Coger, who had been a mainstay of Memphis fandom and who had passed away in the interim.
From that year to the current one, the Darrell Awards and the Coger Memorial Hall of Fame have been presented at MidSouthCon in Memphis, TN or Olive Branch, MS. The convention has been very generous over the years, providing us with space to host our Awards Presentation and other support.
We added categories for Other Media (to include e-fiction, comics, movies & plays); we moved e-fiction into the regular fiction categories; we added novellas to the novels and short story categories; and we put a minimum word count to exclude stories too short to be seen as promoting literacy. In 2011, we added a Young Adult category, which we rotate with the Other Media category, recognizing the best of 2 years’ work in one of those areas each year.
Along the way, MSFA went from a local group to a regional group. It officially disbanded and reformed as the Mid-South Science Fiction &Fantasy Association (MSSFFA), in recognition of a broader scope and to have a fresh start to apply for non-profit status, which was received.
Meanwhile, the Jury met and made its decisions, with varying degrees of input from members of MSSFA. At times, the only activity that MSFA or MSSFFA could claim was the Darrell Awards Jury meetings. In recent years, MSSFFA has fallen on lean times and the Jury has found itself blessed with participation by fans who were not even members of MSSFFA.
In December 2009, the Darrell Awards Jury declared itself independent of MSSFFA. At the time, members of the Coger and Richardson families, as well as the MSSFFA Officers, agreed with the Jury that it was time for us to re-focus on the original mission of promoting literacy through these Awards. A new, simple structure to accomplish the goals of the Jury was then established.
As MidSouthCon and the Darrell Awards Jury were both begun by MSFA and then matured into separate entities, the Jury sees itself as a sibling to this other Memphis-area SF/F fan group. The long history that we have all shared leads us to be very grateful for the support the Awards have received from these other groups.