Further Clarke Reactions

John Jarrold isn’t happy:

This is, without doubt, the most insular Clarke shortlist ever.

I’ll fly my colours from the mast: as far as I’m concerned, Ian McDonald’s BRASYL is the best SF novel of 2007. I’m not involved in it, in any way, I say this personally. And I don’t always expect my favourite to win. However, for that and some other titles that are wonderful SF novels not to even be shortlisted is ludicrous. But they are not set in the UK, so apparently they don’t have relevance ‘to the British literary scene’. Oh deary, deary me.

So farewell then, Arthur C Clarke Award.

Abigail Nussbaum sounds a little ambivalent, but hasn’t given up on the award:

In fact, what’s most striking about this shortlist is the absence of big names (MacLeod and Baxter are big names in the UK, but the latter, at least, is somewhat undercut by H-Bomb’s being a YA book). Just off the top of my head, 2007 saw the publication of novels by Michael Chabon, William Gibson, Paul J. McAuley, and Adam Roberts, and I had expected at least some of them to get Clarke nods.

That the Clarke award is esoteric and unpredictable is one of its charms. As its administrator, Tom Hunter, wrote in the press release announcing the shortlist, it “has always been about pushing at the speculative edges of its genre.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that its nominees are not just the usual suspects, and yet I found myself oddly disappointed by those names’ absence. When I asked myself why this was, I realized that I’ve reached the point where the Clarke is not just the only SFnal award I actually care about, but the only award which I believe still holds any relevance to the field.


All other comments aside, I am utterly delighted to see Stephen Baxter’s The H-Bomb Girl there. As far as I am aware, its the first time that the Clarke Award has acknowledged a YA book. Well done Stephen.

The shortlist is noted at SF Awards Watch, but there’s no discussion yet.

Meanwhile, Paul Raven is

thinking of starting a shadow award that works off of the Clarke, wherein there is a prize for the book that everyone thought was a shortlist shoo-in, and another prize for the book whose presence on the shortlist no one can understand. Now accepting nominations!

7 thoughts on “Further Clarke Reactions

  1. Since when has the Clarke been esoteric and unpredictable? Only since a certain group of administrators and judges took over. Before then it was pretty darn predictable. If you’re not contemplating this already, you need to have rotating judges, just to get different perspectives in there. And I say this as someone who actually thinks your list this year is pretty interesting. That there are four books on there I haven’t read has me scrambling to updating my reading.

    I also, though, have to put in a plug for Winterson’s The Stone Gods. It’s an audacious and fearless book, and that kind of thing should at least rewarded with a nomination.

    As for Brasyl, was it published in the UK in 2007?


  2. The Clarke judges do rotate, and tend to do one or two year terms. Brasyl is a UK 2007 publication. As for the Winterson, I don’t know if it was submitted but I’m sure someone will be along in a minute with a definite answer.

  3. Jeff: As Liz said, the award has rotating judges. Ironically, I think most people would consider the recent winners predictable (Air, Nova Swing) and the earlier winners (Vurt, He She & It) much less so.

    As for the Winterson, it was requested but the publishers declined to submit it.

  4. Jeff: The Clarke Award has had rotating judges since it was set up. And there have been complaints that it is esoteric and unpredictable ever since the very first award went to Margaret Atwood. Would you care to say when, exactly, the award has been predictable?

  5. You can’t really win on the predictability issue – either a book is rated by everyone and it wins and so the award is predictable, or else it doesn’t win and so everyone complains that the award is rubbish. OK, sometimes it is not so clear cut but the same principle loosely applies. If Morgan wins, people will say it’s predictable. If Sarah Hall wins, people will carp (possibly). Personally, I liked both of those and the Macleod very much. So a good shortlist even if people go on about Brasyl not being there.

    As for Winterson, if they don’t submit there should be no complaint. The list was better last year for not having The Road or the Pynchon and it’s better this year for not having someone who rejects the genre.

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