Liveblogging the BSFA Awards

… and here we are. What will win? Brasyl seemed the front-runner, but talking to various people it seems there may have been a late surge for The Execution Channel. Not long now, though.

EDIT 1: We start with a round of applause for Arthur C Clarke.

EDIT 2: Greg Pickersgill is talking about the BSFA 50th anniversary, saying that it’s “strongly arguable that without the influence of the BSFA the science fiction community as we know it today would likely exist in a much less useful form or not at all” (slight paraphrase). Now he’s announing a life membership for Peter Mabey as the longest-serving BSFA member still paying annual dues. Apparently he’s in the bar.

EDIT 3: Flick is demonstrating this year’s award — origami rockets!

EDIT 4: The first award is the 1958 Award. Rog Peyton points out that only one of the books (Non-Stop) was actually published in the UK in 1958. China Mieville announces the winner … Non-Stop! Jo Fletcher accepts on Aldiss’ behalf.

EDIT 5: Next up, Best Artwork. This one’s presented by Charles Stross and goes to “Cracked World”, the cover of disLocations. The artist says it’s the first award he’s ever won

EDIT 6: Tanith Lee announces Best Short Fiction, which goes to … Ken MacLeod for “Lighting Out”, in disLocations. Ian Whates accepts, and thanks everyone on MacLeod’s behalf.

EDIT 7: And finally, Best Novel, presented by Neil Gaiman. The winner is … Brasyl, of course. Ian McDonald thanks all and sundry, and says he is overjoyed.

30 thoughts on “Liveblogging the BSFA Awards

  1. Why is it ‘right’? Or is this just an idiom for personal approval?

    I am genuinely perplexed by all this discussion on awards. Do people really think that everything can be ranked in a definitive critical manner? Surely not? Awards are just the considered opinion of the judging panel and therefore, the award cannot be wrong (unless they miscount or some other bizarre accident) even if everyone else in the world disagrees.

    OK, I’d put Brasyl in my top six for 2007 but I’m not going to say the Clarke judges have got it wrong because they haven’t included it. (I’d include The Modern World as well for that matter but it doesn’t seem a case for writing off the whole proceedings)

    Frankly I don’t see the grounds for the confident assertions about the past awards along the lines that it was ludicrous for Iron Council to beat River of Gods, or that Light should have beaten The Separation (partly, no doubt, because I would personally agree with the award in both cases). So are these assertions just idiomatic expressions – part of a lively debate culture that I am not quite getting. Or are people saying, ‘Look, this book is better than this one and everybody must agree’. If this latter is the case then it would have worryingly totalitarian overtones – criticism (and reading, itself) would really be dead if everyone agreed on some sort of hierarchical universal ranking. On that point I think that Niall’s comment (I think) sometime last year that ‘everyone would agree the Tiptree biog was best non-fiction SF’ is problematic even if most of us probably would agree. For that is exactly the problem of English Lit in general – the example of writers who are geninely good (eg. Joyce, Woolf etc) is used to legitimise a hierarchical ordering system that operates ideologically to exclude certain ideas and genres.

    The SF world should treasure its diversity of opinion. In this context, the weakness of this year’s Clarke in not including Brasyl is actually something worth celebrating in a perverse way.

  2. is this just an idiom for personal approval?

    That’s my guess.

    The SF world should treasure its diversity of opinion.

    You are, of course, bang-on here — and I don’t think that many people reading this would disagree. I also agree that it’s important to remember that awards are never the whole story, and that there are plenty of interesting and important books each year that don’t get recognised with an award nomination. (As I said on a panel over the weekend, I think one of the responsibilities that comes with having a blog and setting yourself up as any kind of a commentator is to sometimes look beyond what gets the most attention; I haven’t been as good at this as I would like.) But I can’t get too worked up about people having strong opinions about Brasyl (at least not unless they start coming up with conspiracy theories), because I think the benefits of awards in terms of providing a focus for discussion outweigh the disadvantages in terms of being called a wronghead. :)

  3. Hmmm … is the conspiracy theory that McDonald is being deliberately excluded or that the Clarke is trying to please the chattering classes … or is it a combination of the two i.e. the Clarke is trying to curry favour with the literary establishment by deliberately excluding the best book from the shortlist because this is the sort of thing the Booker always does.

    Was The Modern World read by the panel? (I know its not sf exactly but it is no less sf than Mieville)

  4. I’m not saying there is a specific conspiracy theory out there, just that that would be the point at which I think perfectly healthy debate turns into unproductive obsessiveness. As for The Modern World — no, we didn’t read it; it wasn’t submitted to the judges. (In fact, it’s on the pile of “stuff published in the last two years that I want to read but haven’t had time for”.)

  5. But some books are requested aren’t they? For example, in an earlier thread you suggested the Winterson novel had been requested but the publisher declined to submit. So how exactly does this work. Or is it that you expect a genre publisher to submit anything it thinks suitable and just make requests to the mainstream ones? Was the Sarah Hall requested for example?

    The reason I’m concerned is not because I fear conspiracy (as suggested above, I find the idea rather amusing) but because I like the Clarke award; it has caught my imagination over the last 5 years or so and I find myself anticipating the announcement of the shortlist. This year I was really really pleased to see The Carhullan Army (which is both good sf and good writing and a timely updating of 70s feminist and utopian politics) on it and, although I’d be happy with Macleod or Morgan also, I’d like to see it win. But I suspect ‘debate’ if it does. And what appears to be a not entirely transparent submission process doesn’t help.

    On a final point, I think Steph Swainston should be encouraging her publishers to submit.

  6. Or is it that you expect a genre publisher to submit anything it thinks suitable and just make requests to the mainstream ones?

    In general, that’s the way it seems to work, although plenty of mainstream publishers do submit their books without needing specific requests beyond the initial call for submissions (I honestly can’t remember whether or not this was the case with Sarah Hall’s book), and occasionally a genre publisher doesn’t submit something we want to look at (I think I’m right in saying this was the case with Chris Wooding’s The Fade and Tricia Sullivan’s Sound Mind, this year). I personally did not request The Modern World because I didn’t consider Swainston’s previous two books sf-enough to be eligible; can’t speak for anyone else, of course, and it may be that The Modern World is more sf than its predecessors. As for the rest of the submissions, well, they’re pictured here, although if you can identify them all from images that size I’ll be seriously impressed.

    But I suspect ‘debate’ if it does

    From what I hear, the Not the Clarke Award panellists liked it, thought it was well-written, but didn’t think it was interesting enough as science fiction to deserve the award. As I said in my other post, they came down in favour of The H-Bomb Girl, narrowly over The Execution Channel. That said, I had several conversations over the course of the weekend with people who said they love The Carhullan Army; and that said, this year every book seems to have supporters who want it to win. Except The Red Men.

  7. Thanks, that does all make sense.

    I’d be interested in your opinion of TMW when you have read it. I would say it is more sf than first two – hence the modernity.

  8. As for the rest of the submissions, well, they’re pictured here, although if you can identify them all from images that size I’ll be seriously impressed.

    Sounds like a challenge to me. Can anyone fill in the blanks?
    The Red Men, Matthew de Abaitua
    Harm, Brian Aldiss
    Hilldiggers, Neal Asher
    Prador Moon, Neal Asher
    Lint, Steve Aylett
    Divergence, Tony Ballantyne
    Conqueror, Stephen Baxter
    The H Bomb Girl, Stephen Baxter
    Navigator, Stephen Baxter

    Helix, Eric Brown
    Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union
    The Pesthouse, Jim Crace
    Ink, Hal Duncan
    Stealing Light, Gary Gibson
    Spook country, William Gibson
    Death’s Head, David Gunn
    The Dreaming Void, Peter F Hamilton

    The Carhullan Army, Sarah Hall
    The Raw Shark Texts, Steven Hall
    The Day Watch, Sergei Lukyanenko
    The Twilight Watch, Sergei Lukyanenko
    The Execution Channel, Ken Macleod
    Hunter’s Run, Geroge RR Martin, Gardner Dozois, and Daniel Abraham
    Cowboy Angels, Paul McAuley
    Brasyl, Ian McDonald
    Bone Song, John Meaney

    Ascent, Jed Mercurio
    Black Man, Richard Morgan
    Dark Space, Marianne de Pierres
    The Prefect, Alastair Reynolds
    Land of the Headless, Adam Roberts
    Splinter, Adam Roberts
    Sixty Days and Counting, Kim Stanley Robinson
    Selling Out, Justina Robson
    Bad Monkeys, Matt Ruff
    Old Man’s War, John Scalzi

    Resistance, Owen Sheers
    The Liberty Gun, Martin Sketchley
    The Electric Church, Jeff Somers
    Spindrift, Allen Steele
    Glasshouse, Charlie Stross
    Sound Mind, Tricia Sullivan
    The End of Mr Y, Scarlett Thomas
    Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge
    Bloodmind, Liz Williams
    Saturn Returns, Sean Williams
    The Fade, Chris Wooding

  9. Make that two left: the one between Pesthouse and Ink is “God is Dead” by Ron Currie, Jr.

  10. I Remember Pallahaxi, by Michael Coney, and Acorna’s Children by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Anne Scarborough.

  11. … that was so much more fun then me or Niall just posting the full list of submissions (which we will be putting on

    And in answer to some of the questions above:
    a) personal approval
    b) the Sarah Hall book was submitted by Faber & Faber without having to request it (although it would have been had they not)

  12. Interesting to note that Faber submitted The Carhullan Army without it being requested as Sarah Hall told me that she had heard some of the SF community were annoyed that Faber hadn’t acknowledged it as SF. Our prejudices showing this time perhaps?

  13. For my part, It wasn’t so much that I thought The Carhullan Army was less interesting as sf (though it doesn’t centre around a clear sf notion in the way that the MacLeod and Baxter do), but that, well-written though it is, and with a tremendous sense of place, it’s not quite as well written as the Baxter or Macleod. Both of those I closed with a feeling that I’d had a really enjoyable experience, and the Hall didn’t quite grab me like that.

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