I Assume This Will Be In The Next Ansible

The Booker longlist has been announced:

There are no first novels – which have become a feature at longlist stage in the last few years, and there is no genre fiction. Motion said they had not consciously set out to exclude genre but stressed that the Man Booker prize was an award for literary fiction and there were plenty of prizes for crime and sci-fi.

You know, I mostly agree with Martin these days that it’s largely unnecessary, and looks petty, to complain too strongly about this sort of thing; but every so often an example comes along whose stupidity is so beautiful, so elegant, that I can’t help myself. Even leaving aside the “crime and sci-fi are not literary” implication: you didn’t consciously set out to exclude books of type x, it’s just that you decided the Booker isn’t a prize for books of type x? Impressive!

11 thoughts on “I Assume This Will Be In The Next Ansible

  1. I’ve read it. There’s one character highlighted by the text as possibly-immortal. There’s also a secondary character that Mitchell has said in interviews is immortal (or on his 35th life, or something) and will turn up in his next book, set around the present day, and if there are hints in the text about this I missed them. There may even be a trilogy. I’d be mildly amused if Mitchell won the Booker with this and then with his next book reveals that it actually is fantastical.

  2. I’d agree that it’s rather petty and unnecessary to complain about these sorts of comments — but I also think it’s rather petty and unnecessary to make them in the first place. The longlist should stand on its own merit; there should be no need to disparage, even implicitly, books that aren’t on it.

  3. I do find it odd that if it is set in the future, it is genre whereas if it is set in past, it is not. Perhaps if there were more awards for historical fiction then they could be happily annexed too.

  4. Ian: No, afraid not. It’s a while since I read it now, for one thing, and for another I wasn’t hugely excited about it. It struck me as uneven — some excellent bits, but somehow less than the sum of its parts.

    David, Martin: Indeed. And, you know, if they wanted to promote the prize as for “the best literary fiction novel of the year”, that would be fine; but they promote it as for “the best novel of the year”.

  5. To say that anything has been excluded from consideration is, implicitly, to denigrate the books that were included. They are no longer the best novels, but simply the best novels from a limited (and possibly very small) pool. ‘Sci-fi’ and crime are not damaged by this perspective, the harm is entirely to those works within the Booker pool.

    As for the Mitchell, I was far more excited by it than you were, and it is clearly a work written with a fantastic sensibility, even if it is not overtly fantastic itself (apart from something of whose truth we are never assured). It’s actually the only book on the long list I have so far read (though there are others I intend to read), and I am delighted to see it there. I think it would well justify a place on the eventual shortlist.

  6. I liked the Mitchell, and I thought it included fantasy. I think if it’s not fantasy, the final section is weakened, because it depends on a bunch of ridiculous coincidences.

    I assume the repeatedly-reincarnated character is the lovely atheist doctor? If so, there are several hints about it, to the extent I thought this was part of the plot. If it’s someone else I am stumped.

  7. >”It’s slightly invidious to talk about the books that aren’t there,” [Motion] said.

    An odd comment. What is invidious about it?

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