Clarke Award 2011 Eligible Submissions Data

If, instead of guessing the shortlist, entries in the contest which closed last night were voting on it, here’s what it would be. (But this is not the shortlist, so far as I know.)

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Orbit)
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu (Corvus)
The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi (Gollancz)
Kraken by China Miéville (Pan Macmillan)

Tomorrow, I’ll post the actual Clarke shortlist. It’ll be interesting to see how closely – or distantly – this year’s Clarke jury’s choices matches up with those of the contest entrants!

Martin, Vector‘s reviews editor, over at his own blog, has been number-crunching this week from the Clarke Award eligible submissions list. He’s one of the judges this year, so his data isn’t just drawn from titles-authors-publishers, but from surveys of the contents of the fifty-four books on the eligible submissions list, since he has read them all.

His statistics are at their most interesting, for me, when he’s dealing with the content of the books, in part because he’s on surest ground there, and in part because it’s data which is a payoff from having read all those books. (His statistics on the race and sexuality of the authors may be approximately right, but it’s data that no author should need to publicly share, and thus it’s very easy to assume wrongly for those numbers. Still, the idea of seeing how much representation there is in these kinds of diversity is an important one.) Specifically, he’s looked at how many of these books show killing, whether of the protagonist or of other characters, compared to how many of them show sex scenes. Descriptions of death far outweigh descriptions of sex. (This is why at least one blogger notes that she’s increasingly drawn to the romance hybrid genres: she generally prefers sex to death, given the choice.)

More broadly, Martin also looked at the setting of the books and the nature of the narrators. Thus, I can report that that only 54% of the novels passed the Bechdel test, 30% of the books are written in the first person, and that 33% of them were not set in the future.

His examination of how many of the books were parts of series and their length features the chart I keep coming back to: length of book by page count. I’m not sure why I’m finding this so interesting. Perhaps it’s the reassurance that the largest number of books are a physically manageable 250-300 pages long. Series do not dominate the list – standalones comprise 57% of the list, and genre imprints are more likely to submit series titles for consideration in the award than non-genre imprints are.

It’s not a full snapshot of the state of British science fiction publishing in 2010, but it’s a fairly broad one nevertheless and worth taking a look at.

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