Clarke Award shortlist

From a press release just issued on behalf of the Arthur C. Clarke award:
Lauren Beukes, Ian McDonald, Patrick Ness, Richard Powers, Tim Powers and Tricia Sullivan are the six authors shortlisted for this year’s Arthur C. Clarke Award, the UK’s premier prize for science fiction literature.
The six shortlisted books are:
•      Zoo City – Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
•      The Dervish House – Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
•      Monsters of Men – Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
•      Generosity – Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)
•      Declare – Tim Powers (Corvus)
•      Lightborn – Tricia Sullivan (Orbit)
This year’s six shortlisted titles were selected from a long list of fifty-four eligible submissions put forward by twenty-two different publishing houses and imprints.
Some comments from me:
  1. For those who like statistics about the overall submissions, juror Martin Lewis has provided five (count ‘em!) posts here. Headline conclusion: UK sf remains disproportionately straight, white, and male.
  2. There are many books one might have expected to see on the list that aren’t there. For starters, Paolo Bacigalupi’s multi-award-winning The Windup Girl, Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science-Fictional Universe, China Mieville’s Kraken, Chris Beckett’s The Holy Machine, Mira Grant’s Feed, and William Gibson’s Zero History.
  3. Declare’s presence on the list might be surprising, given that its first US publication was over a decade ago. But its first UK edition was only last year and so – provided you think it’s sf – it’s perfectly eligible. (Its presence does, however, highlight the increasingly patchy and delayed way in which non-UK books get UK publication.)
  4. The Clarke has a reputation for picking books from the “literary” side as well as the genre-published side of the fence. (Most famously, the first award went to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and the 1993 award went to Marge Piercy’s Body of Glass rather than, say, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars.) Leaving aside my long-standing gripe that there’s no more loaded, dog-whistle word in talking about sf than “literary”, one can note in a neutral way that Richard Powers’s Generosity fills that spot on the list this year. My own feeling is that Generosity represents a comedown in creative energy from Powers’s earlier work like The Gold Bug Variations, Galatea 2.2, and The Echo Maker, but it’s still a worthwhile book.
  5. My own ideal shortlist, for what it’s worth, would comprise Zoo City, The Dervish House, Monsters of Men, Lightborn, The Windup Girl, and Adam Roberts’s New Model Army. (I would also have pangs of conscience about omitting Greg Egan’s Zendegi, which seems more topical every day.) My ideal winner would be The Dervish House, with Monsters of Men and The Windup Girl close behind it.
  6. And you…?

3 thoughts on “Clarke Award shortlist

  • March 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I definitely agree with you on New Model Army.

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  • March 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I would prefer Ian McDonald as the winner. His recent novels are complex and powerful, and this one stands out of most of the nominees. Tim Powers is a great author and his Declare already won a couple of major awards, but it is ten years old. Let it gives way to a newer masterworks.


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