British Fiction Focus

The Clarkes Bite Back

Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

This week, we begin with Awards Watch, in which the Arthur C. Clarkes bite back after the embarrassment of last year’s all-male Best Novel shortlist. The problem is obviously a long way from solved, however every little helps…

Later on, news about what’s next for Shadows of the Apt’s Adrian Tchaikovsky—standalone science fiction, apparently—and a whole load of links in Odds and Sods, including the latest on Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Richard Morgan and Sarah Lotz.

Awards Watch: The Clarkes Bite Back

Last April, the committee in charge of the Arthur C. Clarke Awards announced, as has been its annual habit, a shortlist of six of the best (or most popular, perhaps) science fiction novels published in 2012. Unfortunately for all involved, the actual books were overlooked, in large part because of what I described at the time as an “overwhelming prevalence of penises” amongst the nominated authors: oddly, not one woman was given the nod.

Now the next shortlist is still a few months off, however Award Director Tom Hunter—presumably peeved at the perception that the panel had slighted female writers—has gotten out ahead of the possibility of similar criticism by announcing the women whose works will be considered in this instance:

Every year before we announce our shortlist, the Arthur C. Clarke Award now traditionally releases the full list of novels put forward for consideration.

We’ve always intended this as a great way to showcase the full breadth of titles in contention and, crucially, to allow science fiction readers everywhere the chance to have a little fun creating their own nominations, trying to second guess the final shortlist and gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the judging panel every year.

This year we’ve chosen to do this in two parts, first releasing this list of the thirty-three female authors submitted for the prize, which we hope will be a positive contribution towards further raising the profile of women writers of science fiction in the UK and beyond.

We’ll be releasing details of the full submissions list shortly, and will be encouraging readers everywhere to review and comment on the data in as many creative ways as possible

Here, then, is the relatively lengthy list.

Ancillary Justice Ann Leckie Clarke Awards

There are some real contenders on there as well. Indeed, I can see four or five of them making the grade: books like Ancillary Justice and A Tale for the Time Being are a shoe-in, surely, plus there’s The Galaxy Game, The Shining Girls and God’s War. Awesome science fiction novels all.

Disappointingly, it looks like Life After Life by Kate Atkinson—winner in its category of the Costa Book Award—simply wasn’t submitted, which has me wondering: shouldn’t it fall to the judges to catch slip-ups like this? I know that’s common practice in certain other awards. Why not the Clarkes?

But I digress.

There’s no question that this—the fact that roughly double the number of female writers that were submitted last time will be considered for this year’s shortlist—is an excellent development.

Time now for some fun with numbers:

This announcement is no patronising sop to the embarrassment over last year’s all-male list, a row which seems to have removed one of the major problems at a stroke. After all, according to Liz Williams, a member of the 2013 judging panel, last year’s unbalanced shortlist was the result of unbalanced submissions. There were 82 submissions for last year’s award, so with 33 already in the bag it looks like around half of this year’s submissions will be from female authors.

Well…

Assuming that there are a similar numbers of entries this year—though given the press the last round of Clarkes received, it’s entirely possible that the awards’ visibility has skyrocketed since, albeit for all the wrong reasons—but assuming that there are a similar numbers of entries this year, 33 out of 82 does make for a markedly more representative percentage. More like 40% than David Barnett’s half, but much better, yes?

Here’s to the very real possibility of an all-female shortlist!

Tchaikovsky’s Children

Seal of the Worm Shadows of the Apt Adrian Tchaikovsky

Come the summer, Seal of the Worm looks to conclude the ten volume long Shadows of the Apt series—for the time being, at least.

This is a fun fantasy I’ve been playing catch up with since Salute the Dark was published in 2010. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s ability to produce book after book after book has however outpaced me, I’m afraid, so I met the news of what’s next for the industrious author with mixed feelings—though I expect better readers than me will be well pleased:

Pan Macmillan’s Tor imprint is thrilled to share news of its latest acquisition—a breath-taking science fiction epic by Adrian Tchaikovsky. […] Portia’s Children tells the story of a desperate quest to preserve the last remnants of humanity, which brings out the best and very worst in his impressive cast of characters. It describes a future where our kind once travelled the stars. But here our reach exceeded our grasp, and we fell back to Earth. Now, the ragged remnants of our species are fleeing a dying planet one last time, following ancient star maps and searching for a new home. But they cannot know that mankind’s oldest fear is already waiting for them.

Adrian Tchaikovsky enthused: “I’m delighted that Tor has decided to take me up on this. I’ve been wanting for a long time to turn my hand to science fiction, and Portia’s Children is a book that I poured a lot of myself into. I’m looking forward to seeing it unleashed on the world.”

Bella Pagan praised the book, saying: “I knew Adrian was an impressive fantasy writer, but I was really blown away by his science fiction. This novel is utterly compulsive, powerfully ambitious and a palpable sense of menace and danger informs the urgent writing throughout.”

Tor UK plans to release Portia’s Children in summer 2015, in between Tchaikovsky’s forthcoming fantasy titles.

So… a year and a half to read the rest of Shadows of the Apt. Even for me, that’s doable, surely!

In any event, the language of this press release leads me to believe that Portia’s Children is standalone science fiction. Which isn’t to say it won’t be succeeded by a sextuple of sequels or something one day, just that it’s likely to be self-contained out of the gate.

Meanwhile Tchaikovsky’s serial fantasy saga Spiderlight continues apace over at Aethernet, the recently released tenth issue of which also happens to mark the beginning of a new story of note in the shape of The Sugar Pill by Libby McGugan.

Odds and Sods

“In case you were wondering whether or not Fortunately the Milk artist Chris Riddell was quietly and secretively working away on a secret sort of thing by me that I’m not even going to even allude to,” notes Neil Gaiman, “why, yes, he is.”

Richard Morgan has confirmed that The Dark Defiles is done, and at 247,000 words it’s a doorstopper, folks—a proper Rothfuss!

Gollancz has announced that it’ll be going Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones again this autumn with a second companion piece covering the third and forthcoming fourth seasons of the series.

The aforementioned publisher has also unveiled the cover of one the debuts it blogged about not so long ago, namely Barricade by Jon Wallace.

Having been accused of racism and misogyny in recent months, Watchmen’s Alan Moore has attempted to set the record straight with one last bastard of an interview. He bows out for now with a long discussion of “the herpes-like persistence of Grant Morrison” on the Slovobooks blog.

Hodderscape has revealed the book trailer for one of the year’s most promising new novels: The Three by Sarah Lotz.

At The Guardian, Claire Armistead got mighty excited about the title of Hilary Mantel’s forthcoming short story collection, that is to say The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.

Editor extraordinaire Jonathan Strahan announced the table of contents for the next edition of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, which you’ll recall Solaris planned to publish after Night Shade lost the license last year. It pleases me personally to see how many of these stories we’ve covered in the Short Fiction Spotlight.

Finally for today, the contenders for several very special tentacles will be announced this Thursday on thekitschies.com.


Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.

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