With award season upon us and already feasting like the beast it can be, it shouldn’t shock anyone that this morning saw the announcement of the six novels shortlisted for what has been described as the UK’s “most prestigious science fiction prize.”
“The Arthur C. Clarke Award is given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year.” The contenders this year include:
- The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey (Orbit)
- The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (Canongate)
- Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
- Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta (HarperVoyager)
- The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (Orbit)
- Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel (Picador)
The aforementioned honourees were selected from a list of 107 individual eligible submissions—a complete account of which you can read right here—put forward by 36 different publishing houses and imprints. That’s the second-highest tally in 29 year history of the Arthur C. Clarke Award.
Award Director Tom Hunter oversaw a panel of five judges including Duncan Lawie and Nicholas Whyte of the British Science Fiction Association, Sarah Brown and Lesley Hall of the Science Fiction Foundation, and Leila Abu El Hawa of the SCI-FI-LONDON film festival, in the run-up to which the winner of the prize will be announced on May 6.
“This is a quintessentially Clarke Award kind of a shortlist,” Hunter himself said:
We’ve got six authors who have never been nominated for the Clarke Award before and while the subject matter may often be dark, when we think about what this list says about the strength of science fiction literature itself, I see a future that’s full of confidence, creativity and diversity of imagination.
As regards recent issues around diversity and the overt politicising of genre awards, Hunter had this to add:
Diversity in science fiction is the big topic right now, and rightly so, and the Clarke Award is as much a part of that conversation as any other award.
Diversity for us means starting with as broad a range of voices and books as possible so we can pick a shortlist that we think really is the best of science fiction literature.
Awards should stimulate debate. Their choices should provoke a response, and that often means strong debate will be generated as a result, but an award actively seeking controversy is really missing the point and that goes double for any group seeking to artificially create controversy around an award for its own ends. In other words, it’s not a battle of competing ideologies—left versus right—it’s a simpler matter of constructive versus destructive attitudes.
A good shortlist isn’t a statement about what you should like, it’s an invitation to go beyond the limits of what you already know so you can experience and enjoy something new. Why limit an appreciation of a literature that’s built on the power of human imagination?
To which I say: well said, sir!
Having read—and reviewed for Tor.com—five of the six books shortlisted for this year’s Arthur C. Clarke Award, I know now what I’ll be burying my nose in once I’ve finished delving into The Deep: Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta. Excepting that last, if I had to make the decision facing the judges today, I dare say I’d have difficulty deciding between The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and Europe in Autumn.
What would you cast vote for, folks?
Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.