There can be only one, ultimately. But we’re a lot closer to knowing what that one will be now that the hundred-some submissions considered for the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award have been narrowed down to a shortlist of just six.
Said six were named and acclaimed as part of the opening ceremony of the SCI-FI-LONDON film festival on the evening of the April 27. They are:
- The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton)
- Europe at Midnight – Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
- The Book of Phoenix – Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder & Stoughton)
- Arcadia – Iain Pears (Faber & Faber)
- Way Down Dark – J.P. Smythe (Hodder & Stoughton)
- Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor)
When I reported on this story in the British Fiction Focus before, I guessed two of the shortlisted texts correctly: namely Europe at Midnight, a novel as rich and as relevant as its also award-nominated predecessor, and The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, naturally.
I haven’t read Arcadia or Children of Time, so I don’t feel too terrible about missing the boat on those, but proper props to the judging panel for plumping for Way Down Dark and The Book of Phoenix—another two good shouts, to be sure, if relatively unexpected. I am, however, astonished, if I’m honest, that The Three-Body Problem didn’t earn at least a spot on the shortlist… but what do I know, you know?
Certainly next to nothing compared to the combined insight of the judging panel for the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award:
- David Gullen, British Science Fiction Association
- Ian Whates, British Science Fiction Association
- Liz Bourke, Science Fiction Foundation
- Andrew McKie, Science Fiction Foundation
- Leila Abu El Hawa, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival
Award Director Tom Hunter had this to say about the shortlist:
When it’s your Award’s 30th anniversary you secretly hope for something that little bit extra special in your shortlist, and I think the judges have delivered on that promise and more this year.
While I’m sure avid award watchers may find themselves wrong-footed by some of the calls, and with over 100 books in contention not every favourite book can make the top six, you can clearly see there’s passion, thought and indeed sacrifice behind all of these choices.
This is a quintessentially Clarke Award kind of a shortlist. Look once and I’m sure everyone will see a choice they agree with. Look twice, and you’ll likely see a new book you want to read next. Look a third time though, and I hope you’ll see how well all of these six books sit together, and how they represent a particular special moment in time for UK science fiction. In other words, like all great books, this is a shortlist that rewards the more you read into it.
The eventual winner of the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award will be presented with a cheque for £2016.00 and the commemorative bookend itself at a celebratory ceremony held at the Charing Cross Road branch of the bookseller Foyles on August 24.
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 lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.