The winner of the 32nd annual Arthur C. Clarke Award was announced today at a special ceremony held at Foyles’ flagship store in London. Anne Charnock was honored with the UK’s most prestigious award for science fiction literature for her novel Dreams Before the Start of Time, a near-future tale that explores the intended and unintended consequences of reproductive technology when infertility is a thing of the past.
“Humanity’s attitudes to reproduction have been core to science fiction at least as far back as Frankenstein,” Andrew M. Butler, chair of judges for the 2018 award, said in the official announcement. “Anne Charnock’s Dreams Before the Start of Time explores the theme with a delightfully rich but unshowy intergenerational novel that demands rereading.” Award director Tom Hunter added: “This is a much-deserved win for a writer whose time has definitely come. Charnock’s multi-generational vision of expanding human reproductive technologies is smart, science-literate fiction that embraces the challenge of humanising big ethical questions, and succeeds by exploring possible future scenarios that feel utterly real.”
More about the novel:
In a near-future London, Millie Dack places her hand on her belly to feel her baby kick, resolute in her decision to be a single parent. Across town, her closest friend—a hungover Toni Munroe—steps into the shower and places her hand on a medic console. The diagnosis is devastating.
In this stunning, bittersweet family saga, Millie and Toni experience the aftershocks of human progress as their children and grandchildren embrace new ways of making babies. When infertility is a thing of the past, a man can create a child without a woman, a woman can create a child without a man, and artificial wombs eliminate the struggles of pregnancy. But what does it mean to be a parent? A child? A family?
Through a series of interconnected vignettes that spans five generations and three continents, this emotionally taut story explores the anxieties that arise when the science of fertility claims to deliver all the answers.
“I’d always thought of myself as an early adopter of technology,” Charnock said in her acceptance speech, “and over the years I kept looking around and waiting for a new technology to emerge that would actually make women’s lives easier, to make childbirth easier, and it didn’t seem to happen.” She went on to say that “[w]ith a different set of judges, or even these judges on a different day, we might have had a different winner. It is with humility that I accept this award, and I am deeply honoured.”
Charnock receives a trophy in the form of a commemorative engraved bookend and prize money of £2018.
Dreams Before the Start of Time was published by 47North in both the U.K. and the U.S.in April 2017.