2010 Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist announced

Paul Raven @ 31-03-2010

It’s that time of year again – the judging panel of the Arthur C Clarke Award for Science Fiction Literature have released the final shortlist for the 2010 contest. Here’s the six finalists, plus some statistical bits and bobs:

  • Spirit – Gwyneth Jones (Gollancz)
  • The City & The City – China Miéville (Macmillan)
  • Yellow Blue Tibia – Adam Roberts* (Gollancz)
  • Galileo’s Dream – Kim Stanley Robinson (HarperCollins)
  • Far North – Marcel Theroux (Faber & Faber)
  • Retribution Falls – Chris Wooding (Gollancz)

Gwyneth Jones, China Miéville, Adam Roberts and Kim Stanley Robinson have all previously been nominated for the Award and both Gwyneth Jones and China Miéville are previous winners.

Gwyneth Jones has been nominated five times, and won the Award once for her novel Bold As Love in 2002.

China Miéville has been nominated three times, and won the Award twice with Perdido Street Station in 2001 and Iron Council in 2005. If China Miéville wins in 2010 he will become the first author to win the prize three times in its twenty-four year history.

This is the first time Marcel Theroux and Chris Wooding have been nominated.

This year’s six shortlisted titles were selected from a long list of forty-one eligible submissions put forward by seventeen different publishing houses and imprints.

I’ve read one of the six (namely the Mieville, which I thought was excellent) – how about you lot? Care to cast the odds on the eventual winner?

I like the Clarke Award because it tends to highlight books I’m interested in far more reliably than the popularity contest awards (e.g. the Hugos), but to some people its selection process seems elitist – do you tend to agree more with juried awards or open-voted ones?

[* Regular readers will be aware that Adam Roberts thinks SF awards are rubbish, of course. So I kind of hope he wins, just in case the dichotomy makes him disappear in a puff of self-deprecatory puns. Not that I want the fellow to disappear; of course (unlike some aging but certainly-not-po-faced prog fans) – I just think it’d be a jolly fun way to end the ceremony. 😉 ]


Kim Stanley Robinson asks why science fiction isn’t winning awards; I ask why we should care

Paul Raven @ 17-09-2009

Science fiction heavyweight Kim Stanley Robinson crops up in the current edition of New Scientist to sing the praises of British sf… and of sf in general. In addition to presenting flash-length pieces by a handful of big names – Ken MacLeod, Geoff Ryman, Justina Robson and more – he has a lengthy article decrying the blinkered tastes of the juries for awards like the Booker Prize:

… it seems to me that three or four of the last 10 Booker prizes should have gone to science fiction novels the juries hadn’t read. Should I name names? Why not: Air by Geoff Ryman should have won in 2005, Life by Gwyneth Jones in 2004, and Signs of Life by M. John Harrison in 1997. Indeed this year the prize should probably go to a science fiction comedy called Yellow Blue Tibia, by Adam Roberts.

This is hardly a new complaint – fandom has always muttered darkly into its real ale about the shunning of science fiction by the literary establishment, and this year saw some Guardian book bloggers attempt to redress the imbalance by running an open-nomination “Not The Booker” Prize (only to see all the genre titles swiftly voted out of the running, natch) – but to have it appear on the pages of New Scientist is an interesting development. Indeed, NS seems to be quite deliberately aligning itself with a science fictional/futurist mindset of late; perhaps the editorial team are equally convinced of sf’s didactic and educational powers as Robinson is?

Personally, I’ve always felt that prizes and public acceptance are overrated, and that science fiction does itself a disservice by chasing after them; Robinson appears to me to be taking a similar stance. I’ve never picked books because they won awards; personal recommendation has always carried far more weight, ever since I was quite young.

And if we truly believe that science fiction has the power and potential to open minds (and change them), isn’t the sincere recommendation of a book from friend to friend the best form of evangelism? To use an analogy with science itself: many of the greatest scientific innovators achieved their leaps of progress in spite of great public opposition and the opprobrium of the establishment; rather than kowtow and beg for crumbs of approval, they just knuckled down and got on with it, fueled by their own defiance, converting their few faithful supporters through their unflappable loyalty to their own ideas.

Don’t get me wrong, here: I’d love to see the authors I admire being paid more, or being interviewed as insightful pundits rather than geeky fringe artists who are good for ridiculous out-of-context quotations. I’d love to see science fiction as a powerful and accepted part of modern cultural discourse… but I don’t think it’ll ever achieve that through us pleading for legitimacy on its behalf.

As recent events have shown, hearts and minds aren’t won with shock and awe; they’re won with honesty and sincerity. If you care enough about science fiction that you want to see it read more widely and appreciated as something more than simple escapist entertainment, don’t waste your time storming the ramparts of the crumbling ivory tower of literature, or decrying the inevitably populist results of fan-voted awards. Instead, try to convert one other book-lover. If all of us managed to do that, we’d double the power of the genre almost overnight, and weaken the factional schisms within it at the same time.

Rant over. 😉


What would you ask Kim Stanley Robinson?

Paul Raven @ 06-04-2009

Kim Stanley Robinson portraitWell, what? If you could put any question to Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the legendary Mars Trilogy as well as the more recent Science in the Capitol series, what would it be? [Image from Wikipedia]

This is not a rhetorical question, by the way. The nice people at Harper Collins are soon to be launching their new VoyagerBooks.co.uk website and getting to grips with the intermawebz, and as part of the preliminaries they’re throwing six of their biggest genre fiction authors on the mercies of six different genre fiction blogs, including Big Dumb Object, SFF Chronicles, SFF World, Speculative Horizons and Book Geeks. The good Mr Robinson has been chosen to appear here at Futurismic, and you lot get to pick the questions.

I dare say it’s a pretty good match; Robinson’s interests – science, politics, climate change and space – are very much in line with the stuff we talk about here from day to day, and I’m sure he’ll be amenable to questions about his writing in more general terms (provided you don’t ask him where he gets his ideas from).

So, here’s the way we’re gonna do it: if you’ve got a question you’d like to put to Kim Stanley Robinson, leave a comment below.

Simple enough? There are some basic rules, though – honest and non-snarky questions only (I’ll just ignore or delete anything silly or rude, I’m afraid, but controversial science and politics are fine), keep them to a reasonable scale (something that can be answered in a few paragraphs or so), and the deadline will be 1800 hours GMT this Wednesday, 8th April 2009. If there are too many, I’ll pick out the best.

Yep, that’s the lot. So, thinking caps on, folks; I’m looking forward to seeing some interesting questions. 🙂


James Patrick Kelly interviews Kim Stanley Robinson about Science in the Capitol, Clarion and short fiction

Paul Raven @ 14-02-2009

Kim Stanley Robinson portraitIn case you missed Kim Stanley Robinson‘s appearance in Second Life, you can hear the man himself being interviewed by fellow writer James Patrick Kelly on a special episode of Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast.

Topics include the Science in the Capitol series, the Clarion Workshop (at which Robinson is teaching this year), and why he’s not been writing much short fiction recently. [Image from Wikipedia]


Kim Stanley Robinson to appear in Second Life… as a coyote

Paul Raven @ 12-01-2009

Stan Shackleton, Kim Stanley Robinson's Second Life coyote avatarSecond Life may be off the headline radar now the hype has died off, but there’s still plenty happening there if you know where to look. The latest genre author to appear in-world as a public speaker (following after such luminaries as William Gibson, Charles Stross and Terry Pratchett) is Kim Stanley Robinson, who will be donning the form of a coyote while he gives a presentation to Second Life’s transhumanist clade, Extropia. [via NewWorldNotes]

Robinson’s appearance is scheduled for this coming Saturday, 17th January, at high noon Second Life Time/PDT; full details at the Extropia Events blog (to which is also due the credit for the screenshot of Robinson’s coyote avatar, Stan Shackleton).


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