Clarke Award shortlist

From a press release sent by the administrator of the Arthur C Clarke Award, Tom Hunter (links added by me):

Ian R. MacLeod, Paul McAuley, Alastair Reynolds, Neal Stephenson, Sheri S. Tepper and Mark Wernham are the six authors shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2009, the UK’s premier prize for science fiction literature.

The six shortlisted books are:

Song of Time: Ian R. MacLeod – PS Publishing (Amazon UK)
The Quiet War: Paul McAuley – Gollancz (Amazon UK)
House of Suns: Alastair Reynolds – Gollancz (Amazon UK)
Anathem: Neal Stephenson – Atlantic (Amazon UK / US)
The Margarets: Sheri S. Tepper – Gollancz (Amazon UK)
Martin Martin’s on the Other Side: Mark Wernham – Jonathan Cape (Amazon UK)


The annual award is presented for the best science fiction novel of the year, and selected from a list of novels whose UK first edition was published in the previous calendar year.

The winner will be announced on Wednesday 29th April at an award ceremony held on the opening night of the SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival:


The judging panel for the 2008 Arthur C. Clarke Award are Chris Hill and Ruth O’Reilly for the British Science Fiction Association, Robert Hanks and Rhiannon Lassiter for the Science Fiction Foundation and Pauline Morgan for the science fiction news website SF Paul Billinger represents the Arthur C. Clarke Award as the Chair of Judges.

There’s a complete list of the books submitted at Torque Control here. Now, following just-the-facts, some opinions…

Books I’ve read that I’d have been happy to have seen on the shortlist: Will Ashon, The Heritage (free PDF!) ; Iain M Banks, Matter (my review); Stephen Baxter, Flood (a discussion); Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World; Richard Morgan, The Steel Remains (my review); Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go; Charles Stross, Halting State.

Books others may feel belong on the shortlist: Greg Bear, City at the End of Time; Andrew Crumey, Sputnik Caledonia; Cory Doctorow, Little Brother (free download); Ken Macleod, The Night Sessions; Charles Stross, Saturn’s Children; Liz Williams, Winterstrike.

[Edited to add: as I’ve not read all 46 submitted books, or indeed reviews of all of them, no-one should take these lists as comprehensive; as noted in my comment to Adam Roberts here, his Swiftly could certainly be seen as a contender. Feel free to tell me in the comments of other good stuff I’ve missed.]

The Clarke has a reputation for a) crossing over into “the literary” for its own sake more than other sf awards, and b) annoying the sf community because of a). (And I certainly got very grumpy at last year’s list excluding Ian McDonald’s superb Brasyl and including of a couple of novels published outside the genre whose merits I thought were relatively low.) However, this year’s jury seem to have avoided those pitfalls; although you could argue with some of the exclusions, I think all the shortlisted books have something to commend them, and a couple are really exceptional.

The wildcard is probably Martin Martin’s on the Other Side, a book not much noticed by the sf community so far – an exception being Jonathan McAlmont’s review. I may wind up writing about it myself, so won’t give too many spoilers here; suffice it to say that it’s a fizzing near-future novel with plenty to say about contemporary media culture. I don’t quite agree with Jonathan’s argument that it sits in his new subgenre of Barleypunk (defined here, with some NSFW language) – I think the near-future elements have more in common with something like A Clockwork Orange.

Predictions? I’m rubbish at them, and in any case they depend so much on the personalities and tastes of the jury, and the dynamic between them. From my own tastes, there are two or three books on the list I’d be very happy to see win, but your mileage may vary. Emergent themes? Well, it may be just coincidence, but there are several books on the list about selfhood, and what happens to it when split or cloned. (So there’s a lot about memory too.) The state of sf? From this showing, very healthy.

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