Arthur C. Clarke Award 2011

For those of you not already aware (of course you are) this year’s nominees for the Clarke Award have been announced. To, recap, then they are:

  • Zoo City – Lauren Beukes
  • The Dervish House – Ian McDonald
  • Monsters of Men – Patrick Ness
  • Generosity – Richard Powers
  • Declare – Tim Powers
  • Lightborn – Tricia Sullivan

As I’ve mentioned before, the Clarke’s are the genre award that I pay the most attention to, they tend to fit more with my own literary prejudices and I certainly think that the shortlists and winners that it produces are more interesting than, say, the Hugos. Though I’m not sure about one of last year’s nominees, Retribution Falls which I have on my shelves but have yet to get around to. There are a few things which make me think that I shan’t be picking up the pace on that one any time soon. But, apart from that, I usually have time for the stuff that is shortlisted for the Clarke and its eventual winners.

After the shortlist had been decided upon (but not announced) Torque Control ran a contest for readers to guess what the shortlist would look like. I had a shot myself and, I have to confess that I’m now a little embarrassed by my own contribution.

As ever, there’s been a flurry of activity on the blogosphere since the announcement. Cheryl Morgan notes that there have been two women nominated this year. As it happens, I think that this (as I’d hope some of my previous postings on the subject would make clear) is A Good Thing. So, at the risk of seeming to protest too much, I’d note that my embarrassment at getting the list wrong and, further, failing to include any women writers is not because that’s how I wanted the list to look. Rather it was a result of trying to second guess the judges. I am embarrassed because I feel now that I have, perhaps, done the judges a disservice. For what it’s worth though, as has been widely discussed already, there is a big gap in numbers between female and male writers. Illustrated well by Martin in a series of interesting posts where he gives those numbers a good old crunching. I have to admit that I’m more surprised at the competitors that chose books by Neal Asher and Peter F. Hamilton in their lists. They don’t really seem like Clarke fodder to me.

If I am expressing any disappointment at omissions, though, I think I’d say that I’d like to have seen New Model Army make the shortlist. Adam Roberts has been producing some fine work over the last few years and he deserves a little more recognition than (it seems to me? I may be wrong) he is getting.

As far as the shortlist goes this year, though, I think it is an interesting (and apparently surprising one). I’m happy to see Tricia Sullivan there (although there does seem to be some suggestion that Lightborn is perhaps not her finest novel) as I believe that she has produced some fine work. Zoo City is a welcome sight on the shortlist. Lauren Beukes’ second novel is excellent. Again, I enjoyed Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House a great deal, so once again, good to see it there.

The other three I have yet to read. I’d heard some good things about Generosity and it did sound interesting; it was parked in the back of my mind as a future read. Perhaps time to bump it up? I’m not that familiar with Tim Powers. I do have a copy of The Anubis Gates that I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while now. Rather worryingly, though, Niall Harrison describes Declare as “a wodge of stodge” on the Strange Horizons blog… I’ll see.

Finally, Monsters of Men is something that I have to admit was not at all on my radar. I’ll certainly be giving it a go, though I realise that it’s the third in the Chaos Walking Trilogy, so it may not be read too soon.

As I say, overall, quite an interesting list. Nice to see a little more diversity in that, proportionally, than perhaps there is in the overall submissions (in the sense that fully one third of the novels in the shortlist were by women). I look forward to the announcement of the winners and in the meantime to reading a couple of things that I maybe had not considered.

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8 Responses to Arthur C. Clarke Award 2011

  1. Martin says:

    Although Monsters Of Men is third in a trilogy, the style of the Chaos Walking books makes them very quick reads. You could probably get through all three books in less time than Declare (obviously I don’t think it is a wodge of stodge but it is definitely a wodge!)

    • Richard says:

      Cheers… currently attempting to read a book a day this month (good excuse to read a load of old genre fiction and some of the Kadare’s I’ve got here and yet to read – given that they’re all quite short). So may be worth giving the Chaos Walking books a try then!

      Yeah, and re: Powers, I have to admit to a quite possibly irrational fear of chunky genre novels.

      Also, I am genuinely embarrassed that I didn’t pick any female authors in the competition! I’m glad to see that you and your fellow judges made me (and, it seems, a lot of other people), look a little silly. I picked what I thought would be a ‘safe’ list which, further, does a disservice to the quality of writing from the likes of Lauren Beukes and Tricia Sullivan. Though, really, mine wasn’t a wishlist (really).

  2. Nic says:

    I second Martin’s comment. The Ness books really are surprisingly quick reads for the size of them. I finished both of them within a day (a day each, that is, not one day for both books).

    • Richard says:

      I notice that Ness has being getting a lot of love since the list was announced (well, at least in some of the places that I’ve read…) so it’s decided! They’ll be read soon(ish). Certainly try and get them read before the winner is announced.

  3. Niall says:

    To be fair to Declare, rumour has it that it gets better the further in you go. We’ll see, as they say.

    (And yes, the Ness books are quick reads. I’d quite like to re-read all three and write about them collectively before the award is announced, if I can.)

    • Richard says:

      I hope so! I should probably be a little less wary and trust the judges more. After all, the premise does hold interest for me.

      I look forward to that too! 🙂

  4. Aishwarya says:

    I hope you do read the Chaos Walking books. I didn’t pick Monsters of Men in the Strange Horizons competition because it was the third part of a trilogy, but I love the series.

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