Friday, 17 February 2017

Clarke Award 2017

It’s that time again. The Clarke submissions list is out. The BSfA shortlist will, presumably, be out any day and at some point we will hear the plans for The Kitschies this year.

I started my reading year with other priorities – lots more non-fiction to enable me to engage more with the world, reading along with the Backlisted podcast titles and more rereading too.

BUT, the announcement of the Clarke Shadow jury means I’m just gonna have to find more time!

I think most of the shadow jury have posted some kind of introductory comments on their blogs but if you haven’t heard about this then the easiest place to start is on Nina Allan’s blog here and/or Maureen Kincaid Speller’s here. You’ll find a list of their fellow jurors and an idea of why it is such an exciting project.

Why does it make such a difference to me?

First of all, there’s an awful lot of intelligence, wisdom and experience amongst this group of people. Engaging with their ideas and debates means that I’ll be able to expand my critical toolbox and gain all manner of insights. And hell, even if most of it is all in my own head, I’ll be able to have arguments and disagreements and question my own ideas and [coughs] prejudices.

So yeah, I’m in.

86 titles then. I’ve read a few and my current feeling goes something like this…

The Underground Railway and Central Station were two of my favourite books of last year. I don’t doubt myself whatsoever when it comes to these two. I’m already looking forward to reading them again and engaging more deeply.


Next, well I loved The Fifth Season, even if I had issues with it, but I’m reluctant to read it again until the third volume comes out so I can read them all at once. Maybe I’ll have to get over myself because I suspect I’ll want it on my shortlist.

Then there is Steph Swainston. My first book of the year was The Year of Our War, prompted by a Niall Harrison tweet about Fair Rebel. I’ve now read No Present Like Time too. These are books that are overflowing with ideas and energy and all manner of things that I’m still only just starting to get my head around: I love their ambition. It’s hard for me to imagine that, unless Swainston has had some kind of remarkable dip, I won’t want Fair Rebel in my 6.

That leaves me with Alderman, Anders, De Abaitua, DeLillo, Geen, Ha Lee, Hill, Hutchinson, Kavenna, Lewis, Liu, MacInnes, MacLeod, McAuley, Mieville, North, Priest, Reynolds, Sinisalo, Suddain, Sullivan, Whiteley, Winters and Wood. That’s 23. I could be convinced of the need to read Beckett, Bennett, Brown, Newman, Robertson and Valente. Of course beyond that I’m open to arguments for any of the others.

I’ve read Alderman, Hutchinson and North. I enjoyed them all but for various reasons but I’m discounting them for my shortlist. I’ll elaborate on why in a later post.  I loved Priest, Sinisalo and Whitley and appreciated (and admired) Mieville – I’d be happy to read them all again too.

So where on earth does that leave me? Honestly? Excited – I’ve heard good things about quite a few of those other books and I’m looking forward to the critical debates in the months ahead.

Happy SF reading everyone.