The 2011 awards season is well and truly upon us – it’s an exciting time of year, with all but one of the big awards having released their shortlists, and the SF community engaging in discussion and debate both online and off. I’m sure that there are a lot of us who know some of the nominated people personally, and in some small part we can share what must be a nerve-wracking few weeks until the various award ceremonies are held.
The big award that is still collecting nominations is, of course, the Hugos. Laura Burns has already talked about the Hugo awards, the granddaddy of the lot, perhaps. One great thing about the Hugos, as Laura mentions, is that you can join WorldCon as a supporting member, even if you can’t attend the convention itself. This entitles you to nominating and voting rights, and you get an electronic pack of all the final nominees. I’m mentioning this here again as I did this for the first time last year, and was very impressed. As a UK resident it cost me £25, and I still haven’t finished reading everything that was provided. As well as the opportunity to take part in the Hugo awards process, you get very good value for money!
As well as the Hugos and the Nebulas (summarised nicely by Bill Peters), there are two more major SF/fantasy awards on this side of the Atlantic which have recently announced their shortlists.
The Arthur C. Clarke award, so named in honour of the great SF author and originally founded thanks to a grant from the man himself, is presented each year for the best science fiction novel first published in the UK in the previous calendar year. It is described as the most prestigious award for science fiction in Britain, and is unusual in that it is a jury-judged prize. Six novels are selected from publisher submissions, and the prize itself (the amount corresponding to the year of the award, so this year is £2,011) is presented at a ceremony as part of the Sci-Fi London event in April.
The Clarke awards often provoke intense debate and analysis in the UK. Personally, I don’t think the shortlist ever quite reaches controversial levels, but usually the selection is very interesting and quite unpredictable, with most commentary (at least initially) focussing on what books didn’t make it. Last year’s winner was The City and the City by China Miéville, which went on to win both the British Science Fiction Association award and the Hugo the same year. Miéville also broke the record by winning the Clarke award for the third time with The City and the City.
This year’s shortlist (selected from 54 eligible submissions) is:
Zoo City – Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
The Dervish House – Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
Monsters of Men – Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
Generosity – Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)
Declare – Tim Powers (Corvus)
Lightborn – Tricia Sullivan (Orbit)
The eligibility criteria - specifically the requirement for the book to have been published in the UK to quality – have thrown up an interesting result this year with Declare by Tim Powers making the shortlist. While this book was first released in the US in 2001, the first UK edition didn’t come out until 2010, hence it is eligible. Also, Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness is the third book in a trilogy.
The shortlist was released on Friday 4th March, and Clarke award administrator Tom Hunter managed to spare some time to give me his thoughts on this year’s selection:
I’ve spent most of the day tabbing between different web pages, following threads, checking Google alerts, clicking links and generally watching Twitter like the kind of geekily obsessive SF stereotype I am. I spend a good part of my Clarke Award working-life trying to challenge, and the overwhelming conclusion from all of this adhoc research is that people seem to really like this shortlist.
This doesn’t mean that they necessarily agree with all of it, and there’s no rule that says they should, but I think this year people have really seen where our shortlist has come from and the real hard work that’s gone into it on the part of the judges; who I think deserve some real kudos by the way.
Then again, maybe all the goodwill is simply down to it being our 25th anniversary…
Either way, it’s a great result for the Award and a fantastic statement about the health of modern science fiction literature – just don’t ask me to guess the winner, this really is one of those great shortlists where the field is wide open.
The British Science Fiction Association award shortlist was also recently announced, with the award ceremony held at the national science fiction convention (commonly referred to as EasterCon), Illustrious, over the Easter weekend. Interestingly, of the Best Novel nominations, three out of the five BSFA nominees are also on the Clarke award shortlist. Together, the BSFA and the Clarke awards count as two of the ‘big ones’ for the UK. A third set of awards, given by the British Fantasy Society, happen later in the year.
Paolo Bacigalupi – The Windup Girl (Orbit)
Lauren Beukes – Zoo City (Angry Robot)
Ken Macleod – The Restoration Game (Orbit)
Ian McDonald – The Dervish House (Gollancz)
Tricia Sullivan – Lightborn (Orbit)
Best Short Fiction
Nina Allan – ‘Flying in the Face of God’ – Interzone 227, TTA Press.
Aliette de Bodard – ‘The Shipmaker’– Interzone 231, TTA Press.
Peter Watts – ‘The Things’ – Clarkesworld 40
Neil Williamson – ‘Arrhythmia’ – Music for Another World, Mutation Press
Paul Kincaid – Blogging the Hugos: Decline, Big Other
Abigail Nussbaum – Review, With Both Feet in the Clouds, Asking the Wrong Questions Blogspot
Adam Roberts – Review, Wheel of Time, Punkadiddle
Francis Spufford – Red Plenty (Faber and Faber)
Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe the Notes from Coode Street Podcast
Andy Bigwood – cover for Conflicts (Newcon Press)
Charlie Harbour – cover for Fun With Rainbows by Gareth Owens (Immersion Press)
Dominic Harman – cover for The Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (Gollancz)
Joey Hi-Fi –cover for Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
Ben Greene – ‘A Deafened Plea for Peace’, cover for Crossed Genres 21
Adam Tredowski – cover for Finch, by Jeff Vandermeer (Corvus)
Voting on the BSFA awards is open to all members of the BSFA and of EasterCon, with advance votes due by 18th April and on-site ballot boxes available at EasterCon itself.
The shortlists so far announced show, I think, that 2010 was a pretty strong year for genre fiction. Certainly some of the novels released in 2010 I now count among my favourites, periods. All that is left is wait for the Hugo shortlist to be announced. And I’m looking forward to that very much indeed.