The authors vying for the prestigious SF literature prize are revealed
Seeking out the finest English-language science fiction novel published over the last 12 months, the Arthur C Clarke Award is one of the most prestigious prizes in the genre. Over the years it’s developed a reputation for picking nominees from the far reaches of SF, raising questions about what’s science fiction and what isn’t. “For me every new shortlist is a springboard for conversation,” says Clarke Award administrator Tom Hunter. “A welcome surprise, an infectious talking point and, hopefully, a highlight on the science fiction calendar. With this year’s selection I’m confident our judges have delivered on all those counts.”
The Brighton-based writer is best known for her 2002 Clarke winner Bold As Love , a “near-future fantasy” that tells of eco-catastrophe and hippy musicians taking the reins of government, and its sequels. Think sharply written science fiction, often laced with elements of fantasy.
The book Spirit is essentially Alexandre Dumas’ The Count Of Monte Cristo transposed to space and given a female lead. Adventure is thus a given, but this is also a serious novel that explores such themes as the nature of motherhood.
The fiendishly clever leading light of the New Weird found his meter with the 2001 Clarke winner, Perdido Street Station , the first of his three (to date) Bas-Lag novels, dark fantasies filled with nasty goings-on and gothic flourishes. Miéville’s highly political Iron Council also took the Clarke, in 2005.
The City & The City , also nominated for the Nebula and BSFA Award, is an eerie tale of Bes?el and Ul Qoma, cities that occupy the same geographical space, yet which have their own distinct populations. Perhaps necessarily considering the premise, it’s also a police procedural of unusual ingenuity.
An academic who also writes parodies of popular novels, Roberts’ SF career has yet to hit the heights of some of his contemporaries. That’s beginning to change, principally because his novels are becoming progressively more ambitious and technically assured. He’s twice been nominated for the Clarke before.
The book Yellow Blue Tibia begins with Stalin asking Soviet SF writers to contrive a tale about aliens invading earth. Then things get really weird when the story apparently begins to come true… A book so good that Kim Stanley Robinson said it should have been nominated for the Booker. Speaking of whom...
KIM STANLEY ROBINSON
On the strength of his epic Mars colonisation trilogy alone, the California-based writer is one of the major SF writers of the last 20 years. Ecological concerns are a recurring theme in his work, most notably in his recent Science In The Capital sequence, which grappled with how we might respond to climate change.
The book Galileo’s Dream has a surprisingly playful quality as Robinson brilliantly brings the proto-astronomer, a man not exactly without foibles, to life. It’s also a novel that brilliantly fuses historical fiction and timeslip SF.
The son of novelist and travel writer Paul and brother of Louis, Marcel Theroux is a writer and broadcaster. His first novel, A Stranger In The Earth , a satire of life in contemporary London, was published in 1998. He’s also fronted numerous TV documentaries.
The book Far North fulfils the rule that every Clarke shortlist has to have at least one novel out of leftfield. Bleak yet brilliant, it follows a traveller, Makepeace, in a future Siberia where global warming has largely sent humanity back to a pre-industrial age.
Arguably the least well known name on the Clarke list, but that’s not for want of grafting. Wooding has written numerous books, yet he’s also found time to travel extensively (sometimes as a working musician) and scribble for both TV and film. His children’s books have twice been nominated for the Carnegie Medal.
The book Retribution Falls is a steampunk novel-cum-swashbuckler that’s an awful lot of fun. Imagine Firefly with airships and you won’t be far wrong. Unlikely to take the award (famous last words…) but proof that Wooding is a name to watch.