GUEST BLOG After The Clarke Award 2014

With the winner of this year's Arthur C Clarke Award revealed yesterday , award director Tom Hunter shares his thoughts on the winning book

This is a guest blog by the director of the prestigious Arthur C Clarke Award for science fiction, Tom Hunter...

There's a reason why I'm the Director of the Arthur C Clarke Award, not one of its judging panel.

Judging is hard.

Seriously, it's really hard. And when you think that this year's shortlist of six titles was arrived at by reading an epic 121 submissions, you start to get an idea of the commitment, effort and dedication our judging panel showed this year.

Thank you Duncan Lawie, Ian Whates, Sarah Brown, Lesley Hall and Georgie Knight: you were a star team!

I know it was a long and toughly-debated final meeting, but we have our winner in Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie , and what an amazing choice it is.

As I said, I'm not a judge, and I think all of our shortlisted titles would have been well-deserved winners of course, but now I know the judges' decision, here's five reasons why I think they made an excellent choice:

It's science fiction with spaceships in it: space opera is surely the shining star at the heart of our science fictional universe, and Ancillary Justice doesn't just have loads of spaceships in it, its main character is a spaceship! Okay, technically it's a spaceship's intelligence inside the last surviving body of its human drone crew, but isn't that even cooler? Answer: yes! Ancillary Justice is drawing plenty of favourable comparisons with Iain M Banks's much loved Culture series, and with two more booked in the series already in the pipeline, I can't wait to see where Ann takes her story next.

This is Ann Leckie's first novel: I think something extra special happens when the Clarke Award recognizes the work of a debut novelist, and this year's shortlist featured three first time writers, and that power is doubled when a first book actually takes the prize and it is hugely exciting to be there right at the beginning of an author's career.

It's a well-deserved win for Orbit Books: while it would have been great for Ann to be able to attend the ceremony and accept the prize in person (small matter of her living in America unfortunately) I was very pleased that Ann's editor Jenni Hill was able to accept the prize on Ann's behalf. A win for an author is also, of course, a win for their publisher too. With Orbit publishing Ann in both the UK and the US, I know they'll be supremely well-placed to get behind her and push this book to, well, infinity and beyond as they say.

Let's talk about women not writing SF: let's be absolutely clear here, the Clarke judges aren't influenced by the results of previous years, they don't select shortlists based on quotas and they focus on the books, not what is being discussed on the internet. Ancillary Justice won because the judges thought it was the best science fiction book of the year. There is, however, a lot of online debate about the visibility of women writers of science fiction, and I hope that this win will be a great moment of change for future years, inspiration for new writers everywhere and the encouragement publishers need to broaden their lists and take risks on new writers (and to pay tribute to those publishers, I know this is something they are already hard at work on).

Onwards to the Hugo Award: naturally the Clarke Award is the world's most important science fiction award in my (highly biased) view, but I couldn't help noticing that Ancillary Justice has also been nominated for this year's Hugo Award for Best Novel – congratulations again Ann and Orbit!

Now, as noted above, the Clarke is a juried prize, but I can't help noticing that the Hugo is voted for by members of the Worldcon convention, which just happens to be in London this year and it is very, very easy to become a member... London Worldcon website here .

Now, I'm not saying you should join the convention just to vote for Ancillary Justice in the Hugo Awards (okay, I am hinting a bit though) but this is the first time in 50 years that the Worldcon has come to London, it's always an amazing event, and it's one of the top attractions in the SF calendar, packed full of authors, cool events panels, and hundreds of enthused fans. It is, in other words, a celebration of science fiction, and I hope to see you there.

I'll be the one at the front of the signing queue for Ann Leckie, clutching my copy of Ancillary Justice and telling anyone who'll listen, she won the Arthur C Clarke Award you know. You should totally check out her book!

The winner of this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award was announced on Thursday 1 May at the Royal Society in London. Follow award director Tom Hunter on Twitter at @ClarkeAward .

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