An open letter to all fans of Science Fiction from Tom Hunter, Director of the Arthur C Clarke Award
In 2011 we’ll be presenting the prize for the 25th winner of the Arthur C Clarke Award.
A lot has changed in 25 years, and the Award has not been immune to that change.
In many ways the Award is now at one of its strongest points ever. Its profile has never been wider, its organisational and community ties are strong, endorsement and support is high both within the SF community and the broader cultural sphere, and increased sophistication in electronic point of sale tracking is now showing direct correlations between Award announcements and increased book sales.
However the Award has also proven notably vulnerable to change at various points in its history, especially in terms of its reliance on volunteer governance and its historic lack of core financial stability in terms of assets, revenue generation or its ability to capitalise on far reaching fundraising or partnership opportunities.
Following the death of Sir Arthur and the subsequent winding up of Rocket Publishing (Sir Arthur’s UK company which funded the Award’s prize) the Award is now faced with an immediate and pressing need to change, adapt and re-evaluate its role and function as it moves into 2012 and its next quarter century.
This is a process that is happening now, and this letter to you all is a big part of taking my plans and those of Serendip, the Award’s governing body, to the next level.
The Arthur C Clarke Award is built around three core values:
- To recognise the best science fiction novels of the year published in the UK.
- To promote science fiction and science fiction literature both within the UK and internationally.
- To honour the memory and legacy of Sir Arthur.
I don’t believe that our current resources should define the pursuit of this vision, and rather I see our previous funding model slipping away as a necessary transition and the first step on the road to transforming the Award into a more deeply engaged social enterprise.
The good news is everyone involved with the Award has already been doing a lot of work in this area, looking at consultation, starting new conversations and setting up new partnerships, and the next stage of that process is to open up that dialogue more widely and start sharing our thoughts in places like this blog.
For me, the success of the Clarke Award and Serendip beyond 2011 means more connections with new and existing fans and organisations, and working with them to further raise the profile of the Award. We are also creating ways to quantify the value of the Award and assess its impact. The idea being that from this we can then meaningfully judge its success and demonstrate its continued significance as a key voice within the SF community, the publishing industry and beyond.
The questions we’ve been asking ourselves mostly look like this:
- What value does the Award bring to the SF community and what role should it play in its future?
- How important is a UK focused prize in an increasingly international and digital marketplace?
- What more could the Award do as part of its broader advocacy remit to promote science fiction?
- How much does the success and the credibility of the Award depend on it having a cash prize?
- What new partnerships and opportunities could we create to generate seed funding for the future?
What do you think? What does the Arthur C Clarke Award mean to you, how important a part of the SF landscape is it, and where would you like it to go from here?
I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts and ideas here, and I’ll aim to answer every question as best I can.
People are already asking how they can get involved, and all offers of help, advice or useful connections are greatly appreciated.
Three things people can do to get involved right now are help us show the size of our audience by Liking us on Facebook or following @ClarkeAward on Twitter, re-posting the link to this page and, of course, by letting us know your thoughts in the comments here.
Thank you for reading and for your continued support of the Arthur C Clarke Award.
Award Director, December 2010