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I know, I know ... the last thing our field needs is new awards, right? At the same time, in the UK, there's a bit of a gap. The British Science Fiction Award is nominally for either fantasy or sf, but in practice almost always goes to sf. The British Fantasy Award, meanwhile, almost always goes to horror. (It remains to be seen how well this year's rules changes corrects this.) The Arthur C Clarke Award has infamously gone to novels that outside observers might consider fantasy a few times, but strictly speaking it's an award for science fiction. Certainly it will never represent the whole range of fantasy.

So what would a Clarke-equivalent look like? The idea is that it would be the same process as the Clarke itself, with a panel of judges who read a large number of fantasy novels -- and a wide range of types of fantasy -- published in a given year. There would be a shortlist of six and, as with the Clarke, the judges would re-read the nominated books before picking their winner.

I don't have the resources to set this up. But I do know the person running the literary programme at this year's Eastercon, and as a result I'm moderating the following panel:

Sunday 2pm, Winchester 41: A Fantasy Clarke Award. Our panel of fantasy readers and critics discusses what the Fantasy Clarke Award for 2011 might be. Niall Harrison (moderator), Nicola Clarke, David Hebblethwaite, Erin Horakova, Edward James and Juliet McKenna.

What we've done is put together a "shortlist", and what we're going to do is discuss it live, in the manner of the yearly Not The Clarke Awards panel, throwing out the books one by one until a "winner" is selected. We haven't, of course, been able to be as rigorous as the real Clarke judges; all the panelists have read widely, but we haven't read everything. But we think the shortlist is still a good cross-section of the fantasy published in the UK last year.

And that shortlist? Here it is:

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz)

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (Windmill)

Cold Fire by Kate Elliott (Orbit)

The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood (Orbit)

Twilight Robbery by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan)

Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi (Picador)

Your thoughts?

Niall Harrison is a reader and fan.
9 comments on “A Clarke For Fantasy?”

Well, I didn't read many fantasy novels last year - but of the very few I did read I thought KJ Parker's The Hammer was outstanding and I think your decision to omit it from your list demonstrates your incapacity to be making such important decisions. I therefore demand that you and your panel commit ritual suicide at once. Also, what, no talking horses?

It is a varied, exciting list that makes me think a fantasy Clarke is needed sooner rather than later.

Cursory inspection of indicates UK publication, so hey, some 2011 books you might want to check out:
Franny Billingsley, Chime
Anne Ursu, Breadcrumbs

Just off the top of my head, The Enterprise of Death, Osama and A Monster Calls would all be appropriate.

Martin: And here I thought people would be more upset by the absence of A Dance with Dragons.
Mely: Thanks! I actually looked at Chime when it came out and it didn't grab me, but maybe I'll go back to it. Breadcrumbs I hadn't come across.
Jared: You're allowed to mention that I forgot to mention your awards, you know. But yes, I wouldn't have been disappointed if some of those had ended up on the shortlist.

I'm unfamiliar with some of those titles, so can't really pass judgement, but I'd offer up it has the same flaw this year's Clarke SF shortlist had. At least one extremely strong contender is ineligible because it isn't published in the UK.
For Sf that's God's War, for Fantasy this year's remarkable Tiptree winner Redwood & Wildfire. (Yes, I will eventually shut up about how good this book is, when you've all read it.)

Kev: surely that's a flaw of publishing, not of the list itself?

Kev: Yes, of course that's an issue -- the one we discussed most when putting together the shortlist was actually Among Others -- but I don't think it invalidates the exercise.

Niall: Me? Never. I'd never say that. Gosh!
Seriously, I'm a little sad that the (existing) Clarke maelstrom has overshadowed any advance discussion of this list. Kvetching about the shortlist is a valuable part of the process, and I feel you've been cheated.


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