Size / / /

Cheryl Morgan's take:

The word that worries me most is “technically”, because it makes it sound like books were being rejected on a technicality. I suspect that Liz probably didn’t mean that, but it is how it came over to me. It reminds me of all those silly debates we get into in fandom where people try to define what is and isn’t “really” science fiction, and it makes me happy that the Hugos don’t try to make a distinction. I can see that if I had been allowed to submit Archangel Protocol then it could have been accused of being “technically fantasy” despite the strong cyberpunk content, because it also contains angels. There are clear and obvious cases, but there’s also a very big grey area that we need to be careful about.

The Clarke has a recent history of rewarding books that some people dismiss as “really fantasy”. Perdido Street Station won the British Fantasy Award as well as the Clarke. The City & The City won the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo and the Clarke despite many people saying it wasn’t genre at all. And Zoo City is only “not urban fantasy” in the same way that 1984 is “not science fiction”. I very much hope that there hasn’t been some sort of policy retreat from doing this sort of thing, because I think it would affect women disproportionately.

Martin Lewis runs the numbers (with graphs):

Unfortunately, we can’t compare submissions historically but we can compare with the shortlists. So, in the first 10 years of the award 30% of nominees were female, 50% of winners were female and there were three years when there were as many women as men on the shortlist. Whereas in the last 10 years 22% of nominees were female, 20% of winners were female and men made up the majority of the shortlist every years.

So the record of the Arthur C Clarke Award is getting worse. I think this has to reflect the worsening situation for women in British science fiction publishing over this period. The fact that this year’s shortlist is made up entirely of men is a symptom of this and we need to address the root cause.

A reading project:

... given the arguments I thought I’d take a look at the submissions by women. I’ve been through the submission list, including those writers whose sex I didn’t know. I labelled them sf/f; sf; or fantasy. I won’t be reading the fantasy. If I put a book in this category it really is fantasy, I have given the benefit of the doubt where I could (at the bottom of this post you’ll see descriptions from Amazon).[...] I want to be clear: I am not trying to join a clamour that The Judges Were Wrong! But I am interested. My own sense even looking at that list is that there are only a couple I might have included with that list of “expected books”. But we will see. Report just before the Clarke Award.

And the Skiffy and Fanty show hosts a discussion of the Hugo and Clarke lists with Liz Bourke and Stina Leicht.

Me, I'm off for a week of reading holiday now, including the Clarke nominees I haven't read and hopefully a whole lot more as well. I leave you with this footnote to the discussion: yesterday morning, I went into Waterstone's to try to buy a copy of the just-published Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter, one of this year's debut sf novels from Jo Fletcher Books (and a book Cheryl has just said positive things about). The staff informed me that not only did they not have any copies, but no Waterstone's anywhere in the UK has nor will have any copies, because the sf buyers have chosen not to stock this title. This sort of thing does not directly affect the Clarke -- which is not dependent on the overall visibility of the titles, since books are submitted direct to the judges -- but on the larger issue, to put it mildly, it does not help.

Niall Harrison is a reader and fan.
One comment on “Clarke Commentary 2”

I very much hope that there hasn’t been some sort of policy retreat from doing this sort of thing
You can't have a policy retreat if you don't have a policy in the first place. The award is simply for the best science fiction novel and the interpretation of this has always been down to the individual judges. One of this year's judges was a judge when Zoo City won in 2010. Three were judges when The Waters Rising - a science fiction novel by a women that many viewed as fantasy - was shortlisted in 2011. What reason is there to suspect any of them have radically changed their minds in 2012? It is strange to see Morgan of all people proposing an award conspiracy theory.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: