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In this day and age, much of yesterday's discussion of the Clarke Award shortlist took place on Twitter, which makes it unfortunately ephemeral and hard to track; the hashtag includes some but by no means all of the commentary. Had I a storify account and time I would try to collect some of it, but today I have neither.

In old-fashioned blog news, though, we have posts from Nina Allan:

In sum, this is a good shortlist, filled with imaginative, thought-provoking and most excitingly of all unexpected choices, and the judges should be highly commended for it. May it provoke intense discussion, speculation and enthusiasm, and serve as an example to future judging panels of what great things a good Clarke shortlist can do in showcasing the many and various things SF can say and be.

David Hebblethwaite:

This is so striking to me because the other three shortlisted novels are all non-genre – an unusually high proportion for the Clarke, especially in recent years. There’s also an interesting range of flavours amongst them. It’s nice to see Harkaway getting some Clarke recognition after he missed out with The Gone-Away World; he’s a distinctive and significant new voice in contemporary fiction, I think. I’m pleased that Nod is on the list, because it hasn’t had much attention from the sf community as yet, and I think it’s an intriguing book that could have good cross-over appeal. I don’t know much about the Heller, but it looks like the most traditionally “mainstream” Clarke nominee, and I didn’t have it down as a contender.

Joe Gordon:

As usual with the Arthurs I think there’s a decent mix in there – established, highly respected authors and those newer to the scene yet already commanding some interest and comment. As I say pretty much every year any and all of the shortlisted authors are worthy of your reading consideration and the shortlist, in my opinion, should always form a nice ‘suggested reading’ list for readers looking for top new writing in the genre. That said I’d imagine with not one but two major SF heavyweights on the list with Ken MacLeod and Kim Stanley Robinson I wonder if the final choice will skew towards the finely honed-by-experience words of Stan or Ken?

And James Nicoll:

Congratulations to the Clarkes for resisting the deadly temptation to produce a more diverse nominee list, especially given the outrageous - by what appear to the current standards of British SF - presence of women, persons of colour and Muslims on the submissions list. In particular I'd like to praise you for snubbing Alif the Unseen, which could have only embolden those people into further creativity in the field of SF and for picking KSR's proud tribute to colonialism and American Exceptionalism IN SPACE! over, say, Blue Remembered Earth, whose author fell into the dark error of actually paying attention to recent trends in Africa.

The Guardian, meanwhile, has not one but three pieces about the award: a news article by Alison Flood, an appreciation by Stuart Kelly ("As a Man Booker judge, I'm slightly envious of the shortlist here" -- he picks MacLeod as his winner), and most unusually, a judges' commentary by Liz Williams:

This has been a catch-22 for female genre writers for a long time: as my fellow judge Juliet E McKenna points out, the lack of visibility and discoverability of female writers "perpetuates the misconception that women can't write SF – for people who don't understand that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". As Juliet also says, changes in bookselling are a factor too: new releases have a very short commercial shelf life. The average chain bookseller puts them on the shelves for a handful of weeks: if they don't sell, they're returned – but bookshop browsing in retail outlets for new releases is now skewed to front-of-house promotions. These are biased towards "safe bets which then become self-fulfilling prophecies: such as 'female SF doesn't sell, so we won't include that' – which guarantees it doesn't sell." This may even go on to affect submissions to publishers … Are women writers, in fact, caught up in an enormous feedback loop of diminished expectation?



Niall Harrison is a reader and fan.
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