It's Arthur C. Clarke Award time! Long-term readers may recall that I have been known to commentate on this award, and while I'm not sure I'm going to have time to do so this year, I did want to take the occasion of the release of the Clarke submissions list to note that this year a couple of other SH staff are involved in a new project: the Clarke Shadow Jury, being run under the auspices of the new Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction & Fantasy.
The idea, as with other shadow panels for the Man Booker International or the Orange/Bailey's/Women's Prize for Fiction in the UK, is for a group of thoughtful readers to follow along with the award, to make their suggestions about what should be on the final shortlist, and then to read the actual shortlist and share their deliberations on the merits of the potential winners. It should be a fascinating project and, as I say, the jury includes two current SH staff, whose personal introductions to the project have already been posted. Senior Reviews Editor Maureen Kincaid Speller writes:
Time passes, and things change, people too, and a few years ago my engagement with the Clarke Award shortlist began to shift. There was a sense of moving from ‘oh, that’s … an unusual but interesting choice. I must read this novel immediately’ to ‘really?’, and with it an emerging feeling that the award was no longer about what science fiction could look like but had become more focused on what it actually is, right now. There has also been the sense that it was turning away from innovation towards reassurance that, hey, look, good old-fashioned science fiction is still here. Which is not bad in and of itself, and it’s entirely up to the judges how they decide to define sf, remember, but this isn’t the Clarke Award I recall from earlier years.
And Fction Editor Vajra Chandrasekera notes:
I read most of those books by borrowing them from the British Council library in Colombo, and it seems reasonable to assume their Clarke Award wins or nominations ensured that they were stocked. So perhaps it’s more accurate to say that my early taste in SFF was heavily influenced by the Clarke in the first place. Which seems a rather terrifying responsibility for those that end up on the actual juries. Who is to blame for me having read Vurt at seventeen, and everything that this led to? And so on. Which is why I appreciate that the shadow jury allows one the pleasure of reading and talking about books in public space, without being required to make terrible choices in camera that might affect the tastes of new generations of readers and writers to come.
(In a glorious convergence, one of the people responsible for Vurt winning the 1994 Award was ... Maureen.)
You can read other introductory posts by other shadow jurors (most of whom will also be familiar to regular reviews-department readers) on the CSFF page; you can also follow them on Twitter -- as well as this mysterious account, which seems to be asking: who shadows the shadowers? It should all mean some good critical reading over the next few months; I'm looking forward to following along.