Dereliction of Duty

Posted by Niall Harrison

Bumped up from the comments, Christopher Priest is not happy about this year's Clarke Award shortlist, and has the reading to back it up. After details of the books he thinks should be there (Osama, By Light Alone, Wake Up and Dream, Dead Water), and why the books that are there shouldn't be -- all of which is well worth reading -- he concludes with a "modest suggestion":

The easy way out of this problem is to do nothing. We wait for 2nd May, we troop along to the awards ceremony and we wait for the decision to be announced. In a sense, it does not matter which one of the six books is announced, because all of them are deficient in the ways I have described. (If this happens, I hope the winner is Jane Rogers, because the deficiencies in her novel are much less serious than those in the others.) The true winner of the award, the writer of the best book of last year, will never be known, because he or she is not on the shortlist.

But there is a better way forward, and here it is.

1.The present panel of judges should be fired, or forced to resign, immediately. Their names are Juliet E. McKenna, Martin Lewis, Phil Nanson, Nikkianne Moody and Rob Grant. Chairman Andrew M. Butler should also resign. These people have proved themselves incompetent as judges, and should not be allowed to have any more say about or influence on the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

2. The 2012 Arthur C. Clarke Award should be suspended forthwith, and the planned awards ceremony on 2nd May should be cancelled.

3. The award fund (£2,012.00, as I understand it) should be held over until next year. Next year’s fund should be added to it, so that the prize for 2013 becomes £4,013.00.

4. The 2013 Clarke Award should be made to the best novel published in the two years ended 31st December 2012. All novels currently eligible for the 2012 award, whether or not they have been shortlisted by this year’s panel, are eligible again.

5. All the other usual rules of the Award should be applied.

           

Comments (4)


I burst out laughing when I reached the part where Priest makes his "modest suggestions," though he's quite convincing otherwise. Everyone keeps telling me China Mieville is the second coming, and so I keep picking up his books ... and putting them back down again. It's a relief to know I'm not alone in the world.


I thought the modest suggestions were especially impressive. It isn't everyone that volunteers to generously withdraw from the imaginary recreation of an award they've already lost.


Shame about his maths, though.

£2012.00 + £2013.00 = £4025.00


I really enjoyed reading Christopher Priest's furious text. I think it was full of just the kind of frustration many older sf readers feel when they see over and over what books are nominated for genre awards.
True, I have not read any of the novels that were nominated this year. Still I feel pretty certain the literary relevence of books like "The Waters Rising", "Hull Zero Three" and "Rule 34" is negligible.
I stopped being a 'real' sf fan decades ago when I realized there is so much fiction out there in the mainstream world that is so much better written than your nth tired saga quest featuring a talking horse. What I do not get is: How can people read hundreds of novels without eventually becoming dissatisfied with the kind of competently written fluff nine genre authors out of ten produce? And how can they even want to give awards to such stuff? Really strange ...
Some last remarks:
I think Christopher Priest should have stated unequivocally that he does not want the award for himself. And: I can understand jurors who do not stand down immediately once they see that some nominations are ridiculous. I was once a juror and in a similar situation. At the time, I just waited till the awards had been handed over, then left the jury without much ballyhoo. Everything else would have looked idiotic (or so I thought then).


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