Priest and Clarke, round n

Posted by Niall Harrison

It occurs to me that I never linked to Catherynne Valente's second post reflecting on Christopher Priest's intervention into this year's Clarke Award process, and should have done:

Everyone has had their say, including me. I am pro people voicing their opinions on literature, even unpopular ones, and I fully support Christopher Priest’s right to weep over the state of science fiction as he sees it. And while I don’t care for name-calling, this is the internet, and aside from porn, that’s pretty much what it’s for. People wouldn’t have amused themselves for the better part of a week over this if it weren’t so savage, wouldn’t make it the centerpiece of the SFF news cycle if it wasn’t a delicious piece of part gossip, part hit job, part serious business, and part playground taunt. That’s how you get pageviews, folks. Everyone loves an entertaining dick.

But it’s not the piece itself that has stuck in my mind like so many bar-room darts.

It’s that if a woman wrote it, she’d have been torn to pieces. No quarter, no mercy.

Meanwhile, Priest has posted a follow-up:

All I can say (sincerely) is sorry if the tone offended, because offence was not intended.

Reaction certainly was. Books matter; literature matters; speculative fiction matters more than anything, because that is where I work. The Clarke Award is not a negligible thing. I wanted to provoke a response, get people to discuss these issues, talk about the books, think hard about what we want an award like the Clarke to stand for. The essay went viral soon after it appeared, so I suppose that wish was granted. I was sorry so much of that comment was focused on me and my presumed motives, but in the first place I didn’t really mind, and secondly once people got that off their chests a good number of them did get down to the issues I had raised.