Gwyneth Jones, China Mieville, Adam Roberts, Kim Stanley Robinson, Marcel Theroux and Chris Wooding are the six authors shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2009. The annual award is presented for the best science fiction novel of the year, and selected from a list of novels whose UK first edition was published in the previous calendar year. A prize of £2010 will be awarded to the winner along with a commemorative engraved bookend.
The judging panel for the 2010 Arthur C. Clarke Award are Chris Hill and Jon Courtenay Grimwood for the British Science Fiction Association, Francis Spufford and Rhiannon Lassiter for the Science Fiction Foundation and Paul Skevington for the science fiction news website SF Crowsnest.com. Paul Billinger represents the Arthur C. Clarke Award as the Chair of Judges.
The six shortlisted books are:
China Mieville has been nominated three times, and won the Award twice with Perdido Street Station in 2001 and Iron Council in 2005. If he wins in 2010 he will become the first author to win the prize three times in its twenty-four year history.
Omnivoracious managed to catch up with three of the nominees, including Mieville, in time for this feature.
Asked about the general response to The City & the City, also a Nebula finalist, Mieville said, "I've been incredibly happy about the response to the book for a bunch of reasons. It's very different from my other stuff and one of the things, like loads of writers, that I'd like to do, is try writing in different styles and voices, traditions and forms, so to get good responses to something quite different, that there's no reason my existing readers should have liked, feels like a real vote of trust in me, which I find moving. It makes me fired up to try all kinds of different things. I am increasingly excited by trying to write all kinds of different stuff in different voices, and hope readers have the patience to stick with me. Also because the book was a present to my mother, which makes it personally important to me, it's affecting to have it received well."
Nominee Kim Stanley Robinson, who has been up for the award before, said via email that his novel came about because of his interest in Galileo ever since doing the research for his prior book The Years of Rice and Salt. "Then an image came to me of him flying through his telescope to Jupiter, and in thinking about that the novel came to me."
Yellow Blue Tibia author Adam Roberts, who describes his next book, New Model Army, as "If Nabokov had written Bravo Two Zero...", had a couple of ideas he wanted to explore fictionally: "An idea about alternate realities, an explanation for why UFOs are so culturally ubiquitous, believed-in by so many and yet patently untrue, stuff about the links between SF and Marxism. So I formulated the idea for a novel set in the former Soviet Union, involving ET-conspiracies, robot Stalins and the like. But the real spark was when I decided to write a spy or action thriller novel that deliberately up-ended all the formal conventions. So: the average such thriller takes a handsome young virile protagonist, and a heroine notionally attractive according to the very limited logics of 'supermodels', and puts them through the paces of a reassuringly familiar plot: set-up, small fight, increasing peril, climactic big conflagration. So I decided to write a spy thriller, with as much fidelity to the mode as I could muster, except that my hero would be clapped out and old, my heroine a morbidly obese Scientologist and so on. I decided to have the hero blown up in an exploding nuclear reactor in the middle of the novel rather than the end, to muck-about with the hero-in-peril elements as far as possible, replace mcguffin pseudo-science with genuine science-fiction and so on."
As for the award's namesake, Arthur C. Clarke, Robinson remembers "a couple of lovely phone calls from Clarke in the 1990s, in which we discussed Mars. He was amused because I had written a mountain-climbing story about Olympus Mons, and recent results had shown that the escarpment of Olympus Mons was not as steep as thought before; 'you could ride a bicycle up it,' Clarke said to me. Later in another call he admitted that the 'Southeast Buttress' was steep enough to climb (and ten kilometers tall) so I was all right. I enjoy the memory of those talks and as he funded the award named after him, it would mean something to me [to win] because of that."
Of the remaining nominees, Theroux and Wooding have never been nominated for the Clarke. However, Gwyneth Jones has been nominated five times, and won the Award once for her novel Bold As Love in 2002.
This year’s six shortlisted titles were selected from a long list of forty-one eligible submissions put forward by seventeen different publishing houses and imprints.
Tom Hunter, administrator for the award, said: “Shortlist time has to be one of the most exciting moments in the Clarke Award calendar, and I’m very excited to be able to present such a strong and challenging shortlist this year.
“The greater purpose of the award is to promote UK science fiction literature and the sense of wonder, speculation and imagination for which the genre is most renowned. The selection of a final winner is always a difficult choice, but I’m greatly looking forward to the conversation to come.”
Meanwhile, nominee Roberts is in a bit of a bind since he usually reviews "the whole Clarke list, but don't think I can if I'm actually on the shortlist. On the other hand, I know Anthony Burgess occasionally reviewed his own novels, in the review column he wrote for the Yorkshire Post under the 'pseudonym' of his real name, John Wilson. So perhaps I could give it a go. 'It is the considered opinion of I, A.R.R.Roberts, that by far the best novel on this list is ...'"
The winner will be announced on Wednesday 28th April at an award ceremony held on the opening night of the SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival. Torque Control has a nice round-up of links to reviews of all of the nominated novels.