A Word About The Clarke

02 May 2013

Thank you, everyone, a thousand times, for your support in the run-up and your commiserations when Angelmaker didn’t win. I truly love it that the book has so many friends – and that I do.

I have to tell you, though, that I don’t feel bad. It’s not just that Chris Beckett was such a gracious winner, or that Tom Hunter and the gang at the Clarke Award put on an amazing event last night (for the duration of the panel, I pretty much gave up on everything I’ve done professionally and decided to become an intern for Rachel Armstrong). It’s that losing alongside Ken MacLeod is the kind of thing I used to daydream about between lectures at university. “Hey, Nick, one day you’re going to be in the same line-up as the authors of Red Mars and The Star Fraction!” Piss off. “No, really!” Whatever, man. You smoke too much of that stuff.

In a weird way, I’m also kind of jazzed to win the Kitschies Red Tentacle but not the Clarke. It’s not that I didn’t want to win last night – dude, it’s got Arthur C. Clarke’s name on it, and I will be back for another shot at that bookend – but because it might indicate a dawning differentiation of the two awards. One point is not a trend, I know, but it strikes me that it would be a great thing if they ceased to track one another as closely as they have until now, because that would highlight two different strands within SF culture in the UK – one which is self-consciously progressive and experimental, pushing the boundaries of the form and demanding more elasticity from the readership about what SF is and what it should be, and one which is definitive of and defined by the genre and expresses the best and most exciting of the core science fiction, the heart of it.

There is one thing I wish I could have done last night, though, so I’m going to do it now. There’s a list of people I wanted to thank, aside from the usual suspects like my wife and the gang at Conville & Walsh, William Heinemann, and Knopf. It’s not exhaustive. It goes like this:

Ursula Le Guin

Julian May

Lois McMaster Bujold

Sheri S Tepper

Madelaine L’Engle

Anne McCaffrey

Margaret Atwood

Jeanette Winterson

and

Mary Shelley.

And more, past and present.

This Clarke shortlist was greeted with some uncertainty because it was exclusively male (as Saladin Ahmed pointed out to me, its evident whiteness went somewhat less remarked.) That situation has been explored in print and online, so I will just say that I look forward to the first all-female shortlist. I hope it seems inevitable and unremarkable when it comes, noteworthy only in the same way as 10th October 2010, though from where we stand now it will be a milestone. But in the meantime, I want to acknowledge the amazing women writing in and around science fiction, speculative fiction – whatever it pleases us to call it – whom I read as a kid and as a student and continue to read now, whose traces run through my writing like veins of metal in stone, and without whom I wouldn’t be what or who I am.

Thank you all.

And now I have to go bug my editor about my new book, and work on my Sekrit Projekt, and my next new book. Because that is what writers do.


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