While I was away, the nominations for the Clarke Award have been announced.
I’m very pleased to see Jane Rogers, whom I ferried around in my ancient Volkswagen Jetta during a visit to Bremen a couple of year ago, on that list. China Mieville was pretty much a no-brainer, though I haven’t read Embassytown. I like Sherri Tepper, though again I haven’t read the nominated book. Charles Stross has legions of fans, even though I am not one of them. Greg Bear regularly gets nominated for major genre awards. The only headscratcher for me was Drew Margary, whom I must admit I’ve never heard of.
In short, it’s a pretty regular SFF awards shortlist – and mind you that I rarely agree with more than one or two of the nominations anyway.
Nonetheless, this particular awards shortlist seems to have kicked off a minor internet war, since Christopher Priest quite vehemently disagrees with most of the nominations (and also manages to insult crime writer Mark Billingham while he’s at it, since Billingham apparently had the gall to share a panel on genre fiction with Mr Priest). Interestingly, he does agree with me on Jane Rogers, even though I doubt he ever ferried her around town in an ancient Volkswagen Jetta. Otherwise, he is disappointed with the China Mieville novel, really dislikes Sherri Tepper’s book for being a quest fantasy with a talking horse and finds the Drew Margary book competent but derivative in a version of the “But author X did this first in 1954” curse that hampers the SF genre. He also calls Charles Stross an energetic internet puppy and has obvious issues with his writing, though his are different from mine.
Of the Greg Bear novel, he has the following to say:
Of Greg Bear’s Hull Zero Three (Gollancz) there is little to say, except that it is capable in its own way, and hard in the way that some people want SF to be hard, and it keeps alive the great tradition of the SF of the 1940s and 1950s where people get in spaceships to go somewhere to do something.
As someone who is not a big fan of what passes for hard SF these days, this paragraph did make me smile. Interestingly, Christopher Priest’s description of Greg Bear’s novel as being about people getting into spaceships to go somewhere to do something would also apply equally well to the two Charles Stross novels (Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise for the curious) I read way back when.
With a rant like this, it’s rather obvious that there would be responses and indeed there are. Damien Walter attempts to psychoanalyze Christopher Priest and comes to the conclusion that he’s basically just jealous at J.G. Ballard and the rest of the world. Interestingly, what Damien Walter has to say of Christopher Priest (of whose works I have only read The Prestige), namely:
His writing is extremely clever, but even in the ‘literature of ideas’ that is SF, “extremely clever” is really a way of saying rather unemotional, dry, and hard to love. It has all the qualities of someone who has spent decades studying, learning, dedicating every fraction of a considerable intellect to learning the rules and structures of fiction, but never quite managed to get his own soul on the page.
would also describe my issues with the two Charles Stross novels I read ages ago.
Meanwhile, Nina Allan largely agrees with Christopher Priest in considering the shortlist a poor selection. She also likes the Jane Rogers novel, by the way.
Neil Williamson wonders what the hell is wrong with books that are merely entertaining, partly in response to the Clarke awards uproar and partly in response to this recent Guardian article by Damien Walter.
At the Guardian, Alison Flood has a round-up of the reactions and responses.
Meanwhile, Charles Stross offers a classy response to having been called a yapping and peeing internet puppy by Christopher Priest and has created some internet puppy t-shirts. Which reminds me that I do like Charles Stross as a person and read his blog on occasion – I simply don’t care for his fiction.