Thoughts on the Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist 2012

There’s been a lot of chatter this year about the Clarke Award shortlist, and not only because of Torque Control’s Guess the 2012 Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist contest. Twitter and blogs have been non-stop with comment and guessing. There was even a feature in the Guardian once the shortlist was announced, focusing on China Miéville’s fourth nomination. It seems like a lot more coverage than in previous years. Maybe that’s a perception thing.

60 books were submitted for consideration this year. I haven’t read many of them, mostly because I’m a slow reader and I don’t like reading hardback books so I tend to read new releases late, but also because I read a lot of other stuff too. Of the 60 books, my top five, in order, would be:

  1. The Islanders by Christopher Priest
  2. The End Specialist by Drew Magary
  3. Hell Ship by Philip Palmer
  4. The Testament of Jesse Lamb by Jane Rogers.
  5. Hull Three Zero by Greg Bear


Last year I was delighted when Lauren Beukes won for Zoo City because it was original and innovative, and she wasn’t one of the traditional science fiction writers who win or get nominated. It felt like the award was progressive and forward looking.



So the short list is this:

  • Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear
  • The End Specialist by Drew Magary
  • Embassytown by China Miéville
  • The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
  • Rule 34 by Charles Stross
  • The Waters Rising by Sheri S.Tepper

I haven’t read the last two, but as soon as the shortlist was announced I ordered them from the library. From the other four, Magary’s is my favourite. I also think it would be another progressive choice. I hope Miéville doesn’t win; not because it would be his 4th award, but because I don’t think that, despite its technical genius, it’s not much of a readable story. I wouldn’t mind Rogers winning as again, it would be something new. I’m surprised that Osama by Lavia Tidhar didn’t get a nod. I haven’t read it, but it seemed to be a lot of people’s guess. I’m gobsmacked that The Islanders didn’t get the nod, as it was a true original. Maybe not science fiction enough?

What I love, however, is the debate and speculation and everything that surrounds the Clarke Award, and I’m glad it exists. Which is odd, as I don’t like awards as a rule.

Once the winner has been announced (and I’ve hopefully read the Stross and Tepper entries), I’ll voice an opinion of each of the titles.


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