Awards, shortlists and a good story

Congratulations to Chris Beckett, who last night won the Clarke Award for his second novel: Dark Eden. Congratulations also to Adam Roberts for winning the BSFA12875162 award with Jack Glass (and not forgetting Ian Sales with his short story win with Adrift on the Sea of Rains), and Nick Harkaway (Angelmaker) and Karen Lord (Redemption in Indigo) for their Kitchies.

Now, at this point, I usually review the Clarke shortlisted books and bemoan the fact that the Booker Prize is a snobby literary prize. But, I’ve been shockingly slow and behind and stuff so that’s not going to happen today. I’m also going to leave the poor Booker alone.

Let’s just check out the shortlists first:


  • Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
  • Empty Space: a Haunting by M. John Harrison
  • Intrusion by Ken Macleod
  • Jack Glass by Adam Roberts
  • 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson



  • The Folly of the World by Jesse Bullington
  • A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
  • Jack Glass by Adam Roberts
  • The Method by Juli Zeh
  • Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Debut novel

  • vN by Madeline Ashby
  • Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
  • Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  • The City’s Son by Tom Pollock


  • Nod by Adrian Barnes
  • Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
  • Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
  • The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
  • Intrusion by Ken MacLeod
  • 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Ok, I’ve read a grand total of one of those. Scandalous. I read The Method a few months ago, and I’m now reading Dark Eden. I plan to read most of the above books in the near future, with the exception of the Harrison and Robinson (not a fan of either author) and the Hartman (doesn’t appeal). A couple of the others I may not get round too either, but Angelmaker and Intrusion are among the next on my reading pile.

You know what I love? A good story, well written and with interesting characters. Hopefully, it will speak to me about humanity and technology and society. Sometimes I want to learn something new and sometimes I just want to be amused and entertained for a few hours. I like to read the annual award shortlisted because they are chosen by a bunch of people who have some experience in these things, as they present what they think is the best of the year’s offerings. They are not the only books I read and I don’t always agree with their choices. And so I was on Twitter this morning to see the reaction to Beckett’s win, and the evening in general. The first thing I came across was a bunch of men discussing gender politics. How a bunch of women judges chose an all male shortlist and gave the prize to a book with regressive gender politics. (I don’t think it was all female judges, but it doesn’t matter one way or another to me). Do I need to say anything more? Fine, the winning book features a strong male lead character and also a strong lead female character. Some of the gender politics are interesting to say the least, but as I’ve not finished the book, I won’t comment further. What I want is that Beckett’s world makes sense; a book that follows its own internal logic. To be honest, I have more of a problem with Beckett’s perceived evolution of language than anything else I’ve read so far. The characters use yards for distance but call days waking. They remember a Landing Veekle, but also metal and plastic. I won’t comment further until I’ve finished the story.

There is always a lot of talk in social media about which gender wrote what book, and why they are or aren’t in a particular list. There is a place for it, for sure. See Nina Allen’s 101 #womentoread for example. To be honest, I don’t care, as a rule, who wrote a book. Sure I’m a fan of certain authors and certain writing styles. I like how different people write and see the world, but that goes for both men and women regardless of sexuality, nationality, politics and religion. I will read Orson Scott Card and Nicola Giffith and Lauren Beukes and Robert Rankin and Tricia Sullivan and Jeff Noon and Scarlett Thomas and Greg Bear and Mary Doria Russell and Aldous Huxley and Kazuo Ishiguro and a whole lot more. Greg Bear for example, has written some of my favourite science fiction (Blood Music and Darwin’s Radio) and some absolute stinkers (City at the End of Time). It doesn’t matter to me.

A whole bunch of people rightly or wrongly spend a lot of time debating these awards and the winners, but they seem to miss a fundamental point about reading. Or at least they fail to mention it in these public debates on social media. People like different things. And for different reasons. Not everything should be a lesson. Not every author can provide insight into characters of their opposite sex, or of a different political persuasion or whatever. I love broccoli and I love marshmallows. You cannot live on broccoli alone.

So, I will read most of the shortlisted books, and I will enjoy some and not others and I will report back later in the year. And I won’t be commenting on gender politics but on how good the stories are.




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