Having now read the first three books of six shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke award, what springs out immediately is how very diverse they are - from meta concepts, to fun pirate yarns, to hard sci fi and alien species. It made me wonder how on earth the judges decide on which novel from the Arthur Clarke shortlist should be named the overall winner - what criteria is used.
So I headed over to the Arthur C Clarke award website to check out what the submission guidelines are for novels.
I found this: The Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction is awarded to the author who, in the opinion of the judges, has written the best, eligible full-length science fiction novel in English.
And that is it. The only criteria. The book that the judges feel is the "best".
In the case of this award, what constitutes best?
Best use of science fiction concepts? Best novel in terms of readability? Best novel because the judges had the most fun reading it?
If you take a dictionary definition of 'best' it states:
–adjective, superl. of good with better as compar.
of the highest quality, excellence, or standing: the best work; the best students.
most advantageous, suitable, or desirable: the best way.
largest; most: the best part of a day.
Does this help to define which of the books shortlisted should take the award? Not really. Are the judges analysing the writing, the story, the science fiction elements?
I have enjoyed the first three books for very different reasons. The City and The City, I felt, showed superlative writing and a fabulous concept that left me thinking hard about the book long after I closed the last page. Spirit embodied the sense of a science fiction novel for me, opening our horizons to show how the universe might evolve with the introduction of inter-stellar travel - and, although I didn't enjoy the prose, I know other people who would have lapped it up. Retribution Falls was the best novel in terms of fun and readability. So I have three winners - depending on how 'best' defines which novel should actually win!
My post (on a read back) sounds a little confused - but I shall let it stand, since this is the state of my thinking on this award right now! I would be very interested to hear from anyone associated with the award - now or in the past - who can shed a little light onto how 'best' is defined when picking the winner of the Arthur C Clarke award...