Monday 13 December 2010

My Love Affair With the Arthur C Clarke Award

On Torque Control today there is an open letter from Tom Hunter, the administrator of the Arthur C Clarke award. The link is here, but the gist is that the ACCA is facing a pressing need to change, thanks to various circumstances.

Tom has asked for people to show their support in various ways:

Three things people can do to get involved right now are help us show the size of our audience by Liking us on Facebook or following @ClarkeAward on Twitter, re-posting the link to this page and, of course, by letting us know your thoughts in the comments here.

So I decided to write a little love letter to the Arthur C Clarke award:

I've always been aware of the ACCA - and I always pay more attention to those novels which are listed as having won the Arthur C Clarke award (so here you have at least one person who responds to the name of the award as an indication of quality).

This year - the first year of my blog - I decided to read the full shortlist for the ACCA, and enjoyed it so much. I liked the fact that these six novels showcased brilliant science fiction, taking completely different approaches to the subject matter. I was blown away by the imagination and the sheer originality of the writing. Science fiction, in my opinion, has never been more healthy, when you consider the standard of the books that are currently being published.

For me, the Arthur C Clarke award is valuable for bringing these novels to the attention of the wider community - not just to the sci-fi population. Anyone who reads speculative fiction pays attention to the winner of the ACCA. The features in newspapers and magazines will push science fiction out to the literary community. I have read blog posts from those readers who generally only tackle literary fiction (such as Savidge Reads and Farm Lane Books Blog) who read The City and The City by China Mieville this year, thanks to its exposure. Both loved it. Both, in fact, were blown away by it - and have subsequently asked for more speculative fiction recommendations. As far as I am concerned, this is a win for the Arthur C Clarke Award.

In addition to this, I love the camaraderie created by "Award Season". The announcement of the shortlist leads to discussion on the merits (or not) of the novels chosen. Many book blogs will aim to read all six books so that they can choose their own winner. Indirectly, the ACCA has led to Torque Control's recent discussion on women in SF, which has produced recommendations for excellent novels by women. This sharing of books - this love of the genre - is invaluable and drives a feeling of community.

I believe that the Arthur C Clarke Award has massive value in the future in terms of raising the profile of speculative fiction authors - as it has in the past. The fact it takes SF so seriously, and selects the judging panel from people who genuinely love the genre, gives it a degree of integrity and dignity that some of the other SF/F awards appear to lack.

One question asked by Tom is whether the cash prize adds to the credibility of the award: I would say not, although I'm not an author and can't say for sure how useful or necessary that amount of cash would be to the author who won the prize. For an external observer, it might actually make the prize MORE credible if there is no cash prize.

I don't have specific answers to the majority of the questions that Tom poses - all I can offer is my passion and desire to continue to see the Arthur C Clarke Award handed out each year. One of my bookish ambitions is to be asked to judge the award, so I need it to continue til that point at least *grin*. I humbly offer my blog each year for the month of April - dedicated to all things Arthur C Clarke. If any of that helps, I would be a very happy person.

In the meantime, I encourage you all to spread the word about the ACCA - why do you like it? What questions would you ask Tom about the future of the award? If you feel it has become unnecessary, what suggestions would you make to increase the validity of it in the future? How would you improve it?


  1. I didn't know the ACCA was on facebook. 'Liked' it! Thanks for the reminder!

  2. I love the passion in your letter to the Clarke Award, but I'm afraid that I have to disagree about The Clarke Award leading me to The City and the City. I read Mieville after numerous tweeters became angry about The City and the City's lack of inclusion on the 2009 Booker list. I asked tweeters if this was his best book and they suggested I try Perdido first. It was the sheer passion of readers that led me to trying Mieville for the first time. I went on to try TCATC after reading Perdido.

    I don't actively follow the Clarke award, but I have read and enjoyed a surprising number of the books it has selected. I've just been looking at the short list it has produced in the last few years and think I should start to follow this wonderful award.