An Open Letter From The Arthur C Clarke Award

Per the subject line, something a bit different for a Monday morning. Please do give Tom feedback on the questions he asks below, whether in a comment here, or by email or another route. And spread the link to this post far and wide! Thanks — Niall

The Arthur C Clarke Award

An open letter to all fans of Science Fiction from Tom Hunter, Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Award

In 2011 we’ll be presenting the prize for the 25th winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

A lot has changed in 25 years, and the Award has not been immune to that change.

In many ways the Award is now at one of its strongest points ever. Its profile has never been wider, its organisational and community ties are strong, endorsement and support is high both within the SF community and the broader cultural sphere, and increased sophistication in electronic point of sale tracking is now showing direct correlations between Award announcements and increased book sales.

However the Award has also proven notably vulnerable to change at various points in its history, especially in terms of its reliance on volunteer governance and its historic lack of core financial stability in terms of assets, revenue generation or its ability to capitalise on far reaching fundraising or partnership opportunities.

Following the death of Sir Arthur and the subsequent winding up of Rocket Publishing (Sir Arthur’s UK company which funded the Award’s prize) the Award is now faced with an immediate and pressing need to change, adapt and re-evaluate its role and function as it moves into 2012 and its next quarter century.

This is a process that is happening now, and this letter to you all is a big part of taking my plans and those of Serendip, the Award’s governing body, to the next level.

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is built around three core values:

  • To recognise the best science fiction novels of the year published in the UK.
  • To promote science fiction and science fiction literature both within the UK and internationally.
  • To honour the memory and legacy of Sir Arthur.

I don’t believe that our current resources should define the pursuit of this vision, and rather I see our previous funding model slipping away as a necessary transition and the first step on the road to transforming the Award into a more deeply engaged social enterprise.

The good news is everyone involved with the Award has already been doing a lot of work in this area, looking at consultation, starting new conversations and setting up new partnerships, and the next stage of that process is to open up that dialogue more widely and start sharing our thoughts in places like this blog.

For me, the success of the Clarke Award and Serendip beyond 2011 means more connections with new and existing fans and organisations, and working with them to further raise the profile of the Award. We are also creating ways to quantify the value of the Award and assess its impact. The idea being that from this we can then meaningfully judge its success and demonstrate its continued significance as a key voice within the SF community, the publishing industry and beyond.

The questions we’ve been asking ourselves mostly look like this:

What value does the Award bring to the SF community and what role should it play in its future?

How important is a UK focused prize in an increasingly international and digital marketplace?

What more could the Award do as part of its broader advocacy remit to promote science fiction?

How much does the success and the credibility of the Award depend on it having a cash prize?

What new partnerships and opportunities could we create to generate seed funding for the future?

What do you think? What does the Arthur C. Clarke Award mean to you, how important a part of the SF landscape is it, and where would you like it to go from here?

I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts and ideas here, and I’ll aim to answer every question as best I can.

I’d also invite anyone who wants to contact me to discuss these issues or to get involved to find me on Twitter, LinkedIn or drop me an email at ClarkeAward@gmail.com.

People are already asking how they can get involved, and all offers of help, advice or useful connections are greatly appreciated.

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.

Thank you for reading and for your continued support of the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Tom Hunter
Award Director, December 2010

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52 Responses to “An Open Letter From The Arthur C Clarke Award”

  1. Jonathan McCalmont Says:

    I see the Clarke award as central to my experience of British science fiction. Simply stated, it sets the critical agenda for the year. Far more than the Hugos, the Nebulas or the once promising but now devalued Locus awards.

    It is a naked manifestation of everything that is best about British SF. I say naked because many of the problems with the award are simply reflections of problems with the scene as a whole (particularly the representation of non-white non-men see posts and discussions on this blog passim). It is the front of a long-raging war for wider respectability and visibility for SF. It is the exemplar, the counter-example, the discussion former that we can all point to when we go out into the world and talk about science fiction with people outside of the scene.

    As for the cash prize you’d have to ask authors but I suspect it gives it some weight. Makes it worth going out on a later spring evening and standing in an overly hot and overly noisy cinema foyer :-)

    As for funding, I would have thought that the Clarke award would have been the perfect candidate for crowd-sourced funding.

  2. Keith Brooke Says:

    Quick answer to “How important is a UK focused prize in an increasingly international and digital marketplace?” — I think it’s even more important for the UK to have a highly-respected award as markets become global and more fluid. The UK SF scene has been key to the development of the genre, and the Clarke Award has played a significant role in highlighting what is happening here. As well as being significant internationally, we’ve seen increased, and improved, press coverage of the genre within the UK as a direct result of the Award, and long may that continue.

  3. Jon Courtenay Grimwood Says:

    My gut feeling, as someone who’s been nominated a couple of times, is that it being UK based is more important than the cash prize, generous though that has always been. If we open the award out we risk it simply being an also ran to the hugos & nebulas.

    Expect to be shouted down, and view coloured by quantity of not-that-great work – mixed in with the truly stunning – I’ve read for this year’s list, but should publishers be charged (even if nominally) to submit, with judging being free to call in books later?

  4. Abigail Says:

    I’m going to ‘me too’ Jonathan’s comment. I see the Clarke as an alternative to the Hugo and Nebula, one that prioritizes different values both in the books it rewards and in its methodology. I wouldn’t necessarily want it to be the only award on the scene, but the alternative it presents is vital, and, at present, irreplaceable.

    What seem to me to be the biggest issues facing the award (other than the administrative and financial problems, which I’m just hearing about now for the first time) are on the one hand, that the award bills itself as a science fiction award while rewarding fantasy on than one occasion, and on the other hand, that, as Tom says, the emphasis on British publication in an increasingly internationalized market is skewing the Clarke’s results and their relevance to the community. (The issue of gender balance strikes me as more of an industry-wide problem.)

  5. Jonathan McCalmont Says:

    I agree with Jon. I think that the Clarke award really serves to put Britain on the map as an SF power at a time when it would be incredibly easy to follow the rest of the internet into a kind of Transatlantic Anglophonie.

    I would also add that I think it is quite important that the Clarke does take some initiative in calling in works which, though publishers might not consider them a part of SF, we do. I’m thinking in particular of C, Red Plenty and Banville’s The Infinities which must all be considered for the 2011.

  6. Paul Cornell Says:

    I’d be keen for the Clarkes to stay UK-focussed. You could certainly lower the value of the cash award slightly, if the impressive reputation of the Clarkes stayed intact. The money is a sign of worth, and the actual figure isn’t as important as the kudos attached. Where you’ll get that money is the big question. A fee for publishers to submit might be met with raised eyebrows, considering the battle has always been to get more to do so. Approaching a single potential sponsor, who’s above the cut and thrust of the competition, might be a way forward.

  7. Pat Cadigan Says:

    I’m with Jon Courtenay Grimwood on keeping the Clarke Award focused on UK books–i.e., books published in the UK. I was still living in the US when I won for my books in 1992 and 1995. I did not know I was going to end up living in the UK even when I won in 1995 and it still meant a great deal to me. Other countries have awards that are strictly for books published in that country although most of them are non-English speaking countries. I think it is important to keep the identity of the Clarke Award British. Sir Arthur had enough status to establish a general science fiction award if he had wanted to–that he wanted it to be an award for books published here and not sf in general seems significant to me.

    But Jon, I vote No on charging publishers to enter books. They will only send in what they feel are their Sure Things for nominations or wins, leaving midlist writers out in the cold again. You know that publishers only spend money publicising books that don’t actually need it. These days, they expect writers to do their own publicity now–all except, you guessed it, the writers who don’t need it.

    On the other hand, I used to do fundraising for the Philip K. Dick Award–we asked for donations from publishers and got them. If all the publishers throw in a little, you can raise the award money with very little sweat. In the case of the PKD Award, fan groups also contributed.

    In 2001, when I did the SF afternoon at the Science Museum, I wanted to have all the nominees present. I asked every publisher to throw in a certain amount to pay for Octavia Estelle Butler’s airfare and accommodations, and I got it. And I did it all by myself, with no official backing.

    Now that the Clarke Award is part of SciFi London, we could look into getting donations from their sponsors as well. If we keep the award amount manageable–two thousand pounds, or even scale it back to 1500–we could manage.

    The Tiptree Award people raise their own funds and come up with enough money every year for their winners. We could, too.

  8. Tom Hunter Says:

    Thanks everyone for the initial thoughts and feedback, and to everyone who’s stopping by to read (and to Niall for hosting us of course).

    What’s really useful here is to hear from people how they value and view the Award, and all of these comments will help us in articulating the value of the Award to other potential partners and supporters.

    There’s a few specific points I want to come back on with regard to crowd-sourced funding (watch this space) and sponsorship (ditto), and I will be back there shortly. Right now though I just wanted to say thanks for all the initial good word we’ve received and that it was our view on the award committee that we couldn’t start to move on that type of planning before taking this step to talk to you all.

  9. Abigail Says:

    I think it is important to keep the identity of the Clarke Award British.

    I would agree with this if the award were limited only to UK or even Commonwealth authors (and this, to my mind, is a viable option). But as it isn’t, the situation has developed where some non-UK authors can’t be nominated for the award and others can and are, based solely on whether they have a UK publisher (and the ones who don’t are sometimes still sold in the UK in imported editions). From the perspective of someone living outside both the UK and US, this looks more like propping up an outdated bureaucracy than supporting national identity.

  10. Martin Says:

    Despite the fact it seems to have become a bit of the focus of this thread, I’ve not seen any suggestion that the Clarke be expanded to cover non-UK books and I don’t see how it would be possible to do so. So rather than being “outdated bureaucracy”, I would say it is pure practicality.

    I would still argue that even in the age of the internet and imports, the British science fiction scene is very much defined by what is published in Britain.

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  12. Tom Hunter Says:

    One of the areas I am definitely very interested in is eligibility.

    Side-stepping the issue of non-UK publications for a sec, I’m paying particular attention to the shifting publishing trends happening around ebooks right now – and if you still think ebooks are a minority interest, trust me on this one when I say things are definitely shifting.

    I completely understand the argument that wants the Award to be as wide in its submissions as possible, and the central tension often comes from the fact that these are all books that need to be read.

    In the closing days of our current round of submissions we’re looking at something like 50 eligible books, and by eligible I mean they meet our organizational criteria of having been actively submitted by publishers and they aren’t the wrong form i.e. short story collections – their definition as science fiction, or not, is as ever a task for the judging committee not me.

    That’s a pretty healthy count, and I know already that when we release the submissions list next year some people will be questioning why some books are even notionally SF, while others will be bemoaning there weren’t even more titles present. What I can tell you now though is we’ve had both a very active and supportive year of receiving submissions in good time from what we might term the usual suspects as well as a very positive response in terms of books we’ve asked for being submitted.

    Anyway, that’s this year. What I’m spending a lot of time thinking about now is what happens to this number if just one major publisher attempts an experiment in digital edition only publishing. For instance what happens if that stock of ‘not quite’ authors who couldn’t be fitted into the print schedules are offered an ebook only edition as a gauge of future market success? Or what if a new boutique publisher decides to break new ground in epub only editions?

    It’s just theory here – I have no secret knowledge and imagine real world publishers have much better plans – but all of this starts to up the number of contending books in any one year.

    What this might mean for the judging process in future years is definitely one of the big questions I’ve bee working on recently.

  13. Lois Tilton Says:

    Another vote in agreement with the concensus of keeping the award UK based.

    The question seems to be – should the award support UK publishing [whoever is published] or UK writers [whoever publishes them]. I believe that the former is the better cause, and most in keeping with the original spirit of that award.

    That said, I think that if the administrators are looking for change, they might open up the nomination process by eliminating publisher submissions. This might seem to contradict the emphasis on encouraging publishing, but it sometimes seems that publishers are not quite aware of what is for their own good or the good of the field. I think it might be best to let the readers lead the publishers rather than the other way round.

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  15. Murf61 Says:

    I agree with both Jonathan McCalmont and Jon Courtenay Grimwood that is should stay UK-based. I also tend to agree with Pat Cadigan that a submission fee from publishers is not a good idea. Donations yes, a very good idea, as is some form of sponsorship. While prize money is probably very useful for a lot of writers struggling with day jobs and their writing, I think the kudos of being short-listed and/or winning is possibly more important… but I am not a writer!

  16. Paul Kincaid Says:

    I may be biased on this (I was instrumental in helping set up the award, and administered it for 11 years), but I think the award should keep as close to the current model as possible.

    When the award was set up, the idea was to encourage and promote British science fiction. It was immediately apparent that we couldn’t limit the award only to British writers, but limiting it to books published in the UK was a good option. And indeed, over the years, it did indeed encourage British writers (as I know from conversations with several of them). The change in the publishing model obviously affects this, as Tom says, but essentially I feel the award has to be kept to a UK focus.

    As one or two people have said, the actual amount of the cash award doesn’t matter all that much. But the fact of a cash award does matter. That, more than anything else, gave the award its initial prestige, and it still marks the award out. So cutting the size of the award is an option, but cutting out the cash element would, I think, be a serious mistake.

    Asking publishers to pay for submissions is not out of the question, after all it’s what they do for the Booker Prize, but in these cash-strapped days I suspect you’d be hard pushed to collect, and you might well end up missing out on submissions (especially from smaller publishers). But there might be other arrangements, for instance charging a fee for submission but then allowing as many submissions as possible; or charging a fee for each of the first six submissions but then all subsequent submissions would be free.

    (But remember, publishers are already paying something, since they bear the cost of getting copies of the books out to each of the judges.)

    In terms of funding, though, I would be more inclined to use the Booker as a model than the Tiptree. I’m a strong supporter of the Tiptree Award, but I’m not sure their funding model would carry across. They have, for instance, a close association with a convention (WisCon) which forms a solid base for their fundraising efforts; the Clarke doesn’t have that. And the Tiptree has a number of skilled and dedicated fundraisers who devote a lot of time and effort to that; the last I knew, the Clarke simply didn’t have the person power.

    I think, therefore, looking to sponsorship rather than fundraising is the more viable option for the Clarke.

  17. Cheryl Morgan Says:

    In award terms the most interesting thing about the Clarke is that it is a high profile juried award for science fiction. The Hugos are fan-voted, and the Nebulas are voted on by SFWA members. The World Fantasy Awards are juried, but specifically exclude science fiction. The closest thing to the Clarke is the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (the one given out with the Sturgeon, not the Best New Writer award given out with the Hugos), but that has the same jury every year and tends to be a bit conservative as a result. So there is actually an important place in the universe of SF awards that the Clarke occupies, and it would be good to see it continue to do so.

    With regard to eligibility, when the Clarke was first devised it was still very much the case that UK authors tended to get bought by UK publishers. The Internet has changed all that. Authors seek publication wherever they can get it, and that may mean the USA, Canada or even Australia. This has resulted in fine works by people like Liz Williams and Karen Traviss being ineligible. It may therefore be worth considering expanding eligibility to include UK authors who are published outside of the UK.

  18. Tom Hunter Says:

    From the comments so far here and in my inbox the trending topic is definitely ‘Clarke Award should keep UK focus’

    I think it’s good to debate these things, and there’s a couple of prime reasons why we’re unlikely to change this broader policy (tweak maybe, but as noted above that’ll likely be more about digital publishing models than opening submissions internationally at this point).

    Clearly some commentators are identifying a need for a more international juried award, but that’s probably not the Clarke Award. At least not this Clarke Award.

    As we stand, this current incarnation of our prize was primarily created to promote UK SF. That’s the brief we’ve worked to, and the one that allows us to use Arthur’s name. Under my third guiding principle above I don’t believe I can shift the parameters of the Award that far without pretty much unilateral agreement from all the different people and organisations with a stake in the Award’s success. I’d definitely include all readers here as part of that by the way.

    When I talk about change, I’m not so much referring to a change in our rules here, but a change in our delivery. We’re lucky in that our need to change is happening during a time of flux in the industry anyway as it means we can adapt (we have to anyway, but at least we know we’re not the only ones).

    What we’re really looking at here is how we can keep growing and move outside our genre comfort zone. Which organisations out there best echo our own ambitions and where might we be best served redefining our relationships in order to maximise on available opportunities?

    For me it’s an exciting time to be involved, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of work to be done.

  19. Jay Caselberg Says:

    General agreement with most of the commentary. UK, SF and sponsored, not paid for, also juried. The Clarke is a significant item within the community and the name has kudos outside of it, for obvious reasons.

  20. Ian MacLeod Says:

    Hi there – as a previous winner, I can confirm that the money aspect of the prize isn’t the crucial thing, but the fact that it’s a reasonably significant figure does give the prize an extra sense of worth. Of course, the Booker model is very much about sponsorship from a business which is seeking to promote its own name, and one outside of publishing. The Arthur C Clarke award sponsored by… (a forward-looking British technology company)? Just a thought.

  21. Tom Hunter Says:

    The idea of looking to include UK authors who are published outside the UK is certainly something I’ll take and consider.

    What do other people think? Should that be UK nationality or UK resident or both or something different?

  22. Tom Hunter Says:

    If anyone reading this is part of a forward-thinking British technology company, or knows someone who is, please do say hello

  23. kev mcveigh Says:

    As a former judge I agree with most of the above. The award will lose credibility if it becomes open to all non-UK publications, but Cheryl’s idea of including UK authors published elsewhere is good.
    If fundraising is considered then perhaps means of raising the profile need to run alongside. I’m sure Tom and Paul before have tried many times but there must be ways of getting the shortlist highlighted in the press, in Waterstones, etc?

  24. Duncan Lawie Says:

    I think UK publication is the simplest way to define the UK connection. How does that work with ebooks, though? Do they have the concept of national publication, or perhaps regional – like DVDs? If you can get it for Kindle from Amazon.co.uk, does that give a book a British publication?

    If there is no good answer to that, then we may need to open up the question of defining UK-ness in other ways.

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  26. Richard Says:

    I liked the idea of using the likes of the UK Space Agency and university departments being approached for funding partnerships…

  27. Richard Says:

    Wow… just read that back. What a bizarre sentence. My apologies.

  28. Ian MacLeod Says:

    I would certainly like to see things not being limited by whether or not a book was published in the UK. I’ve had books published out of the UK, yet I’m very much a British writer. I can see it might get a bit complicated. Say, a writer who is normally in the UK happens to spend a few years somewhere else. Indeed, Clarke himself…! But I’m sure a workable definition could be cooked up. And if it gets people arguing, that’s not such a bad thing. As for sponsorship, how about one of the sattelite communications companies such as Inmarsat? The link with Clarke would be appropriate.

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  31. Jonathan M Says:

    I agree about UK publication being the simplest way of doing things. As the discussion surrounding Jo Walton recently showed, ‘Britishness’ is a rather vague concept and as much as I love the yearly round-up of ‘but it’s not SF’ whines, I really don’t want to see them supplemented by an additional round of ‘but they’re not British!’.

    Fixing it to UK publication provides a hard and fast boundary and if you’re a British author who can’t find a British publisher… well… them’s the breaks unfortunately.

  32. Martin Says:

    It is important to keep the Clarke Award UK-focused due to the unique flavour of UK SF in all its forms – something of which I’m proud to be a part, albeit at a minor level.

    The Award itself carries huge kudos, but the cash prize carries weight, gives the Award greater credibility, and is surely welcomed by 99% of winners.

    Sponsorship by a relevant UK company is an excellent idea. I wonder if actually *increasing* the cash prize would serve to raise the profile of the Award outside the SF industry. Perhaps also celebrity SF fan involvement?

    Furthermore, if we are seeking to be embraced by those outside our enclave, shouldn’t we also be seeking to embrace?

  33. Colin Harvey Says:

    I’m very much in agreement with Paul Kincaid that we should keep to the current focus.

    One model is to ask the publishers to pay a proportion of the costs if their books make the shortlist. They should -at least in theory- gain extra sales from the publicity to cover at least some of those costs. Especially if their book wins.

  34. Mike Williams Says:

    Please keep it restricted to the UK and its interplanetary and interstellar dominions.

  35. Martin Says:

    What I’m spending a lot of time thinking about now is what happens to this number if just one major publisher attempts an experiment in digital edition only publishing.

    Not a major publisher but Infinity Plus seem to be doing just that.

  36. iansales Says:

    Ebooks may be, theoretically, available worldwide on publication, but digital publishers must still be based in a specific country.

  37. Tom Hunter Says:

    Pondering the idea of extending the Award’s criteria for eligibility beyond its current scope in the conversation here, it’s definitely an interesting idea but I’m yet to be convinced its actually a practicable model for the Award moving forward.

    Many of the arguments put forward sound compelling, and I certainly appreciate the passion for the Award being as representative as possible, but this kind of argument tends to miss the practical bit that happens behind the scences in the submissions process.

    In a nutshell, we tend to think its a good idea when talking about particular authors / works etc we’d like to see included, but things get much more complicated very fast when you realise we need to apply that new criteria across the board. So, to include one UK writer only published outside of the UK we’d need to start covering every potential writer and the field expands pretty quick.

    Personally I do find lots of advantages in our current approach. We have great relationships with the professional publishing community – as I’ve noted before we don’t just sit back and wait to see what turns up in the post – and the focus we gain in terms of working with publishing businesses helps to define a book’s eligibility. It has to be actively submitted by its publisher to be considered, and this gives us a degree of flexibility in terms of defining what constitutes a publisher in the first place.

    As noted above, a digital publisher still has to be based somewhere (if only for tax reasons) and there’s also value to be gained in terms of negotiating the difference between commercially and self-published works. This territory might be shifting, and is likely too big an area for this post, but briefly while the Award deliberately has very few rules when it comes to determining eligibility, we do have a good set of working guidelines to draw on… Of course, the quality of a book, and indeed its potential status as science fiction is something we’re very happy to leave in the capable hands of our judging panel.

    Drawing this point to a close, I don’t believe an overhaul of the Award’s guiding criteria offers a solution to the broader issues we’re facing, and while the face of publishing may change radically in the next ten years, until we reach that point I believe the Award is likely better served making people aware that we might adjust our guidelines but our main principles are pretty fixed for the time being.

    If and when that major change comes, then the Award may well need to seriously reconsider its relevance to the genre, but I don’t think we’re there yet. In some senses, if the change we’re talking about is really that radical then the Award itself may have to consider its mission as achieved as possible and look to reform or pass its expertise to a new Award. I’m always happy to talk to people before that day about other award possibilities by the way.

    In the meantime I think my main focus will necessarily be on building a greater resilience into the Award as it stands, and there’s been some good ideas on that front talked about above that I’d like to thank people for as well.

    We have a few ideas in progress of our own, which I’ll announce publicly as they begin to happen (hopefully they’ll be something to get excited about) with this letter being the first step of that plan.

    What’s really been brought home to me here is the level of support and interest I can count on as we start to move forward.

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  39. Chaz Brenchley Says:

    Tom, might I suggest that you talk to the committee of the Crime Writers’ Association, and particularly a couple of recent chairs, about the importance of maintaining a significant cash award and how to search for sponsors? They’ve had exactly this issue in regard to the CWA’s Gold Dagger awards, and now have a panoply of experience and a deal of success… (I can act as introducer, if necessary.)

  40. Martin Says:

    I’d like to point out that there are two Martins posting here. One is me, one isn’t.

  41. Pete Crowther Says:

    I don’t think the Clarke Award should be restricted to only British writers, either resident or ex-pat . . . the same way as neither the John W. Campbell Memorial Award nor the Shirley Jackson Award is restricted to American writers. (Okay, I’ll get my coat.)

  42. Simon Morden Says:

    With my author hat on:
    It’s important to have a British award of this calibre. While we’re all supposed to be self-deprecating, the history of British SF is something to be justifiably proud of, and the Clarkes are a bridge between the past and the future.

    The money in and of itself is not important, but it is a potent symbol of the award’s worth – the iconic £2001 has gone, I know – that calls for attention outside the SF community.

    With the ex-judge’s hat on:
    Reading 50-odd novels is bloody hard work. 50 is manageable, whereas 60 probably isn’t. This needs to be borne in mind when suggesting widening the selection criteria.

    Looking to the future:
    I was a guest of Rolls Royce at the Farnborough Airshow this year, having helped a team from my school win the Schools Science Prize. There are literally millions of pounds/dollars swilling around the aerospace sector – and an awful lot of it is attached to blowing people up. Something else that needs to be considered if looking for an industry sponsor – ‘clean’ may be relative.

  43. Nick H. Says:

    iansales says: “Ebooks may be, theoretically, available worldwide on publication, but digital publishers must still be based in a specific country.”

    Er, well. I suppose you could say that, after a fashion. But then you could also say that ‘Books may be, theoretically, available worldwide on publication’. Territorial rights apply to eBooks just like printed books, and so the majority of eBooks aren’t (or aren’t meant to be) available worldwide. You’ll get different eBooks on Amazon.com to Amazon.co.uk. Even where you’ll find the book on both sites, you’ll find cases where the Amazon.com eBook is from one publisher and the Amazon.co.uk one is from a different publishers, because of the way the rights have been bought.

    In the context of the Clarke Award, then, eBook eligibility might go something like this: firstly, start with what can be bought through UK outlets – Amazon.co.uk, Waterstone’s, WH Smith, etc. That’ll cut a lot of the non-UK ones out at a stroke. Secondly, however, the actual publisher may have to be looked as, presumably, American publishers with UK distribution rights would have to be excluded from what’s left.

    If I’ve got anything terribly wrong in the above, I’m sure someone will be along to correct me soon enough.

    Anyway – to take on some of Tom’s original questions now:

    How important is a UK focused prize in an increasingly international and digital marketplace?

    I think it’s very important. UK SF still has a distinct make-up to it, the prize celebrates something different, and that’s important to avoid a boring and homogenised market.

    What more could the Award do as part of its broader advocacy remit to promote science fiction?

    It could avoid shortlisting limited edition books, let alone giving the prize to them. I understand there is an argument to be made that the quality of the book is the most important thing, but it does make it really hard to do any promotion when one of the books isn’t easily available. And when that book wins… it’s tricky.

    How much does the success and the credibility of the Award depend on it having a cash prize?

    A cash prize is important, as it demonstrates that the Clarke Award is a Serious Award, I would say. It’s not the be-all or end-all, but it does help confer a certain amount of prestige.

  44. Ian MacLeod Says:

    …or maybe we should go for the most militaristic sponsor possible? Seeing as so much modern SF is also about blowing people up …I, too, will now get my coat.

  45. David Says:

    As awards go, it’s always been one of my favourites.

    I don’t know the way that the organisation of the award is set up now, but perhaps creating a charity and soliciting donations and/or sponsorship would ensure longer-term continuity. An ‘Arthur C. Clarke Foundation’ would easily fit under the ‘promotion of arts, culture, heritage or science’ heading for charities. I’m already the trustee of an educational charity that we set up ourselves, which relies entirely on donations and it has worked quite well and is not too onerous, although there was some hard work at the start.

  46. willy Says:

    A celebrity biography ghost-written … BY A ROBOT.

    I’m not quite sure what this has to do with the topic, but it seems to be a cool idea. And there is definitely money in the market. So the profits could fund the A.C. Clarke prize.

    Yeah, ok, that’s my coat there. Just toss it over and I’ll go.

  47. Sean W Says:

    ‘I, Susan Calvin’

  48. Books » Archive » Arthur C Clarke award calls on SF fans to help reinvent the prize Says:

    […] end. The prize’s administrator Tom Hunter has thrown open the question of what comes next in an open letter to science fiction fans this week, and asking for their views on its […]

  49. Help with the future of the Arthur C Clarke Award | SciFiNow Says:

    […] Hunter, the administrator of the Arthur C Clarke Award, has posted an open letter over at Torque Control in which he asks for suggestions over and discusses the immediate future of the […]

  50. May the madness continue « stuffwhatiwrote Says:

    […] Arthur C. Clarke Award, has written an open letter to all science fiction fans (which can be found here) on how you can […]

  51. William Gibson speaks - Forbidden Planet Blog Says:

    […] a related note Tom has recently written an open letter to all those who enjoy quality, challening science fiction novels, which the Guardian has picked up […]


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