Contest: Guess the 2012 Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist

This contest is now CLOSED. Please check back in late March to find out what the actual shortlist is and which entry has won the contest.

The 2012 Arthur C Clarke Award Submissions list is out, and with it, as last year, a competition: guess the shortlist!

The winner, thanks to the generosity of the Arthur C Clarke Award, will receive copies of all six of this year’s shortlisted novels.

To enter, post a comment in reply to this post with a list of six books (no more, no fewer), selected from the list of sixty eligible submissions, along with a rationale as to why you think that shortlist will be the ones which the judges have chosen. Pingbacks won’t be accepted as entries.

Your rationale can be anything you like, whether brief or detailed, whether your guess is based on extensive reading or randomly guessing; but you must provide one in order to have a valid entry for this contest.

You may not enter this contest if you are a current Clarke award judge, a family member of a current judge, someone who has access to the currently-embargoed press release containing the shortlist, or if you are on the board of Serendip or the BSFA. You may not enter the contest multiple times: only your first entry will be entered into the contest. You are welcome to enter from wherever you are: the prize can be shipped internationially.

The winner will be the person who has correctly guessed the most shortlisted books. In the event of a tie, the winner will be randomly chosen by Tom Hunter, Clarke Award Director, from those who correctly guessed the most shortlisted books, and his decision in all aspects of the contest is final.

Tom Hunter has noted that he’s never correctly guessed the full shortlist. Last year, when we ran this contest for the 2011 Clarke Award shortlist, the most anyone guessed was four of the six shortlisted novels. Can you do better than that this year?

The deadline for your six guesses, posted as a reply to this post along with your rationale for your guess, will be 23:59 GMT on Sunday, 11th March.

2012 Arthur C Clarke Award Submissions

At long last, the submissions list for the 2012 Arthur C Clarke Award is out!

Torque Control and the BSFA are again delighted to be hosting a competition in conjunction with the release of the submissions list, to guess the short list. The winner will received copies of all the shortlisted books, due to be announced at the end of March. For full details – and to enter the contest – see the separate contest details post.

This year, the five members of the jury read 60 books from 25 imprints in order to narrow it down to whatever their shortlist is going to be. That’s slightly greater participation – and slightly more work for the jury – than last year, when 54 novels were submitted by 22 imprints.

Submissions include four past winners (Ian R. MacLeod, China Miéville, Christopher Priest and Neal Stephenson) as well as ten authors who have previously been shortlisted (Stephen Baxter, Greg Bear, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, James Lovegrove, Adam Roberts, Justina Robson, Sherri S. Tepper, Charles Stross, Connie Willis and Chris Wooding).

Note that this is a submissions list, of the books submitted by their imprints, for consideration by the judges. It is a not a longlist.

Embedded by Dan Abnett (Angry Robot)
Dead of Veridon by Tim Akers (Solaris)
The Departure by Neal Asher (Tor UK)
Novahead by Steve Aylett (Scar Garden)
Bronze Summer by Stephen Baxter (Gollancz)
Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear (Gollancz)
The Kings of Eternity by Eric Brown (Solaris)
The Great Lover by Michael Cisco (Chomu Books)
Random Walk by Alexandra Claire (Gomer)
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (Orbit)
Sequence by Adrian Dawson (Last Passage)
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan (Canongate)
The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan (Gollancz)
Gods of Manhattan by Al Ewing (Abaddon Books)
Bringer of Light by Jaine Fenn (Gollancz)
Final Days by Gary Gibson (Tor UK)
Heaven’s Shadow by David S. Goyer&Michael Cassutt (Tor UK)
The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood (Orbit)
The Last Four Things by Paul Hoffman (Michael Joseph)
Dead Water by Simon Ings (Corvus)
The Ironclad Prophecy by Pat Kelleher (Abaddon Books)
11.22.63 by StephenKing (Hodder and Stoughton)
Shift by Tim Kring and Dale Peck (Bantam)
Cyber Circus by Kim Lakin-Smith (NewconPress)
Echo City by Tim Lebbon (Orbit)
Nemonymous Nights by D.F. Lewis (Chomu Books)
The Age of Odin by JamesLovegrove (Solaris)
Wake Up and Dream by Ian R. MacLeod (PS)
The End Specialist by Drew Magary (HarperVoyager)
Germline by T.C. McCarthy (Orbit)
Savage City by Sophia McDougall (Gollancz)
Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan)
Equations of Life by Simon Morden (Orbit)
Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi (Picador)
Hell Ship by Philip Palmer (Orbit)
The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz)
The Straight Razor Cure by Daniel Polansky (Hodder and Stoughton)
The Recollection by Gareth L. Powell (Solaris)
The Islanders by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)
Here Comes The Nice by Jeremy Reed (Chomu Books)
The Demi Monde: Winter by Rod Rees (Jo Fletcher Books)
by Light Alone by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
Down to the Bone by Justina Robson (Gollancz)
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (Sandstone)
Regicide by Nicholas Royle (Solaris)
Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer (Gollancz)
War in Heaven by Gavin Smith (Gollancz)
Reamde by Neal Stephenson (Atlantic)
Rule 34 by Charles Stross (Orbit)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Hodder and Stoughton)
The Waters Rising by Sherri S. Tepper (Gollancz)
Osama by Lavie Tidhar (PS)
Dust by Joan Frances Turner (Berkley UK)
The Noise Revealed by Ian Whates (Solaris)
Zone One by Colson Whitehead (Harvill Secker)
All Clear by Connie Willis (Gollancz)
Blackout by Connie Willis (Gollancz)
Son of Heaven by David Wingrove (Corvus)
The Godless Boys by Naomi Wood (Picador)
The Iron Jackal by Chris Wooding (Gollancz)

The shortlist will be announced in late March, and the 2012 Clarke Award winner on Wednesday, May 2nd, at the SCI-FI London Film Festival. The winner will receive a cash prize of £2012 and a commemorative trophy bookend.

What do you think of the submissions list? Any titles you wish were under consideration for this year’s Clarke Award but aren’t?

If you’d like to guess and potentially win the award’s shortlist this year, see the contest details post. Guesses posted in the comments to this post may be good for conversation, but won’t be eligible entries for the contest.

Reasons to Attend the SFF Criticism Masterclass

The deadline to apply for this year’s SFF Criticism Masterclass is rapidly approaching. (February 28th)

Some of you may be wavering as to whether or not to apply. Here are some reasons why you should:

  • It’s a chance to spend three days immersed in discussion of books, short stories, and articles with other people interested in science fiction, who have all read the same material. This allows for the sort of in-depth discussion which doesn’t happen any where near frequently enough in other contexts.
  • It’s a chance to encounter alternative perspectives on work you’ve just read, while it’s fresh in your mind and you have the material to-hand for re-examining. You may not change your mind, but you’ll certainly have the chance to discuss others’ perspectives at length and use them to re-examine your own.
  • It’s a fantastic networking opportunity for anyone already working on any aspect of science fiction criticism in some capacity. You’ll be spending three days getting to know the tutors and the way they think much more closely, but also your fellow students.
  • It’s not a class intended for masters of criticism, but for those interested in improving their existing abilities,  whether you review lots of books on your own blog, or are a PhD student working on science fiction, or occasionally write critical essays about science fiction. It’s also useful for writers interested in genre criticism, working on improving their analyses of why some kinds of writing does and doesn’t work for a critical audience.
  • Even if you’ve taken it before, the SFF Criticism Masterclass is new and different every time, with all-new tutors to learn from and with. If you’d like to study SF Criticism with M. John Harrison, Kari Sperring, and Edward James, this is the one year you have in which to do so.

Any other reasons any of you would like to add to this list?

February BSFA London Meeting

This Wednesday, the 22nd of February, is the fourth Wednesday of the month – which means it’s time for the BSFA London Meeting.

Liz Williams (author of The Ghost Sister, Empire of Bones, The Poison Master, Nine Layers of Sky, Banner of Souls, the Inspector Chen series (Snake Agent, The Demon and the City, Precious Dragon, The Shadow Pavilion, The Iron Khan, Morningstar), Darkland, Bloodmind, and Winterstrike, among others) http://mevennen.livejournal.com/
will be interviewed by Ian Whates (BSFA Chair)

The meeting will be at 7pm in the Cellar Bar at the Melton Mowbray Public House on Holborn, EC1N 2LE.

Please remember that, as of the beginning of this year, these meetings are no longer in Sloane Square!

BSFA and SFF Mini-Convention and AGM 2012

The Science Fiction Foundation and the British Science Fiction Association invite you to attend their Mini-Convention and Annual General Meetings

Saturday, 9 June 2012
10-4:30 pm

with Guests of Honour Aliette de Bodard and Marek Kukula

Location: The Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, on Piccadilly, in London. W1J 0BQ. Halfway between Piccadilly Circus and Green Park stations, on the north side of the street.

Cost: Free!

AGMs: The SFF AGM will take place at noon, the BSFA AGM at 1:45 pm.

Vector, Blind Submissions, and Gender Balance

A slew of commentary, mostly thought-provoking, has come out of Paul Cornell’s declaration yesterday that he would, as a panelist at a convention, actively work towards achieving gender parity on panels he’s on, even if it required taking himself off of the panel. It’s a lovely gesture, but there are all sorts of complications in the details of implementing it and what it requires of women participating in genre.

One of these complications is that, on average, women are less likely to volunteer to be put on panels in the first place.

I can’t speak to panel volunteers, but I can speak to those who volunteer for Vector.  The majority of articles which appear in Vector are commissioned. That means that I ask for them, or, more specifically, talk people into writing them.

A minority of the articles are blind submissions, already-written articles which are sent to Vector on the chance that it’s a suitable home for them. It often is. Vector isn’t that high profile, so it doesn’t receive all that many blind submissions – perhaps eight or so last year.

Every last blind submission I have received – and even, in addition to those, all the articles proposed, unwritten, without prior contact – were all sent or proposed by men.

This was my first year editing the magazine, so I can’t say if this is a necessarily a longer-term trend. I can say that this is consistent with what’s been reported by larger convention organizers, that men are more likely to put themselves forward, rather than waiting for an invitation.

Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate the blind submissions just as much as I appreciate all the people, regardless of gender, who have been willing to write for Vector by request. They all go into making the magazine’s features what they are. And some particular men may be in need of active recruitment, just as some particular women readily volunteer.

Part of the challenge of those working to improve the gender balance of participants, regardless of medium, can be in needing to be more pro-active in recruiting women, and the limited evidence of the blind submissions I’ve received is consistent with that tendency.

SFF Readership Data Challenges

I had a really satisfying conversation with my sister earlier this week. She told me she’d been on a real dystopian literature kick in the last year, that her favorite books currently include The Hunger Games, Never Let Me Go, and The Handmaid’s Tale.

I told her she was a science fiction reader. “Really? Just because they’re set in the future?” It’s more complicated than that, but the brief version is that I explained dystopias were just her preferred subgenre within sf.

That my sister has never thought of herself as a science fiction reader, and yet clearly – to me – is one exemplifies one of the many problems in trying to survey just what kinds of humans are reading genre. Farah Mendlesohn, in The Intergalactic Playground, made her readership survey feasible by focusing on those who 1. Self-identify as science fiction readers and 2. Filled out her survey.

We really do need more data about who reads genre fiction, because so many central discussion of how to present it center around just who it is who’s reading it. Who the market is. How large a percentage of readers are women.

D.H. Rowan is adding to that data through a survey  posted today, on “Female:Male Readership of SF/F, UF, PNR”. You can see some of the problems with it already just in the title. The subgenres it focuses on – Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance – are those known to have a larger female readership than most of, say, science fiction. There are more methodological problems with the survey itself: it only allows for a binary choice between male and female, for example. It assumes that Urban Fantasy and PNR are subgenres which have been around for decades, long enough that it would have been possible to start and stop reading one or both decades ago. It focuses on age ranges rather than how long ago a given interaction with genre occurred.

And yet – I still think you should go fill it out. It’s a short poll. It won’t take long. And so long as any analysis of the resulting dataset is conscious of these limitations, it’ll still add to the data we have about what kinds of people read what kinds of SFF – and whether or not those people are being adequately represented at conventions*, among other places.

* See also Sophia McDougall on the SFX Weekender and the Nudes in the Metropolitan Gallery.

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Lavinia, Part 3: Science Fiction?

Enough people thought Le Guin’s Lavinia was science fiction that it was shortlisted for the BSFA best novel award, and  placed in last year’s poll of the best sf novels by women of the previous decade.

But why is it science fiction? Is it science fiction because that’s what Le Guin writes, and therefore this must be too? Is it science fiction between there’s a time traveler in the story, albeit one who makes a limited number of appearances, and those through extended vision sequences? Is it science fiction because, as I have proposed elsewhere, history is a form of science, and this story plays around with historiography in a science fictional way?

Jo Walton and Niall Harrison assert that it’s fantasy, as opposed to science fiction. Others clearly saw no distinction between science fiction and fantasy for the purposes of these particular two samplers – the BSFA Award is specifically open to fantasy, after all, despite the name of the organisation. And Niall didn’t define “science fiction” for the purpose of last year’s best-of poll, so its presence there doesn’t preclude it being only fantasy.

And yet, Niall observed that some people voted for Lavinia for the best-of poll in the same email as they said they wished they could vote for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but couldn’t because that was fantasy. Clearly, some people were consciously thinking of Lavinia as being science fiction as opposed to fantasy.

Personally, I don’t believe that one categorisation precludes the other. Above all, Lavinia is historical fiction, with a focus on the practical intricacies of daily life, and the mechanics of legend. It has one minor possible moment of mythic magic, when a group of household lares are mysteriously transported from one place to another. It has a time-traveling poet on his death bed, whose transtemporal dialogues can be interpreted as science fictional time travel, or as fantastical vision.

It also has a self-aware narrator, whose story is suffused with her consciousness of contingency. Her existence depends upon her being recounted. I’d never thought of post-modern as a mythic mode, but her self-consciousness is thoroughly both in this tale, as is the literalness embodied in her final transformation. Looked at from a different angle again, she feels a keen sense of wonder at the very fact of her own existence, under the circumstances. Perhaps her historiographic analytic self-consciousness is enough of a psychological experiment to justify Lavinia being thought of science fiction.

BSFA Award Nominees: Short Story Club

Over at Everything is Nice, Martin Lewis is leading discussions of the nominees for the BSFA award for best short story of 2011 this week.

Links above are to the stories themselves, not this week’s posts about them.

Discussion of today’s story, Allan’s “The Silver Wind”, is already underway there if you’d like to join in.

Reading Books of 2012

With those extra days’ reprieve for online nomination for the BSFA Awards, I went back to see what I’d read that had been published in 2011. I knew it hadn’t been much. Six novels. Two short story collections.

I vowed I would do better this year.

The problem is, award season is such a distraction because it highlights all those interesting 2011 books I didn’t get around to reading in the calendar year itself, but which I bought, or noted, or for which I put in library requests. I want to finish reading the BSFA award shortlists. I’d like to read A Monster Calls, newly winner of the Red Tentacle at yesterday’s Kitschies. I know I’ll be tempted by the Clarke Award shortlist, the Hugo shortlists…. and it’s not as if one desire precludes the other goal.

Last year’s books are the shiny things I’m reading about right now, not the new ones, the potential winners of next years’ awards, the books which are only just beginning to be read. Last year’s are the ones I have handy already, the ones I know I’ll read at some point anyways, and I could just pick one up now since I already have it in the house….

I know it’ll be easier later in the year, when the awards peter out and novels published earlier in 2012 have had the time to accrue a critical mass of other peoples’ recommendations or reminders, in a way that the award-neglected books of Decembers’ publishings rarely do in time for the next round of award nominations.

There are still the better part of eleven months to go before other peoples’ “best of 2012″ lists start appearing. But it sure feels like a betrayal of new resolution to begin 2012 by reading lots of last year’s books.

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