Submissions for the 2013 Clarke Award

This year’s 2012 Clarke Award Submissions (for the 2013 Arthur C Clarke Award) are now available in all their numerous glory at SFX. How numerous? The valiant, hard-reading five jury members read through 82 submitted books in order to filter them down to a shortlist of six, which will be announced on Thursday, April 4th.

There’s no contest this year, but guessing which six books from that long list will make the short list is still an interesting proposition, and SFX is requesting them.

The winning book will be announced on May 1st at the Royal Society, hopefully after a day’s Clarke Award symposium, “Write the Future”, for which there’s currently a Kickstarter going for fundraising. The fundraiser is already 3/4 of the way to its goal, with 25 days remaining, so there’s a very good chance indeed of this “new micro-conference on science, technology, communication and fiction” happening, also at the Royal Society.

vN by Madeline Ashby

vN: The First Machine Dynasty by Madeline Ashby (Angry Robot, 2012)
Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

The robots in Canadian author Madeline Ashby’s novel are self-replicating artificial humanoids designed by a “global mega-church” as post-Rapture “helpmeets” for those humans left behind after the ascension of the just. Why, it’s not clear – though given what we learn about how these robots are conditioned to engage with humanity, something beautifully ironic and poignant could have emerged. That is not what we get but vN is an interesting though flawed work.

Amy is one such construction, the daughter of robot Charlotte and flesh-human Jack. vN robots like Amy and her mother eat special robo-food and are fitted with a “failsafe” – a kind of First Law which not only prevents them from harming humans but actually causes them to shut down if violence is observed. On Amy’s graduation from kindergarten, her grandmother Portia turns up and attacks Charlotte. Amy eats her in her furious attempt to defend her mother but Portia somehow survives as a consciousness linked to Amy’s. Fleeing, Amy encounters Javier, a “serial iterator” who has given birth (vN reproduction is not gendered and vNs exist in networks of identical clades) to a dozen unauthorised copies of himself and becomes involved in a rather hazy political plot. The revelation that in her the failsafe has broken down is key: each side, human and vN, sees her as a potential weapon to be used or destroyed.

The novel only takes us so far and like many sf futures, vN suffers from something of a lack of focus. The robot-world is well evoked, with vN vagrants living off junk and tensions between vNs and humans. There has been a violent quake on the USA’s West Coast and, somewhere, a (semi?)-autonomous city-state of Mecha exists as a possible sanctuary. But is this culture all world-wide? Does every country in the world “have” vN humanoids? All this may be explored in subsequent volumes but some generic flattening undermines the interesting things Ashby is doing with the “robot” icon.

Still, there are fascinating things here in what is implied about families here – notably the relationship between Amy and her artificial-humanoid mother and human father and between her and Portia, the predatory grandmother. There’s also a skilful creepiness. It’s clear that these robots are – as ‘real’ robots may well be – used as sex toys. The term helpmeet does not necessarily have (in its original Biblical context) a sexual implication but it certainly derives this as a term for marriage partners and equally certainly New Eden Ministries, Inc. means this. The ungrown “child” vNs are of course tempting for those whose interests lie that way. The development of the ability in Amy’s clade to overcome their failsafes is ingeniously linked to her family history and the darker side of desire for robot sextoys that will do whatever you want.

There is, though, a lot about the nature of love (not all sexual) in the novel: obsessive love, the kind of love that may be simply exploitative. And here the most interesting figure may be Jack, Amy’s father: “Charlotte didn’t do drama… now he suspected he’d find human women too warm, too loud, too mobile.” Or, on the same page, “at one point [Amy] and Charlotte would be indistinguishable. Jack worried about that sometimes. What if one day, years from now, he kissed the wrong one as she walked through the door?”

This review originally appeared in Vector #271. vN has been shortlisted for the 2012 Golden Tentacle Award for debut novel that best fits the criteria of progressive, intelligent and entertaining. The winners of this award and the rest of The Kitschies will be announced on Tuesday, 26 February 2013.

The Kitschies 2012 Finalists

The Kitschies 2012 Finalists were announced a week ago, on the same day as the BSFA 2012 shortlists. In exactly a month, on February 26th, the winners of the Kitschies will be announced – giving us only a month in which to ponder the strange and unexpected patterns thrown out by filtered groups of six novels. (In contrast, we have until late March to contemplate what the BSFA shortlists Mean, and the Clarke and Hugo shortlists are yet to come.)

This is the yearly game of literary award shortlist watchers: explain the nature of the voting membership/judges/panel from a list of four to six items. No bonus points for it reaffirming how the group/organisation conforms to whatever stereotypes it has.

The Kitschies have two different judging panels, one for the novels and another for the cover art. Rebecca Levene, Patrick Ness and Jared Shurin filtered out the following from the 211 submissions for 2012:

The Red Tentacle (Novel)

Jesse Bullington, The Folly of the World (Orbit)
Nick Harkaway, Angelmaker (William Heinemann)
Frances Hardinge, A Face Like Glass (Macmillan Children’s)
Adam Roberts, Jack Glass (Gollancz)
Julie Zeh (translated by Sally-Ann Spencer), The Method (Harvill Secker)

The Golden Tentacle (Debut):

Madeline Ashby, vN (Angry Robot)
Jenni Fagan, The Panopticon (William Heinemann)
Rachel Hartman, Seraphina (Doubleday)
Karen Lord, Redemption in Indigo (Jo Fletcher Books)
Tom Pollock, The City’s Son (Jo Fletcher Books)

Meanwhile, Lauren O’Farrell, Gary Northfield and Ed Warren had the task of shortlisting cover art.

The Inky Tentacle (Cover Art):

Tom Gauld, Costume Not Included by Matthew Hughes (Angry Robot)
Oliver Jeffers, The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne (Doubleday)
Dave Shelton, A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton (David Fickling Books)
Peter Mendelsund, The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus (Granta)
La Boca, The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (Sceptre)

A question I have been somewhat idly pondering: does the cover art panel also need to read all the eligible submissions, in order to see how well the cover has synergies with the book’s contents? Or does the Inky Tentacle go to the cover whose progressiveness, intelligence, and entertainingness are self-sufficient unto it? They are rather different ways of judging the material.

Some of the discussions of the Kitschies shortlists so far, including in the post comments (with lots of bonus BSFA shortlist discussions!):
Niall Harrison at Strange Horizons.
David Hebblethwaithe at Follow the Thread.
Martin Petto at Everything is Nice on the art awards.

2012 BSFA Award Shortlists

The shortlists for the 2012 BSFA Awards are out!

We’ll be sending out the now-traditional BSFA Awards booklet in February to help BSFA members consider the shortlists in more detail. The booklets will also be available at Eastercon. 2013 Eastercon members are, in addition to BSFA members, eligible to vote for the winners.

The winners will be announced at EightSquared, the 2013 Eastercon (29th March-1st April 2013), Cedar Court Hotel, Bradford this Easter, in a ceremony hosted by London Falling novelist, Paul Cornell.

The shortlisted nominees are:

Best Novel

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

Best Short Story

Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld #69)
“The Flight of the Ravens” by Chris Butler (Immersion Press)
Song of the body Cartographer” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Phillipines Genre Stories)
“Limited Edition” by Tim Maughan (1.3, Arc Magazine)
Three Moments of an Explosion” by China Mieville (Rejectamentalist Manifesto)
Adrift on the Sea of Rains” by Ian Sales (Whippleshield Books)

 

Best Artwork

Ben Baldwin for the cover of Dark Currents (Newcon Press)
Blacksheep for the cover of Adam Roberts’s Jack Glass (Gollancz)
Dominic Harman for the cover of Eric Brown’s Helix Wars (Rebellion)
Joey Hifi for the cover of Simon Morden’s Thy Kingdom Come (Jurassic London)
Si Scott for the cover artwork for Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden (Corvus)

Best Non-Fiction

“The Complexity of the Humble Space Suit” by Karen Burnham (Rocket Science, Mutation Press)
The Widening Gyre” by Paul Kincaid (Los Angeles Review of Books)
The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge University Press)
The Shortlist Project by Maureen Kincaid Speller
The World SF Blog, Chief Editor Lavie Tidhar

The official BSFA announcement post is here.

New Year’s Nominations

I’m a big believer in making new year’s resolutions with very clear end points. I want to know that I’ve achieved them. Move countries. Buy a scale. That kind of thing.

A good candidate for a resolution with a clear goal is award nominations. Submit at least one nomination for at least one science fiction award in 2013.

You have only ten more days to nominate works for the BSFA Awards; its deadline is January 11th. If you haven’t already, and can think of one or more worthy nominees (which you didn’t create yourself) in the categories of novel published in the UK, short story, artwork, or non-fiction, then go forth and nominate.  Don’t assume that just because someone else has

If you’re a member of 2014’s Loncon3 (and many of you are!), then you also have the right to nominate for this year’s Hugo awards. Voting on the winners is restricted to members of this year’s Worldcon, LonestarCon3, but until Sunday, March 10, 2013, 11:59 p.m. EDT, the nominations are open.

Whether or not you make a resolution to do so this year, consider nominating anyways. Relatively often, the exact makeup of the shortlists (especially for the BSFA Award, but also for some of the less-nominated-for categories of the Hugos) can be decided by a single nomination.

Happy 2013!

Tentacular Grapplings

This post is the first in a series here on Torque Control from Ian Whates.

***

The world of awards seems to be an ever-expanding one, with more and more accolades being presented in every field going. Genre fiction is no exception. In this country alone we have the BSFA Awards, the Clarke, the Gemmells, the British Fantasy Awards, the James White Award, and that’s not even considering global awards such as the Hugos, Nebulas, World Fantasy and Stoker awards, or those voted on by the readers of various magazines… So is there really room for another set of awards?

The Kitschies are the new kids on the block, and their organisers would argue that there certainly is. 2011’s winners were announced at a ceremony during the SFX weekender in February 2012, and, with an expanding set of categories and increasing prize money, the Kitschies are certainly hard to ignore. We asked the organisers, Anne Perry and Jared Shurin, to tell us a bit about the awards and to explain why they’re so different. In particular, they’ve focussed on the Golden Tentacle, awarded for best debut novel.

As a follow-up to this, we’ll be taking a look at each of the novels shortlisted for the Golden Tentacle over the next few months, to get an idea of what makes the Kitschies tick.

“The Kitschies’ shortlists are selected based on strict criteria: progressive, intelligent and entertaining books with elements of the speculative or fantastic. Within those terms, we try to err on the side of inclusivity, and allow each year’s judges the freedom to bring in their own perspective.

Although debut novels are judged by the same criteria (progressive, intelligent, entertaining), they’re a separate category for several reasons. The first is for the authors. There’s something warm and cuddly about discovery. We get to encourage new talent, authors who may not already have an existing audience or support structure. Bringing new books to readers’ attention: that’s the best thing that any award can do.

The second is for the books. This oversimplifies things terribly, but there are different expectations of a debut novel. These are new voices; writers who are challenging their categories in order to wedge their way onto crowded shelves. New authors have to work even harder to get readers’ attention – they need to be brasher, louder, more aggressive. The resulting books are often more raw: shoutier, less polished but, in many cases, also more daring.

The third is for the judges. This is the fun category. Everything is new; the expectations are different. With a debut novel, there are no middle volumes in long series; less predisposition, hype and (hopefully) scandal. In our oversaturated marketing environment, reading a debut is as close as we can get to judging in a vacuum. There’s just the text itself, and whatever surprises it may hold.

The 2011 finalists were an exceptionally diverse group containing (if you’ll pardon the labels): space opera, paranormal romance, epic fantasy, YA and splatterpunk horror. Of course, none of them fit neatly within the boundaries, and if there’s one thing that unites all five titles, it is the fact that they aggressively challenge readers’ assumptions. Several of these titles have gone on to be nominated for – and win – other awards, while others have crept along more quietly.

The Kitschies’ mission is not to dictate taste, but to encourage discussion. For that very reason (and others), we’re grateful to the BSFA for setting up this series. Whether or not you agree with our panel’s selections (and we expect that not everyone will), we hope you enjoy the conversation.” – Anne and Jared.

Guess-the-Arthur-C-Clarke-Award-Shortlist Contest Winner

At long, long last, SCI-FI London begins today, the winner of the Arthur C Clarke Award will be announced on Wednesday, and we have a winner for the Guess-the-Clarke Shortlist contest!

Thanks to the generosity of the Clarke Award, the winner will receive a copy of every book on the shortlist.

Three entries, submitted by Nicholas Whyte, Duncan Lawie, and Kenny Lucius, tied for first place, with four correct guesses each. For comparative purposes, I note that all three correctly guessed Embassytown and Rule 34.

Contest judge Tom Hunter has drawn the winning name from the hat… and the winner is Duncan Lawie!

BSFA Awards Winners

Congratulations to all those who won the BSFA Awards for work produced in 2011!

Best Non-Fiction: The SF Encyclopedia, third edition (beta), edited by John Clute, Peter Nicholls, David Langford and Graham Sleight.
Best Artwork: Cover of Ian Whates’s The Noise Revealed by Dominic Harman (Solaris)
Best Short Fiction: “The Copenhagen Interpretation” by Paul Cornell (Asimov’s, July)
Best Novel published in Britain: The Islanders by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)

At Eastercon, as well as four other conventions held that same weekend, the Hugo shortlists were announced. The BSFA Award winners for best non-fiction and best short fiction both made that ballot, so their fans will have another opportunity to vote for them, should they wish!

Gollancz did extremely well this year, since they host/publish The SF Encyclopedia as well as The Islanders.

P.S. Please see the BSFA’s apology for the way the awards ceremony worked out.

Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist 2012

The Waiting, Part I, is over, and this year’s Clarke Award shortlist is out. (Since it was released all of twelve hours ago, many or most of you reading this are already well-aware that it’s out.)

There are five members of the jury, which this year is comprised of Juliet E McKenna (BSFA), Martin Lewis (BSFA), Phil Nanson (SFF), Nikkianne Moody, SFF, and Rob Grant (SCI-FI-LONDON film festival), with Andrew M. Butler representing the Arthur C. Clarke Award as the Chair of Judges. The jury read the sixty books submitted to the award, ruled out the ones they considered to not be science fiction, and from the rest, chose what they collectively agreed (through however much argument and compromise) to be the best six works of science fiction published in Britain in 2011.

  • Greg Bear, Hull Zero Three (Gollancz)
  • Drew Magary, The End Specialist (Harper Voyager)
  • China Miéville, Embassytown (Macmillan)
  • Jane Rogers, The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press)
  • Charles Stross, Rule 34 (Orbit)
  • Sheri S.Tepper, The Waters Rising (Gollancz)

There’s plenty of commentary elsewhere about the items actually on the shortlist. I’ll be number-crunching all of the entries in the Guess the Shortlist contest in another day or so, although some of that analysis has already been done elsewhere.

There’ll be even more speculation available at the SFF’s Not-the-Clarke Award panel at Eastercon on Saturday, 7 April, at 17:30 (but only if you’re an Eastercon member this year; join now if you haven’t already and plan to attend, as they’re on course to sell out this week, before the convention.).

But meanwhile, speaking of the Clarke Award, have a look at its tasteful, newly-redesigned website!

Updates: Guess the Clarke shortlist, BSFA Awards, Spirit

It’s been an exciting week, with the guesses coming in as to what will be on this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist.

In posting her guesses to her blog as to what books might be on that shortlist, Nina Allan wrote,

What matters most about the Clarke is not who wins, but that it acts as a showcase for what is happening in SF now. As such, I believe it should take a pride in presenting writers who are prepared to risk themselves intellectually, stretch themselves imaginatively and hone their skills as writers to produce works of artistic originality and lasting literary power.

It is certainly not clear exactly which six books will be on the shortlist for this year’s, but every guess in the contest (ongoing until Sunday) is a contribution toward the wider discussion of “what is happening in SF now”.

What impresses me in particular about this year’s guesses so far is how wide-ranging they are. About two-thirds of the submitted books have appeared on one or more possible lists so far. It’s entirely possible that one or more of the currently unguessed books will be on that shortlist. Last year, only one person correctly guessed that Declare would be on it, after all.

For those of you who haven’t already entered the contest (and those of you thinking about the state of SF today), here are the currently unguessed-at books for your consideration:

Dead of Veridon by Tim Akers (Solaris)
Novahead by Steve Aylett (Scar Garden)
Sequence by Adrian Dawson (Last Passage)
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan (Canongate)
Gods of Manhattan by Al Ewing (Abaddon Books)
Final Days by Gary Gibson (Tor UK)
Heaven’s Shadow by David S. Goyer & Michael Cassutt (Tor UK)
The Ironclad Prophecy by Pat Kelleher (Abaddon Books)
Shift by Tim Kring and Dale Peck (Bantam)
Echo City by Tim Lebbon (Orbit)
Nemonymous Nights by D.F. Lewis (Chomu Books)
The Age of Odin by James Lovegrove (Solaris)
The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz)
The Straight Razor Cure by Daniel Polansky (Hodder and Stoughton)
Here Comes The Nice by Jeremy Reed (Chomu Books)
The Demi Monde: Winter by Rod Rees (Jo Fletcher Books)
War in Heaven by Gavin Smith (Gollancz)
The Noise Revealed by Ian Whates (Solaris)
Son of Heaven by David Wingrove (Corvus)

The contest is open for entries until this coming Sunday night, 11th March, at 23:59 GMT.

The Clarke Award isn’t the only thing going on right now. Hopefully, many of you are busy reading and examining the shortlists for the BSFA Awards, which will be announced on the Sunday of Eastercon this year. Forbidden Planet is offering discounts on all the novels on the shortlist. Also, the BSFA Awards short story booklet is on track to go out with the next mailing.

Finally, we never quite finished discussing all of the books we had planned to last year, here on Torque Control. We’ll be filling in those gaps this year, starting with Gwyneth Jones’ Spirit, toward the end of March.

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