The Arthur C. Clarke Award Shadow Jury (and my part in it)
Tom Hunter has just made public the list of books submitted to the judges of the annual Clarke Award. I don’t normally pay much attention to the list of submitted titles as genre awards only ever seem to come into critical focus once they reach the shortlist phase of their existence. This year will be different…
What is different is that I will be forming part of the first ever shadow jury for a genre award. Inspired by the shadow judges for the annual Booker prize, the idea is for a group of people to consider the list of submitted titles and – in parallel with the official judges – come up with their own shortlists and preferred winners. This initiative was the brainchild of the great Nina Allan (whose introductory remarks can be found here) and is backed by the Anglia Ruskin Centre for Research into Science Fiction and Fantasy under the directorship of Helen Marshall (whose own introductory remarks can be found here).
Inspired by last year’s – occasionally ill-tempered – debates surrounding both the direction of the Clarke Award and its continued ability to generate discussion, the Shadow Clarke project can be viewed as an attempt to strengthen and support genre culture’s critical hinterland before it is finally claimed by the sea. The point of the exercise is not so much to challenge or undermine the real jurors as to provide counterpoints and start discussions. The response from certain corners of genre culture has thus far been hyperbolic and ill-informed but what else should one expect from a website that reacted to the presence of right-wing extremists in genre spaces by driving vast amounts of internet traffic to their websites and helping them to raise funds for their organs of propaganda?
My fellow shadow jurors have already started to announce both their presence and their intentions:
- Nina Allan
- Vajra Chandrasekera
- Maureen Kincaid Speller
- Megan AM
- Victoria Hoyle
- Nick Hubble
- Paul Kincaid
- David Hebblethwaite
Those of us who haven’t yet made their intentions clear are probably just waiting on their personal introductions to go live on the CRSFF website like Vajra’s over here. Mine is lengthy, contentious and will be linked to when it appears…
The submissions having been released, the next step is for each of us to draw up a shortlist of books we’d like to see make the official shortlist and explain why we chose those particular books. This shortlist will then appear on the Anglia Ruskin website as will more detailed pieces about the books it contains as well as our justifications for their inclusion. The idea being that shadow jurors will expand the discussion beyond the confines of the official shortlist and explore the different ways in which one can make aesthetic judgements about contemporary science fiction. For my part, I have an axe and fully intend to grind it but you’ll have to wait a bit to see which books I have chosen to chop off for myself!
In the meantime, if you have feels about the submissions list then please feel free to join in by publishing your own shortlists (hashtags #shadowclarke and #sharke). Just remember, the point of the exercise is not necessarily to predict the official shortlist or even to do a better job than the official jurors but rather to start discussions by exploring the myriad ways in which we are all hopelessly wrong and deliciously right!