On Thursday, the annual Arthur C. Clarke award shortlist was announced, presenting an all-male selection novels published in England in 2012.
The nominations reveal a strong list of contenders:
Nod by Adrian Barnes
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Intrusion by Ken MacLeod
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
With the release of the list, many in the online community have pointed out the complete lack of female and minority authors on the list, once again placing the Clarkes into controversial territory. Last year, author Christopher Priest lambasted the awards for a lack of quality. This is the first year since 1988 that a women was not listed as a finalist, and the second time overall. The first winner of the Clarke Award was Margaret Atwood in 1987 for her novel The Handmaiden’s Tale.
Liz Williams, of the Science Fiction Foundation and one of the five reviewing judges defended the list in an article in The Guardian:
“As a feminist, I am opposed to including women writers in shortlists just because they are female: the work has got to hold its own in its field: we can discuss whether that field is a level one or not, but when you’re judging a work, you’re obliged to deal with what you’ve got, and to me, that means regardless of any ideological criteria.”
The controversy comes at a time when the role of women in science fiction has become a focal point in the community, and has raised questions about the books released this year, and the general state of female authors in the UK. Some note that this would appear to be a blip in the radar, as a strong list of books are to be released this year, while others note that in the last ten years, only three women has walked away with the top prize. While books by female authors were submitted to the committee, the narrow definition of ‘science fiction’ excluded many, rejecting works that were fantasy or largely so. A look at the list of nominees reveals that a mere 17% of the submitted works were by women: a total of 14 in a record year where 82 novels from 32 separate publishing houses, were received.
The Arthur C. Clarke Award was founded in 1987 with a grant from the award’s namesake, one of England’s best known science fiction authors. The winner in 2012 was Jane Rogers, for her novel The Testament of Jessie Lamb. Authors Greg Bear, Drew Magary, China Miéville and Charles Stross the runners up for the award.
The Clarke Award is backed by the British Science Fiction Association, The Science Fiction Foundation and the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival and the recipient of the award will be announced on May 1st as part of the SciFi London Film Festival. The winning author will receive a check for £2013.