So, the 60 novels submitted to the judges for consideration for this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award have been revealed over on Torque Control. There’s also a competition to pick the likely shortlist, which I’m not eligible to enter as I’m on the BSFA Committee – although I should make clear before going any further that this doesn’t mean I have any clue what the actual shortlist will include.

Looking through the list, I’ve read at least part of 16 of the novels that were submitted this year:

Embedded by Dan Abnett (Angry Robot)
Bronze Summer by Stephen Baxter (Gollancz)
The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood (Orbit)
Dead Water by Simon Ings (Corvus)
Cyber Circus by Kim Lakin-Smith (NewconPress)
Germline by T.C. McCarthy (Orbit)
Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan)
The Recollection by Gareth L. Powell (Solaris)
The Islanders by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)
By Light Alone by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (Sandstone)
Reamde by Neal Stephenson (Atlantic)
Rule 34
by Charles Stross (Orbit)
by Lavie Tidhar (PS)
The Noise Revealed by Ian Whates (Solaris)
Zone One by Colson Whitehead (Harvill Secker)

Of the remaining 44, I have five more novels waiting on my “realistically-might-get-read” pile[i]:

Novahead by Steve Aylett (Scar Garden)
Random Walk by Alexandra Claire
The Clockwork Rocket
by Greg Egan (Gollancz)
Leviathan Wakes
by James S.A. Corey (Orbit)
The Godless Boys
by Naomi Wood

So that means I’ve got some idea about the quality of around a third of the books eligible for consideration. And that all means I have absolutely no chance of picking the likely shortlist, especially given the Clarke’s proud and honourable tradition of picking stuff from out on the edges of genre.

Picking from those I’ve already read, the shortlist I’d nominate is:

Dead Water by Simon Ings (Corvus)
by China Miéville (Macmillan)
The Islanders
by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)
By Light Alone by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (Sandstone)
by Lavie Tidhar (PS)

Which is, I think, is a pretty high-quality set of novels…

However, I don’t think it will be the one that the judges pick. Not least because, given the debates that have gone on this year and the people on the judging panel, I expect to see more women on the final list. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more of Random Walk by Alexandra Claire, Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi or The Godless Boys by Naomi Wood on the list.

Of the other books by women, I liked Kim Lakin-Smith’s Cyber Circus, but don’t think it is the sort of thing the Clarke judges will go for. The Taylor, Tepper and Turner don’t look particularly strong or to have a profile that matches the Clarke Award – but that might just be my prejudices showing. The two Connie Willis books have divided opinion (mostly between US and British fans, it seems…) while the Fenn, McDougall, Pinborough and Robson books are all later instalments in series, which might make them harder to sell to judges.

Even though I haven’t got round to Novahead yet, I wouldn’t be upset to see Steve Aylett get a nomination just for his career contribution to sheer bloody-mindedness in literature. Zone One by Colson Whitehead has the mix of literary style and genre content that might appeal to the Clarke judges, but the further I get from reading it, the less substantial I feel it was.

Looking at the other novels on the list, and picking stuff more-or-less at random, The Great Lover by Michael Cisco, Sequence by Adrian Dawson, Echo City by Tim Lebbon, Wake Up and Dream by Ian R. MacLeod, Here Comes The Nice by Jeremy Reed and Son of Heaven by David Wingrove all look like the kind of things that might tickle a Clarke jury’s fancy.

In other words, I have no idea what is going to get picked.

Of the books that aren’t on the list of nominated stories, I’ve said before that City of Bohane by Kevin Barry is an excellent novel. I understand that the judges tried to call it in from the publisher but got no response. Barry is appearing at the Dublin-based sf convention PCon this weekend, on a panel with director Connor Horgan (One Hundred Mornings – which I saw at last year’s Sci Fi London). They will, apparently, be discussing their surprise at discovering that their work was “science fiction”. One reason why I wish I could go to PCon is to ask Barry what he thinks about his publisher’s decision not to submit… perhaps if anyone going along could put the question for me? And I still think Nina Allan’s The Silver Wind should count as a novel!

[i] As opposed to the “not-likely-to-be-read” pile or the “seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time” pile and the “why did I buy that?!” pile.

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