Arthur C Clarke Awards Nominees Announced

An incredibly varied selection featuring Lauren Beukes, Ian McDonald, Patrick Ness, Richard Powers, Tim Powers and Tricia Sullivan

The Arthur C Clarke Award for the best SF novel turns 25 this year. And, not for the first time, the jury has come up with a list of six nominees, whittled down from an initial 54 books put forward, that’s sure to provoke debate.

“It’s one of the most complex lists in a long time and it’s one of the most interesting,” says award director Tom Hunter. Not that he’s apologising for a sextet that shows how rich the field of literary SF has become. “The diversity of the list is one of its greatest strengths,” says Hunter, adding that the Clarke is all about “opening up debate”.

The winner will be announced on Wednesday 27 April at the Sci-fi London Film Festival. The judging panel for this year are:

  • Jon Courtenay Grimwood, British Science Fiction Association
  • Martin Lewis, British Science Fiction Association
  • Phil Nanson, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Liz Williams, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Paul Skevington, SF Crowsnest.com

And the lucky nominees are:

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
With a prose style that Paul Cornell has called “Jeff Noon crossed with Raymond Chandler”, South African Beukes is attracting huge critical acclaim. She’s also a scriptwriter and “recovering journalist”. Zoo City pulls together elements of noir, cyberpunk and urban fantasy to show us a downright scary near-future Johannesburg through the eyes of Zinzi December, a troubled soul with a knack for locating hard-to-find objects. Read the SFX review here.

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
Three times previously nominated for the Clarke, McDonald is quite simply one of Britain’s major SF novelists. He’s also a man who pioneered setting future stories in the developing world. The Dervish House explores such themes as nanotechnology, supercharged hyper-capitalism and the surveillance society against a backdrop of Istanbul, 2027 – a multi-stranded novel full of big ideas, yet written with the pace of an airport thriller. Read the SFX review here.

Monsters Of Men by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
American Ness’s early career as a corporate copywriter included penning an advert for a California garlic festival. Now resident in London, he’s noted primarily for his YA work.
Monsters Of Men is the finalé of the “Chaos Walking” sequence, a dystopian tale of life on the planet Christian-colonised New World. The first novel, The Knife Of Never Letting Go, won the prestigious Guardian Award.

Generosity by Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)
Known by most as a heavyweight literary novelist, Powers returns again and again to the theme of how technology and science impact on our day-to-day lives. As well as novelising, Powers is Swanlund Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Generosity takes an old chestnut – what if you could bottle a cheerful person’s happiness? – and, brilliantly, gives it a genomics spin.

Declare by Tim Powers (Corvus)
Powers is best known for his “secret histories”, novels that spin off real events in fantastical ways. His On Stranger Tides provides the basis for the fourth Pirates Of The Caribbean movie. Declare has been around a while (it took the 2001 World Fantasy Award) but only got a first UK publication last year. Rather wonderfully, it’s a Cold War thriller featuring the British traitor Kim Philby.

Lightborn byTricia Sullivan (Orbit)
American-émigré-to-Shropshire Sullivan took the 1999 Clarke for Dreaming In Smoke, a cyberpunk-infused take on the idea of terraforming. Not someone who courts publicity: she once insisted SFX conduct a profile interview via email. Lightborn turns on the idea that a mind-altering technology has gone badly wrong, a typical Sullivan set-up in that it allows her to engage with characters in extraordinary situations. Read the SFX review here.