Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist 2016

On Wednesday night I was lucky enough to be at the announcement of the shortlist for the 2016 Arthur C Clarke Award.  The announcement took place at the launch even for the Sci-Fi London Film Festival, at Stratford Picturehouse.  There were canapes and I had a badge that entitled me to free wine.  If only it worked for more than just that night.

Award Director Tom Hunter announcing the shortlist

The Clarke Award is in its 30th year.  As a juried award it will always carry a certain cachet  The announcement of the shortlist just 24 hours after the Hugo shortlist was inevitably going to show up the differences.  The Hugos have always been a bit of a popularity contest, even before their recent Puppy-infested controversy.  By contrast, the Clarke Award is a juried award, and it often ends up reflecting a uniquely British take on genre fiction.  I frequently disagree with the judges’ choice of winner, but the shortlist is always an interesting snapshot of the state of genre fiction in the UK that year, and every book is an interesting read.

This year’s shortlist is no different.  The six books announced on the night were:

  • The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Europe at Midnight – Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
  • The Book of Phoenix – Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Arcadia – Iain Pears (Faber & Faber)
  • Way Down Dark – J.P. Smythe (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor)

It’s a really interesting list and I have a huge amount of respect for the team of judges who have managed to whittle a submissions list of 113 books down to a shortlist of just six.  As Award Director Tom Hunter said, “This is a quintessentially Clarke Award kind of a shortlist. Look once and I’m sure everyone will see a choice they agree with. Look twice, and you’ll likely see a new book you want to read next. Look a third time though, and I hope you’ll see how well all of these six books sit together, and how they represent a particular special moment in time for UK science fiction. In other words, like all great books, this is a shortlist that rewards the more you read into it.”

I’ve read two of them already.  I really enjoyed the Becky Chambers, but it feels a bit lightweight to me for the Clarke.  I’d pegged it more as the kind of book that would be a Hugo contender (though it didn’t make the shortlist).  And even though I found the Tchaikovsky interesting and engaging, I preferred Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora as a colony ship story.  Even if it lacked Tchaikovsky’s super-evolved spiders.

Of the others, I already had Way Down Dark by J P Smythe on the TBR pile.  Much as I love Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, I thought his novel The Machine was far the stronger and more interesting book of that shortlist.  David Hutchinson made the shortlist last year with Europe in Autumn (to which Europe at Midnight is the sequel).  I haven’t yet read it (part of my failed bid to read the Clarke shortlist last year) but I’ll move that one up the list pretty sharpish.

Of the other two, I’m probably most excited by Arcadia.  I really loved An Instance of the Fingerpost by the same author, when I read it several years ago, so I’ll be interested to see how he’s evolved as a writer.  There’s quite the buzz about Arcadia at the moment.  I haven’t yet read any of Nnedi Okorafor’s writing, but I’m looking forward to The Book of Phoenix.  She is gathering a real head of critical praise as a writer.

If you’re interested in sampling the shortlist, by the way, all three of Hodder‘s shortlisted books are on offer on Kindle at the moment. I’m intending to read as many of them as I can between now and the announcement of the winner later this year.

In the meantime,  I’ll leave you with these pictures of some of the awesome cosplay on show on Wednesday night.


  

2016: A Look Ahead

Having reflected back on 2015, it’s also time to look ahead to 2016.  I’m not the kind of person who makes New Year Resolutions.  The coldest, darkest time of year is not the best time for me to make plans or commitments, particularly those involving the kind of dramatic life changes that require significant amounts of effort and willpower.  So all I will do on that front is continue to commit to trying new things, having adventures and living life as joyfully as I can.

The TBR bookcase

I thought it would be interesting to take a New Year look at the state of my To Be Read pile.  Well, To Be Read bookcase.  And the piles next to it.

Yes, it’s double, nay even triple, stacked …

That is a lot of books waiting to be read, and a lot of awesome books at that.  And that’s even after I had a good weed through it last week and put aside three boxes of books to take to the charity shop.  Some of that must be down to me continuing to buy the books I would like to read at a prodigious rate, despite having 3/4 of my reading in 2015 dictated by review copies and my book club.

I don’t feel weighed down by this at all.  I love having choice.  It means that when I finish a book I have the luxury of being able to pick the perfect one to suit my mood at that exact moment.  And while I’m lucky enough to be financially comfortable enough to buy books without having to think too hard about it, I will carry on adding to the pile.  The day may well come when I might be less fortunate, but at that point I’ll have a resource to draw on.


One of my reflections from last year is that there are a lot of books by authors that I love that I have chosen not to read yet.  Part of that is knowing that I will only have the experience of reading them for the first time once, making me want to save and savour them for when I will really appreciate them, or want the certainty that I will not just enjoy, but will love a book and be guaranteed transcendent escapism.  The pile on the left are some of those books.  (Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven came out in 2010, which shows you how long I’ve been hanging on to that one.)  But it seems crazy to spend my time reading books I’m a bit indifferent about while leaving ones I’d love on the shelf unread.  So, this year, I’d like to make a bit of a dent in that pile.

The pile in the centre is one I will definitely read.  These are books for my book club for the first part of this year.  There will be a couple of additions to that pile – The Snow Queen by Joan D Vinge (ordered, and on its way) and The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.  I’m particularly looking forward to getting stuck into a bit more PKD, and to re-reading Vurt, which I haven’t read since it came out.

The pile on the right are all books that I also have in ebook format, usually because they were on offer or part of a Hugo voter packet, like the Chu.  It’s likeliest I’ll get to some of these on holiday.


This is the main section of the bookcase.  There’s lot of good stuff in here too, and that’s just the front row that is visible.  I’m particularly looking forward to carving out the time to read the Ian McDonald and Aliette de Bodard, not least as both are GOHs at this year’s EasterCon, which I might go to.


Finally, this is the pile on the left, which is a ragbag mix of literary fiction and genre fiction, including a lot of second hand books.

I’d be very interested to hear if there is anything there that you think I should be moving closer to the metaphorical top of the pile, to be sure to read soon.

The Ravelry Queue

Another area I’ve been reflecting on is the current state of my Ravelry queue.  At 1,144 patterns there is little chance that I’ll make everything on it.  I use it more as a “short”-list of patterns I like to rummage through when I have startitis.  But it could do with a serious weed nonetheless, to remove the things I really have no intention of ever making.

There are a few queued items on the first page of the queue worth touching on:

sachertorteI love this cabled swing jacket and I have some Kilcarra Donegal Tweed yarn that has been in stash for a while.  It’s in a lovely purple colour and will be perfect for it.

rhinecliffThis is the cardigan I bought the tweed yarn at New Lanark to make.  But I want to lengthen the pattern so that the garment finishes at mid-thigh rather than on the hips.  That will need a bit of thought.  And some sums.

octopusI fell in love with this colourwork octopus sweater the moment I saw it.  There are some issues with the pattern (the pattern writer suggests doing the whole thing stranded, which is a very inefficient use of yarn for the design, and would make it unbearably warm) so it will also need some thought.  But I have the yarn and would love to get on with making it.

hemlockFinally, I have a burgeoning stash of sock and laceweight yarn, which I would like to make better use of.  That means lots more socks and shawls, like this beautiful two-colour shawl.

It’ll be interesting to come back this time next year and see how different the To Be Read bookcase looks, and what progress I’ve managed to make towards these projects.

March 2015 – Books I’m excited about

Just a quick post to flag a couple of newly published books I’m particularly looking forward to reading:

A Darker Shade of Magic – V E Schwab

I got a 150 page sample of this novel via NetGalley.  I wasn’t familiar with V E Schwab’s work, but the sample left me very excited to read both this and her earlier novel, Vicious.  Darker Shade is set in parallel Londons, with travel between them limited to only a handful of people born with a special talent.  Mysteries abound, the setting and characters are vibrant and Schwab can clearly tell a great story.

The Death House – Sarah Pinborough

Pinborough is another writer new to me, but she comes with a great reputation.  I was lucky enough to hear her read an extract from this novel shortly before it was published and it sounds thoughtful and compelling, with shades of Never Let Me Go.  And even better – it’s on offer on Kindle for £1.99 at the moment.