The Torture of the Shadower: The 2017 #ShadowClarke

Cool things happening…

Recently, Anglia Ruskin University launched the online ARU Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy, spearheaded by Dr. Helen Marshall, in order to “explore science fiction and fantasy as products that depend on the interaction of literary and visual media and that are constructed by both the publishing industry and fan communities,” with plans to launch a master’s degree in SFF in 2018.

That alone is exciting news, but one of the first big projects of the Centre is to act as the central hub for the doings of the Clarke Award shadow jury, announced last week, which will work to bring robust discussion and debate to the Arthur C. Clarke Award, a juried UK SF award that is known for being both prestigious and controversial.

As you might know, I have informally shadowed current and vintage lists for the past few years, and my own experience with the Clarke Award has been short and rather grumpy (and podcasted!), so much so, that I maybe declared last year that I would never read the shortlist again. Now I’ve been made a liar.

This has been in the works for a long time, and I am delighted to finally be able to share that I am one of the nine jurors to shadow the Clarke Award this year, along with some of my favorite book people: Nina Allan, Vajra Chandrasekera, David Hebblethwaite, Victoria Hoyle, Dr. Nick Hubble, Paul Kincaid, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and Jonathan McCalmont. Out of this group of accomplished writers, critics, editors, and academics, I will be playing the part of amateur American blogger who sometimes likes what she reads. You can find all of our bios here. (Mine’s a bit… rude.) (And, yes, that is me with the donut. It was alright.)

I don’t know how I landed on this shadow jury, but I have respected and admired all of these people from afar, and am thrilled to have an opportunity to work and debate with them.

It seems I wasn’t far off by predicting that Valentine’s Day will kick off the 2017 SFF book award season, as the Clarke Award submissions list will drop this Tuesday. Each shadow juror will examine the (likely) 100+ submissions list for their own personal shortlist of six faves and/or most anticipated novels, and begin reading up. In the meantime, over the coming weeks, the ARU Centre for SFF will begin posting each shadow juror’s manifesto.

Some links if you’d like to brush up on the whole, quoting Vajra here, Sharkenado:

BBC announcement

Dr. Helen Marshall’s intro piece

Nina Allan’s intro piece at her blog

Nina Allan’s manifesto

Paul Kincaid’s introduction from The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology

Victoria Hoyle’s booktube explanation about the process

On twitter: @csffanglia and #shadowclarke


To my vintage SF friends, I promise I’ll return to the land of the neglected and forgotten in the latter half of this year, but for now: Nina. Effing. Allan. I’m sure you understand.



20 thoughts on “The Torture of the Shadower: The 2017 #ShadowClarke

  1. JJ says:

    This is immensely cool! I share your huge frustration with the inherent blandness of so much over-hyped modern SF — the same is true of my main reading love, detective fiction, no virtualy diluted out of existence — and, yeah, there’s no doubt that the proliferation of awards designed purely to push things in a publishing manner is more than a little responsible for that (again, the same is true in detective fiction, which is suppported by the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award.– shudder — among others).

    I’ve shared your frustration with any of the recent Clarke nominees and winners (Clarke himself would be bemused, I’m sure), so I’ll look forward to seeing how this develops. And congrats on your involvement — sounds awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to hear you’re excited about it! Also glad you see through the commercial fog of awards and best-sellers. This project can only bring good things by bringing to light more authors and books that perhaps don’t get as much attention, so I’m excited!


  2. Jonah says:

    This is very cool, and an entirely appropriate signoff 🙂


  3. “I sometimes like what I read,” she grumped, flecks of donut spraying from her mouth. Very cool, hope you will be writing about it.


  4. Tammy says:

    This is awesome! Thanks for representing us Americans:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congrats, well deserved nod. With such a star-studded panel, I’m looking forward to the results! You’ve pointed out before (in your about page and posts) that you started off as something of a genre outsider, so I think you are the perfect pick to be the “American outsider” looking into a very British award. Though I have to say, I find myself drawn more to the UK SF scene these days than the American one.

    Now I need to wait for them to release the list rather than try to figure out which works are eligible…

    Liked by 1 person

    • As you know, I am also drawn more to the UK scene, so I’m not sure how well I’ll perform as “the American.” As for performing “the outsider,” I’m pretty sure I got this!

      The eligibilty thing always gets me. I’ve already mistakenly read things that don’t have a shot due to eligibility rules. Still worth it, though.


  6. Paper Knife says:

    […] invoking Gene Wolfe, and has posted about her involvement with the Shadow Clarke at her own blog, From Couch to Moon. Megan and I talked about the Clarke Award 2016, with Jonah Sutton-Morse, on his Cabbages and Kings […]


  7. That’s great!! 😀
    And, I mean, Nina Allan.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is so exciting! The line-up on this jury is fucking great. Three cheers!

    So when do we get to find out what your personal short list is? I’ve been browsing the list since it came out, and am having trouble finding much to interest me. *suspense* Very much looking forward to following this.


    • I take it back, the three I’ve read from the list were excellent. And I’ve found four or five more that I would be willing to try out. Am annoyed at the amount of books that are later-books-in-a-series though. Boo to that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Glad you like! ARU are releasing our personal essays about SF daily, then I think they’ll start releasing our individual shortlists. About half of the books I read to prepare did not end up on the submissions list, so there are only five of read (one of them is thanks to your recommendation😊). I’m playing catch up this week. There are a few books I’ve been anticipating, but a lot of it looks like same old, same old.


      • And yeah, the later-books-in-a-series is a bummer.


  9. Jesse says:

    Checking in late…

    Very interesting initiative! And I hope it accomplishes its goals of raising the bar for what is and isn’t considered for the award. And in the very least, it gives readers (or at least me) a long list to look into – something that is oh so important in today’s glut of fiction on the shelves. Several of the titles you and the others came up I’d never heard of, but will look into.

    Given the rather short sighted rule the Clarke’s have in place that a person can judge only once (they really should change that, given the shortage of qualified people), who knows, perhaps in a year or two you will truly be helping decide the shortlist and winner?!?!


    • I’m glad to hear you approve 🙂 Like you, the promise of a longlist is my primary motivation for supporting a project like this. That said, I do understand the constraints that make an official longlist a difficult task, because even as I am reading now, I am having second thoughts about some books (which I expected). I’m sure an extra deadline would make it even more difficult to recruit new jurors. As for me being involved in an official juror capacity, I HIGHLY doubt that will ever happen.


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