The torture this week comes from sticking to my own personal shortlist while experiencing major shortlist envy of my fellow shadowers. Vajra and Maureen selected books I passed on for reasons of “probably not sci-fi enough” and I’m full of regret. The six book limit is torture enough.
The lists are up and it’s time for the reviews, but first, here is a look at the first incarnation of the Shadow Clarke Not-a-Shortlist: the books with the most appearances on the shadow jury shortlists. More than six books! We are such rule-breakers and we didn’t even do it on purpose!
Is this a realistic Clarke list? Is this a realistic SF list? Do these questions even matter? More important: Will the books on this list survive the grueling review process we are about to put them through?
What’s most interesting about this selection of books– which is really just a list of momentary cumulative consensus (that will likely change as we move forward) rather than a bonafide shortlist– is that, although we did talk and discuss books as a jury, many of us kept some or all of our cards to our chests. Many of the other jurors’ shortlist picks were genuine surprises to me.
Here is a side-by-side of the combined Shadow Clarke shortlists compared with my own personal longlist (determined after my third sweep of the 2017 Clarke submissions list). Both lists whittle down the 86 submissions to the following: the Shadow 27 versus the Couch2Moon 23, ordered by shadow popularity:
(Titles in bold: Shadow faves versus my shortlist; the numbers indicate the total shadow shortlist appearances for each book.)
Personal Shortlist (psycho)Analysis:
- With John Wray’s The Lost Time Accidents being my only selection with no other shadow juror support, I realize I am not as maverick as I’d like to think.
- I deemed Priest and Sullivan ineligible based on my “won-and-done” criteria, a rule I will have to abandon now that they’ve made it to the longlist. I’m pleased about this and I’m annoyed with myself for being pleased about this.
- The Kivirähk, Pelevin, and Shaw attracted me but didn’t pass the sci-fi test, which is hypocritical because I’ve told myself the sci-fi requirement shouldn’t matter that much, but there ya go.
- Most obnoxious sentence from all of my subs reading, fyi: “She moved inexorably closer with each step.” Then she closed her laptop and moved inexorably closer to dropping it out the window. With each step.
- I still stand by my longlist. If you’re looking for 23 Clarke submissions that aren’t derivative, childish, or total cardboard, help yourself. You’re welcome.
Gareth at Dancing on Glass has been commenting on the Shadow Jury, and lists some notable omissions from the lists.
Books we should still talk about:
- Songshifting by Chris Bell almost had me, and I’m pleased to see it ended up on Vajra’s shortlist. It’s the only self-published novel on the subs list, it’s blurbed by Dave Hutchinson, and it’s a gritty sci-fi/realism novel about the underground music scene and time portals. There’s a lot of critical trembling regarding the Clarke admin’s opening of the self-pubbed floodgates, and I think Bell’s novel is a good place to start examining that reaction. However, despite my interest in all things this book is about, the premise reminds me a bit of Sylvia Moreno-Garcia’s Signal to Noise, which, in both books, seems too thin to carry itself in a fully-fleshed novel. I’m afraid I’d get bored.
- The Last One by debut author Alexandra Oliva is a psychological apocalyptic thriller based around a reality TV show, and it comes with praise from previous Clarke winner Lauren Beukes. The subs list is heavy with thriller-type novels, but this is the only one that includes strong writing, a somewhat novel premise, and, from what I can surmise, is less reliant on cheap mindgames to force page-turning. Beyond those qualities, it’s totally not my style, but it seemed like just the kind of odd thriller thing worth talking about in a sci-fi context.
The Shadow Clarke: Phase 2
Initial shortlists are done and will likely morph as we move into the reviewing phase. My first review is on shadow list front-runner Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun, which should appear on the Anglia Ruskin CSFF site this week. Books I’m most looking forward to seeing reviewed by other shadow jurors are Empire V by Pelevin, The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Kivirähk, and Infinite Ground by MacInnis, the latter being one I can find little about, but is already on its way to my windy desert steppe on the other side of the Atlantic.