Torture of the Shadower, part 6: Reaction chamber

I was greeted Sunday morning by my weekly LARB newsletter and this little quote:

Criticism, as he sees it, aspires to intervene in social life.

Interesting article.


The Shadow Clarke jury, coming to be known as “the Sharkes” in more common areas now, released our “State of the Nation” address after the release of the Clarke Award shortlist. It’s a collection of days’ worth of broken conversations, instead of an impossible group essay of eight diverging voices. The reaction to this reaction has been mixed: supportive, critical, and sometimes perplexed.

Also this week, I tweeted a thread. (I still feel dirty about it and I hope I’ll never have to do it again.)

What’s been most amusing to me has been watching this project–and the very idea of criticism–confound my fellow USian observers who don’t normally follow the award. I’m only just becoming more educated about the Clarke and its history, so I was also one of those people who assumed that the Arthur C. Clarke Award was established specifically to award the most Arthur C. Clarke-ian, space-shippy book of the year. Not so, which my thread of diluted thoughts semi-explains!

If you’re still unclear on the origins and behavior of the award, you might appreciate Paul Kincaid’s brief article on the history of the Clarke Award. It casts the award as a critical, forward-thinking award. (The Handmaid’s Tale is only barely receiving widespread, popular acceptance after decades of bans and controversy, for instance.)

Also, some of you might like to know that Christopher Priest has been speaking up in the Shadow blog comments! Exciting!

4 thoughts on “Torture of the Shadower, part 6: Reaction chamber

  1. PhilRM says:

    I don’t think that he considers it one of his major novels any longer, but Priest’s ‘The Inverted World’ permanently altered the shape of my brain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s exactly what happened to me, now that you mention it. Probably one of the most significant literary events in my recent reading experience that has probably instigated my current turning away from generic SF. Perhaps we should stop the Sharke project altogether and just get everyone to read Inverted World. 😉


      • PhilRM says:

        Ha! It would at least be a really good use of everyone’s time. Although I think the Sharke project has been great, and hope it continues past this year. If it weren’t for the Sharke I probably never would have encountered either the MacInnes or the Kavenna (still haven’t read the latter, but I’m really looking forward to it), and might have overlooked the Whiteley (which I thought was tremendous). It has at the least been a valiant effort at sparking the kind of critical discussion that should surround an award like the Clarke.

        In comparison to this year’s Clarke list, I can’t help noting that in 1975, the year in which ‘The Inverted World’ was nominated for a Hugo, it lost to Leguin’s ‘The Dispossessed’, and the other nominees were PKD’s ‘Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said’, Niven and Pournelle’s ‘The Mote in God’s Eye’, and ‘Fire Time’ (Poul Anderson). I’ve never read the Anderson, but at least three of the novels on that list were hugely ambitious. (Hell, I’ll even grant that TMiGE was ambitious, although I really doubt it would stand up to a re-read.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • I have actually read the entire 1975 Hugo list and you’re right, it is far more ambitious than most of the books on this year’s Clarke list. I despise The Mote in God’s Eye, but it was ambitious (if only Niven had the sense to sell his ideas to a real writer…). Anderson’s Fire Time is probably the most similar to most of the books on this year’s shortlist since it is formulaic (aka recognizably genre), mediocre, and has had little impact on the future.

          I’m almost done reading through the Clarke list and I am hardly inspired to write about most of the books. I felt like that about Fire Time, too, actually.


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