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.

 

 

January 2017 Reading Review

For the past few years, January has been Potential Shortlist Catch Up Month for me, when I try to read all the big name books I overlooked the year before, in preparation for the 10-month SF book award season that’s about to kick off. So that I may have opinions on things. So that I may nurture my FOMO. So that I may mock the system I continue to participate in. So that I may mock myself.

This year is no different, though, to be honest, I’m not really feeling it this year: It all feels trite and meaningless compared to more important things going on, so I’m basically just going through the motions. I mean, why bother seeking out contrived experiences of estrangement and repulsion by reading SF when I see it played out in the political arena every day? I need respite, but books feel false. I experienced a similar plummet in enthusiasm after the 2000 election and 9-11 fallout, and it took me over a decade to recover interest in anything that involved critical engagement with the world, so… if this blog isn’t an interesting space to watch, at least my wobbling dedication to it might be.

Fortunately, things are coming up… BIG THINGS… and that’s enough to keep me active for at least another season. The kindly prods from other people have been unexpected and welcome.

I must say, though, it does feel nice to just sit down and get all this out finally. There is that.

Eesh, and it is a lot. I read an average number of books this month, but a collection of mini-reviews can be a big task. On we go…

2017 BOOKS I READ LAST YEAR Continue reading

A (very) late review of the 2015 Kitschies Red Tentacle Shortlist

Yesterday, I brought you my thoughts on the 2015 Kitschies Golden Tentacle shortlist (the newbie award). Today, I bring you my thoughts on the Red Tentacle shortlist (ie the established writer’s award).


This year’s breakneck pace between shortlist announcement and award ceremony made it impossible for most people to play along at home with The Kitschies’ search for the most progressive, intelligent, and entertaining speculative fiction. A full list of ten novels, five book covers, and five digital creations (one of which is another novel), is a lot to digest in a matter of weeks. Without a chance of making the deadline, I opted to string out my Kitschies reading for most of the year.

So, ten months later… I give you my impressions of the Kitschies Red Tentacle list. In short, this is a good list, notwithstanding a couple of odd inclusions.

I reviewed the Golden Tentacle list here.

The Red Tentacle list (the old hat veteran writer award) Continue reading

A (very) late review of the 2015 Kitschies Golden Tentacle Shortlist

This year’s breakneck pace between shortlist announcement and award ceremony made it impossible for most people to play along at home with The Kitschies’ search for the most progressive, intelligent, and entertaining speculative fiction. A full list of ten novels, five book covers, and five digital creations (one of which is another novel), is a lot to digest in a matter of weeks. Without a chance of making the deadline, I opted to string out my Kitschies reading for most of the year.

So, ten months later… I give you my impressions of the Kitschies Golden Tentacle list. In short, this is a very good list. Continue reading

Radiomen (2015) by Eleanor Lerman

images-2When Eleanor Lerman’s Radiomen won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year back in August–out of ten other much more widely talked about, publicized, and celebrated SF novels–it absolutely caught my attention. Compared to its shortlisted peers (even Linda Nagata’s initially self-published series), Radiomen seemed to come out of nowhere, having appeared on zero other SF shortlists–not even the 218-item Tiptree recommendation list!– and absent from any of the SF discourse I usually observe. Even after winning the award, the book seems to have drifted back into obscurity, despite having won against an impressive and critically solid shortlist (not counting the few bits of gristle I’m choosing to ignore). I don’t know how this small press gem wound up on the shortlist, but the Campbell Memorial Award jury did us a service to bring it out into the open like this.

So why isn’t anyone talking about it? Continue reading

All Flesh is Grass (1965) by Clifford D. Simak

allfleshisgrass I want to take back what I said in my monthly review about this Simak novel being more wacky than contemplative. Looking back, I see no reason why I would say such a thing. In a way, it reminds me of his Time is the Simplest Thing (1961), which is wacky–or whacked out, rather–with a giant pink alien blob and meat plants and a kind of Halloween motif, but All Flesh is Grass isn’t quite that ridiculous, so maybe what I meant to say was that it’s ‘colorful.’ Continue reading