Air

Apr. 27th, 2006 01:15 am
coalescent: (Default)


What an odd feeling: the right book won. Except it's more than that: everyone else seems to think it's the right book as well.

Look, I guess the first year I really paid attention to the Clarke shortlist, as opposed to just the winner, was 2003. I'm pretty sure it was because that was the first time I went to Eastercon, and so the first time I saw the Not The Clarke Award panel discussion. (For those who haven't seen it, a panel of former judges consider the award shortlist in a ruthless balloon-debate fashion.) That year, everyone seemed to agree, it was a very strong shortlist; but there was still a big split at the top, between those who thought The Separation should win and those who thought Light should win. However it went, there was going to be a certain amount of reaction afterwards.

The 2004 shortlist seemed to be all over the map. Only two standalone novels, several big omissions (Justina Robson's Natural History, for instance) and two novels that were arguably not science fiction at all--one of which went on to win. And of course last year everyone seemed to be expecting or hoping for either River of Gods or Cloud Atlas; Iron Council looked like an outsider until the award was announced.

And I understand that this is what the Clarke is, this is what the Clarke does, this is why the Clarke is so exciting. But this year, things were different. Although a number of the shortlisted titles had their champions, there was always the sense that Air was the front runner. The final judging meeting clearly wasn't a formality--by all accounts it was the longest deliberation on record, over three and a half hours, and in all honesty I'd just about convinced myself we were in for a similar situation to last year--but as much as I love (say) Accelerando (and I do love it) you couldn't help feeling that, just for once, the best book, and the book everyone wanted to win, and even the book that felt the most like "Clarke Award material", were all one and the same. And so it proved. And so Air won--its third award so far this year, after the Tiptree and the BSFA Best Novel, with one more to go, the Nebula. And it was absolutely the right decision.

And yet somehow, for some bizarre reason, I'm left thinking, "is that it?" Because there doesn't seem to be much else to say this year. And yet ... perhaps what I'm feeling is that this is, in a way, old news. The first draft of Air was written in the late nineties, it was published in the US in 2004, and I read it eighteen months ago (warning: that link is not my most coherent writing ever). The experience of having read it has bedded down in my memory; I can't quite get my head round the idea that in terms of awards, it's still current, still now. Maybe it's just one of those one-in-the-morning feelings.

Of course, next year I'll be seeing all this from a very different perspective, because next year I'll have been one of the judges, which at the moment is just about the most exciting thing in the world ever. The novelty will no doubt wear off at some point, but for now all I can think to say is: bring on the books!
coalescent: (Default)
Still no actual content here, but there's good stuff elsewhere.

[livejournal.com profile] greengolux has three Worldcon panel reports:
At Worldcon I attended three particularly fascinating literary panels. The first two were on the aesthetics of science fiction and fantasy respectively, and the third was entitled 'Waiting for the Fantastic' and was about those pieces of fiction that never quite break out into explicit sf or fantasy, but feel like they could do at any moment. These three panels, in a way, formed the core of the convention for me. Between them they set out to explore the very heart of the real reason I was there in the first place, attempting to get to the bottom of what science fiction, fantasy, and other works that teeter on the brink of sf and fantasy are trying to do and how they set about doing it.
[livejournal.com profile] zarabee reports a question that China Mieville asked of Gary Wolfe and John Clute during their conversation:
He commented about the the naivety of SF, and the literal reading of things in SF, and asked whether the critical approach and the interpretation which criticism necessitated means that the naievety is lost. He wanted [Clute and Wolfe] to talk about about the battle between naivety and sophistication which ensues when we start to explore the metaphorisation and the meaning of it all.
Jonathan Strahan enthuses about two stories, one by Jeff Vandermeer and one by Geoff Ryman:
I got online this morning and downloaded the night's email. In amongst it was an email from Gordon with the December F&SF attached. I was delighted to see that there was a new Geoff Ryman novelette in the issue, a story called 'The Last Ten Years in the Life of Hero Kai'. From what I can tell, it's the cover story for the issue and is quite unusual. The story head note references something called 'monkpunk', and it's tempting to be glib and say this is it. But it would be glib. The story is a very subtle and quite powerful tale of a warrior monk who leads a revolt to save the country he loves, becomes what he detests and, possibly, is responsible for a change in the way the world works. It doesn't matter whether this story is SF or fantasy (my bet is SF, though I'd be curious to hear what Gordon thinks), but it was either going to be masterful or awful. Following so closely on the heels of his completely wonderful novel Air, it should come as no surprise, that it is far closer to masterful than not. A highlight in a year of stories.
Needless to say, I am jealous of Mr Strahan's early-reading privileges.
coalescent: (Default)
Change, some say, is a defining subject of sf. Changes in the world; changes in people. Geoff Ryman's short story 'Have Not Have', published in 2001, begins with a change, like this:
Mae lived in the last village in the world to go online. After that, everyone else went on Air.

more on 'have not have' )

general near-future-sf musings )

river of gods by ian mcdonald )

air by geoff ryman )

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