What happens when a New Zealand author is shortlisted for a high-profile British literary prize and nobody in the media pays a blind bit of notice?
The Arthur C. Clarke Award is given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year. The award was established with a grant given by Sir Arthur C. Clarke and the first prize was awarded in 1987 to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
The winner will be announced on Thursday 1st May at an exclusive award ceremony held at the Royal Society, London, and taking place as part of the SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival.
The winner will be presented with a cheque for £2014.00 and the award itself, a commemorative engraved bookend.
The six shortlisted books for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel of the year 2014 are:
God’s War by Kameron Hurley (Del Rey)
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
The Disestablishment of Paradise by Phillip Mann (Gollancz)
Nexus by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot)
The Adjacent by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)
The Machine by James Smythe (Blue Door)
The 6 shortlisted titles were selected from a record-breaking 121 individual eligible submissions, put forward by 42 different publishing houses and imprints.
Paradise is a (typically for Mann) dense and quirky spin on a very standard set of science fiction tropes. Paradise is a human colony that, at first sight, appears to be exactly what it says on the tin. But after two hundred years, the colony isn't profitable and the vividly described environment is begining to change in unpredictable and dangerous ways. "Disestablishment" - the dismantling and evacuation of the colony - has already begun but not everyone wants to leave, and their desire to stay may well be based on a radical (and near tragic) misunderstanding of this world and their place in it...
Paradise is Mann's first novel in sixteen years, and was warmly reviewed both here and overseas; and arrived soon after his publisher Gollancz brought his entire backlist (all worth reading) back into print in their SF Gateway e-book imprint.
So why, as far as I can tell, hasn't this gotten any mainstream media attention at all? I'll err on the side of generosity and assume a nice Eleanor Catton-sized story is being put to bed as I type, and I'll feel rather foolish as soon after hitting publish.
But it's rather sad that a historic first for Kiwi science fiction writers, and in a year when (as The Guardian noted in its report) "giants of speculative fiction including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood have made way for newcomers" hasn't gotten the kudos it deserves.