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Archive for May 19th, 2016

The Clarke Award: Shortlists Vs Longlists

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In the blue corner, Tom Hunter #TeamShortlist:

Now with us regularly receiving over 100 books a year, the question we’re asking is, rather than mess around longlists why not just get straight to the point with a bigger shortlist that would allow the judges to highlight more books in one larger shortlist to rule them all?

Eight books might work well again, or even twelve which is the number some people have suggested as a longlist figure, so again why bother calling it a longlist, let’s just have more people actually shortlisted — it looks better on the cover of a book for a start


Would a larger shortlist be more of a focal point for both debate and promotion than the staggered and potentially fatiguing extra step of a longlist? I’ll leave that idea hanging for now, but for me this feels like more of a new move than the idea of copying a longlist format from another award, and feels somehow more in the spirit of Sir Arthur to me.

In the red corner, Niall Harrison #TeamLonglist:

I still think a larger shortlist is a really bad idea. I’m particularly alarmed that it might be done because it is “new” (or, I guess, “distinctive”). Obviously six books is an arbitrary number, but there are good reasons why you very rarely see shortlists — for any award, in or out of genre — of more than six. I’d say the two main ones are:

1) The more books you add, the more of a commitment reading the shortlist becomes. That means fewer people will want to do it; more people will be likely to pick and choose, or just wait for the winner and only read that.

2) I don’t believe adding more books will extend the same amount of prestige to those books. I think the same amount of prestige will be divided up into smaller portions. It will be perceived as “easier” to make the shortlist, and doing so will be valued less.

In contrast, when thinking about a longlist:

1) Not many people will read a longlist. But there will be a hard-core of people invested in the award who will look at it, and start to create some discussion. A longlist feels to me like a participatory gesture: I’m not necessarily part of the process, but I’m reading along with the process. Moreover, as Nick H said in one of these threads, it puts the industry on notice and gives them time to prepare for a shortlist.

2) A longlist creates an interim level of prestige. It helps to mark out “writers to watch”, it gives you that tool to bring more books into the Clarke discussion. If anything it increases the value of shortlisting, because (hopefully) it makes clear how hard-won a shortlist place really is.

Context is for the weak but here you go.

It goes without saying that I’m #TeamLonglist.


Written by Martin

19 May 2016 at 17:03

Posted in awards, sf

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BSFA Review – Vector #283

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I am writing this – my last editorial – in the aftermath of Mancunicon, the 67th British national science fiction convention. As usual, there was a strong BSFA presence, including (obviously) at the BSFA Awards which were announced on Saturday. The Best Artwork award went to Jim Burns for his cover for Pelquin’s Comet by Ian Whates. I think this was all Ian’s fault. As chair of the BSFA, he challenged me to put up or shut up and get involved with the organisation. The result was a special BSFA booklet, SF Writers On SF Films: From Akira To Zardoz (remember that?). The experience was obviously a good one as I came back for more when the role of reviews editor was advertised.

I wasn’t sure how long I would be doing to job for when I started but it turned out to be almost six years. At Eastercon I managed to catch up with three of the four Vector editors I served under during that period: Niall Harrison, Shana Worthen and Glyn Morgan. Glyn was actually on a panel with me, Book Reviews In The Age Of Amazon: “In place of relatively few “gatekeeper” reviewers in relatively few venues, we have a commons where anyone can review if they choose.” Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it is positive thing that the internet has provided a democratic platform for everyone. But it isn’t either/or; there is still a space for informed, considered and – crucially – edited opinions.

So perhaps it was fitting that straight after that panel I met my successor as reviews editor, Susan Oke, for the first time (in the slightly unexpected location of the Strange Horizons tea party in the Deansgate Hilton’s Presidential Suite up on the 22nd floor). My aim was to leave the reviews section in better shape than I found it and I think I’ve achieved this. I’m sure Sue will improve further on what I’ve done and I look forward to watching that journey as a member. And also contributing since I will be experiencing life on the other side of a table as a reviewer, rather than an editor. Go easy on me, Sue, I’m a bit rusty!


  • Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho (Fixi Novo, 2014) – Reviewed by Aishwarya Subramanian
  • Sorcerer To The Crown by Zen Cho (Macmillan, 2015) -Reviewed by  Maureen Kincaid Speller
  • IF THEN by Matthew De Abaitua (Angry Robot, 2015) – Reviewed by Shaun Green
  • Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald (Gollancz, 2015) – Reviewed by Duncan Lawie
  • The Word For World Is Forest by Ursula K Le Guin (Gollancz, 2015) – Reviewed by Paul Graham Raven
  • The Night Clock by Paul Meloy (Solaris Books, 2015) – Reviewed by Maureen Kincaid Speller
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Tor, 2014) – Reviewed by Sandra Unerman
  • The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton (Corsair, 2016) – Reviewed by Sandra Unerman
  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor, 2015) – Reviewed by Susan Oke
  • The Last Witness by KJ Parker (Tor, 2015) – Reviewed by Andy Sawyer
  • What if I got down on my knees? by T Rauch (Whistling Shade Press, 2015) – Reviewed by Kate Onyett

Written by Martin

19 May 2016 at 14:00

Posted in sf

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