At another traditionally wine-sodden gathering in the Science Museum,
London, on 17 May, the Arthur C. Clarke
Award for best UK-published SF novel of 2002 went to Christopher Priest for
The Separation. The Clarkean numerology that began with a £2001
prize in 2001 led by iron logic to this year's award figure of £2003. Chris
was deeply moved and mentioned a key influence of long ago, Sir Arthur's The
City and the Stars: 'That book changed my life.' Other authors from a
particularly strong shortlist were present: M. John Harrison (Light),
China Miéville (The Scar) and Elizabeth Moon (Speed of Dark).
David Brin (Kil'n People, apostrophe added for UK publication) and Kim
Stanley Robinson (The Years of Rice and Salt) couldn't make it.
Miserably marketed by Simon & Schuster UK -- whose confession of
ineptitude is quoted on
the Priest website --
The Separation was hard to find even in British bookshops but has now
been acquired in an unusual takeover move by Gollancz, with a first hardback
edition scheduled for November 2003. Who knows, one day it might even appear in
Our wonderful British press rarely takes interest in sf honours, but The
Spectator for 17 May treated us to a gossip-column snippet calling the
Clarke Award 'the Booker Prize of the science-fiction world' as preliminary to
pouncing gleefully on the fact that one nominee, The Separation, is
dedicated to ACCA administrator Paul Kincaid. Deflatingly for scandalmongers, it
is not dedicated to the five judges who actually chose the winner.
Science Corner. 'Mars is awash with radiation. That's why it's red.'
(Brian Blessed on Richard and Judy, UK Channel 4 TV, 15 May)
Justina Robson, already twice nominated for the Clarke Award,
provides gossip-bait for The Spectator in her latest novel Natural
History -- featuring a vast, lumbering, obsolete and not very bright
terraforming engine, called Kincaid.
Thog Conquers the World. Wearying of best-novel polls, the British
newspaper The Independent invited literary notables to pick their choice
worst novel. The 'winner', with three nominations, was The Lord of the
Rings. Sir John Mortimer just loathes 'Anything about Gandalf, and those
little things with hair between their toes. I hate that sort of portentous,
phoney, medieval-magical way of writing.' Alain de Botton feels actively
threatened by Tolkien: 'It's strange, weird and frightening, and makes me feel
like I'm on the sidelines of a joke I don't understand.' Other excoriated
fantasies were the Harry Potter saga, The Tempest and
Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. J.G. Ballard put in a bad word for Finnegans
Wake: 'Joyce's incomprehensible novel, which has provided a living for
generations of English Literature professors, represents a lamentable tendency
in 20th Century fiction: the quest for total obscurity. Finnegans Wake
is the best example of modernism disappearing up its own fundament.'
R.I.P. Robert Stack (1919-2003), US film actor best known
for the TV The Untouchables, died on 14 May. He was 84. His sf roles
were rare: he was a character voice in the dire animation Transformers: The
Movie (1986) and also in Butt-Ugly Martians (TV, 2001).
Terrifyingly, I am informed that his real name was Robert Langford Modini.
Thog's Masterclass. Dept of 'Of Course SF Writers Aren't
Novelists!' 'Contemporary novelists rarely write about science or
technology. Margaret Atwood tackles both -- and more -- in one of the year's
most surprising novels.' (The Economist, 3-9 May)
David Langford is an author and a gentleman.
His newsletter, Ansible,
is the essential SF-insider sourcebook of wit and incongruity. He lives in Reading, England with his wife Hazel, 25,000 books, and a few dozen Hugo awards. He continues to add books and Hugos.