Clarke Award Stushie*

It seems Christopher Priest, whose BSFA Award listed novel The Islanders I am reading as we speak (or read, or converse, or whatever-the-hell-it-is-we-do-on-the-internet,) has attacked this year’s Clarke Award shortlist.

Go on. Read it. It’s an entertaining rant however unfortunately open to the charge of sour grapes at not himself being on the Clarke list it may be. (Priest tries to cover this angle by saying he would withdraw his novel from any consideration if the Clarke list were to be rethought as he proposes.)

I would insert the turbulent Priest joke here but someone used it decades ago in one of the BSFA’s journals and I actually think Priest has a point. Perhaps several.

My impression of the BSFA shortlist novels I have read is that last year wasn’t a particularly good one for SF novels – though my sample is admittedly small. And I agree that to have China Miéville win the Clarke Award for a fourth time would suggest that no-one else need bother writing SF (nor fantasy) as we could all then give up and go home.

I disagree, though, with his interim assessment of Adam Roberts’s By Light Alone. See my review here.

Charles Stross (whom Priest castigates in his piece) has linked to a comment thread engendered by Priest’s rant and has also seized upon the criticism as a marketing opportunity (see link to Stross’s post.)

Among other things Priest complains Stross writes “och-aye” dialogue. “Och-aye” dialogue. What’s wrong with that? People do not necessarily speak RP, or estuary, or USian, now or in the future. Get over it.

By the way, I used to receive a yearly invitation to the Clarke Award do but I could never go – it’s in London and I always had work that day and the next. Those invitations dried up some while ago now, though.

*Stushie is a Scottish word for contretemps.
stushie [ˈstʊʃɪ], stishie, stashie
n Scot
1. a commotion, rumpus, or row
2. a state of excitement or anxiety; a tizzy. Also spelled stooshie, stoushie.

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6 comments

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  1. GordyBrow

    For what it’s worth I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed Rule 34. I can see exactly why certain people wouldn’t like the book, but would like to think they were open minded enough not to dismiss it as poor quality off-hand. Surely we’re all big enough to realise that there are different styles of book for different people. Rule 34 and before it Halting State perhaps the first books which genuinely cater to an audience which has grown up with the internet. For better or worse, that’s a very different audience to a pre-internet audience. Surely the two audiences can co-exist and authors aiming at each audience shouldn’t feel the need to attack each other on the basis of style alone. To dismiss Rule 34 on this basis seems to ignore the fact that the book does nearly everything a near future SF novel should be expected to, by making good bets on the development of technology and showing the societal impact of these technologies. That this is all weaved into an engaging and satisfying yarn is impressive.

    Yes there’s a fair chance that if you don’t have prior knowledge of some internet lingo you might be left cold. The internet generation isn’t some niche market though, the generation below mine are even more enraptured by the internet than my generation was…

  2. jackdeighton

    GordyBrow,
    You have the advantage of me as I have not yet read either of those books.
    I have however read other Stross works (others may not know he was in the same writing group as me for a while.) He can certainly write. His audience and Priest’s are, I would say, unlikely to have many overlaps, though.

  3. GordyBrow

    That is the point Priest seems to miss entirely though. It just seems incredible to me that Priest (as an award winning author) doesn’t realise that there’s more than one market out there. Either that or he seems incapable of tempering his criticism to reflect this.

  4. jackdeighton

    It’s fair to say that Priest operates at the “high-minded” end of SF.
    He also has (or had) some strange ideas perhaps emanating from that. For example:- that books should be as expensive as possible so that people will respect them, and their contents, more.
    That doesn’t reflect the view that some readers read for pleasure only, for entertainment rather than enlightenment.
    And even readers of “literature” sometimes read purely for entertainment.

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