I tried not to be grumpy but I haven’t managed it. Apologies in advance.
As much as I love speculative fiction I still feel like an outsider – I still read more ‘literary fiction’, so when it comes to the awards season I tend to get a little frustrated and this year is no different. First, I should say that I don’t really take any notice of the Hugos but I can see that the fiction categories and film category (whatever it’s called!) are particularly awful. I watch the debates on twitter and don’t have any good answers for now so I’ll move on. The BSFA Awards were a weird mixture. I think Jeff Vandameer’s Wonderbook and Nina Allan’s Spin are brilliant and I like Ancillary Justice (more below) but the award for Ack Ack Macaque feels like an award for mediocrity – in terms of the quality of its ideas and its writing the novel is clearly inferior to the other four novels. I don’t understand it.
Nor do I understand how Nexus or The Disestablishment of Paradise found their way on to the Clarke shortlist. I admire anyone with the discipline to finish either novel. I didn’t, life is WAY too short – they make Tim Powers’ Declare look like a masterpiece [2011 was the last time I read a whole shortlist, and yes, OK, apologies for the hyperbole]. Anyway, replacing those two with say Maddaddam, Strange Bodies or The Violent Century would have made it a very strong shortlist indeed. What a shame Kate Atkinson didn’t submit Life after Life too. People might reasonably accuse me of prioritising speculative fiction that blurs boundaries rather than core SF and I think that would be fair. Others might say that it’s all subjective – they’d be wrong.
Who should win? I admire the ambition of Ancillary Justice and God’s War a lot though I enjoyed Leckie’s novel more and have too many issues with God’s War. For me it’s between Smythe and Priest and as much as I appreciate the boldness and sophistication of The Adjacent I hope The Machine wins. I read it in February, it’s still with me and I think it’s a great novel.