The idea of a Shadow Jury for literary awards is something that has become increasingly common in Britain over the last few years. There are shadow juries for the Booker Prize, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and several others. They emerged out of two considerations: on the one hand the discussions and the decision processes of the various official juries are secret. Bits of information leak out over the years, but in the main we remain in the dark about why some books are chosen and others are not. On the other hand, precisely why some books are chosen is intriguing, and people want to talk about that as part of their discussion about the books. Put these two together and the concept of the shadow jury started to emerge: people with similar interests but different tastes got together informally to read and discuss the books that appeared on the longlist, to argue about what they would and would not include on a shortlist, and then, when the official shortlist was announced, to vicariously share in the judging process to decide between them which title might emerge as the winner, and why. The result has tended to be greater engagement with the awards and much wider discussion of the books involved, even if (or perhaps because) the shadow juries rarely come to the same conclusion as the official jury.
Now, for the first time, there is a shadow jury for a science fiction award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The jury has been put together by Nina Allan, and the various debates and discussions are being hosted by the Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy. In her post announcing the shadow jury, Allan said:
Science fiction is one of the most radical, innovative and wide-ranging modes of literature on the planet, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award is widely recognised as one of its most prestigious awards. We believe that the Clarke Award is of central importance in promoting, encouraging and furthering the debate around science fiction literature, and that the Shadow Clarke can only be of benefit in broadening and enriching the conversation still further.
When the complete list of submissions for the award was published, the nine shadow jurors began working through the 86 titles on the list. From this they each drew up a shortlist of six titles. In this they were not trying to predict what the actual jury would select; indeed they were each making their choice according to very different criteria. Some deliberately chose leftfield works to provoke discussion, some chose books they felt were particularly good, or important, or innovative according to their own individual definitions of these terms, and some simply chose the books they most wanted to read. But the end result of their deliberations is fascinating. Each juror chose at least one book that no other juror did, and yet there was also a remarkable amount of crossover, with some titles emerging as very widely popular.
The chosen books are as follows:
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Destructives by Matthew de Abaitua
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Infinite Ground by Martin MacInnes
Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
Fair Rebel by Steph Swainston
The Arrival of the Missives by Aliya Whiteley
Azanian Bridges by Nick Wood
Songshifting by Chris Bell
Zero K by Don DeLillo
Graft by Matt Hill
Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson
The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
Death’s End by Cixin Liu
Empire V by Victor Pelevin
The Trees by Ali Shaw
Hunters & Collectors by M. Suddain
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray
That’s an interesting mix of acclaimed genre titles (The Fifth Season has already won the Hugo Award when it was published in the previous year in America, and Death’s Head is the third part of the trilogy begun by Cixin Liu’s Hugo winning The Three Body Problem) and equally acclaimed mainstream novels (The Underground Railroad has won the National Book Award). There are well-established writers (Christopher Priest is the only one on this list who has previously won the Arthur C. Clarke award) and complete newcomers (Azanian Bridges and Songshifting are both debut novels).
How much the official shortlist will overlap with this list, if at all, is, of course, open to question. But the shadow jurors will now be writing about their choices, and the choices of their fellow judges, regularly over the next few weeks, which should make for a very interesting discussion, which you can follow at the Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy.
The Shadow Clarke Award Jury consists of:
Nina Allan (Introduction / Shortlist)
Megan AM (Introduction / Shortlist)
Vajra Chandrasekera (Introduction / Shortlist)
David Hebblethwaite (Introduction / Shortlist)
Victoria Hoyle (Introduction / Shortlist)
Nick Hubble (Introduction / Shortlist)
Paul Kincaid (Introduction / Shortlist)
Jonathan McCalmont (Introduction / Shortlist)
Maureen Kincaid Speller (Introduction / Shortlist)
From Nebula and Hugo Award–nominated Carolyn Ives Gilman comes Dark Orbit, a compelling novel featuring alien contact, mystery, and murder.
Reports of a strange, new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate.