Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Parallel Universe at the Clarkes

In the Telegraph Andrew McKie goes along to the Arthur C Clark Awards, and takes a shot at those who turn their literary noses up at the genre. :
Most people who read fiction do not read any science fiction: or so they will tell you. Yet when I express surprise that they have never read Nineteen Eighty-Four or Brave New World or Frankenstein or A Clockwork Orange, they concede that yes, of course they have read those. The unspoken assumption is that these books have ceased to be science fiction by dint of being, well, good.

This distaste for an entire genre is remarkably common, and clearly strongly embedded in a lot of readers; yet one does not encounter any of the same antipathy towards, for example, crime fiction. All the same, you may find that you have read a lot more science fiction than you think during the past few years.

The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Book of Dave by Will Self, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: these are all SF books. The last was shortlisted for the Clarke award in 2006 (won in the end by Geoff Ryman's magnificent Air, a science fiction book that could easily be enjoyed by anyone who doesn't like science fiction) and also for the Man Booker.
and he declares himself :
... on the side of the SF writers and readers; unlike the readers of "literary" fiction they at least understand that the fact that there is a spaceship in a book does not prevent it from being well written.
One author he strongly recommends is last year's winner of the award M John Harrison, whom he describes as one of the best British novelists and says it is a disgrace that he has never been shortlisted for the Man Booker or the Costa. This must, I think, be checked out by this litsnob.

No comments: