Every year before I announce the shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature, I first reveal the complete list of submitted books put forward for consideration.
This year we received 113 books from 41 publishers and publishing imprints, the second highest count for submissions after the record-breaking high of 121 submissions received for our 2014 prize.
To be clear, this is not a long list, but rather a complete list of eligible titles received from publishers who must actively submit titles to our judging panel for consideration. In other words, this is where our judges start from every year.
We release this list to show the full breadth and current state of play within science fiction publishing in the UK, and to demonstrate the complexity of the task our judging panel undertake when choosing their shortlists and a final winner.
Why not have some fun trying to guess which books the judges might pick? A typical Clarke Award shortlist is comprised of 6 books, so you’ve got lotsof potential permutations to choose from.
I’ll give you some possible clues and more insights into the data after the list…
A Few Words for the Dead Guy – Guy Adams (Del Rey)
Dark Intelligence – Neal Asher (Tor)
The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood (Bloomsbury)
The Water Knife – Paulo Bacigalupi (Orbit)
The Martian Falcon – Alan K. Baker (Snowbooks)
Dream Paris – Tony Ballantyne (Solaris)
Impulse – Dave Bara (Del Rey)
Salt – Colin F. Barnes (47North)
Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper – David Barnett (Snowbooks)
Killing Titan – Greg Bear (Gollancz)
Acts of the Assassins – Richard Beard (Harvill Secker)
Mother of Eden – Chris Beckett (Corvus)
Tracer – Rob Boffard (Orbit)
Darkthaw – Kate A. Boorman (Faber & Faber)
The Unnoticeable – Robert Brockway (Titan Books)
The Realt – James Brogden (Snowbooks)
Dark Run – Mike Brooks (Del Rey)
Dark Sky – Mike Brooks (Del Rey)
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers (Hodder and Stoughton)
The Well – Catherine Chanter (Canongate Books)
Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind – Anne Charnock (47North)
Made to Kill – Adam Christopher (Titan Books)
SmartYellowTM – J.A. Christy (Elsewhen Press)
The Honours – Tim Clare (Canongate Books)
Armada – Ernest Cline (Century)
The Invisible Library – Genevieve Cogman (Tor)
Resistance is Futile – Jenny T. Colgan (Orbit)
Nemesis Games – James S. Corey (Orbit)
If Then – Matthew De Abaitua (Angry Robot)
The House of Shattered Wings – Aliette de Bodard (Gollancz)
The Realignment Case – R.J. Dearden (Roundfire Books)
Welcome to Night Vale – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (Orbit)
The Sand Men – Christopher Fowler (Solaris)
Rook Song – Naomi Foyle (Jo Fletcher Books)
When We Were Animals – Joshua Gaylord (Del Rey)
The Tabit Genesis – Tony Gonzales (Gollancz)
Under Ground – S.L. Grey (Macmillan)
The Fire Sermon – Francesca Haig (Harper Voyager)
Speak – Louise Hall (Orbit)
The Rise of the Automated Aristocrats – Mark Hodder (Del Rey)
Zero World – Jason M. Hough (Titan Books)
An Ancient Peace – Tanya Huff (Titan Books)
Rapture – Kameron Hurley (Del Rey)
Europe at Midnight – Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
The Next Together – Lauren James (Walker Books)
Wake – Elizabeth Knox (Corsair)
The Flicker Men – Ted Kosmatka (Michael Joseph)
Roboteer – Alex Lamb (Gollancz)
Dark Star – Oliver Langmead (Unsung Stories)
The Silence – Tim Lebbon (Titan Books)
Ancillary Mercy – Ann Leckie (Orbit)
In Constant Fear – Peter Liney (Jo Fletcher Books)
The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu (Head of Zeus)
The Galaxy Game – Karen Lord (Jo Fletcher Books)
The Empress Game – Rhonda Mason (Titan Books)
The Big Lie – Julie Mayhew (Hot Key Books)
Something Coming Through – Paul McAuley (Gollancz)
Thunderbird – Jack McDevitt (Headline)
Luna: New Moon – Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
The Night Clock – Paul Meloy (Solaris)
Slade House – David Mitchell (Sceptre)
The Whispering Swarm – Michael Moorcock – (Gollancz)
Signal to Noise – Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Solaris)
Deep Time – Anthony Nanson (Hawthorn Press)
The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
Planetfall – Emma Newman (ROC)
The Vagrant – Peter Newman (Harper Voyager)
Touch – Claire North (Orbit)
Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie: Escape from Camp – Jeff Norton (Faber & Faber)
The Book of Phoenix – Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder and Stoughton)
The Dark Shall Do What Light Cannot – Sanem Ozdural (Elsewhen Press)
Beautiful Intelligence – Stephen Palmer (Infinity Plus)
Arcadia – Iain Pears (Faber & Faber)
S.N.U.F.F – Victor Pelevin (Gollancz)
The Dead Lands – Benjamin Percy (Hodder and Stoughton)
The Death House – Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz)
The Long Utopia – Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (Doubleday)
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury)
The Locksley Exploit – Philip Purser-Hallard (Snowbooks)
Railhead – Philip Reeve (Oxford University Press)
Poseiden’s Wake – Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz)
The Thing Itself – Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
Crashing Heaven – Al Robertson (Gollancz)
Aurora – Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Tomorrow Never Knows – Eddie Robson (Snowbooks)
Glorious Angels – Justina Robson (Gollancz)
Depth – Lev A.C. Rosen (Titan Books)
All That Outer Space Allows – Ian Sales (Whippleshield Books)
Regeneration – Stephanie Saulter (Jo Fletcher Books)
The End of All Things – John Scalzi (Tor)
The Mime Order – Samantha Shannon (Bloomsbury)
The Chimes – Anna Smaill (Sceptre)
Way Down Dark – James Smythe (Hodder and Stoughton)
Seveneves – Neal Stephenson (The Borough Press)
The Annihilation Score – Charles Stross (Orbit)
Sailor to a Siren – Zoë Sumra (Elsewhen Press)
Tamaruq – E.J.Swift (Del Rey)
The Shore – Sarah Taylor (William Heinemann)
Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor)
The Promise of the Child – Tom Toner ((Gollancz)
Your Resting Place – David Towsey (Jo Fletcher Books)
The Mechanical – Ian Tregillis (Orbit)
The Weightless World – Anthony Trevelyan (Gallery Beggar Press)
The Janus Circle – Tej Turner (Elsewhen Press)
The Devils Detective – Simon Kurt Unsworth (Del Rey)
Find Me – Laura van den Berg (Del Rey)
The Fifth Dimension – Martin Vopenka (Barbican Press)
The End of the World Running Club – Adrian J. Walker (Del Rey)
The Just City – Jo Walton (Corsair)
Seven Cities of Old – Mike Wild (Snowbooks)
The Ocean of Time – David Wingrove (Del Rey)
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits – David Wong (Titan Books)
The Swan Book – Alexis Wright (Constable)
Of the 113 titles above, 20 are by authors who have previously been shortlisted or won the award so if you’re looking for clues to a possible shortlist this might be a place to start.
They are Margaret Atwood, Greg Bear, Chris Beckett, Matthew De Abaitua, Kameron Hurley, Dave Hutchinson, Ann Leckie, Paul McAuley, Ian McDonald, David Mitchell, Patrick Ness, Claire North, Stephen Baxter, Alastair Reynolds, Adam Roberts, Kim Stanley Robinson, Justina Robson, James Smythe, Neal Stephenson and Charles Stross.
One the big issues in the science fiction community right now concerns the visibility and numbers of women writers in the field.
This year 37 of the submitted titles are by women, or approximately 33% (these numbers are complicated slightly by dual authorships on a few titles and so forth, but this figure is broadly accurate).
While notably low in terms of direct parity of submissions by gender, 33% is actually the highest percentage received since we started tracking and releasing this data back in 2009, when the balance was just 13% submissions by women, and from a much smaller total pool of 46 submitted books.
The previous two years showed approx 30% and 29% submissions by women writers for 2015 and 2014 respectively. This percentage would seem to suggest a small pattern and it is linked with the total numbers of books received – both 2014 and 2015 saw submissions above 100 books – with women representing approx 30% of the UK’s science fiction output each year.
Comparison against submissions lists from previous years makes it clear that a notable number of women writers do not publish titles every year for various reasons, so while the UK field as a whole is perhaps bigger, at the same time those absences from year to year after often the result of authors being without a publishing contract or at least moving publishing house more often than many male writers, which can also affect the cycle of when books appear.
We’ve also seen that a significant number of titles by women writers come from more mainstream publishing imprints, and often while those writers may publish regularly not all of their works are necessarily considered as science fiction. Last year’s winner,Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a good example of this trend for example, as is our 2012 winner, The Testament of Jesse Lamb by Jane Rogers. Both fiction writers who have written in multiple areas, not just science fiction.
This brings me to my next point, are all of the books listed above really science fiction?
This is a question that comes up every year, usually with someone on Twitter calling out a publisher for ‘trying their luck’ and submitting stuff that obviously isn’t science fiction.
There’s a few points linked to this, and the first is that Sir Arthur himself was always very clear that he wanted the award to be about the positive promotion of science fiction and part of that was having as broad a definition of what actually constitutes a science fiction novel as possible.
As such, the award has no single definition of what a science fiction novel should read like, but rather remakes that definition anew every year via its judging panel, who are themselves changing every year. The award judges are independently nominated by our supporting organisations, the British Science Fiction Association, the Science Fiction Foundation and the SCI-FI-LONDON film festival, which means not only do they change every year (a judge typically serves a maximum of two years, not always consecutively) but that they are being put forward from organisations separate to the governing body of the prize itself. We chair the meetings but in a non-voting capacity.
A quick check of our previous shortlistswill show that this definition is definitely changeable year to year, and indeed within a single year, and we rely on our judges to make those calls for us, and in my opinion this leads to much more interesting shortlists!
The other main point to note here is that a book has to be actively submitted by a publisher (we won’t consider a book unless a publisher opts in as it were) so we will spend a lot of time talking to editors and so forth about whether theymight want to consider putting a book forward. There’s a lot of conversation these days, but very little ‘on spec’ submitting, and indeed the judges have sometimes favoured books that are more fantastical than hard SF.
Basically submitting a title to the Clarke Award doesn’t automatically mean a book is science fiction, it merely means that the judges are asked to consider it within that context. On some occasions they may well view it as worthy of nomination, on others they may very quickly collectively agree that actually, no, it’s not really a science fiction work after all.
So, this is the list our judges are currently reading and debating and arguing about in their quest to choose the shortlist for 2016, the 30th anniversary of the award.
Yes, they really do review and discuss every single book.
So, far to date I have never managed to accurately predict every book that appears on a final shortlist in advance, but maybe you’ll have better luck.
I’d certainly love to know what you think might be in with a chance, and you can keep in touch with our latest updates online here at clarkeaward.com and via Twitter: @clarkeaward or our newsletter: tinyletter.com/clarkeaward
We release this data every year for people to make use of for themselves as well, so please feel free to dig into it in ways I haven’t covered here. I’m also planning to follow this post up with a more detailed analysis of both submissions and other data going back over the last 30 years of the award.
The shortlist for the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award will be announced on Wednesday 27th April in partnership with the SCI-FI-LONDON film festival.