You can't, as the old maxim says, please all of the people all of the time. There is always a reason for someone to be unhappy about something. Yesterday, the author of The Prestige, Christopher Priest, unleashed his venom at this year's crop of nominees for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and no one was spared the pain.
"It seems to me that 2011 was a poor year for science fiction," Priest says, at the beginning of a screed in which he looks at the books that missed being nominated for 26th annual Arthur C. Clarke Award, which recognizes the best in British science fiction, as well as the ones that made the final ballot. And he is not kind:
"Of the sixty books submitted by publishers, only a tiny handful were suitable for awards. The brutal reality is that there were fewer than the six needed for the Clarke shortlist. Many of the submissions were fantasy of the least ambitious type, and many of the science fiction titles were ... firmly embedded in genre orthodoxies, to their own huge disadvantage (and discredit)."
Priest then goes on to immolate the books that made the cut, books by writers like China Mieville, Charles Stross and Greg Bear, all of whom, in Priest's view, delivered work that deserved not to be recognized. To wit, here's his summary of Sheri S. Tepper's The Waters Rising: "How can one describe it? For f--k's sake, it is a quest saga and it has a talking horse. There are puns on the word 'neigh'."
Priest sums it up thusly:
"We have a dreadful shortlist put together by a set of judges who were not fit for purpose. They were incompetent. Their incompetence was made more problematical because the overall quality of the fiction in the year in question was poor. They did not know how to resolve this. They played what they saw as safe. ... They failed themselves, they failed the Clarke Award, and they failed anyone who takes a serious interest in speculative fiction."
Now, whether or not you agree with Priest's assessment of the finalists, his decision to come down so harshly against his contemporaries and the public manner in which he did so, you've got to wonder: If an author of Priest's standing is willing to do this, this way, might something actually be rotten in Space Denmark?
Is the literature of ideas beginning to run dry?