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Saturday, March 27, 2010

And They Say SF is Dying - Forty One 2009 Novels that Show the Fallacy of That Meme

The Arthur Clarke award for *science fiction* novels published in the UK in a given year has made public the list of novels submitted for consideration and accepted as such for the 2010 edition of the prize. As the only criteria besides publication date are publisher submission and being a "science fiction" novel, this is not really a "long list" but it offers a great glimpse of the state of the genre.

The six novel shortlist will be announced next week on March 31 and I will post it asap, but in the meantime I will present the list of 41 novels to show again the fallacy of the "sf is dying meme" that has been around for 50 years and counting and has been recently making the rounds of the blogoshpere again. You may quibble about the "sf" label of some of the novels here but the 26 I read and 9 I browsed and decided are not for me definitely can be included in the sf field though indeed some can be regarded more as fantasy or mainstream... But all have clear sf-nal elements.

In a related note Mark Chitty from Walker of Worlds will host a "science fiction appreciation month" in April and I hope to contribute a post too so you will see more showcasing of sf authors and their work.

Here is the list courtesy of Niall from Torque Control and from where I got the cover collage above too. I will link to the 19 (!!) reviews done here at FBC - though one novel got two reviews and one got only a mini-review so there are only 17/41 novels fully covered - and I will present my choice of a six novel shortlist after. Note that since these are books with *first UK edition* in 2009, you may see some books published in the US some years ago as well as some notable 2009 sf novels that are missing not having been published in the UK last year, but by and large the list is representative of 2009 in sf.

Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers (Solaris)
Shadow of the Scorpion by Neal Asher (Tor)
Orbus by Neal Asher (Tor)
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (Bloomsbury)
Twisted Metal by Tony Ballantyne (Tor)
Transition by Iain Banks (Little, Brown)
Ark by Stephen Baxter (Gollancz)
Moxyland by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
The Accord by Keith Brooke (Solaris)
Xenopath by Eric Brown (Solaris)
Seeds of Earth by Mike Cobley (Orbit)
And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer (Penguin)
Makers by Cory Doctorow (Voyager)
The Babylonian Trilogy by Sebastien Doubinsky (PS Publishing)
The Wild Things by Dave Eggers (Hamish Hamilton)
Consorts of Heaven by Jaine Fenn (Gollancz)
The Stranger by Max Frei (Gollancz)
Concrete Operational by Richard Galbraith (Rawstone Media)
Nova War by Gary Gibson (Tor)
Winter Song by Colin Harvey (Angry Robot)
The Rapture by Liz Jensen (Bloomsbury)
Spirit by Gwyneth Jones (Gollancz)
Journey into Space by Toby Litt (Penguin)
The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove (Solaris)
Halfhead by Stuart B MacBride (HarperVoyager)
Gardens of the Sun by Paul McAuley (Gollancz)
The City & The City (Rv FF) + (Rv LS) by China Mieville (Macmillan)
Red Claw by Philip Palmer (Orbit)
Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
Galileo’s Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson (HarperVoyager)
Chasing the Dragon by Justina Robson (Gollancz)
The City of Lists by Brigid Rose (Crocus)
Flashforward by Robert J Sawyer (Gollancz)
Wake by Robert J Sawyer (Gollancz)
Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi (Tor)
The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor (Faber & Faber)
Far North by Marcel Theroux (Faber & Faber)
Before the Gods by KS Turner (Ruby Blaze)
The Painting and the City by Robert Freeman Wexler (PS Publishing)
This is Not a Game by Walter Jon Williams (Orbit)
Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding (Gollancz)

My shortlist is as follows:

1: Spirit by G. Jones
2: Transition by IM Banks
3: The Babylonian Trilogy by S. Doubinsky
4: Heart of Veridon by T. Akers (more fantasy-nal than sf-nal but on merits it ranks here)
5: Gardens of the Sun by P. McAuley
6: Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts

As a runner up if I disqualify Heart of Veridon as fantasy, I would then add Nova War by G. Gibson; also The Year of the Flood is a very good novel as literature goes imho but its sfnal aspects are a bit quaint so I did not include it here, otherwise I would rank it at #4.


Rachel Cotterill said...

There's no way SF is dying. Changing, maybe. Not dying.

That's a great list :)

Liviu said...

I agree and that has been the case for at least 50 years with the attending cries of "sf is dying"; but recently this meme started making rounds again...

Despite that it is limited to the UK market which is smaller than the US one, I always found the Arthur Clarke award and now the long submission list very useful, much more so than the US awards

Anonymous said...

Come on , the vast majority of they novels are light on the science side and heavy on the fantasy.

The fact is traditional Sci-Fi is on life support, and every year these awards have to let more an more novels in that are more fantasy than sci-fi.

Anonymous said...

And for the record, the US market may be larger, but its filled with crap tie-in fiction . UK SF is in a much stronger position that the awful US market.

Liviu said...

I disagree with the comment on "light on science, heavy on fantasy" since I count 22 novels that are "genre sf" however you define sf: (2,3,5,6,7,9,10,11,13,16,19,20, 22,23,24,26,28,29,30,33,34,35)

Then 7 more (4,8,12,14,21,37,40) are also very sf-nal and I would take them as sf anytime if put to choose between sf and f, though I would include them in "mainstream fantastic".

Of the rest there are several I have no clue about (15,18,25,32,38)

while 1,17,27,31,36,39,41 are indeed less sf-nal that f-nal imho, though I have an inkling City/City will make the shortlist, and then if City/City is sf, The Stranger is too for sure

No argument with the tie-in crap from me, though UK has its Black Library, Warhammer and the like too

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