Mar 31, 2012

The Clarke Awards vs Christopher Priest

I am beginning to think that somewhere in the “How to run awards guide” there’s section that says that all well run awards should have controversy.  I am talking of course about Christopher Priest’s opinions on this year’s Clarke Award shortlist. His post is here

It’s was rather ironic that I had just finished commenting on a blog about how nice writers are generally to one another, when I read Priest’s passionate attack. 

Now, quite a few people have responded and in the main it appears to have been fairly even handed.  Charles Stross, one of the authors that copped a shellacking, took it squarely on the chin and responded in a cleverly disarming way. 

There’s even been some joy over the fact that one can still have such passion for the genre that they feel free to let the world know and damn the consequences.

From my own point of view – sure Christopher is entitled to his opinion, it’s informed by both his length of time as a writer in the genre and by the quality of his work.  I love dissenting opinion and rigorous critique. If an author puts it out there they have to take what comes their way by virtue of the work they present.

But when the commentary turns personal, when it goes beyond a thing that we can examine and criticise, then it’s really nothing more than insult and possibly strays toward libel.

This is the line that I feel Priest has stepped over:

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.


Andrew Butler has thus endorsed the decision of the panel, and therefore reveals himself as incompetent as the others.


The present panel of judges should be fired, or forced to resign, immediately. Their names are Juliet E. McKenna, Martin Lewis, Phil Nanson, Nikkianne Moody and Rob Grant. Chairman Andrew M. Butler should also resign. These people have proved themselves incompetent as judges, and should not be allowed to have any more say about or influence on the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Priest has a privileged position as a reviewer, writer and author.  He has influence both within the genre and outside it.  His comments have the potential to impact on the career and earnings of those involved.

Now his defence maybe that “their incompetence” is the truth, but I wouldn’t be confident of going to court with the case he’s outlined.

All in all a bit of a fiasco.


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