Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Booker prize

The 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, Britain’s most prestigious literary award, went to Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate, 2009) yesterday.

Here is a recap of recent discussion regarding the Booker prize in the science fiction community:

Kim Stanley Robinson takes a poke at the Booker prize judges
“… it seems to me that three or four of the last 10 Booker prizes should have gone to science fiction novels the juries hadn't read. Should I name names? Why not: Air by Geoff Ryman should have won in 2005, Life by Gwyneth Jones in 2004, and Signs of Life by M. John Harrison in 1997. Indeed this year the prize should probably go to a science fiction comedy called Yellow Blue Tibia, by Adam Roberts.”

This stirred up some dust. Robinson’s New Scientist article, of course, had more to say than that. Among other things, we learn that Virginia Woolf was a fan of Olaf Stapledon in a previously unpublished letter.

Robinson's argument contains three main points:

1. British science fiction is in a golden age. (SF Strangelove says: Yes indeed.)

2. Science fiction is the literature of now. It engages and explores today’s issues in ways that no other fiction does. (SF Strangelove says: Agreed.)

3. It’s a shame that British science fiction writers and their books don’t get respect from the mainstream literary community. (SF Strangelove says: Um, not really. In the long run that blind spot will reflect poorly on the Booker prize rather than on the science fiction novels that the prize overlooks.)

For those who don’t know: Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the greatest American science fiction authors. His work includes: Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars, Antarctica, and The Years of Rice and Salt.

Booker prize judges respond
The chair of this year's Booker judges, James Naughtie, admitted that Robinson "may well have a point", but suggested that "perhaps his arrows could be directed even more towards publishers than to judges. ...We judge books that are submitted."

His fellow Booker judge, John Mullan, was less charitable. Full article.

Additional links:
Adam Roberts reacts
The Man Booker Prize coverage
The Man Booker Prize website

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