By David Hebblethwaite
When I was younger, I’d always head straight to the ‘Science Fiction and Fantasy’ section of any bookshop I visited. But it’s fair to say that I was a fantasy (and maybe horror) reader by instinct. An interest in SF came later, particularly through the pages of Interzone magazine. That was where I first came across the Arthur C. Clarke Award, initially just as a name in an advert showing the shortlist.
Later, the invaluable early genre website Infinity Plus would begin to run Adam Roberts’s reviews of each year’s shortlist, and this was my real introduction to the Clarke. I had gradually been coming to appreciate that there was a whole culture of rigorous reader engagement around SF, which was something I really responded to (though it would still be a few years before I participated in that culture myself). The idea of an award that stood for excellence in science fiction, that took an eclectic view of the field, and generated strong debate… this really spoke to me, and I followed the Clarke with interest.
A few years later, I had my own blog. At the beginning, I was writing about anything as the fancy took me, but I did know that I wanted to follow the Clarke Award, because I’d seen how much engagement there was online. I just dipped my toes in to start with, but it was only a year later that – with a slightly surreal feeling – I found myself there at the award ceremony, watching China Miéville receive his third Clarke.
I continued for a few more years, but things changed: the conversation I had known was drying up . My tastes also changed, and I explored the world of fiction more widely, developing a particular interest in translated fiction. As I read more widely in that field, I found a lively community of readers, translators, bloggers, publishers, and critics. It reminded me of the SF community and that sharp criticism around the Clarke .
In the world of translation lit-blogging, I also discovered the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (now Man Booker International Prize) shadow jury. The idea was that a group of bloggers would read the Prize longlist; write about and discuss the books; create their own shortlist; and choose their own winner. It sounded great fun, so I asked to join – and it was.
I’ve had such wonderful times as a shadow juror, it has become a highlight of my reading year. I’m delighted that Nina Allan has adapted the idea for the Clarke Award, and excited to be participating in the project. I look forward to new conversations about science fiction, new insights, thoughts and perspectives.
David Hebblethwaite is a book blogger from Yorkshire, now living in southern England. He especially enjoys reading world literature and fiction in translation. His writing has appeared in Strange Horizons, Vector, European Literature Network, Shiny New Books, and Words Without Borders. He blogs at David’s Book World.