Six debut novels make up the Arthur C Clarke Award for science fiction shortlist for the first time in the award's 35-year history.
The shortlist features Patience Agbabi's The Infinite (Canongate), Simon Jimenez's The Vanished Birds (Titan), Hao Jingfang's Vagabonds (Head of Zeus), R B Kelly's Edge of Heaven (NewCon Press), Laura Jean McKay's The Animals in that Country (Scribe) and Valerie Valdes' Chilling Effect (Orbit).
Chair of judges, Dr Andrew M Butler, said: "As always, the shortlisting process was closely argued, and it was especially tough for the judges to get the shortlist down to just six. To everyone’s surprise, each of the titles is a debut novel. This has never happened before."
The judging panel for the Arthur C Clarke Award 2021 includes Stewart Hotston and Alasdair Stuart from the British Science Fiction Association, Phoenix Alexander and Nicole Devarenne from the Science Fiction Foundation and Nick Hubble from the Sci-Fi London film festival. Butler represents the award in a non-voting role as the chair of the judges.
Award director Tom Hunter added: “As we announce our 35th Clarke Award shortlist I’m reminded of Sir Arthur’s wish that the prize continue to reflect the best of UK science fiction, and not one fixed definition of it.
“With SF publishing in the UK currently thriving and over 100 increasingly diverse titles again submitted to our judges this year, a single definition of science fiction in the 2020s was always going to be a challenge but with this shortlist I believe our judges not only met the challenge, they’ve raised the bar.
“Whether its SF for readers of all ages, works in translation, books from the heart of SF publishing, our vibrant small presses or literary imprints embracing their speculative fiction sides, our judges have created a definition of the best of science fiction literature today that is uniquely their own yet instantly recognisable.”
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