Sunday 18 April 2010

On the Tivity of Awards

Having read three of the six nominees for the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke award - as I have - the great book-mage Amanda poses an excellent question over on Floor to Ceiling Books:

"In the case of this award, what constitutes best?

"Best use of science fiction concepts? Best novel in terms of readability? Best novel because the judges had the most fun reading it?"

Sweary Mary Sam Sykes has already posted his thoughts, and Amanda's ponderings moved the Speculative Scotsman, too, to comment. I'm balls-deep into The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet at the moment - more on that in The BoSS tomorrow - and a wee bit short on time otherwise, so I thought rather than leave you lot wanting for content today, I'd repost my take on what exactly constitues best in this case here. So...

I judge the books I read with certain criteria, and so too, I imagine, do judges for the likes of the Clarke awards. You read a book. You feel certain things. You think back on those feelings, that experience - when it's done - and you deem it either bad, average, good or great according to your own measures. Sit ten people down in a room, make each of them read the same six books, assign numerical values to those general feelings (if you please), and collate the responses. The highest scorer = the best.

Endlessly subjective, but of course it's going to be. There are no hard and fast ways to say this intangible thing is better than that intangible thing... just collective, subjective judgement.

It's a fascinating conversation and I'd recommend you all pop on over to Floor to Ceiling Books quick-smart and share your own thoughts.

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