March 1st, 2012


Clarke Award shortlist - my guess

The list of 60 novels submitted for this year's Arthur C. Clarke Award has been published, and we are invited to guess what the final shortlist of six will be.

As I've been doing with other awards recently, I've crunched out the numbers on members of both Goodreads and Librarything who have each book, and come up with the following table ranked roughly in order of popularity taken across the two sites, including also ratings (NB that the Goodreads figure is not for those who own the book but for those who have bothered to rank it; the Librarything ratings may reflect only a few of those who claim to own the book). That gives me the following table for the 60 submissions:

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It may reasonably argued that this doesn't tell us very much; that a juried award cannot be expected to mirror the tastes of the wider public, and that the members of Goodreads and Librarything are quite possibly not looking for the same things in a book as the Clarke Award judges. Indeed, four of the five BSFA nominees for Best Novel are in the lower half of the table. However, I think we can be fairly sure about eliminating at least the bottom few books; if they have failed to catch the attention of the world at large, they will probably also have failed to catch the imagination of the judges. (Though I am tempted to seek out Alexandra Claire's Random Walk, just for curiosity.)

However, the fact is that I have almost nothing else to go on; since the only books I have read on the list are the BSFA nominees (and the two by Connie Willis), I may as well guess at the Clarke shortlist using the information above. The top six books are 11.22.63, Blackout, Reamde, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Embassytown and The Last Werewolf. However, the rules specify that the award is for science fiction, which (as far as I can tell) rules out 11.22.63, Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Last Werewolf. (Interestingly, these are also the three books on the list with the highest ratio of Goodreads users to Librarything users.) I think that Blackout is also ruled out as it is only half a novel. That's four of my top six eliminated; the next four are All Clear, Zone One, Rule 34, and Leviathan Wakes. All Clear is eliminated for the same reason as Blackout, and next up is Hull Zero Three. So that gives me six.

But... the average Goodreads rankings for Zone One and Hull Zero Three are not in fact very impressive - both are in the bottom ten of the entire list. Again, the Clarke judges will have different tastes to Goodreads readers; but that much different? Strike the two of them as well. That takes me to The End Specialist (aka The Post-Mortal) and Wonder, both of which appear to be science fiction.

Hang on, I'm not finished. Leviathan Wakes has a suspiciously high ratio of Goodreads users to Librarything users, which makes me suspect that it may have more populist than hardcore appeal (as with 11.22.63Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Last Werewolf). Also, despite Wonder's comparatively good ratings on both sites, I can't actually comprehend how anyone likes Sawyer's writing. So I'm dropping those two as well. But the next four books on the list, The Fallen BladeMr Fox, Dust and The Last Four Things appear not to be science fiction either. So my last two are Equations of Life and The Testament of Jessie Lamb.

I don't know much about any of these books, but this is only a parlour game anyway, and knowing that it is unlikely to be correct, I therefore predict that the books on the Clarke shortlist will be ReamdeEmbassytownRule 34The End SpecialistEquations of Life and The Testament of Jessie Lamb. If I am lucky I'll get one or two of them right.