Last night, the winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel published in the UK in 2014 was announced.
The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey (Orbit)
The Book Of Strange New Things – Michel Faber (Canongate)
Europe In Autumn – Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
Memory Of Water – Emmi Itäranta (HarperVoyager)
The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August – Claire North (Orbit)
And the winner:
Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel (Picador)
I had the privilege of opening the envelope and announcing the winner and I was very proud to do so. For one thing, it was the twentieth anniversary of my own second Arthur C. Clarke win, for my novel Fools (the first one was in 1992 for Synners). And for another, all six of these books are wonderful. I spent a good part of every round of chemo reading, which included all of these books. Some were early recommendations from friends; some I picked up after they were nominated. They made a six-way tie for Pat Cadigan’s I’d-Like-To-Forget-I’m-Having-Chemo Award, because they took me away from cancer and into their worlds.
If you have not read them, I can’t urge you strongly enough to do so. If you don’t think you care for science fiction, try them anyway––you’ll be amazed at the quality of the writing, the plotting, the characterisation. Years ago, before I had even won my first Clarke, John Jarrold, editor-turned-agent, described the Arthur C. Clarke Award as the Booker Prize for science fiction. Obviously, I would love that description. But seriously, this is one of those years when it’s never been truer, and everyone who has ever been nominated and/or won should feel like their property values went up.
I was sorry that Emily St. John Mandel wasn’t there to accept personally. Both times that I won, I wasn’t able to get to the ceremony either––another reason it was such a treat to be able to announce the winner. It was also very gratifying to hear Tom Hunter mention the author events I used to do at Borders Books. For those who don’t know, they ran from July 2001 to July 2006, when Borders, after many changes of management, told me they didn’t want to host them any more. Not long after that, Borders went under. Coincidence? Oh, of course––I don’t really suffer from delusions of grandeur. (On the other hand, it is, I think, indicative of the poor decisions made by the over-all Borders management. We had a Borders in Overland Park, Kansas that over several years became a popular destination for people who enjoyed good books and live music on the weekends. I used to go to the science fiction reading group every month; it was how I got the idea for the events in London. Ahem––better I don’t get started on clueless corporate bean-counters who don’t know how to make lemonade when the recipe is right in front of them.)
In any case, it was nice to be acknowledged for the Borders events. We had some great evenings. I had the privilege of interviewing a lot of great people. I in turn have to acknowledge Saxon Bullock for getting it started. Saxon worked in the science fiction section of Borders at the time and he convinced the events department it would be a great way to get people into the shop. It was, too. There was no dedicated event space so we set up chairs in the middle of the science fiction section, which meant that we got a lot of walk-over traffic––people would drift over out of curiosity, than hang around listening. More than one of them bought a book and got it signed afterwards.
But I digress.
So anyway, Chris and I went out last night and had a wonderful time. And naturally, for a cancer patient, a wonderful time is more than just a wonderful time. If I had not been bound and determined to open the envelope on the twentieth anniversary of my own second win, I’m not sure I’d have made it. I had to stop and rest after putting various items of clothing on––I couldn’t hold my arms up long enough to straighten out my fancy tunic-top; if not for Chris, I’d have been all twisted up and disheveled.
The venue was event-space at the new Foyle’s Book Shop. It was a stand around with drinks type of reception but Foyle’s was kind enough to supply Chris and me with chairs. I think I had to walk twenty-five feet or so to the stage and it was a hike. Fortunately the chairs were those high bar-stool type things so I didn’t have a dizzy episode when I got up. I kept it short, although I did take a few seconds for some “Me and…” shots, as you can see below.
As I said, I was proud to announce the winner and I was extremely happy that Tom Hunter asked me to do that. The last two rounds of chemo have hit me very hard, and not just physically. I had a bad week where my spirits really dipped. I knew it was just the chemo and I just had to ride it out. But knowing something intellectually doesn’t reach all those problem areas where you live; it doesn’t make the ride any less rough. That combined with the physical weakness didn’t make me want to help myself very much.
Then Tom Hunter asked me to announce this year’s winner and gave me the push I needed to get back up on my hind legs and make an effort. I got dressed up. I put on make-up––the fancy expensive stuff. It wasn’t easy but I love the Arthur C. Clarke Award and I will do anything I can to support it. And of course, once you start thinking about someone and/or something other than yourself, the tide turns and you start winning the battle.
Despite my physical weakness, I woke up yesterday feeling like I was turning a corner in recovering from the last round of chemo. Today, I know I have. Physical movement is still an enormous effort but it no longer seems overwhelming. I’m going to try to help it along with little things––getting dressed as if I am going out, putting on make-up (the less expensive, everyday stuff, but still). I might not go out but when I look in the mirror, I’ll see someone who looks less like a cancer patient and more like Bad-Ass Cadigan, who laughs too loud, swears too much, and stays up too late, just because she can.