The 2006 Clarke Awards

The Clarke Awards judging meeting and award ceremony was fun. Hard work at times, but fun.

And in case you didn’t know, I can now reveal that after the longest judges meeting ever (over three and a half hours!) we finally chose Geoff Ryman’s wonderful novel Air, which I highly recommend you all go out and buy.

It was a terrifically hard-fought (but always congenial) judges meeting that really did come right down to the wire – the award and cheque are supposed to be given out just after seven o’clock, and we were still arguing at 5.45. And as Paul Kincaid, our superb adjudicator and Clarke Award “handyman” extraordinaire pointed out both in the meeting and at the awards ceremony: any of the six books would have been an entirely worthy winner this year, and all of them are very well worth a look.

But in the end we had to pick just one winner, and it was Air

Clarke Award
2006 Clarke Award judges

I only finished rereading it on the bus home the day before (and only seconds before I reached my stop, too!), and as much as I’ve been honoured to be a Clarke judge – and as much as I’ve enjoyed it, too – I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief that it was at last done with. I’m not a judge next year, although I may well be in 2008 or 2009 (you’re only allowed to serve as a judge for two years), because Millie now occupies a lot of the time I would have spent reading before, plus, it did get a bit claustrophobic at times last year, having no choice about what you get to read; so I’m now going to spend most of the next few months on some non-genre fiction and a whole bunch of non-fiction books.

I have to say, also, that the Clarke Award ceremony this year was quite a step up from the last few – there was free booze, delicious free food and a fantastic venue (the Apollo West End cinema – so posh it has what looks like ice in the troughs in the gents’ toilets!). All this is because the Clarke’s have linked up with the Sci-Fi London film festival, which is going on till Sunday night, showing a wide range of new and new-ish sf films (I’ve been along to see a few films there over the last few years, and some of their fare is really good).

I also finally got to meet the very lovely Keith Brooke, the guy who gave me my first “big break” in book reviewing back in about 1998, I think it was, after I emailed to ask him if he had any tips on getting a job in sf publishing (he didn’t, but he did ask me if I’d like to try writing some book reviews for his highly respected website, Infinity Plus). A pleasure to finally meet you, Keith. 🙂

I had to stand up in front of everyone at the award, as one of the judges, and give a little wave. I chatted briefly with Charles Stross, Geoff “The Champ” Ryman and Alastair Reynolds – all nominees, all very very nice folks indeed.

Isn’t it nice when people you admire and respect turn out to be, well, not bastards?

Then I drank a little more free beer, nibbled on a few more complementary cocktail sausages and, tired, a little bit tipsy, but happy, decided it was time to head home to the family.

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