Iain Pears' app-based novel shortlisted for Arthur C Clarke award

Arcadia joins works by Becky Chambers, Adrian Tchaikovsky, JP Smythe, Dave Hutchinson and Nnedi Okorafor

Iain Pears’ Arcadia, a novel that also comes in the form of an interactive app, is competing with a series of stories set in space for the Arthur C Clarke award for science fiction.

Pears’ novel, which intertwines the story of an Oxford professor, a 15-year-old girl who finds herself in another world and a scientist from a dystopian future who creates a time machine, is one of six novels in the running for the prestigious prize, established 30 years ago with a grant from Clarke. Arcadia is up against Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, an originally self-published novel, which was longlisted for the Baileys; JP Smythe’s Way Down Dark, which takes place on a spaceship that left a dying Earth centuries before, and Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time, in which the last remnants of humanity follow in the footsteps of their ancestors to find a terraformed planet.

Writing in the Guardian last summer, Pears called Arcadia “a spy story, a fantasy, a historical novel, a romance, a mythology and a work of science fiction”. “It is inevitable that authors, consciously or not, slot themselves into some category or other, and if they do not, others will do it for them,” said the author. “Writing Arcadia loosened those restraints.

“Sometimes you get a literary author who thinks they are rediscovering the wheel but with Iain it’s obvious he set out to write SF: and he’s said that publicly,” said Clarke award director Tom Hunter.

Hunter called the lineup of six books – which also includes World Fantasy award winner Nnedi Okorafor’s The Book of Phoenix, in which genetic experiment Phoenix, an “accelerated woman”, escapes from the Manhattan tower in which she has been imprisoned, and Dave Hutchinson’s Europe at Midnight, which sees intelligence officer Jim fall into a world preparing for war with another universe – “a quintessentially Clarke award kind of a shortlist”.

“Look once and I’m sure everyone will see a choice they agree with. Look twice, and you’ll likely see a new book you want to read next. Look a third time, though, and I hope you’ll see how well all of these six books sit together, and how they represent a particular, special moment in time for UK science fiction. In other words, like all great books, this is a shortlist that rewards the more you read into it,” said Hunter.

The six books in contention for the 2016 prize, which has been won in the past by Margaret Atwood and China Miéville, were chosen from 113 submissions. Dr Andrew Butler, chair of the judges, said it had been especially difficult to select just six titles this year. “It was toughly argued, in a good-humoured way, and as ever I’m blown away by the hard work of our judges,” said Butler.

The Clarke shortlist was revealed the day after the fan-voted Hugo awards announced its own lineup. There is no overlap, with six books in contention for the best novel Hugo: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher, The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin, Seveneves by Neal Stephenson and Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

This year’s judging panel features the British Science Fiction Association’s David Gullen and Ian Whates, the Science Fiction Foundation’s Liz Bourke and Andrew McKie, and Leila Abu El Hawa from the Sci-Fi-London film festival. The winner will be announced on 24 August.

The Arthur C Clarke award shortlist

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton)

Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)

The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder & Stoughton)

Arcadia by Iain Pears (Faber & Faber)

Way Down Dark by JP Smythe (Hodder & Stoughton)

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor)


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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