Arthur C Clarke award goes to ‘thrilling’ verse novel by Harry Josephine Giles

Deep Wheel Orcadia, set on a distant space station struggling for survival, is praised by judges for ‘making you rethink what science fiction can do’

Poet Harry Josephine Giles’s verse novel, Deep Wheel Orcadia, has won the Arthur C Clarke award for science fiction book of the year.

The book is told in the Orkney dialect and comes with a parallel translation into English.

It follows Astrid who is returning home from art school on Mars, and Darling, who is fleeing a life that never fits. The pair meet on Deep Wheel Orcadia, a distant space station struggling for survival as the pace of change threatens to leave the community behind.

Chair of the judges Dr Andrew M Butler said that Deep Wheel Orcadia is “the sort of book that makes you rethink what science fiction can do and makes the reading experience feel strange in a new and thrilling way”.

“It’s as if language itself becomes the book’s hero and the genre is all the richer for it,” he added.

Fiona Sampson in her Guardian review called Deep Wheel Orcadia “a book of astonishments” and said it “threads together questions of identity and belonging, alongside examinations of deep space and Orkney, in a single concisely yet scintillatingly told tale”.

The other novels on the shortlist were Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine, A River Called Time by Courttia Newland, Wergen: The Alien Love War by Mercurio D Rivera, and Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley.

Joining Butler on the judging panel were the British Science Fiction Association’s Crispin Black and Stark Holborn, the Science Fiction Foundation’s Phoenix Alexander and Nicole Devarenne, and Nick Hubble of the Sci-Fi-London film festival.

The winner was announced at an award ceremony hosted by the Science Museum, London. The prize was presented by Dr Glyn Morgan, lead exhibition curator for the museum’s current exhibition Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination.

Giles receives a trophy in the form of a commemorative engraved bookend and prize money to the value of £2,022; a tradition that sees the annual prize money rise incrementally by year from the year 2001 in memory of Clarke.

The award was originally established by a grant from Clarke with the aim of promoting science fiction in Britain, and is currently administered by the Serendip Foundation, a voluntary organisation created to oversee the ongoing delivery and development of the award.

The 2021 prize was won by Australian author Laura Jean McKay for her debut novel The Animals in That Country. Previous winners include Margaret Atwood, who won the first award in 1987 for The Handmaid’s Tale, and China Miéville.


Sarah Shaffi

The GuardianTramp

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