Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything

Christopher Priest vs. the Clarke Awards

Christopher Priest has sent the science-fiction-reading portion of the Internet into a tizzy with his screed denouncing the shortlist for the 2012 Arthur C. Clarke award, which contains all sorts of spleen-venting invective of the sort that (1) British literari seem to excel at and (2) is kind of fun to read, so long as you’re not the target. Charlie Stross, one of said targets, took things in stride and made a T-shirt. Here are some other reactions: Cheryl Morgan, John Scalzi, Charles Tan, Catherynne Valente, Jeff VanderMeer, Damien Walter; the kerfuffle also made the Guardian and MetaFilter. Many of said reactions occupy an awkward middle ground between agreeing with some (but not all) of Priest’s arguments and discomfort with the attacks Priest made on other writers. (It turns out that there is much unhappiness with the shortlist this year.)

My first thought was that Priest was auditioning to replace Norman Spinrad’s review column in Asimov’s. (That’s an in-joke. Did you do a spit-take? You’re in.) Nasty literary criticism isn’t something many of us are comfortable with (we’re all fen here, right?), but it does have a venerable tradition; the trick is making sure it’s about the work, not the person. (Quick review. “This book sucks” is not a personal attack. “This writer isn’t trying hard enough” is not a personal attack. “This writer smells and his children are retarded” — that’s a personal attack.)