I’d like to make a small observation regarding the reactions to the Shadow Clarke
Award that I’ve seen on social media. More time on Reddit and Twitter has been
spent voicing opposition to the shadow jury for viewing some of the Clarke Award
novels through the lens of commercial vs non-commercial. Many bytes have been
expended telling the shadow jury that this is a bad distinction to draw, with the
possible subtext that they shouldn’t think this way.
My opinion on if commercial vs non-commercial is a good (read: interesting) lens
to review the shortlist with is that it’s simply a device to filter preconceived
notions. I don’t presume that any of the jury take it to be the only critical
sieve available to them. There are surely other dialectic opposites they will
have considered using or will use in future reviews. As critical knives go, it’s
sharp, but also clumsy. A meat clever rather than a scalpel. Good for getting
the joints off the beast and dividing the parts into neat piles before proper
But I haven’t read all of the shadow panel’s reviews yet and they haven’t yet
published anything apart from a heavily edited conversation, so I may be proved
to be wrong.
And of course, audience participation is to be encouraged, but we should let
the project run its course before starting our dissections, least we vivisect
the subject to death.
I will end by saying that it is right that we consider it crass to send author’s
unsolicited negative reviews of their work. It should also be considered equally
crass to tell a critic what to write, to think, in their reviews while they are
still writing them. I say this not to close down conversation or opinion.
Everyone is free to disagree with everyone else. However, the words we write can
change the reader of those words. If we accept that, then it’s worth considering
in these discussions why we are attempting to drive that change. Is it to add
another opinion or is it an attempt to make someone else think the same as you?