To the Clarke Awards last night in London’s glamorous West End; shoehorned into the underground bar in the Apollo cinema on Lower Regent Street.
(Lisa Tuttle explained to the Times last week about the award, its controversies and this year’s nominees.)
Arrived soaked by rain and weirded out by all the folk in really very impressive Star Wars costumes. Was it all in aid of added showbiz gloss, or a ruse to get some interest from the media? The Clarke Awards, after all, only celebrate unsexy stuff like books. Or was this instead some kind of ill-thought-through tribute? The first awards since the death of Sir Arthur, and I wondered what he’d think.
Nope, turns out they’re all there for a film, being shown after the book stuff. But I did have the splendid joy of Darth Vader trying to squeeze past me and J., perhaps trying to reach the free beer. And in a very unSith-like manner, asking politely, “Excuse me.”
Didn’t trip over on the way into the ceremony this time, and sat and ate ice cream and gossiped until they made the announcement. Hooray for Richard Morgan who seemed endearingly amazed. And hooray for more beer and gossip afterwards.
There was my boss Andrew Sewell basking in Blake’s 7 telly. There was Paul Cornell, who – what with the Stormtroopers jostling around us – I described as my own Master Yoda. And then decided he was more my Emperor Palpatine and I was his Darth Maul. By the time I was suggesting that I’d have to throw him off a balcony into the heating system of the Death Star, and that he’d explode for no very good reason and so restore balance and stuff to the Force… Well, he deftly, fearfully walked away.
There was also the SFX gang and the Pan Macmillan gang and Anthony Brown on behalf of all things Visimag. And I realised only after he must have left that one familiar seeming bloke used to be one of my tutors, who I’d not seen since I graduated almost a decade ago. Gah. Patrick Parrinder inspired my paper on Iain Banks and utopia, and marvellously pointed out that, from evidence in the text, the Martians launched their war of the worlds out of what seems to be a giant space cannon.
Excitingly, I did get to say hello to Ken MacLeod. Was, I asked, Trotskyite science-fiction just him spotting a niche? And he started to say no and we almost got talking. Then some bloke came over to say Ken had should have won, and Ken began to explain he was very happy with it being Richard Morgan, and someone needed to get past to reach the free beer and then I was out of his orbit…
And ended up in a silly discussion about how one might improve the Clarke’s? What about additional, less distinguished awards for sci-fi films and telly? Or, because no else does this, adverts thieving sci-fi stuff? That dancing transforming Corsa, for example. (It might not actually be a Corsa ad, but that’s what we geeks called it.) And what happens to the driver when his car morphs into a robot? Is he splattered all over the dashboard?
You see; thinking through the consequences of new technology. One day I’ll be on the Clarke shortlist.