Modest prize for prestigious writing award

South African author Lauren Beukes will receive exactly £2011, the same figure as the current year, after winning the prestigious Arthur C Clarke Award for science fiction for her novel Zoo City (published by Jacana).

The award, announced at a ceremony in London on Wednesday night, was created by British author Arthur C Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey) in 1987.

Considered one of the highest accolades in science fiction publishing, the award is adjudicated by members of the British Science Fiction Association, the Science Fiction Foundation and a third organisation, currently British web portal SF Crowsnest.

The novel’s cover, designed by Dale Halvorsen (aka Joey Hi-Fi), previously won an award for best cover art from the British Science Fiction Association.

The other titles nominated for the award, which honours the best new science fiction titles originally published in the United Kingdom, were The Dervish House (Ian McDonald), Monsters of Men (Patrick Ness), Generosity (Richard Powers), Declare (Tim Powers) and Lightborn (Tricia Sullivan).

The award was won for the third time last year by China Mieville for The City & The City. Past nominees have included Iain M Banks, Kazuo Ishiguro and Greg Bear. By convention, the monetary award reflects the current year.

Zoo City, Beukes’s second novel, and incorporates magic and fantasy in a dystopian, futuristic South Africa. In a recent interview with the Mail & Guardian she described her writing as “deeply rooted in contemporary urban South Africa and the interesting spaces where technology and culture intersect”.

The award’s first winner was Margaret Atwood and the list of winners is fairly evenly divided between men and women. Asked about perceptions that women sci-fi and fantasy writers are rare, Beukes said: “I get held up a lot as an example of that apparently rare specimen of ‘female science-fiction writer’, which is a little irritating. I don’t like being neatly categorised, labelled and filed away in a cabinet of curiosities.

“I’m not a ‘white South African female science fiction/fantasy writer’. I’m just a writer.”

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Lisa Van Wyk
Lisa van Wyk is the arts editor, which somehow justifies her looking at pretty pictures all day, reading cool art and culture blogs and having the messiest desk in the office. She likes people who share her passion for art, music, food, wine, travel and all things Turkish. She can't ride a bike, but she can read ancient languages and totally understands the offside rule.

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