- The H-Bomb Girl by Stephen Baxter
- The Red Men by Matthew de Abaitua
- The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall
- The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
- The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod
- Black Man by Richard Morgan
That the Clarke award is esoteric and unpredictable is one of its charms. As its administrator, Tom Hunter, wrote in the press release announcing the shortlist, it "has always been about pushing at the speculative edges of its genre." It shouldn't come as a surprise that its nominees are not just the usual suspects, and yet I found myself oddly disappointed by those names' absence. When I asked myself why this was, I realized that I've reached the point where the Clarke is not just the only SFnal award I actually care about, but the only award which I believe still holds any relevance to the field. The Nebula long ago slid into irrelevance. The Hugo has come to be associated with the not-too-elevated tastes of an increasingly graying fan in-group. If you're looking for an award that has its finger on the pulse of what science fiction is today, and that seeks to recognize more than just entertainment and more than just cool ideas, the Clarke is pretty much it. Which is an odd position in which to place an award which was almost certainly envisioned, and has been functioning as, an alternative to mainstream SFnal awards (now there's an oxymoron for you).
With the Clarke holding on to the respectability that the Nebula, and to a lesser extent the Hugo, have lost, I automatically expected it to shoulder some of their responsibilities and move closer to the core of the field. This is unfair to the award's organizers and judges. It's not their fault that the other major awards in the field have become debased. It shouldn't be their job to take up the slack. And yet someone should.