Iain Banks, Booker Prizes and Science Fiction

I have listened to eight episodes of Transition so far. It’s quite good, but not as good as some of his best work like The Bridge or Matter. What is clear though, is that, no matter what his publishers might say, this is science fiction. Time travel, alternate realities – completely science fiction.

Which probably means he’s got even less chance of a Booker nomination if his mainstream stuff is going more speculative. There seems to have been a bit of a debate recently about the dearth of SF on the Booker list – see Kim Stanley Robinson’s comments, and the report in the latest Ansible. I had a look at the rules for the Booker and it seems that each publisher can only submit two books per imprint. Which I suppose means that if a large publisher has a specific SF imprint it could submit two books, but on the whole is going to mean they submit books that are ‘Booker’ books – i.e. safe, worthy historical novels that fit with the establishment, rather than anything different, radical, or interesting.

I’m guessing that the US equivalent of the Booker is the Pullitzer. I think it’s interesting that as well as being more interesting in general, ‘mainstream’ US literary culture can also consider SF stories such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for it’s top award.

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