Episode 177: Kij Johnson, science fiction and the Booker Prize

As snow and ice freeze the North American heartlands, long-time friend of the podcast Kij Johnson agreed to travel across a frozen Kansas City to find a place where she could Skype in to the Waldorf Room to join Gary and Jonathan in discussion.

This time Gary threw out a question to kick start the discussion: which science fiction writer is most likely to win the Booker Prize, and which one is most likely to top the New York Times and Amazon bestseller lists? It proved a good start to a thoughtful discussion that wandered far and wide, although we’d contend not much rambling happened this week.

As always, we’d like to thank Kij for joining us, and hope you enjoy the podcast. Next week Jonathan travels to Melbourne, so who knows what will happen there!

4 thoughts on “Episode 177: Kij Johnson, science fiction and the Booker Prize”

  1. Really enjoyed this discussion. I can’t help but think a major hinderance to literary recognition of science fiction is the fact the field internally awards popular rather than literary works. When literary readers are looking to branch out, I believe most would look at what the genre awards as ‘the best’, rather than invest the effort to understand what genre connoisseurs understand to be the cream of the crop. After all, literary award organizers have a rigorous set of standards locating nominees. When these curious literary readers digest a little J.K. Rowling, John Scalzi, Robert Sawyer, Vernor Vinge, etc.–all winners of the ‘most prestigious award’ in the genre, the Hugo–it must be a disappointment. These writers are not the best of the genre, only among the most popular. It must be a disappointment that confirms their low opinion of genre.

    In other words, I can’t help but think science fiction shoots itself in the foot when looking for literary recognition by awarding works with popular rather than literary merit.

    So, is there a way to promote the literary qualities of the genre such that the literary community becomes more aware, and therefore appreciative?

  2. So far as SF and the Booker goes, this year I’ll be interested to see what happens to the new David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks, which apparently starts in 1984 and ends in 2044. Of his five previous books, two have been longlisted for the Booker and two shortlisted, so it’s got to be in with a shot.

    So far as The Water Knife goes, it looks like that’s been pushed back to this time next year.

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