Canary Fever by John Clute (Beccon)
“I Didn’t Dream of Dragons” by Deepa D
“Ethics and Enthusiasm” by Hal Duncan
“Mutant Popcorn” by Nick Lowe (Interzone)
A Short History of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James (Middlesex University Press)
It's great company to be in. I haven't read the Clute or the Mendlesohn/James, but I can't imagine they're not more than deserving. And am I right in thinking Nick Lowe still hasn't had any official plaudits for his Interzone film reviewing? Cause if so, it's about fricking time. And as for Deepa D's piece? For my money it's probably the best thing anyone had to say during that racism-in-the-genre shitstorm, period. It's an intelligent, illuminating and important perspective on the commercial strange fiction genres, so it's awesome to see it nominated. I'd encourage you to read it, and I'd encourage you to encourage others to read it.
In fact, it occurs to me that maybe I have an opportunity to put my money where my mouth is here. Frankly, that Deepa D post is of far more relevance to sf than my... critique of critique. Had we been talking about, say, the "To the Water-Fountains" BSC Review column, I might have felt differently. Hell, there's plenty of other theoretical critique on this blog that is written as actual commentary on the medium from a literary perspective. But this piece? It has, at best, a circumstantial relationship to the field, in that it happened to be written as a response to a particular discourse / specific events that happened to be going down within the field; as a commentary on critique in general its scope is neither limited to nor even focused upon strange fiction. When I saw that it was on the longlist, I was well chuffed to see it get a nod, but I really wasn't expecting it to make the final cut, so I hadn't actually thought about this much until now. Now that it's shortlisted... I have to say I don't really see how it fits the eligibility criteria of being "about science fiction and/or fantasy".
With that in mind, now, admittedly I don't think it has a hope in hell of winning, but then I didn't think it had a hope in hell of making the shortlist, so on the off-chance that it does... I think it would be criminal for my exploration of modes of critique to be accorded more status and attention than the exploration of issues of representation and diversity carried out by Deepa D, especially when those issues are precisely born of a disparity of status and attention. It would, I feel, be validating the very situation that requires redress if the BSFA Awards were to valorise abstractions that bear only a passing relevance to the field over a commentary that bears directly on its practical, political realities, not least because of the disparities of privilege at play here. It's awesome to have people take note of what I say from my platform, but in this case I'm going to use that platform to say, there are other voices you should be listening to first.
In short, as much as I'm loathe to reject this honour, and grateful as I am to those who voted me onto the shortlist, I'm going to decline the nomination on the grounds that this work is not of sufficient relevance to the field. It may have been sparked off by a debate within the field, but that same debate could just as easily have occurred elsewhere. Its inclusion on the ballot therefore seems to me... inappropriate. A mark of my inclusion in the discourse itself. I profoundly appreciate this as a token of respect for the specific work and as an indication that such broad concerns might be considered valid subjects within the science fiction and fantasy community -- it's great to see the net being cast so wide -- but ultimately the tangential relevance of this post is simply not comparable to the direct relevance of the other nominated works, and I would not have it stand as a contender where it can only receive status and attention at the expense of a more worthy candidate.
So, with the utmost gratitude to those who put it there, and more than a little reticence because of course I'd fucking love a BSFA Award for non-fiction, I'd like to respectfully withdraw "Ethics and Enthusiasm" from the running, and leave the contest to those works which bear directly on the field.
I'm going to regret this as soon as I post it, aren't I?