Laura Jean McKay wins Arthur C Clarke Award | Arthur C Clarke Award

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Twenty years before Margaret Atwood won the first Arthur C Clarke Prize for her seminal novel The Handmaid’s Tale, she published a poem titled The animals of this country. Now Laura Jean McKay, who borrowed the title from Atwood’s poem for her first novel, has won the prestigious award, with judges praising her story of a pandemic that allows humans to understand the language of animals to “reposition[ing] once again the frontiers of science fiction ”.

The Arthur C Clarke Award was originally created with a grant from Clarke and is awarded the Best Sci-Fi Novel of the Year. Previous winners include some of the biggest names in the genre, from China Miéville to Christopher Priest, but this year, six first writers were shortlisted. Australian novelist McKay won the award for The Animals in That Country, a description of a world where a “zooflu” epidemic allows “better communication between humans and non-human animals”, which drives many people crazy. . When Jean’s son, a wildlife park guide, loses his sanity and leaves with his daughter Kimberly to find out what whale song really means, she follows him, along with Sue the dingo.

‘Reposition[ing] the frontiers of science fiction once again ‘… Laura Jean McKay. Photography: Arthur C Clarke Prize

“In many ways Laura’s book could be considered a first contact novel, only the multiple alien species encountered by mankind have always shared Earth with us,” said award director Tom Hunter. “In this way the novel speaks for the silent victims of our real-world climate crises, but while the environmental and social themes are deeply serious, our judges also praised the book’s dark humor, sense of character and sense of purpose. place, and its active opposition to easy genre tropes.

McKay said it was a “great honor” to win the Clarke Prize alongside former winner Atwood, after borrowing the title from her poem.

“It’s an award for readers and writers who share a love of literature who dares to imagine side, backward and future worlds to try and make sense of the world we live in now. Speculative fiction – the kind of sci-fi that I love – particularly reflects our times as it often unfolds realistically, with extraordinary events (pandemics! Extinction! Talking animals!), ”She said .

“For the judges of Arthur C Clarke to recognize a novel that describes how we humans relate to other animals and environments is such an exciting result – for me (of course) but also for the many people who care about it. state of the planet. And winning on such an extraordinary list this year is mind-boggling. “

McKay, who once won Australia’s richest literary award, the $ 100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature, for her novel, said when she began writing that she sought to recreate the “moment of” wonder ”that can occur in the desert.

“When I go for a bush walk in New Zealand or Australia, I am always on the lookout for that wild encounter moment – where you see a kererū bird or an echidna and you are speechless in wonder,” said she declared. “But that moment changes a lot if the animals start to communicate. In addition to curiosity, our contact with other animals is often tense, violent, and deeply uneven. In The Animals in That Country, I wanted the human characters to step back and let the animals speak. What would they have to say? I bet that’s not what we want to hear… I figured if I could write a book that did that, I (and other readers) could stop and listen to the animals in our lives too.

McKay was chosen as the winner by a jury led by Dr Andrew Butler from a shortlist that also included The Infinite by Patience Agbabi and Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu.

“For 35 years, the Clarke Prize has promoted not only the best of science fiction, but also new ways to define and explore it,” said Hunter. “Laura’s victory once again reposition the boundaries of science fiction, and we are delighted to welcome her to the genre.”

McKay wins a prize of £ 2,021, as part of a tradition that sees the annual amount of awards gradually increasing year by year starting with the year 2001 in memory of Clarke, of which 2001: A Space Odyssey was published in 1968.


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