Comparative Literature

Arthur C. Clarke Award: and the winner is…

2 August 2017

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The 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction has just been awarded to Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad (Random House, 2016), a novel set in pre-Civil War America. The novel concerns the plight of an escaped slave, Cora, who travels America on a fictional underground rail network.

Dr Paul March-Russell, Specialist Associate Lecturer in the Department of Comparative Literature and editor of Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction was on the panel of judges for the award.

A considerable number of titles were under consideration for the award. 'For me and the other judges, this was the conclusion to a process that had started almost a year earlier. In that time, we had read 86 novels, whittling that number down to a shortlist of six, and then the eventual winner,' explained Paul. 'All the judges developed their own criteria, but for me, I was looking to be surprised, to be disturbed from my comfort zone. That, after all, is what great science fiction – and great science fiction literature – does.'

Paul praised the winning title. 'The shortlist was generally regarded as one of the strongest in recent times, and The Underground Railroad, having already won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, has been warmly appreciated as the winner. It has all the makings of a modern classic, not unlike the first book to win the Clarke Award in 1987, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.'

'I've also received the welcome to next year's judging panel – Clarke Award judges are appointed on a two-year basis – so my office colleagues, you have been warned!'

Further details of the Arthur C. Clarke Award are available at:

Comparative Literature, School of European Culture and Languages, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

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Last Updated: 23/01/2014