The British Science Fiction Community was thrown into disarray this week after two undercover Guardian journalists, Alison Flood and Damien Walter, claimed to have obtained footage of a juror for the Arthur C. Clarke Award agreeing to fix the results of the short list in return for a substantial bribe. The affair is believe to be connected to a betting scam based on the popular Guess the Clarke Short List game run by the online gambling company, Vector. Flood and Walter say they have sent a copy of their evidence to the Metropolitan Police.
Mr. Tom Hunter, the Chief Executive of the Clarke Award, dismissed the allegations as nonsense. “This is just two desperate journalists making up a story for the muck-raking media”, he commented. “Flood and Walter have been camped outside my flat for weeks hoping to get a scoop on the short list before it was announced. Once I even caught Walter going through my waste bin, but I think that’s because journalists are so badly paid these days. I had just thrown away half a hot Cornish pasty. There will be more detailed allegations of misconduct in my forthcoming submission to the Leveson Inquiry.”
Political and religious figures have been quick to weigh in on the controversy. In Pakistan Imran Khan said he was not surprised about the allegations. “What can you expect from a country that gives literary awards to Salman Rushdie?”, he asked. Britain’s Prime Minister, Call-Me-Dave Cameron, hit back angrily. “It’s clearly not enough for Mr. Khan for his cricket team to have thrashed us 3-0 in the recent test series, now he has to rub it in by being rude about our science fiction awards too. I was so upset by his comments that I had to whip Clegg for almost half an hour before I could calm down. There is a word for this, and that word is ‘bullying’. I will be asking the United Nations to consider an emergency motion on the subject of cyber-bullying by politicians from foreign countries. And if Mr. Khan doesn’t apologize immediately I shall tell Mr. Obama on him and we’ll carpet-bomb a small Muslim nation into oblivion. So there!”
Newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Paul Cornell, placed emphasis on the morality of gambling. “It seems that someone may have been very naughty here”, he said, “and in the Anglican Church, as of policy adopted at our last synod, we frown on naughtiness. People shouldn’t do it. I don’t have the eyebrows to frown as well as my illustrious predecessor, but frowning I am.”
Other religious leaders were less restrained. One such was Rev. Christopher Islander, the High Priest of the Wessex Baptist Church, a small fundamentalist sect whose tenets include the belief that the Israeli philosopher, Lavie Tidhar, is the new messiah. Islander’s church is quite popular amongst the London arts community where members are often known as “lavies” in recognition of their faith. Islander fulminated at length on the evils of the Clarke Award in his sermon this morning, calling for the jury to be burned at the stake and their remains thrown into a pit of boiling lava. He described the authors of the short-listed books as “demon-spawn”, “sons and daughters of Satan”, “avatars of Evil”, “a stinking pile of foetid LOLcat feces” and, more unusually, as “Internet puppies”. Members of the Wessex Church are now picketing the Clarke Award offices in St. Johns Wood waving placards that read “God Hates Dogs”.
Not everyone is impressed with Islander’s statements. Damien Walter claims to have a fresh scoop. “I paid a cat burglar to raid the offices of Rev. Islander’s psychiatrist”, he said. “I can now exclusively reveal that Islander is a frustrated science fiction writer. He’s been worried about declining membership of his church and thinks he will do better if he could emulate his idol, L. Ron Hubbard, and write blockbuster SF as well as found a religion.”
The Clarke Award jury has been largely silent on the matter, though Juliet McKenna did generously offer to meet Rev. Islander as discuss the matter with him privately over an Aikido mat.
The authors attacked by Islander have been more forthcoming. Sheri Tepper released a statement that was read to journalists for her by her secretary, a horse named Ed. The text was as follows:
“As I have often written, patriarchal religions of the sort led by Rev. Islander are a scourge upon the planet. For the good of all the species of Earth we should cull all male religious leaders like the pestilence they are. There can be no leniency, no exceptions.”
Charles Stross made no comment, but did let his tongue hang out and panted enthusiastically. His partner, Feòrag, commented happily, “this has done wonders for Charlie’s training. I lined his litter tray with photographs of Rev. Islander, and now his poop is on target every time.”
Speaking from his Seattle home, Greg “Killer B” Bear said, “I am so happy to have another excuse to go to Merrie Olde London. I love that city. It is so great to visit somewhere that hasn’t changed since the days of Dickens, Austen and Shakespeare. I’m really looking forward to seeing those great London landmarks such as Big Ben, Bucking Ham Palace, Stone Hinge and the Eiffel Tower. And if I meet that Islander guy there I’ll happily give him a bloody nose.”
The scandal has come to the attention of worldwide literary bodies. Speaking for the International Awards Association, Mr. Kevin Standlee called for a full and frank inquiry to be carried out by the England & Wales Science Fiction Board. “Corruption in literary awards will not be tolerated”, said Standlee. If the England & Wales Board cannot clear up this matter to our satisfaction then we may be forced to impose sanctions, up to and including denying their request to host the World Science Fiction Contest in London in 2014. If necessary we will relocate the event to Glasgow, a nearby city that has a distinguished record of hosting the event.
British fandom has also been discussing the scandal enthusiastically. Mr. Richard Bheerbhelly, who describes himself as a life-long BSFA member and someone who has attended every Eastercon since it was founded in 1833, was scathing in his condemnation of the Clarke. “I am delighted that this has been exposed at last”, he said. “I have suspected for some time that the Clarke was corrupt. Nothing else could explain the fact that fine science novels such as The Eye of Argon, March of the Robots, Battlefield Earth, Atlanta Nights and the Wheel of Time series have failed to win the Clarke. None of these jurors have any idea what true hard science fiction is.”
Another British fan, Mr. Jonathan Agnew, blamed America. “Our finest writers are being lured abroad to write in the American Premier Literary League for silly money. Everyone knows that the juries for the Hugos, Nebulas and Locus Awards are on the make. You only have to look at the luxurious, jet-setting lifestyle they lead to realize that they must be raking it in. No wonder our British lads and lasses are tempted.”
The UK publishing industry has been quick to cash in on the crisis. Noted science fiction satirist, A.R.R.R.R.R.R. Roberts, has been contracted to write a series of darkly humorous thrillers set in the high finance world of science fiction awards. The Clarke Inheritance is already written and in production, with The Clarke Legacy due to follow next week and several more sequels planned. The dashing young hero of the books, Tim Huntsman, fights an increasingly bizarre series of foreign plots against British science fiction while investigating the possibility that he is the secret son of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. A Hollywood studio has already taken out an option on the first book, though it is understood that the story will be changed for the movie so that it can be set in Los Angeles and feature the Hugo Awards instead of the Clarke.
Author Norman Nobbish, whose self-published novel, Cyber-Wolf Pirates of the Death Galaxy, was overlooked for this year’s Clarke, will be challenging the Award results in the courts. On his blog he said:
“Corruption in the Clarke has cost me million’s in unpayed royalty’s. I demand to be constipated not only for this but for the billon’s I wood have received from the movie that wood have been made from my book had I one as I deserved!!!”
Meanwhile Hunter is becoming increasingly frustrated with the affair. Speaking from in front of his office, and struggling to make himself heard above the constant chanting of “God Hates Dogs”, he said, “all of the work on this award is done by volunteers, and in this climate of fear no one is willing to help out. I have to go to my day job now, so I can’t talk to you any more. I need help. Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”
[My apologies to non-UK readers who might not be 100% up on such urgent matters of British politics as betting scandals in cricket and PastyGate. I have tried to provide informative links where possible so as to establish the veracity of this story.]