The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Fleet) has been announced as the 31st winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the UK’s most prestigious prize for science fiction literature.
Andrew M Butler, Chair of Judges, said:
“I’m delighted the judges chose Colson Whitehead’s intensely moving The Underground Railroad. It’s a gripping account both of humanity’s inhumanity and the potential for resistance, underpinned by science fiction’s ability to make metaphor literal.”
In an acceptance speech read out by his publishing team, Colson Whitehead said: “This is wonderful news! Way back when I was ten years old, it was science fiction and fantasy that made me want to be a writer. If you were a writer, you could work from home, you didn’t have to talk to anybody, and you could just make up stuff all day. Stuff about robots and maybe zombies and maybe even miraculous railway lines. Fantasy, like realism, is a tool for describing the world, and I’m grateful that a book like The Underground Railroad, which could not exist without the toolkit of fantastic literature, is being recognized with the Arthur C. Clarke award.”
Award Director Tom Hunter added:
“2017 marks Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s centenary year, and The Underground Railroad is a much-deserved winner, a tribute to Sir Arthur’s original intent that the award be as inclusive as possible in defining its genre, and a book that demonstrates science fiction’s uncanny ability to be both of the moment and an enduringly powerful message for futures to come.”
The winner was announced on the evening of Thursday 27th July at a special ceremony held at the Foyles flagship bookshop on Charing Cross Road, London, and presented in front of an audience of science fiction writers, publishers and fans.
The evening also marked 2017 as a year of anniversary celebrations for Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s centenary, with a toast from the audience and award director Tom Hunter revealing commemorative plans for a new science fiction anthology featuring stories from both past winning and shortlisted authors where every story will be precisely 2001 words long, and a music project releasing a science fiction score inspired by Sir Arthur’s famous ‘Three Laws’ quotes.
Colson Whitehead receives a trophy in the form of a commemorative engraved bookend and prize money of £2017.00.
The judging panel for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2017 were:
• Shana Worthen, British Science Fiction Association
• Una McCormack, British Science Fiction Association
• Andrew McKie, Science Fiction Foundation
• Paul March-Russell, Science Fiction Foundation
• Charles Christian, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival
Andrew M. Butler represented the Arthur C. Clarke Award in a non-voting role as the Chair of the Judges.