In its original version the long post below, about the 2012 shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, opened with a few caustic remarks about the thrillers of Mark Billingham, which I do not like. I started the post as an informal update about the Oxford Festival, but the essay quickly took a new direction and I launched into the long and now fairly notorious polemic about the Clarke shortlist. Some four hours later, the opening lines about Mark Billingham still seemed to be relevant, as he and I had been debating genre orthodoxies at the Festival. I left them in place.
However, several people have pointed out that Mr Billingham has nothing at all to do with the Clarke Award, and my acerbic comments looked like a gratuitous attack on him. It was not intended that way, but with enough time having passed I took the point. I’ve therefore removed all mention of Mark Billingham from the essay, which otherwise remains untouched. Apologies to Mark Billingham for the unintentional but clumsy crossfire.
In person Mark Billingham is articulate and pleasant, and we got along fine while we worked together. I still didn’t like his books, but that was irrelevant on the day. He was pretty upset when I published what I did, but we swiftly exchanged a few emails and peace has been restored. Ruffled feathers have been smoothed, hurt feelings alleviated. He probably won’t like my stuff.
Incidentally, Charlie Stross has acted with vast and good-humoured magnanimity after my remarks about his book, below. He probably doesn’t like my stuff either, but at least we laugh about the same things. Go Charlie!