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The Black Man commeth: Richard Morgan wins this year's Clarke award

01/05/2008. Contributed by Stephen Hunt

Buy Black Man in the USA - or Buy Black Man in the UK

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Science fiction author Richard Morgan has won this year's Arthur C Clarke award for best SF novel, with his title Black Man. He basically dedicated his acceptance speech to his mom, who sadly passed away while he was writing the book, causing it to be delivered a year late. In the US, this novel was released as Thirteen.

The ceremony opened with a rebuttal from Paul Billinger, Chair of the Judges, laughing at the conspiracy theories and rumours of secret agendas circulating on the internet about this year's choice of books. Just six novels chosen, and hotly argued over, by the handful of judges, from the 50 plus books submitted by publishers this year, was how he described it.

In Richard's acceptance speech ("Holy shit!" was the surprised opening line), as well as describing the influence his mother's values had on the book, he went on to say that it had proved a challenging work to write due to its content - which was also one of the reasons it took longer to finish than he (or his publisher, Gollancz) expected.

Richard did the usual Oscar thing and thanked his agent and his publisher and the team behind the work, and joked that he had to badger his agent to take on his first novel, Altered Carbon, as she initially turned it down three times ... she apparently only agreed to rep. him if he paid for the postage to post it out to publishers. "Good deal now, huh," he quipped (this is the book that was optioned as a movie for very large amounts of dosh).

There was also a rather poignant tribute to the recently passed away Arthur C Clarke, as you would expect, by Angie Edwards, Arthur's niece, where his generosity was praised (he helped out many fans and charities on the quiet over the years. "He lived and fed largely on his imagination," it was said, when describing his rather humble tastes for living, unchanged by his literary success.

Lots of familiar faces at the event, writers, editors etc, including the venerable Harry Harrison, our welsh chum Philip Palmer, and hard SF novelist Stephen Baxter. Harry from HarperCollins was in attendance, as was Bella Pagan from Orbit - whose name I think I will use in one of my next novels, if she agrees not to sue me. There were also plenty of actors in professional Star Wars costumes - imperial stormtroopers, a Darth Vader, Princess Leia (in slave girl costume), various Jedi knights and some imperial guards.

A big thanks to Pauline Morgan who was the judge for - the first year we've been a partner for the awards. She had to devour a truly monstrous amount of novels to get to the short-list! I don't think she (or we) knew what we were getting into.

A big thanks also to Tom Hunter, the award organizer, for whom this was practically another day job (but without the pay), and the award's sugar daddy, The London international festival of science fiction and fantastic film, for providing a great venue (and some yummy chocolate ice cream for all the guests).

Just as a reminder, the six shortlisted books were...

The Red Men: Matthew de Abaitua - Snowbooks.
The H-Bomb Girl: Stephen Baxter - Faber & Faber.
The Carhullan Army: Sarah Hall - Faber & Faber.
The Raw Shark Texts: Steven Hall - Canongate.
The Execution Channel: Ken MacLeod - Orbit.
Black Man: Richard Morgan - Gollancz.

It was in 2002 that Morgan's first novel Altered Carbon was published, combining cyberpunk and hardboiled detective fiction and introducing his anti-hero Takeshi Kovacs. The film rights for the book sold for $1 million to film producer Joel Silver, enabling Morgan to give up the old day job. In 2003 the US edition won the Philip K. Dick Award.

In 2003 Broken Angels was published, the sequel to Altered Carbon, again featuring Takeshi Kovacs and blending science fiction and war fiction in a similar way to his cross-genre début.

Market Forces, Morgan's first non-Kovacs novel, was set in the not too distant future. It was originally written as a short story, then as a screenplay (both unpublished). Morgan's third Kovacs novel, Woken Furies, was published in the UK in March 2005 and in the US in September 2005. Black Man was released in May 2007 in the UK and June 2007 in the USA.

Morgan is currently working on a new fantasy trilogy, the first volume of which has the working title 'A Land Fit for Heroes' (or The Steel Remains in the UK) and is anticipated to be published in late 2008 or early 2009.

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