Read The Story That Helped An SF Book Compete With A Booker Prize-Winning Author

Chris Beckett's story collection The Turing Test has gotten shortlisted for the prestigious Edge Hill Prize, and you can read the title story online. Meanwhile, the alternate-history Sidewise Awards also named their finalists.

Beckett's book is straight-up SF, featuring robots, computers, virtual reality, alien planets and genetic manipulation. Reviewing the book earlier this year, the Guardian echoed the book's introduction, saying "Beckett should 'be on the radar of anyone who professes concern for science fiction as a literary form.'" Beckett's main competition for the £5000 Edge Hill Prize is Anne Enright, a Booker Award-winning author whose story collection Yesterday's Weather is her first work since her prize-winning novel. (The Edge Hill Prize is Britain's only award for short-story collections.)

You can read the title story of The Turing Test online, and it's well worth checking out. In a dystopian future, Jessica runs a gallery where art increasingly involves human body parts and is designed to shock and appall bystanders. And in this somewhat dehumanizing world, she gets a virtual "personal assistant" who feels more real and human than her real-life boyfriend. But she comes to realize that part of what makes her personal assistant, Ellie, so believable, is that unlike her boyfriend, Ellie has a secret agenda that may not be entirely benign. It's a pretty thought-provoking story, although it's maybe a tad too slight and glib.

Meanwhile, Beckett's not the only SF author to come to the attention of literary awards. Ellen Klages' novel White Sands, Red Menace has reportedly won the young-adult category of the California Book Awards. Her book takes place in 1946, eight months after World War II and right at the beginning of the Cold War paranoia, when a family moves to New Mexico to take part in missile testing. School Library Journal wrote: "When a historical novel feels contemporary because the emotions and characters feel like they exist in the here and now, that's the mark of a great book, my friend. One of Klages' real talents is the balance of the past and the present. She takes great pains to remain historically accurate."

Also, the Sidewise Awards, which recognize alternate history stories and novels, have named their finalists for 2009:

Short Form

* Tobias Buckell, "The People's Machine", Sideways in Crime: An Alternate Mystery Anthology (ed. Lou Anders), BL/Solaris 2008
* Albert E. Cowdrey, "Poison Victory", The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 2008
* Paul McAuley, "A Brief Guide to Other Histories", Postscripts #15, September 2008
* T. L. Morganfield, "Night Bird Soaring", Greatest Uncommon Denominator #3 (Autumn 2008) (Available on GUD website)
* Mary Rosenblum, "Sacrifice", Sideways in Crime: An Alternate Mystery Anthology (ed. Lou Anders), BL/Solaris 2008
* Kristine Kathryn Rusch, "G-Men", Sideways in Crime: An Alternate Mystery Anthology (ed. Lou Anders), BL/Solaris 2008

Long Form

* George Mann, The Affinity Bridge, Snowbooks 2008
* Terry Pratchett, Nation, HarperCollins/Doubleday UK 2008
* Chris Roberson, The Dragon's Nine Sons, BL/Solaris 2008
* Adam Roberts, Swiftly, Gollancz 2008
* Jo Walton, Half a Crown, Tor 2008

[National Post and SF Awards Watch]