Nigerian writer wins UK’s most prestigious prize for science fiction novels
British-born Nigerian writer Tade Thompson Wednesday won the Arthur C Clarke award, the UK’s most prestigious prize for science fiction novels at a ceremony in Foyles bookshop in London.
Thompson’s novel, Rosewater, an alien invasion novel set in a future Africa, was submitted alongside 124 other novels, the highest number ever submitted for the prize, to emerge as the winner.
Rosewater bested five other books including Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad, Sue Burke’s Semiosis, Yoon Ha Lee’s Revenant Gun, Simon Stålenhag’s illustrated novel The Electric State and Aliya Whiteley’s The Loosening Skin.
The award came with a trophy and the £2,019 prize.
Founded in 1987, the Arthur C Clarke Award is presented annually for the best science fiction novel published in the UK in the previous calendar year.
“Tade Thompson…expertly explores the nature of the alien, global power structures and pervasive technologies with a winning combination of science-fictional invention, gritty plotting and sly wit,” said Andrew M Butler, the chief judge of the award.
Butler added that the judging process was “an incredibly close but good-natured argument”.
Rosewater, which won the 2017 Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novel, and was a finalist for John W Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 2019 and the 2018 British Science Fiction Award, set in 2066, follows a community at the edge of a mysterious alien bio-dome in rural Nigeria. The dome opens once a year and heals all sick people nearby.
But it begins to influence people in strange ways, and when a telepathic government agent named Kaaro learns that others like him are dying, he decides to search for an answer.
Thompson is the first Nigerian to win the award and also the second African author to win the prestigious award after a South African writer Lauren Beukes won the 2011 edition of the prize for her novel Zoo City.
A Nigerian–American writer Nnedi Okorafor was shortlisted in 2016 for The Book of Phoenix.