Lauren Beukes wins the Arthur C. Clarke Award
Super South African Lauren Beukes last night received the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award for Literature at the Apollo Piccadilly in London for her second novel Zoo City. She is the first South African to be honoured with the award in its 25 year history.
The award is given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year. Established with a grant from Arthur C. Clarke in 1987, the winning book is chosen by a panel of judges from the British Science Fiction Association, the Science Fiction Foundation and a third organization, currently SF Crowsnest. The winner receives a prize consisting of a number of pounds sterling equal to the current year (£2011 for this year). In recent years, the award has been presented on the opening night of the Sci-Fi London film festival.
[pullquote]It’s a muti-noir set in a reimagined Johannesburg[/pullquote]In her acceptance speech, Beukes said that it was appropriate that the award coincided with the 17th anniversary of South Africa becoming a democracy as South Africa was a great country to live in and that its spirit echoes her book, with its blend of magic and technology.
She describes Zoo City as an urban fantasy. “It’s a muti-noir set in a reimagined Johannesburg. It’s the story of a girl with a sloth on her back, a dirty 419 habit and the magical ability to find lost things who gets drawn into a case to find a missing pop star.”
Ex-drug addict Zinzi December is a woman with a past, but that’s obvious from the Sloth on her back. FL (former life) she was a journalist, but now she lives in the South African slums of Zoo City, where most of the residents have been ‘animalled’. She’s become a Mashavi, which refers to both her animal familiar, Sloth, and her magical ability, which for her is to find lost things. Like others in this alternative present, her animal was thrust upon her by the shadowy Undertow, which came for her after her brother was killed by a bullet meant for her. Whether it’s a guilty conscience that has started to manifest physically, a godly punishment or, like the daemons in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (something hinted at in the book), part of their soul, being animalled in a society already suffering from other xenophobic attitudes is not conductive to an easy life.
[pullquote]A stunningly original urban fantasy[/pullquote]
In addition to the Arthur C. Clarke award, the books’ cover artwork received the 2010 BSFA award for best art. The book also received Kitschies Red Tentacle for the 2010 book that “best elevates the tone of geek culture”.
Laurens’ first novel was Moxyland, a speculative science fiction novel set in a future Cape Town. Both books were first published in South Africa by Jacana Publishing and released internationally by Osprey Publishing’s Angry Robot imprint. Her first book, the non-fiction Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past was long-listed for the 2006 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award.
Beukes has also published short stories in several anthologies including Home Away, Touch: Stories of Contact, Open: Erotic Stories from South African Women Writers, African Road: New Writing from Southern Africa, 180 Degrees: New Fiction By South African Women Writers. As a journalist, her articles have been published in a wide range of local and international magazines including The Hollywood Reporter, Nature Medicine and Colors as well as The Sunday Times Lifestyle, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan and SL Magazine.
She has also worked as head writer for Clockwork Zoo, where she was part of the development team that created South Africa’s first half-hour animated TV series, URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika and wrote 12 episodes of the Disney Playhouse show Florrie’s Dragons. She was also one of the writers, together with Ben Trovato and Tumiso Tsukudu on the pilot of ZA News.
Beukes is an avid member of South Africa’s growing group of Twitterati – you can follow her tweets here: http://twitter.com/#!/laurenbeukes and send her your congratulations directly.
Local readers can find Zoo City on Kalahari.net in multiple formats (softcover, trade paperback and ebook pdf). Foreign readers will find Zoo City on Amazon UK again in multiple formats, including a Kindle version.