"Speaking as an outsider from California and as a science fiction writer I see these very brilliant writers doing excellent work who are never in the running at all, for no reason except their genre and who their publishers are – the so-called club members. It just needs to be said...
The Booker prize is so big, the way it shapes public consciousness of what is going on in British literature, but the avant garde, the leading edge, is being ignored or shut out of the process entirely."
The judges, Robinson argues, "judge in ignorance and give their awards to what usually turn out to be historical novels."
Interestingly, the response from the Booker judges is mixed. The Chair of this year's panel, James Naughtie, concedes Robinson's point but points the finger at the publishers: "There has always been a debate about whether the prize is sufficiently sensitive to all the forms of contemporary writing. He may well have a point. We judge books that are submitted. The fact is that the science fiction component this year was very, very thin. If it is the best contemporary fiction in this country then most publishers haven't yet tumbled to the fact."
However, another judge - John Mullan, Professor of English at University College in London - displayed the typical arrogance and disdain for the genre that we've come to expect from the literati - "When I was 18 it was a genre as accepted as other genres, but now it is in a special room in book shops, bought by a special kind of person who has special weird things they go to and meet each other."
It's all very well saying that the publishers are at fault for not submitting more SF novels for consideration, but why would they when the prevailing attitude of the Booker judges is probably well represented by Mullan's amusing ignorance? Simple fact is, SF is looked down on by the literati, and publishers submitting more of it to the Booker prize isn't going to make a shred of difference.