Sunday 26 June 2011

Johnny Ball, the Man Booker and 1984

They’ve stripped Johnny Ball of his Liquin Award. Sweeping the votes for his novel Paint Dries one of the judges some weeks later has actually learned from a review that Johnny Ball can make anything interesting, even as here paint drying. The Liquin committee defended criticism that suggested they had not read the novel by pointing out that most of the reviews for Paint Dries came about as a result of the award. This being so they could not possibly have learned as to whether it was worth reading without the use of a time machine. Since time machines aren’t real, the Liquin Award can have nothing to do with them.
Established as recently as 2009, the Liquin Award instantly became the most important literary award in the market due to its prize being twice that of the Man Booker. The Man Booker that does occasionally get granted to novels in which things that happened, might not have, has long been criticised for encouraging genre fiction. Genre fiction writers were heard to scroff into their plates of own-brand baked beans and dry sliced white they stole from the ducks (but no one listens to them). But by ignoring genre fiction the Man Booker at least acknowledged it was there. The Princess on detention with The Criminal.
The Liquin encourages, demands, more realism in fiction. Indeed, more fact and a lot less fiction. Its committee recently commended Stephen King’s most recent works for steering clear of the supernatural and has recommended that Alan Moore’s writing be less comic’y. The Gormenghast trilogy is to be edited to involve less castles, murder and Steerpike. Conversely the Liquin does commend especially bad genre fiction for its role in promoting by contrast proper works of fiction by writers, about writers, having affairs at farmer’s markets, with members of the Liquin committee. Recently both Paris Hilton’s ongoing detective series (the ‘Paris & Hilton’ novels) and Katie Price’s sci-fi best seller (‘Jor’dan In Space, And Stuff’) have been warmly applauded now that the industry only allows ghost-writing, by ghosts. Who must never write about being a ghost. Because there aren’t any, and officially so after the recent and revised edition of the Complete P.D. James that saw only the word ‘James’ remain cover-to-cover.
So enjoy your latest copy of Interzone because from next month on it’s been taken over by New Scientist. We are promised factual snortles, just like The Big Bang Theory (but without the references to comics, science fiction, fantasy, laughs or Penny that just get in the way of a wry quip by Sheldon). Raised hands by those that wished to suggest the good bits in New Scientist have been told to look forward to none of that anymore – but were thanked for pointing them out.
The Liquin committee have denied their actions are in any way Orwellian, especially as regards the re-issue of 1984 in which Winston Smith now enjoys the Sarajevo Winter Olympics and sings along to Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas.


  1. Huge belly laughs, still chuckling. Got a true story about only one word (actually 3) left in a manuscript after it had been churned around by various over zealous execs who were determined to place their 'mark' on it so as to claim some ownership.