I’m thrilled and honoured that Dreams Before the Start of Time has won the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award.
It’s been a whirlwind year! My novella The Enclave won the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Short Fiction. Dreams Before the Start of Time reached the shortlist for the BSFA Award for Best Novel.
A Calculated Life, my debut novel, was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick and The Kitschies Golden Tentacle Awards.
Photo by Marzena Pogorzaly
Dreams Before the Start of Time
Winner of the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award
In a near-future London, Millie Dack places her hand on her belly to feel her baby kick, resolute in her decision to be a single parent. Across town, her closest friend—a hungover Toni Munroe—steps into the shower and places her hand on a medic console. The diagnosis is devastating.
In this stunning, bittersweet family saga, Millie and Toni experience the aftershocks of human progress as their children and grandchildren embrace new ways of making babies. When infertility is a thing of the past, a man can create a child without a woman, a woman can create a child without a man, and artificial wombs eliminate the struggles of pregnancy. But what does it mean to be a parent? A child? A family?
Through a series of interconnected vignettes that spans five generations and three continents, this emotionally taut story explores the anxieties that arise when the science of fertility claims to deliver all the answers.
Paperback, Kindle eBook and Audiobook
Published by 47North. Cover art by David Drummond
“Charnock pulls hard on the parent’s universal worry—that no matter what we do and how much we want the best for our children, somehow we aren’t doing it right—in a skillfully executed multigenerational saga that explores a potential future driven by rapid development of reproductive technologies…A story that feels personal and intimate.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“highly enjoyable and thought-provoking…The willingness to experiment with viewpoint through time, as well as present a human agenda (what little science fiction these days can say that), make the novel very worthwhile. The futuristic technology depicted is extremely likely—in development as we speak—making the novel groundbreaking.” —Jesse Hudson, Speculiction
“Charnock’s work is focused on character, and this is a deceptively small-focus, intimate study. It’s reminiscent of Cloud Atlas in a way, pinwheeling between characters as we move forward in time—but as the novel progresses it becomes clear just how wide a remit Charnock is aiming for, and just how successfully she covers it. This is a novel about the evolution of family and humanity and how inextricably they’re tied together. It’s a unique, challenging, and immensely successful story.” —Alasdair Stuart, TOR.com
“Not a sequel to Charnock’s previous novel, Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind so much as its organic successor, Dreams Before the Start of Time is a luminous, deftly crafted and occasionally disturbing portrait of the future we may be entering. A novel that explores the notion of family in all its myriad permutations, Dreams Before the Start of Time is science fiction at its most contemplative, asking intriguing questions about human reproduction, gender identity and interpersonal relationships and providing thought-provoking answers on a human scale. Anne Charnock’s third novel leaves the reader in no doubt of her evolving talent, and showcases all that is most imaginative and forward-thinking in British science fiction right now.”—Nina Allan, author of The Rift
“Charnock explores what the family of the future will look like, as well as how society and pregnancy will change. Deceptively intimate, this is big-idea SF reminiscent of the societal changes mapped across generational sagas like Foundation or the Mars trilogy.” —Locus Magazine
“Charnock’s interest is always in the human aspect first: her characters are real, living, breathing individuals; lost in some ways, directive in others.…With Dreams Before the Start of Time already on my Best SF of 2017 list, Anne Charnock is now solidified as one of my favorite SF authors.” —From Couch to Moon
“Charnock’s third novel is a beautifully nuanced exploration of future developments in fertility science. The science underpinning the narrative is subtle and unobtrusive, allowing the novel to shine on the neuroses of its large, three-generational cast of characters as they struggle to come to terms with the decisions of their parents. As with her previous novels, Charnock is marvellous at communicating a huge amount in a short space.” —E.J. Swift, author of The Osiris Project series
“This is an excellent novel, and a worthy successor to the very wonderful Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind.” —Adam Roberts, author of The Thing Itself
“Philip K. Dick Award finalist Charnock follows the progression of reproductive science across people in five generations…The reader will experience not only the changing views of society at large, but also the progression of the characters’ views as new opportunities arise for the next wave of parents. None of the technology seems far-fetched, leaving the reader to wonder whether this is predictive fiction.” —Booklist
Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind
Included in The Guardian’s Best SFF Books of 2015
History is story telling
But some stories remain untold
In fifteenth-century Italy, Paolo Uccello recognizes the artistic talent of his young daughter, Antonia, and teaches her how to create a masterpiece. The girl composes a painting of her mother and inadvertently sparks an enduring mystery.
In the present day, a copyist painter receives a commission from a wealthy Chinese businessman to duplicate a Paolo Uccello painting. Together, the painter and his teenage daughter visit China, and in doing so they begin their escape from a tragic family past.
In the twenty-second century, a painting is discovered that’s rumoured to be the work of Paolo Uccello’s daughter. This reawakens an art historian’s dream of elevating Antonia Uccello, an artist ignored by history because of her gender.
Stories untold. Secrets uncovered
But maybe some mysteries should remain shrouded
Paperback, Kindle eBook and Audiobook
Published by 47North. Cover art by M S Corley
“Anne Charnock’s Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind (47North) is an expert braiding together of past, present and future that puts a 15th-century Italian female artist centre stage to say penetrating things about womanhood, creativity and history.” —Adam Roberts, The Guardian
“The centuries-spanning story gives the mystery an epic feel.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind is certainly one of 2015’s tip-top releases in science fiction.” —Jesse Hudson, Speculiction
“…this quiet, lovely and exquisitely crafted novel is itself a masterclass in composition… As in her debut novel A Calculated Life, the clarity and refined elegance of Charnock’s prose is a significant achievement.” —Nina Allan, The Spider’s House
“The feminist elements of Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind are elusively contradictory, so much like life!, making this one of those thinking books—the kind with embers smoldering until a second visit. I look forward to more from Anne Charnock.” —From Couch to Moon
A Calculated Life
Finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick and Kitschies Golden Tentacle Awards
Book Trailer by theBookDesigners
“Charnock is an astute observer herself, and what results is an inquiry into feminism and society that will make the reader truly pause to compare their own experiences and perceptions.”
Charnock’s dystopia is actually believable. It’s very like our own world, but slightly stretched at the edges—corporate interests reign unchecked, the class structure is rigid, and technology has taken us well beyond the limitations of our synapses and gray matter. Charnock is a subtle worldbuilder, but a convincing one..
Charnock has fascinating, complex things to say about work, sex, family and hope (and that pretty much covers it, don’t you think?)
Charnock’s novel is entirely and definitively her own. It is lovingly crafted, beautifully made in the economical, expert way a piece of Arts and Crafts furniture is made – pure lines, and perfectly suited to its intended purpose.
This is a story beautifully and simply narrated, the language economical but evocative, and it remains compelling without ever resorting to sensationalism. A coming-of-age tale exploring what it means to be human, it kept me gripped to the end.
This story puts us inside one of the most interesting perspectives I’ve encountered in recent fiction. Jayna’s perspective is so unique that I would happily have followed her anywhere, and, as a consequence, the cleverness of this plot almost snuck up on me. A smart, stylish, emotionally compelling book with literary richness and sci-fi smarts.
Gets the grey matter firing . . . Such easily accessible yet intelligent fiction can be quite a rarity, and one to be savored.
A Calculated Life, by Anne Charnock, is one of those books that while overtly science fiction is really a great insight into humanity today. Ultimately . . . this book is more about human emotion and intelligence than it is about the future: And it’s that exploration that makes this such a compelling work.
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