What an honour! Dreams wins 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award

My head is still spinning from a fabulous night at Foyles in London where Dreams Before the Start of Time won the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award. I feel so honoured! I was thrilled to have the opportunity to thank my brilliant editor, Jason Kirk, at 47North and to thank my wonderful ‘first readers’ — the Charnocks — Garry, Adam and Rob.

Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors. I was delighted to find myself in such fine company and I hope we’ll all get together sometime for a panel discussion, because our novels cover the whole spectrum of science fiction.

And what a treat to see this coverage of the award in the Guardian.

I need to sit in a dark room for a few hours to calm down, but before I do so, I’d like to thank the Arthur C. Clarke Award directors – Tom Hunter, Dr Andrew M. Butler and Stephanie Holman – for their superb work throughout the year. And of course my heartfelt thanks to the judges who have read so many books, no doubt putting their lives on pause.

The award ceremony was such a fun evening and it was wonderful to celebrate with such a passionate bunch of writers and readers of science fiction.

 

Chair of Judges Andrew M Butler: “a delightfully rich but unshowy intergenerational novel that demands rereading”

 

Shortlisted for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award!

This is such an honour, and I’m overwhelmed! Dreams Before the Start of Time (47North) is shortlisted for The Arthur C. Clarke Award 2018.

The shortlist was announced today at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival by award director Tom Hunter. Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors! Below is the full shortlist of novels. And there’s time for you to read them ALL before the winner is announced in London on 18 July.

Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill (Gollancz)

Dreams Before the Start of Time by Anne Charnock (47North)

American War by Omar El Akkad (Picador)

Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar (Sceptre)

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed (Tinder Press)

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (Fourth Estate)

My thanks to the jury for all their dedication in reading 108 submitted novels! The jurors are:

Dave Hutchinson, British Science Fiction Association

Gaie Sebold, British Science Fiction Association

Paul March-Russell, Science Fiction Foundation

Kari Maund, Science Fiction Foundation

Charles Christian, SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival

Want to know more about the novels?

Alasdair Stuart gives his thoughts on the six novels today on Tor.com and refers to the “scalpel-precise character drama of Dreams Before The Start of Time.”

I’m delighted with his assessment of the book:

In 2034, Millie and Toni are trying to figure out whether they want to be mothers. Their choices, the obstacles they face, and the consequences of their decisions will change the lives of people for generations to come.

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 says good things about the other books, too! See here.

The Enclave wins BSFA 2017 Award

I’ve just returned home to Bute after a remarkable weekend at Follycon in Harrogate where I’ve enjoyed many fascinating conversations with authors and readers, and to top it all… I’ve come home with the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Shorter Fiction for my novella, The Enclave (NewCon Press). It’s a huge honour given the shortlist and previous winners and it’s particularly exciting to gain this award in the BSFA’s sixtieth year. I was thrilled to receive the award from acclaimed author Nnedi Okorafor. The Enclave is set the world of my first novel A Calculated Life (47North). The whole experience of returning to a familiar world was intensely rewarding and certainly enjoyable.

My novel Dreams Before the Start of Time was shortlisted for the Best Novel Award, which was actually awarded to Nina Allan for her wonderful novel The Rift. We were delighted to celebrate together!

In accepting this award I took the opportunity to thank my family. I’m actually very fortunate, even unusual, as an author in having close family members who are excellent beta-readers, each bringing something quite individual to my manuscripts. I value their insights and suggestions enormously. Whenever I send a manuscript to Garry, Adam and Robert, I always say something along the lines of: “I know you are busy but it would be great if you could find time to read this and comment.” They know that what I’m really saying is this: “Drop whatever you are doing!!! Read this carefully, give it your undivided attention and get back to me without delay.” They have never disappointed me.

Congratulations to all the BSFA Award winners, see here, and all the nominees. Thank you to publisher NewCon Press for inviting me to write a novella. And many thanks to the BSFA, and BSFA members for voting!

Also from Harrogate

The stand-out event for me was a three-way discussion about the 1960s/70s New Wave science fiction movement, which can be seen as a resurgence of surrealist writing. The discussants were John Clute, Kim Stanley Robinson and Christopher Priest. Their conversation conveyed an enthralling mix of facts, reminiscence, personal anecdotes and the end-result was a fresh, even revisionist, account of a revolutionary period of fantastical writing.

Recent reading: Self & I by Matthew De Abaitua, and more

Making the best of a bitterly cold weekend on Bute, I curled up on the sofa beside my new stove, and read a pre-publication copy of Matthew De Abaitua’s Self & I: A Memoir of Literary Ambition. I fully expected both an insightful and a witty read!

The premise is irresistible — De Abaitua reflects on the mid-1990s when as a young, searingly ambitious graduate from the University of East Anglia’s creative writing programme he’s hired as live-in writing assistant, or amanuensis, to the already successful, much-in-demand author, Will Self.

Did the book live up to expectations? Well, yes it did!

Will Self has decamped from London to a remote cottage in Suffolk. De Abaitua’s daily tasks range from clearing the fire grate, cycling to the nearest village on postal and shopping errands, transcribing taped interviews (one between Self and JG Ballard), brewing opium tea and taking messages from Self’s agent, publishers and commissioning editors at newspapers. The job constitutes a lucky break since the alternative for De Abaitua is returning to the north to pick up his old job as a security guard on the Liverpool docks.

I felt lucky myself in reading this memoir; the reader seems to eavesdrop in effect on conversations between Self and De Abaitua on lofty literary matters, about modernism, the morality of style. Fascinating stuff. All the while, De Abaitua casts around for subject matter as a springboard for his own writing, though he worries that as a young man he hasn’t lived long enough to make a decent stab at writing fiction: “Beginnings are all you know”. The memoir suggests to me that De Abaitua had plenty of material to mine from his own tough teenage years, but I expect he needed a bit of distance, two decades of distance, to make sense of it all.

He takes a tentative step forward by asking his friend Nelson to taperecord conversations at the bar where he works. De Abaitua transcribes these tapes in his spare time in Suffolk hoping, trusting, that he’ll find inspiration from this collection of incoherent fragments. He recognises that incoherence is truthful.

Stories have a beginning, middle and end. Life is mostly middle.

With my past life as a visual artist, I’m especially intrigued that while De Abaitua is holed up in Suffolk his ideas for fiction projects seem akin to conceptual art projects. Nelson’s tape recordings of bar conversations prompt De Abaitua to consider writing a story about a collector of such tapes called William Mooch.

Mooch can source, for the right price, a recording of any conversation a client requests; the pillow talk of the rich and powerful, the itemised guilt of the confession booth, and all the things they say about you behind your back.

I’m reminded of Tom McCarthy’s surrealist novel Remainder (one of my all-time favourite novels), and Don DeLillo’s Zero K (one of my favourite reads last year) in which the novel’s settings convey the atmosphere of art installations.

Adding to this surrealist bent, Will Self suggests to De Abaitua that, as an exercise in attentiveness, he should attempt to give physical form to an object he sees in a dream. De Abaitua takes the advice. In one dream, he stands by the white dome of Sizewell nuclear reactor and he holds a black frying pan with the shape of a crescent moon cut into the pan’s base. An irridescent glow fills the crescent. With this image in mind, he tries to commission a Suffolk ironmonger to recreate his dream vision by cutting out a crescent shape in a pan. But sadly the plan doesn’t pan out (sorry!) The ironmonger chases him off the premises. In a change of tack, De Abaitua considers recreating moments from his dreams as short films.

Ambition, rites of passage and the various measures of success (and failure) are themes throughout this generous and honest memoir. De Abaitua muses, towards the memoir’s end, that employing an amanuensis might itself be a measure of a writer’s success.

By the way, De Abaitua did eventually use the bar room conversations as a starting point—for a short story “Inbetween”, published in the best-selling anthology of rave fiction, Disco Biscuits. He now has three novels to his name and his debut novel Red Men was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award in 2008.

Self & I (Eye Books) by Matthew De Abaitua will be published late March 2018.

Other reading this year

I decided to read a few more novels published in 2017/18 that are vying for shortlists this year and next:

Euphoria by Hinz Heller (translated by Kári Driscoll)—a short and brutal post-apocalyptic novel with a strong concept—four blokes emerge from a weekend reunion in a ski chalet to find a devastated world.

Paris Adrift: I read a pre-publication copy of E.J. Swift’s wonderful novel centred on bohemian life in contemporary Paris, neatly slipstreamed with a time-travel story. This is political speculative fiction at its best, beautifully written. Swift’s characters are absolutely believable as young drifters and dreamers, part of a Parisian sub-culture of low-wage bar workers. I can see this book transferring brilliantly to the screen!

America City by Chris Beckett. This is another example of political SF, set in a future US when politicians face the problem of major internal migrations from storm-lashing on the east coast and desertification in the south. This story stayed with me long after I finished reading it.

H(A)PPY by Nicola Barker, a compelling experimental novel, a fragmented dystopian story, which won the Goldsmith Prize in 2017.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, a contemporary story of refugees seeking a safe place to live, with a fantastical story device allowing people to flee from one continent to another through magical doors.

Happy reading, everyone!

BSFA 2017 Awards: Dreams Before the Start of Time and The Enclave reach shortlists

I’m so delighted, a tad overwhelmed, that Dreams Before the Start of Time (47North) is short listed for the British Science Fiction Association 2017 Award for Best Novel, and my novella The Enclave (NewCon Press) is short listed for the BSFA’s 2017 Award for Short Fiction. Here’s a link to the full announcement.

 

Congratulations to all the other shortlisted writers and artists, and thank you to all the lovely BSFA members who read my books and voted in the second round of the awards process.

I’ve already read Nina Allan’s The Rift and Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and I’m thrilled to be on a shortlist with such wonderful novels! I’m adding all the other books and stories to the top of my reading pile, right now. Why not read some of the shortlisted works and make your own guess at who will gain the most votes in the final round? The award winners will be announced at Eastercon in Harrogate on Saturday 31st March.

And how wonderful to see Marcin Wolski  shortlisted for the cover artwork of 2084 Anthology (Unsung Stories).

Here are the full short lists:

 

Best Novel

Nina Allan – The Rift (Titan Books)

Anne Charnock – Dreams Before the Start of Time (47North)

Mohsin Hamid – Exit West (Hamish Hamilton)

Ann Leckie – Provenance (Orbit)

Best Shorter Fiction

Anne Charnock – The Enclave (NewCon Press)

Elaine Cuyegkeng – These Constellations Will Be Yours (Strange Horizons)

Greg Egan – Uncanny Valley (Tor.com)

Geoff Nelder – Angular Size (in ‘SFerics 2017’ edited by Roz Clarke and Rosie Oliver, Createspace Independent Publishing Platform)

Tade Thompson – The Murders of Molly Southbourne (Tor.com) Read more

I’ve moved to a house with no bookshelves

Some of you will have gleaned from my social media posts that I ended 2017 with a dramatic change on the home front. Garry and I moved house from Chester, moving not simply across town or to a neighbouring county, but to Scotland. To be precise we’re now living in Port Bannatyne on the Isle of Bute. It’s not as remote as you might imagine since the island has excellent connections to Glasgow. I’m thrilled and excited to be here and I’m keeping my fingers crossed this will prove to be an inspired relocation.

My first priority is to unpack my books, but there isn’t a single bookshelf in our new home. So I’m looking for design inspiration. And where better to look that the local gothic pile, Mount Stuart, which has four libraries! Pictured here is the Purple Library, so called for the colour of the marble pillars. Somehow, I think my ‘library’ will be relatively minimal in architectural terms, but my book spines will be way more colourful! Read more

Interview at BSFA November meeting. Free and all welcome.

I’m back from an autumn road trip in our campervan, this time to Croatia, where Garry and I caught the last of the season’s fine weather. So I’m feeling re-energised for a house move (more of that another time) and for an interview at the British Science Fiction Association’s November meeting.

If you’re in London on Wednesday 22nd November please come along! I’ll be interviewed about my latest novel, Dreams Before the Start of Time, and other matters no doubt, by the wonderful Glyn Morgan. Glyn recently completed his PhD in English Literature and I’m looking forward to a great conversation.

Wednesday, November 22,  2017, 7pm
Glyn Morgan interviews Anne Charnock
Artillery Arms (upstairs private bar) 102 Bunhill Row (corner of Dufferin St)  London EC1Y 8ND.

(You don’t need to be a member of BSFA to come along to these monthly meetings!)
Nearest Tube: Old St – exit 3

More info here.

And if you ever visit the Island of Krk in Croatia, you should make a beeline for the Church of St Lucy in Jurandvor to see the Glagolitic inscriptions, dating back to around 1100. A real highlight of the trip for me.

Launch Event for 2084 Anthology — Inspired by Orwell

Following a hugely successful Kickstarter by publisher Unsung Stories — thanks to all of you who pledged — the 2084 anthology , edited by George Sandison, is now published. I’ll be part of the launch event next Tuesday (3 October) in London, so if you’re in the neighbourhood please drop by!

Early reviews, I’m bound to say, are pretty glowing.

Unsung Stories is teaming up with the Post Apocalyptic Book Club to host this special panel event as part of the club’s Dark Societies series.

Leila Abu el Hawa will discuss these 15 dystopian short stories, inspired by George Orwell’s 1984, with contributing authors Malcolm Devlin, Aliya Whiteley, Anne Charnock, Lavie Tidhar, E.J. Swift.

Full list of contributors in no particular order: Jeff Noon, Christopher Priest, E. J. Swift, Courttia Newland, James Smythe, Lavie Tidhar, Aliya Whiteley, David Hutchinson, Cassandra Khaw, Irenosen Okojie, Desirina Boskovich, Ian Hocking, Malcolm Devlin, Oliver Langmead and Anne Charnock.

I’m delighted to be in such fine company!

Details:
The Star of Kings, 126 York Way London, Greater London N1 0AX
Tuesday, 3 October, 19:00
Copies of the book including super-smart hardbacks will be on sale at the event.

How Writers Write

My thanks to author Tony Ballantyne, for inviting me to his lovely blog to add to his series on How Writers Write. I’ve done my best in this post to be open about my writing process, but I suspect I’ve revealed a little too much about my love of spreadsheets.
Nevertheless, it was fun to write and I’ve enjoyed reading the other posts in this series. I hope you do too!

Time to Cut the Cord with the Stone Age: my essay on The F-Word

The UK contemporary feminist website The F-Word has published my essay today: Time to Cut the Cord with the Stone Age.

I’m really delighted to raise the issues of future reproductive technologies in this forum. This is the subject matter I delve into in my latest 47North novel, Dreams Before the Start of Time.

So timely too. It’s now official in Nature – news was circulating last week – that scientists in the US have successfully used CRISPR gene editing on human embryos to delete the gene for a heritable heart condition. All experimental at this stage, but bound to be highly controversial.

No doubt this major advance will be discussed next week at my panel at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki: Human Reproduction in Science Fiction. See my events page.

And now I really must pack my bags for Nine Worlds and Worldcon 75! Hope to see some of you there.

The Rift by Nina Allan

Nina Allan’s astonishing novel The Rift came to mind last weekend, and not simply because of its imminent release. (I was fortunate to read this novel pre-publication and it is published today by Titan). It came to mind as I arrived home from my cycling holiday on the west coast of Scotland. I felt as though I’d slipped through a rift of sorts myself, from a parallel universe of spectacular scenery, of quiet roads and CalMac ferries, of clean air, seals and sea otters, where the intensity of the real world seemed unfathomably distant.

The Rift centres on the disappearance of seventeen-year-old Julie and her reappearance twenty years later to the astonishment of her sister Selena and her mother. Where has Julie been? Does she dare to tell them?

The novel starts out as a compelling contemporary mystery and morphs into speculative territory via a rift, it seems, in the fabric of space. Allan prepares the reader for this with subtlety. For example, there’s passing reference to her father’s interest in alien abduction testimonies. It’s also neatly presaged by Selena and Julie’s teenage in-joke about aliens.

Indeed, Allan foreshadows the alien worlds of Tristane and Dea: “Selena tried to imagine what it would be like to live in a world where everything was the same as it was in reality with one exception.” I knew something fantastical was going to happen when I read that! Read more