A race to the finishing line, and 2018 highlights

Yes, I’ve fallen radio silent of late, necessarily so! I’ve been racing to the finishing line for my fourth novel, Bridge 108, which is set in the same world as my debut, A Calculated Life.

And I made it with several days to spare as it turned out. I emailed the manuscript to my editor as my first family visitors arrived for the holiday season. Bridge 108 is due to be published in early 2020.

I’ve completed this novel while unpacking at our new home on the Isle of Bute, Scotland, and embarking on some pretty disruptive house rejigging. A more sensible person would have avoided further complications. But I embarked on the finickity business of organising train tickets and visas for a month-long journey from Paris to Beijing, via Moscow, Astana and Almaty in Kazakhstan, and Ürümqi in north west China. Garry and I set off at the end of August, returning in early October after a remarkable and unforgettable adventure.

2019 will be a tad quieter! We plan to explore the west coast of Scotland in our free time, see the islands that we’ve not already visited.

Highlights of 2018:

Umm, well, I still pinch myself over the biggest news of all—Dreams Before the Start of Time won the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award. And my first novella, The Enclave, won the British Science Fiction Association’s Award for Best Short Fiction. These successes have brought me new opportunities, and I’m delighted that I am now represented by the Sarah Such Literary Agency.

The journey across Central Asia proved to be an exceptional experience, with many individual highlights. I’ve already posted about the amazing visit to the Eurasian Pole of Inaccessibility. However, I’d like to end 2018 by telling you about two wonderful writers who I met en route.

I arranged in advance to meet Zira Naurzbayeva in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

One the highlights of my year: meeting Kazach writer Zira Naurzbayeva, author of The Beskempir.

Zira and I met on a Saturday afternoon at the National Library, and our conversation was as memorable as any I can recall in all my travels either as a fiction writer or, in my earlier career, as a journalist. I had arranged to meet Zira after reading an extract from her non-fiction work The Beskempir, translated by Shelley Fairweather-Vega. The Beskempir translates as Dragon Grandmothers and the book relates the experiences of a generation of women who struggled with the transition from village communities in the Soviet era to modern-day urban life in Kazakhstan. You can read the extract, here.

Hopefully, one day soon, Zira will find an English-language publisher for this book, so we may glean a fascinating insight into the 20th century history of Central Asia.

Little did I know before meeting Zira, that her own family history mirrored the political upheavals and economic catastrophes endured by Kazakhstan—the confiscations of livestock by the Red Army during the Russian Civil War, the push by Joseph Stalin to collectivise farming and fishing, the decline of the fishing industry at the Aral Sea, and the impact of the Soviet nuclear testing programme in eastern Kazakhstan.

We chatted about the difficulty of writing family history, how members of a family can hold diverging recollections of important events. And how some people prefer to move on rather than rake up the past.

But I came away, wishing that Zira would write a family history. I’m so thrilled that we managed to meet and I’m grateful to Shelley Fairweather-Vega for making the introduction.

In Beijing, I was honoured to meet Lin Zhe, author of the brilliant novel Old Town. A wonderful end to my west-east journey.

In Beijing, I met the prolific author and scriptwriter Lin Zhe whose novel Old Town is a remarkable family saga set in the latter half of the twentieth century. It’s an eye-opening read, and it’s been a big hit both as a novel and as a popular TV series in China. We had a fun afternoon together, which involved much eating of cake! And it was fascinating to talk about the merging of fiction and memoir in Old Town.

In fact, I’ve read a good number of memoirs in 2019. It may seem odd, but when I’m drafting science fiction, I often prefer to read, by way of a mental break, either non-fiction or novels with a contemporary setting.

So, here’s my top memoir reads this year:

Self & I – A Memoir of Literary Ambition by Matthew De Abaitua

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

Good Children of the Flower by Hong Ying

Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

The Cost of Living and Things I Don’t Want to Know by Deborah Levy

This is the Place to be by Lara Pawson

 

Thanks for all your support in 2018!

Stay well in 2019, and happy reading, everyone!

Book deal: Bridge 108 revealed!

As announced in The Bookseller today, I’m delighted to reveal the news that I’ve signed a contract with 47North for my fourth novel, Bridge 108. I’m so thrilled to be working with my editor, Jason Kirk, once again.

This latest novel is set in the same world as my debut, A Calculated Life, and it will be published in hardback and eBook editions in early 2020. Although these two novels are set in the same near-future world, they are ‘standalones’. Read them in whichever order you prefer!

Bridge 108 follows a young climate refugee who is trafficked into slavery in the north of England. To quote from the press release: “Bridge 108 is a warm yet deeply heart-rending story about a boy who is too trusting and inevitably falls prey to malevolent forces on his long trek. Yet he never waivers in his pursuit of success in a deeply divided and locked-down England.”

I signed the contract on the eve of the Frankfurt Book Fair as I arrived back in the UK from my travels in Kazakhstan and China. So it’s been a whirlwind of late! Many thanks to my agent Sarah Such.

Read the full news announcement here.

By the way, have you noticed my new author photos? These were shot by my talented friend Marzena Pogorzaly. I’m so pleased with them. Here’s one on my bio page.

 

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.

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

The perfect reader responses, latest reviews and a Korean translation

“Your books always break my heart. You’re like a really bad boyfriend. I know you’re going to leave me emotionally wrecked, but I can’t stay away :-)”

How sweet! I like the smiley face, too. This particular message appeared in my inbox last week. I shall frame it!

Over on Twitter yesterday, top marks to reader Mark Gerrits for selecting four great images for his tweet:

And what are ‘the critics’ saying? I’m bowled over that two reviewers, in particular, found time to review Dreams Before the Start of Time (47North) last week, seeing as they’re Shadow Jurors for the 2017 Arthur C Clarke Award. I’m referring to Megan AM (From Couch to Moon website) and Nina Allan (The Spider’s House website). They’re part of a team of nine critics who are currently reviewing science fiction novels released in 2016 and drawing up a Shadow Shortlist which they will reveal on 2 May—one day before the official Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist is announced. Exciting stuff.

I blush as I copy and paste Nina Allan’s comments:

“I greatly admire this book. I love the music it makes when listened to in consort with its equally accomplished predecessor. Most of all, I’m delighted and inspired by Anne Charnock’s writing talent, her contemplative, forensic, insatiably curious approach to speculative fiction. The three novels she has produced to date constitute a significant literary achievement in their own right, as well as being the springboard from which – I feel sure of it – Charnock will leap towards still more confident advances in the novels to come.”

No pressure, then. Read the full review here.

Read more

RELEASE DAY: Dreams Before the Start of Time

I can hardly believe I’m typing this: my THIRD novel is published today — Dreams Before the Start of Time.

This near-future novel suggests what it will mean to be a parent, a child, a family when science offers new ways of conceiving and giving birth — when artificial wombs free women from the pain and dangers of childbirth, when eggs can be created from stem cells, when a man can create a baby without a woman, and a woman can create a baby without a man. How will these breakthroughs affect relationships and the status of motherhood in society?

In other words, as a writer of speculative fiction, I give myself license to imagine both the intended and unintended consequences!

Dreams Before the Start of Time, published by 47North, received a boost pre-release, receiving a starred review from Publishers Weekly. And today, release day, I’m thrilled to bits to read this review on From Couch to Moon.

Here are snippets of early reactions to the novel: Read more

Susan Duerden on Narrating Dreams Before the Start of Time

Susan Duerden

ONE WEEK to the release of Dreams Before the Start of Time, and I’m really delighted to tell you that award-winning actress Susan Duerden is the main narrator for the audiobook edition. Her performance is simply wonderful, which comes as no surprise to me since Susan also narrated my first novel, A Calculated Life.

I’m fascinated with the transition from manuscript to novel to audiobook. As I listen to the audio, I feel I encounter the novel anew; it feels unfamiliar, in a good way, and I find myself grinning all the time that I’m listening. 

Last week, we chatted by email and Susan very kindly took the time to answer a few questions:

Is there a particular character or storyline that appealed to you in Dreams Before the Start of Time?

I absolutely loved Dreams Before The Start Of Time and narrating it was a joy. I particularly loved the character Toni and her storyline. She left such an impression on me. I was so glad she reappeared throughout the book. I really loved her sense of humor, especially in the face of adversity. I thought her relationship with Atticus was wonderfully written.

How do you prepare for a new narration project? Read more