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Back from holiday, back at work, and back (if I can manage it) to occasional blogging. First up, some more UK literary news: Granta has published its list of the Best Young British Novelists 2013; see other coverage in the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, New Statesman, and the TLS blog.

For those that don't know, they do this every ten years and, considering its origins as a promotional/marketing gimmick, they've proven reasonably good at talent-spotting. They've also been reasonably willing to include writers whose work includes the speculative: past listees include Christopher Priest, Maggie Gee, Iain Banks, Jeanette Winterson, Toby Litt, and David Mitchell.

That's a tradition that continues, and if anything expands, this year. The list includes: Naomi Alderman, author of (among other things) a Doctor Who novel and an iPhone zombies game; Ned Beauman, whose The Teleportation Accident is at least sf-aware, if not sf itself; Jenni Fagan, whose first novel The Panopticon was one of the nominees for this year's Kitschies Golden Tentacle; Xiaolu Guo, author of UFO in Her Eyes (SH review; apparently she's also made the story into a film, which I would love to see); Sarah Hall, whose The Carhullan Army was shortlisted for the Clarke and won the Tiptree (SH review); Steven Hall, whose The Raw Shark Texts was shortlisted for the Clarke (SH review); Joanna Kavenna, whose novels include The Birth of Love; and Helen Oyeyemi, who has served as a Shirley Jackson judge, and almost all of whose work is fantastical to some degree (SH reviews of The Opposite House, White is For Witching and Mr Fox). And Zadie Smith has said that her next novel "is speculative fiction, set in the future"; and for all I know, some of the names on the list that I don't know may also have committed fantastika of various kinds.

Ahead of yesterday's list, Damien Walter offered up his suggestions for the best of sf's young novelists -- which includes a number of writers I like very much, a number more I don't care for, and doesn't stick very well to the proposed "British and under 40" remit in any case. Martin Lewis points out the divide between Damien's list and Alex Clarke's guesses at who would be in contention for the real thing.

I don't think I could come up with a full 20 British writers to include on an sf-ish Granta list and keep a clean conscience. But to play the game, from the real list I'd certainly want to include writers like Guo, Hall, and Oyeyemi, even if they ostensibly write "outside" the genre. From Damien's list I'd keep Frances Hardinge, all of whose novels sparkle with wit and invention. I might also keep James Smythe -- I found The Testimony polished but ultimately a little limited, but by all reports The Explorer and The Machine are better, which puts them firmly on my to-investigate list. From Alex Clarke's list I'd want to keep Owen Sheers, whose Resistance is a lovely understated alternate history. For myself, I'd want to add Steph Swainston, Lucy Wood, Kit Whitfield, and perhaps Ali Shaw and EJ Swift. That gets us to, what, 11? Then I'd lament the fact that China Mieville, Scarlett Thomas, Nick Harkaway and Rana Dasgupta are just beyond the age limit. Then I'd try to work out when everyone I've just listed has a new book out.

EDIT: Today's Guardian has a blog post by Stuart Kelly which (a) lists almost exactly the same authors as me in his regret-at-too-old bracket, which means I need to check out Sophie Hannah pronto, and (b) concludes thusly: "And it's, to me, a bit of an off-piss that Hannu Rajaniemi was deemed ineligible over nationality." Between this and his praiseful post-Clarke blog he's in danger of raising certain expectations about this year's Booker longlist...

Niall Harrison is a reader and fan.
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1 Mar 2021

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