Wed
Jan 16 2013 3:00pm

Introducing the British Genre Fiction Focus

Introducing the British Genre Fiction Focus on Tor.com, curated by Niall AlexanderSome might say that living in the UK makes for a bit of a miserable existence, not dissimilar to spending length of time in limbo, assuming the skies there are still concrete grey in May... but putting aside the terrible weather, I say nay!

Never mind, for the moment, that Brits are made to wait weeks or months or even years for some of the United States’ finest genre fiction to come across the pond—not to mention the many and various novels which never ever make it—because of course that blade cuts both ways. And equally, as we will see, there are certain upsides to a literary life in the fundamentally uncomfortable little kingdom that I call home when I’m feeling particularly patriotic.

Incidentally, admitting that is half the battle hereabouts.

First of all—and foremostly, of course—we have some remarkable writers of our own, many of whom are tremendously successful exports. A quick look through my library later, you can count amongst that number J. K. Rowling, Joe Abercrombie, Ian McDonald, China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, Iain M. Banks, Peter. F Hamilton and Christopher Priest. I could go on, but we’d be here all day if I did!

On the other hand, however, there are those awesome authors of fantastic fiction whose work seems alarmingly undervalued further afield than here. After a quick consult on Twitter, I’d include Adam Roberts, Graham Joyce, Adam Nevill, Gwyneth Jones, Ken MacLeod, M. John Harrison, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Chris Beckett and Tom Fletcher in that category—yet again, the list might as well be endless.

I’ve been reviewing books for Tor.com for nearly two years now, and in that time, I have tried to bring a number of these brilliant writers to light. Truth be told, though, I’ve barely managed to scratch the surface... so when I was asked to consider contributing a column concerned with the state of speculative fiction in Britain, I saw an exciting opportunity to double down on my self-stated mandate. To establish an actual dialogue, rather than the occasional monologues I’ve offered. To talk more often, and more fully, about genre novels that you really need to be reading, whether they come from a quantity—or a country—known to you or not.

At bottom, that’s what the British Genre Fiction Focus is interested in. Expanding your horizons—and mine while we’re at it, because I most certainly do not know it all. Not even close, by jove! Thus, I would welcome all comers to comment with suggestions for stories that should feature in subsequent installments of the column. You never know; just leave a line or two in the box below.

I would also invite you to share any related recommendations, of new novels you’re keen to see discussed on Tor.com, writers you’ve appreciated first-hand in the past, or perhaps wondered about from afar. Lastly, let me encourage any miscellaneous observations you care to make about genre fiction in the United Kingdom. All I’d ask is that we keep our conversation to books published in Great Britain—including those novels that have finally crossed the proverbial pond—and authors who hail from there.

In each edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus, we’ll count down through a number of notable news stories, including but not in the least limited to talk of awards, announcements, tour dates, cover reveals and conventions. Plus we’ll have a chance to take the temperature of any ongoing conversations that touch on speculative fiction in Britain.

I mean, furthermore, to treat all genres equally. So whether you’re a nerd for sci-fi, fantasy or horror, steampunk or the weird, you should find something of especial interest in the British Genre Fiction Focus. Whether you tend to get hot under the collar for alt-history, urban fantasy or paranormal romance, you’ll be welcome here, one and all.

I’ll also be putting together a shortlist of notable novels primed for release in the period between each edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus. In this, I’ll follow the time-tested tradition of Suzanne Johnson’s invaluable Fiction Affliction, so alongside the usual array of names and dates, expect artwork, cover copy, publication information and links to relevant websites where appropriate.

There will be an emphasis on authors and novels as yet little-known outside of the UK, but room enough too to include a few of my fair nation’s more famous fictioneers. Hopefully, you’ll find a representative cross-section of both sorts of novelist in this weekly series.

What else?

Actually, I think that’s it. All that remains to do now is kick this new column off properly. How fortuitous, then, that it begins... imminently!

Be you based in Britain or beyond, I’d love for you to come on this continuing mission with me, so please, keep your browsers pointed towards Tor.com for the inaugural edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus.


Niall Alexander is an erstwhile English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for Strange HorizonsThe Speculative Scotsman and Tor.com. On rare occasion he’s been seen to tweet about books, too.

15 comments
Elaine Gallagher
1. Elaine Gallagher
You could add Liz Williams, Steph Swainston, Tricia Sullivan and Justina Robson to your list to look out for. Also Gaie Sebold, whose second novel is just coming out I believe. The first one is a great book.
Adam Shaeffer
3. ashaef
Sweet! Looking forward to it Mr. Speculative Scotsman.
Elaine Gallagher
4. Nicholas Winter
If you look at his first post, you'll see that he talks about the cover art for the Aaronvitch novel. I don't think he intended to list *every* British winter worth noting as that would take several pages -- and would be different for each of us!
Claire de Trafford
5. Booksnhorses
Did you mention Adrian Tchaikovsky? Loving his fantasy series. And Juliet McKenna is another Brit writer of excellent fantasy - her latest trilogy has just completed.
Niall Alexander
6. niallalot
@Elaine Gallagher: From my notes for future editions of the British Genre Fiction Focus, be assured Gale Sebold will indeed figure in to this feature. Your other suggestions are uniformly excellent as well, which I suppose goes to show the breadth and depth of our industry's output. Sadly, though, Steph Swainston retired from full time writing a few years ago.

@Pam Adams: As Nicholas points out, Ben does indeed feature in a fairly major way in the inaugural installment of the series, and I dare say he will again!

@ashaef: Me too, mate! :)

@ClairedeT: I didn't, no, but that's not indicative of my opinon of Tchaikovsky's body of work. I confess I didn't love his first few books, but for some reason I kept reading them, and they've been getting steadily better and better ever since. As to Juliet McKenna, I must submit to your more informed opinion; sadly I've never read her.
Steven Halter
7. stevenhalter
Niall, any rumors of Mike Carey doing any more Felix Castor novels? I do see he has a new novel coming out --The Steel Seraglio, but no Felix that I can see.
Niall Alexander
8. niallalot
@stevenhalter: I'll have to ask after news of any new Felix Castor novels, but I did just recieve a review copy of the novel Mike has co-written with his wife and daughter. According to the press release, The City of Silk and Steel is coming from Gollancz this March, and at a glance, it looks like lots of fun.
Elaine Gallagher
9. Saint Toad
Charles Stross, both for his harder sci-fi Halting State and Eschaton series and his more fantastic/Lovecraftian sci-fi Laundry Files books.
Niall Alexander
10. niallalot
@Saint Toad: I knew this would happen! How could I have managed to leave Charles Stross off the list when of course he's one of Britain's best and brightest? I'll be sure to address this notable oversight when his new book beckons...
Nick Rogers
11. BookGoblin
I absolutely second Charles Stross. His Laundry books are some of my favorite fiction ever, but I can only find them on eReader. I'd buy physical copies, but amazon and borders are usually "out of stock".

I once saw one at my local brick-and-mortar B&N but, alas, it was on a day when discretionary purchases were not in the budget...
Elaine Gallagher
12. Robert Bagnall
Very un-British to be so self-aggrandising, I know, but could I point you in the direction of my serialised sci-fi story, "2084 - The Mecshera Bandwidth", currently being serialised on Jukepop Serials at http://jukepopserials.com/home/read/52. Enjoy!
Bob Blough
13. Bob
Britain has some of my favorite genre novelists of all time. My favorites right now are Justina Robinson, Ian MacLeod, Iain M. Banks, Gwyneth Jones, Ian McDonald and Alastair Reynolds. I always order them from British publishers instead of wating for them to be published here.

This BSFA nomination list I have Dark Eden, Jack Glass, and Empty Light, read already. (and Robinson's 2312). Terrific list of the best of 2013 SF novels, I think.
Colin Bell
14. SchuylerH
Justina Robson fans may be interested to know that her latest, Glorious Angels, is coming out in early 2014. Also, Revelation Space has made it into the SF Masterworks lineup.
Elaine Gallagher
15. Lucia
Patrick Cave, Stuart Hill, Robin McKinley (very well-known in some areas, but less here in Australia and such places?) -- I'll be thinking about this all day now. Really looking forward to these Focus articles!

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