content by

Jonathan Thornton

Where to Start Reading the Work of Nicola Griffith

Since publishing her debut novel Ammonite in 1993, Nicola Griffith has won the Otherwise Award (formally the James Tiptree, Jr Award), the World Fantasy Award, the Nebula Award, the Washington State Book Award, and no less than six Lambda Literary Awards, as well as being shortlisted for the BSFA Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Locus Award. The Bending The Landscape anthologies she edited with Stephen Pagel were landmark works of LGBTQ+ speculative fiction. Griffith’s work spans genres, from near-future speculative fiction to historical fiction and fantasy, from noir-esque detective fiction to space opera. She’s even written the award-winning nonfiction memoir And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner Notes to a Writer’s Early Life (2017).

Griffith’s refusal to stay still is part of what makes her such a compelling writer, yet it can make it difficult to know which one of her books is the best place for a new reader to start.

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Bold as Love: Gwyneth Jones’ Vision of the Near-Future Has Never Been More Relevant

England, in the near future. It’s Dissolution Summer—the increasingly divided United Kingdom is about to split off into the individual countries of England, Wales and Scotland, with Northern Ireland joining the Republic of Ireland. A global economic collapse has created a whole generation of disaffected, unemployed youth. The dire effects of climate change are being felt, with huge populations displaced. The combination of economic and environmental collapse with civil unrest and the collapse of digital and physical infrastructure has led to a rise of enthnonationalistic violence. All of this may feel uncomfortably familiar for anyone following British politics, but this is the world of Gwyneth Jones’ Bold As Love sequence. But help is at hand in England’s hour of need…

Ax Preston, indie guitar hero wonderboy of mixed English and Sudanese inheritance, is ready to step up, a postmodern King Arthur with an electric guitar in place of Excalibur. His Guinevere: Fiorinda Slater, a half-Irish punk rock princess with a horrific past and a magical heritage, whose electrifying talent has catapulted her to early fame. His Lancelot: his best friend and rival Sage Pender, AKA Aoxomoxoa, techno Wizkid leader of controversial and hugely popular Aoxomoxoa and the Heads, a laddish shock artist with a surprisingly sensitive introspective side who always hides behind a digital skull mask. Gritty near-future dystopia, postmodern reimagining of Arthurian mythology, and rock and roll utopianism is far from an obvious combination, but somehow in Jones’ hands these seemingly disparate elements come together to create one of the most compelling—and disturbingly prescient—science fantasy sagas of recent memory.

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