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BSFA Awards Booklet 2020

BSFA, 2021, 64 p.

Ivory’s Story (extract) by Eugene M Bacon. (PS Publishing, 2020.)1

Ivory, or Izett, has suffered in a series of foster placements, her only stable influence a nun in a Catholic children’s home. This has hardened her. The only SF aspect of the extract here (very well written though it is) was in the opal pendant she wears which burns people who touch it if they are inimical to her.

All I Asked For by Anne Charnock. (Part of the Future Care Capital charity’s Fiction Series, edited by Keith Brooke.)2

An expectant couple spend their evenings counting the movements of Alice, their yet-to-be born baby, on the screen in their living room. Because the mother is forty-six her foetus was transferred to a baby-bag at twenty-two weeks gestation. (“We must do what’s best for the baby.”) Some mothers opt for the procedure but this mother (despite her own telling her that childbirth belongs to the Stone Age) feels disappointment at never having felt her baby kick inside her.
I note here that my own story about artificial wombs (Osmotic Pressure, in The Company He Keeps, PS Publishing, 2010, took a different tack.

Red_Bati (extract) by Dilman Dia. (Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora)3

The story relates the experiences of a robot dog who thinks he’s human and speaks ony to a holographic granny who walks through a forest. Impressed as a mining dog he has been damaged and faces shut down and total memory loss so is forced to take over the space ship he is on.

Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon (extract) by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, (Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora)4

This is set in a post-nuclear war African enclave, outside which lies corruption and mutation, and where the survivors recount the myths and legends of the god who saved them from the devastation.

In Infinite Tea in the Demara Café by Ida Keogh, (London Centric, NewCon Press) a man who has been stifling the memories of his dead wife for twenty years through simple routine – like a daily cup of coffee in a certain café – suddenly finds himself being transported between parallel worlds, where he finds others who have suffered loss give him new focus.

Isn’t Your Daughter Such a Doll by Tobi Ogundiran, (Shoreline of Infinity)5 is structured awkwardly, with a different view point suddenly thrown in to provide a necessary but up till then peripheral perspective. It is the tale of a girl’s affection for her doll shading into something more. Woven into it is a Nigerian folk-tale (whether invented by Ogundiran or not I am unqualified to judge.)

In the non-fiction we have a precis of each of the essays in Ties That Bind: Love in Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by Francesca T Barbinia; an excerpt from the introduction to from The Unstable Realities of Christopher Priest by Paul Kincaid; an extract from Science Fiction and Climate Change by Andrew Milner and J R Burgmannb; It’s the End of the World but What Are We Really Afraid of? by Adam Robertsc; another extract, Estranged Entrepreneurs by Jo Lindsay-Waltond; and Books in Which No Bad Things Happen by Jo Waltone.

Pedant’s corner:- 1“flora and fauna and the way it behaved” (the way they behaved,) “a Joey in its pouch” (joey, capital not required,) sat (seated, or, sitting,) “was a foster dad after foster dad” (was foster dad after foster dad,) Zeus’ (Zeus’s,) “whose two speakers were scattered about the room” (I would humbly submit that the minimum for a scattering is three.) 2focussed (focused.) 3The first paragraph is repeated for some unknown reason. “-250o C” (-250 oC,) “-400o C” (presumably meant to be -400 oC but this temperature is impossible, absolute zero is -273.15 oC,) “16o C” (16oC,) “300o C” (300 oC,) “one of the tube’s data rod” (data rods,) “to fix critical damages to the ship” (why the plural? ‘critical damage’ serves perfectly well,) “space crafts” (space craft.) 4“with the savagery that made Morako swallow” (with a savagery,) “was no ordinary tales” (tale,) “in front Ologbon” (in front of Ologbon,) Igbo Igboya (x 1, elsewhere this is always italicised.) 5Should there not be a question mark at the end of the title? “fit” (fitted,) confectionaries (x2, confectionery,) “in the hopes that” (in the hope that,) snuck (x2, sneaked,) “who had fopund companion in a doll,” (either ‘found a companion’, or, ‘found companionship’.)
ain “New Frontiers in Romantic Fiction Relationships in Science Fiction Josephine by Maria Yanasak-Leszczynski that ‘Josephine’ is surely misplaced, Chambers’ (Chambers’s,) “E.T. A Hofmann’s” (either E.T.A. Hoffmann’s, or, E T A Hoffmann’s, not this mish-mash.) “Unrequieted love” (unrequited,) “Unrequired love” (unrequited.) bfocussed (focused,) H2O (H2O,) earnt (earned.) c“food for the imagination no the body” ([I didn’t realise Roberts was Scottish – joke.] It should be ‘not the body’,) “and yet is finality is a kind of deferment” (has one ‘is’ too many,) “in a way that is howsoever lame, at least, hearfelt way” (has one ‘way’ too many.) “most of the apocalypses we will be looking are gaudy dreams” (looking at are,) quick-sand (quicksand,) “some who insists” (insist,) “little-rear-view mirror fixed to lour heads” (mirrors,) “a world that stubborn;y persist” (persists,) momentarily (this is used in the USian sense = ‘in a moment’, rather than its usual sense = ‘for a moment’,) “we are woring on assumption that” (on the assumption,) “the glass if its shopfront” (of its shopfront,) Bayes’ (many times, Bayes’s,) “we’re not the centre around which the entire cosmos, but in fact are” (around which the entire cosmos turns, but in fact.) dtwo full stops missing. e“Raymond Briggs The Snowman” (Briggs’s) “no more than threats that pass over safely Cotillion does this” (needs a full stop after safely.)

Bridge 108 by Anne Charnock

47 North, 2020, 197 p.

 Bridge 108 cover

Bridge 108 is an expansion of the author’s novella The Enclave which won the BSFA Award for 2017 and is set against a backdrop of environmental degradation (drought, wildfires) in Southern Europe which has precipitated an exodus northwards. On such a journey fourteen-year-old Caleb was separated from his mother and trafficked to Britain where he has ended up in one of the enclaves set outside the mainstream of society. ‘Normal’ (non-enclave citizens) are chipped and inoculated and so cannot become addicted to drugs, gambling or alcohol nor apparently commit crime.

Life in an enclave among the unchipped ‘organics’ (who either refused the chipping – because you lose your spark – or else never had it for some other reason such as crime in the family) is not quite dog-eat-dog but the police venture there infrequently and prefer to ignore the goings-on, unless it involves illegal immigrants or murder. When we start, Caleb is working for Ma Lexie, a dealer in upcycled clothing, whose business is in turn a subsidiary of the dodgy family enterprises of her late husband, Ruben. Caleb hasn’t quite settled down in the enclave (he is locked in at night) and exchanges messages with the similarly trapped Odette on the adjacent roof via a weighted plastic bottle.

The story is told from the viewpoints of Caleb, Ma Lexie, Skylark (the young girl who trafficked Caleb,) Jerome (an undercover immigration officer,) Jaspar (Ma Lexie’s de facto boss,) and Officer Sonia, a simulant – further beyond the chipped members of society than they are to the unchipped ‘organics’ of the enclaves – who is portrayed as lacking in empathy. Apart from Caleb, who relates five of the ten chapters, each of the others has only one, allowing Charnock to provide us with a cross-section of the attitudes of the inhabitants of her future world.

On a trip to the market Caleb upsets Ma Lexie and his mistrust hardens. He agrees to escape the enclave with Odette who has her own reasons for fleeing. They travel at night towards Wales along the Shropshire Union Canal but Caleb quickly gives Odette the slip when he notices blood under her fingernails. He finds relatively easy work on a vineyard and some time later is befriended by Jerome who helps him avoid an immigration raid. They travel together and at Bridge 108 on the Shropshire Union Canal Caleb is persuaded by Jerome to hand himself in to the authorities. His indentured life on the path towards full citizenhood is not simple, nor is that path guaranteed, but is an illustration of the destination towards which UK domestic policy has been heading these many years.

Pedant’s corner:- The surname Farquharson is said to be pronounced Farkuson (It isn’t; it’s pronounced Farkarson, with both the ‘r’s sounded,) snuck (sneaked,) sat (x 2, sitting, or, seated,) “in my corner of room” (of the room.) “None of them stay in the camp” (None of them stays,) whiskey (whisky.)

Dreams Before the Start of Time by Anne Charnock

47 North, 2017, 219 p.

This was on the short list for the BSFA Award last year and subsequently won the Clarke Award.

 Dreams Before the Start of Time cover

It is, however, less of a novel than a series of vignettes featuring characters with some sort of relationship to each other but unfolding over a timescale of 83 years starting in 2034. The one big change to society involved in all this is the advent of technology to nurture human fœtuses outside the womb and to tweak the genetic composition of embryos for desired traits. The slow evolution of approved standards of child gestation into outright disapproval of the natural process – how can you be so uncaring of your child’s welfare as to carry it yourself? – is well served by the form of the narrative; it comes on us gradually, as the attitude would. The choice is not, however, so easy if you lack the resources to purchase the services and provides another stick with which to beat the poor, to go along with all the traditional ones.

As a Science Fictional thought experiment this is almost text book; consequences of a change thought out and demonstrated. I can see why it has garnered the acclaim it did. As a novel it’s less so, though, coming over as bitty and too pat. Moreover I wasn’t convinced by the implied background. Even in 2120 daily life in Dreams Before the Start of Time doesn’t appear to be very different from that in the early twenty-first century. Perhaps this appears so because most of the characters are well-to-do, or at least comfortably off. Charnock writes well, though. The book is never less than readable and in places surpasses that.

Pedant’s corner:- practiced (practised.)

2018 Clarke Award

This year’s winner is Dreams Before the Start of Time by Anne Charnock.

I’ve not yet read it but it’s on my list.

BSFA Awards 2017

BSFA Awards 2017 booklet cover

Short fiction nominees:-
The Enclave1 by Anne Charnock (NewCon Press, Feb 2017) is not obviously Science Fiction. Written well enough, it focuses on Caleb, a refugee seemingly from Spain but it could be further south, at a time when the world seems to have global warmed. It has some echoes of Oliver Twist as Caleb is variously exploited and learns to trust no-one. The titular enclave lies somewhere near Manchester.
In These Constellations Will Be Yours by Elaine Cuyegkeng (Strange Horizons, 7/8/17) oraculos from the planet Buyin have enabled much swifter interstellar travel at the cost of having their backs opened, spines, brains and nervous systems attached to the galleon-ships which ply the celestial sea. Some avoid this fate by paying to opt out. There is a revolt.
Uncanny Valley2 by Greg Egan (Tor.com, 9/8/17) is an extract only. The full text is available online but I dislike reading fiction from a screen so this one page sample had to do and was consequently hard to adjudge.
Angular Size3 by Geoff Nelder ( SFerics, 2017) is in the tradition of the big dumb object story, or, in this case, the maybe not quite so big as something the apparent size of the moon but only detectable in the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum suddenly appears in the solar system. However it may be as small as a button but, more importantly, a precursor to alien invasion.
The Murders of Molly Southborne4 by Tade Thompson (Tor.com publishing) is also an extract, two pages this time; too short an extract to appraise properly.

In the non-fiction items the extract from Modern Masters of Science Fiction: Iain M Banksa by Paul Kincaid is mainly about Feersum Endjinn, Whit, A Song of Stone and Excession.
Juliet E McKenna’s The Myth of Meritocracy and the Reality of the Leaky Pipe and other Obstacles in Science Fiction and Fantasyb examines the ways in which women are undervalued in and marginalised from SF.
There is an extract from Wells at the World’s Endb by Adam Roberts in which he looks at The Invisible Man.
Various contributors consider The 2017 Shadow Clarke Awardsc.
The Unthinkability of Climate Change: Thoughts on Amitav Ghosh’s ‘The Great Derangement’d by Vandana Singh deals with the unwillingness of people to think about climate change.

Pedant’s corner (fiction):- 1focussed (focused,) sat (sitting,) “no sense of daring-do” (it’s derring-do.) 2a stationers (stationer’s.) 3”they might consider humanity are a scourge on the planet” (is a scourge,) miniscule (minuscule,) focussed (focused,) “‘The White House are having kittens’” (is having,) “‘take it Edwards’” (take it to Edwards,) “‘it’s slowing down but still heading for the Moon’” (unless it was very close to the Moon already, not in any trajectory I’ve ever heard of.) 4feces (faeces.)
(Non-fiction):- ain a passage about Banks’s prefiguring of txt spk, “duz she 1/2 a naim” (I read that as one/two, not ½,) rumor and center (in a British piece about a British writer! Rumour and centre, please.) bCandaules’ (Candaules’s, yet we have Wells’s and Griffins’s,) “to talk an individual caught up in … is to describes” (to talk of an individual… is to describe,) “as good as stopping photons” (as good at stopping.) b”which that presenting evidence” (which presenting that evidence,) practise (practice,) selfevidently (self evidently.) c”as a third wave of riots break out” (a wave breaks out.) dCO2 (CO2.)

BSFA Awards for 2017

This year’s BSFA Awards (for works published last year) were announced at Eastercon on Saturday 31st March.

The winners were:-

Best novel: The Rift by Nina Allan

Best Short Fiction: The Enclave by Anne Charnock

Best Non-fiction: Paul Kincaid for Iain M Banks

The Best Artwork Award: was shared between Jim Burns and Victo Ngai

BSFA Awards for 2017

The shortlists for the BSFA Awards for last year went live while I was traipsing about down south.

They are:-

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)

I have read the Leckie (and will post a review on Saturday.) Two others are in hand.

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)

I’ve read none of these so far.

Best Non-Fiction

Paul Kincaid – Iain M. Banks (University of Illinois Press)

Juliet E McKenna – The Myth of Meritocracy and the Reality of the Leaky Pipe and Other Obstacles in Science Fiction & Fantasy (in ‘Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction’ edited by Francesca T Barbini, Luna Press)

Adam Roberts – Wells at the World’s End 2017 blog posts (Wells at the World’s End blog)

Shadow Clarke Award jurors – The 2017 Shadow Clarke Award blog (The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy). The 2017 Shadow Clarke jurors are: Nina Allan, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Victoria Hoyle, Vajra Chandrasekera, Nick Hubble, Paul Kincaid, Jonathan McCalmont, Megan AM.

Vandana Singh – The Unthinkability of Climate Change: Thoughts on Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement (Strange Horizons)

Best Artwork

Geneva Benton – Sundown Towns (cover for Fiyah Magazine #3)

Jim Burns – Cover for ‘The Ion Raider’ by Ian Whates (NewCon Press)

Galen Dara – Illustration for ‘These Constellations Will Be Yours’ by Elaine Cuyegkeng (Strange Horizons)

Chris Moore – Cover for ‘The Memoirist’ by Neil Williamson (NewCon Press)

Victo Ngai – Illustration for ‘Waiting on a Bright Moon’ by JY Yang (Tor.com)

Marcin Wolski – Cover for ‘2084’ edited by George Sandison (Unsung Stories)

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