Many of us were left scratching our heads when the New Yorker's list of 20 great writers under 40 included no genre authors whatsoever. Now Britain's Telegraph newspaper has come up with its own list — that includes science fiction.
The Telegraph's article about its own list of 20 British authors under 40 notes that in America, there's more obsession about the craft of writing, and writing programs like the Iowa Writers Workshop are more prominent than their U.K. equivalents. Most of the writers on the New Yorker's list are the product of creative writing programs, and many of them teach in these programs now. The New Yorker list, in short, represents a particular culture of academically endorsed writing, of a particular type. Whereas the Brits, the implication goes, are more open to celebrating good writing wherever they find it.
Writes the Telegraph about its own list:
We have used the same selection criteria as the New Yorker – all these writers are under 40 and all, with two exceptions, live in Britain – at least most of the time. But we haven't controlled the types of writing, or worried about whether writers stand in some way for different experiences of Britishness. And we have frankly failed, if it matters, to achieve a gender balance – 13 out of the 20 are men – and most of these writers are white. But in other ways we have striven to be diverse, refusing to overlook excellent science fiction and genuinely good thrillers.
Our list is based unapologetically on talent and, to a lesser extent, potential – one of our selected writers, Anjali Joseph, will publish her first novel next month. Implicit in our selection is the expectation that these writers have their best work ahead of them. If some people complain that they haven't heard of most of them, we will regard that criticism as a badge of honour.
So who's on the list from the world of science fiction? There's Sarah Hall, whose post-apocalyptic novel The Carhullan Army/Daughters Of The North won the Tiptree Award a few years back. There's Steven Hall (no relation, I'm guessing) author of The Raw Shark Texts, about creatures that feed off ideas. There's China Miéville, whose The City And The City has recharged his literary reputation recently. And then there's Scarlett Thomas, author of the slipstream-y The End Of Mr. Y. All in all, not a bad list — the non-SF books in the list are all intriguing and the ones I haven't read/heard of sound like they're about something. Good show. [Telegraph]