Chris Beckett is in the running for the UK’s only literary award for the best short story collection of the year, the Edge Hill prize, with his science fiction entry The Turing Test. Beckett will be going up against a former Booker prize winner, Anne Enright, in a literary battle that is sure to turn heads.
“I’m obviously very pleased about being shortlisted for this award as any author would be,” said Beckett in an e-mail interview. “But I’m also particularly pleased that a collection of science fiction stories published by a small press, is on a short list alongside collections by mainstream literary authors from larger and better known publishers. These are both factors which would have prevented many people from taking the book seriously – in fact I know many people personally who would not read a science fiction book simply because it was science fiction – so I’m very pleased that the judges have been willing to look beyond them and judge my book on its merits.”
Indeed, Beckett, a former social worker and now a lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, has his own approach to writing that doesn’t shoehorn it purely into a science fiction genre. “For myself I’d like to think my book is not just a good science fiction book, or a good small press book, but a good book full stop. And one of the things that I’d like to think makes it a good book is that I write in the way that suits me to write to say the things I want to say, rather than in a way that would define it as ‘literary’ or, for that matter, in a way that necessarily conforms to the expectations of ‘science fiction’ readers.”
The Edge Hill short story prize awards its winner with a cash sum of £5,000, and is judged by James Walton, last year’s winner Claire Keegan, and Edge Hill University’s Mark Flinn, with the winner announced on 4 July.