Author Archives: E J Swift

The White Fox and the Red

I have a new short story, “The White Fox and the Red”, now available to read over on Pornokitch. A big thank you to the artist 12 Orchards for the beautiful illustration!

I read this story at Unsung Live #7 on 23 February, and you can also listen to the recording over on Unsung Stories here.

The story was inspired by this beautiful but heartbreaking image by Don Gutoski, the winner of the 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

The Djinn Falls In Love

The Jinn Falls in LoveThe Djinn Falls In Love & Other Stories, edited by the brilliant Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin, is out today from Solaris!

Imagine a world filled with fierce, fiery beings, hiding in our shadows, in our dreams, under our skins. Eavesdropping and exploring; savaging our bodies, saving our souls. They are monsters, saviours, victims, childhood friends.

These are the Djinn. And they are everywhere. On street corners, behind the wheel of a taxi, in the chorus, between the pages of books. Every language has a word for them. Every culture knows their traditions. Every religion, every history has them hiding in their dark places. There is no part of the world that does not know them.

They are the Djinn. They are among us.

An anthology of twenty new stories of djinn, I’m thrilled to be part of the contributor list below:

Amal El-Mohtar, Catherine King, Claire North, E.J. Swift, Helene Wecker, Hermes (trans. Robin Moger), Jamal Mahjoub, James Smythe, J.Y. Yang, Kamila Shamsie, Kirsty Logan, K.J. Parker, Kuzhali Manickavel, Maria Dahvana Headley, Monica Byrne, Neil Gaiman, Nnedi Okorafor, Saad Hossain, Sami Shah, Sophia Al-Maria and Usman Malik.

My story, “The Jinn Hunter’s Apprentice”, features a haunted spaceship, a Martian spaceport, and a ring-tailed lemur.

For early reviews, events, and order links for The Djinn Falls In Love, take a look at the Pornokitsch website here.

Unsung Live #7

I’m delighted to join the line-up of authors for Unsung Live 7 on Tuesday 21 February, an evening of storytelling for fans of contemporary speculative fiction. The evening runs from 7.00 – 9.00pm at The Star of Kings (126 York Way London, Greater London N1 0AX, London).

If you’re interested to attend, it’s a free event but space is limited so you’ll need to sign up here.

You can find out more about Unsung Stories – a fiction imprint of independent press Red Squirrel Publishing – on their website here.

Reading recommendations from 2016

Looking back on the year’s reading, below are a few recommendations from books I’ve loved in 2016. The majority weren’t originally published this year and one which I’ve been lucky enough to read in advance is published in 2017. They’re all brilliant books and as usual it feels impossible to rank, so I’ve listed in the order I read them:

do-no-harm
Do No Harm
by Henry Marsh (W&N, 2014)

Life, death and brain surgery: a searingly honest account of Henry Marsh’s life and work as one of the UK’s most foremost neurosurgeons. This came with oodles of hype and lived up to every ounce of it. Heartbreaking and inspirational.

speak-by-louisa-hallSpeak by Louisa Hall (Orbit, 2015)

One of those novels that deserved far more attention than it seemed to receive. The multiple narratives span several centuries, from a young Alan Turing to a creator of artificial intelligence now serving a prison sentence, tied together by the voice of a discarded AI who has learned about humanity through the stories she has absorbed. 

wolf-borderThe Wolf Border by Sarah Hall (Faber and Faber, 2015)

An eccentric landowner decides to reintroduce wolves to his estate in the north of England. This is a beautiful meditation on nature and landscape, and the most evocative writing I’ve come across about pregnancy. Hall’s language is always divine, and the final images of this novel have lingered with me all year.

house-of-journalistsThe House of Journalists by Tim Finch (Jonathan Cape, 2013)

Dark humour abounds in this tale of a house for refugee journalists seeking sanctuary in London, having fled from oppressive regimes around the world. I loved the clever use of narrative that pulls together the different characters’ stories, and the novel’s themes feel ever more pertinent since it was first published in 2013.

the-boat-nam-leThe Boat by Nam Le (Canongate, 2009)

The opening of this collection, which takes a character with the author’s name attending a writing workshop in Iowa, subverts and satirizes the expectations of what a Vietnamese-born Australian writer should write about, and stakes the writer’s claim on the short fiction form. Seven marvellous stories located around the world in an explosion of startling imagery.

central-stationCentral Station by Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon, 2016)

Fractured novel exploring the lives and loves of a cast of characters living in the shadow of a future space station in Tel Aviv. Tidhar creates a wonderful tapestry of moods and emotions with some extraordinarily powerful scenes such as a robotnik soldier’s memories of war. Hope to see this on some awards lists next year.

dear-thiefDear Thief by Samantha Harvey (Vintage, 2014)

In the middle of the night, a woman begins writing a letter to her best friend who disappeared over a decade ago. A gloriously written exploration of betrayal and forgiveness and one of the best depictions I’ve read of the complexities of female friendship.

 

the-thing-itselfThe Thing Itself by Adam Roberts (Gollancz, 2015)

Roberts combines philosophy and thriller in this clever, entertaining and enviably stylish exploration of Kant and the Fermi Paradox. The central narrative is interspersed with often heartbreaking accounts of characters caught up in the ramifications of the thing itself, and wonderfully written throughout. An absolute joy.

dreams-before-the-start-of-timeDreams Before The Start of Time by Anne Charnock (47 North, 2017)

Charnock’s third novel is a beautifully nuanced exploration of future developments in fertility science. The science underpinning the narrative is subtle and unobtrusive, allowing the novel to shine on the neuroses of its large, three-generational cast of characters as they struggle to come to terms with the decisions of their parents. As with her previous novels, Charnock is marvellous at communicating a huge amount in a short space. Look out for this in April next year.

Now We Are Ten

NewCon Press celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and I’m delighted to have a story in one of several anthologies commissioned to mark the milestone. Here’s the table of contents for Now We Are Ten, edited by Ian Whates: 

now we are ten_cover1. Introduction by Ian Whates
2. The Final Path – Genevieve Cogman
3. Women’s Christmas – Ian McDonald
4. Pyramid – Nancy Kress
5. Liberty Bird – Jaine Fenn
6. Zanzara Island – Rachel Armstrong
7. Ten Sisters – Eric Brown
8. Licorice – Jack Skillingstead
9. The Time Travellers’ Ball – Rose Biggin
10. Dress Rehearsal – Adrian Tchaikovsky
11. The Tenth Man -– Bryony Pearce
12. Rare As A Harpy’s Tear – Neil Williamson
13. How to Grow Silence from Seed – Tricia Sullivan
14. Utopia +10 – JA Christy
15. Ten Love Songs to Change the World – Peter F Hamilton 
16. Ten Days – Nina Allan
17. Front Row Seat to the End of the World –  E. J. Swift

Cover artwork is by the brilliant Ben Baldwin, who also produced my US covers for Cataveiro and Tamaruq.

You can order the anthology through NewCon Press here or via Amazon here.

Happy birthday, NewCon!

Strata launches

StrataI’m very happy to have a piece of short fiction in a new digital project from Penguin Random House: Strata, launched this week. You can take a look here.

A digital book about the future, Strata explores a dystopian world through pairings of short fiction and non-fiction essays, with stories by Laurie Penny, James Smythe and Lavie Tidhar. My story, “A Handful of Rubies”,  takes the theme of food.

Strata is created in partnership with Lex and Editions At Play, directed and illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards, with music and sound design by I Speak Machine. It’s designed to be read on a smartphone, but can be viewed on a desktop too.

Here’s a video of me talking about the project:

 

2015 Reading: The Year in Review

I set myself a goal of 40 books for 2015 and I’m at 43 at the time of writing. I’ve read some fantastic books, old and new, this year – here’s a few recommendations:

Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven lived up to the hype. I was drawn in by the concept: a post-apocalyptic travelling Shakespeare company, but what has stayed with me is the exquisite characterization and before-and-during transitions as the catastrophe unfolds. I don’t think I’ve seen a bad word about this book.

mechanique coverAlso set against a post-apocalyptic landscape, I adored Genevieve Valentine’s steampunk Mechanique. Hands down the best circus-themed novel I’ve read.

Anne Charnock’s debut novel and Kitschies finalist A Calculated Life is a quietly mesmerizing coming-of-age tale which lingers after the reading. The (unrelated) follow-up, Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind, has just landed on my doormat and I can’t wait to get to it over Christmas.

EscapeFromBaghdad-CoverPromo21Another brilliant debut was Saad Hossein’s Escape from Baghdad!, a rollercoaster of a novel whose post-invasion Iraq setting is combined seamlessly with a hunt for the secrets of immortality. The dark humour emphasises rather than detracts from the seriousness of the underlying text. Surely one for next year’s Kitschies lists?

prettymonsters_kellylinkTwo revelatory authors for me this year were Sarah Hall and Kelly Link, neither of whom I’d read before. I was blown away by the writing of Hall’s The Carhullan Army. At once fierce and lyrical, this is a dystopia which packs a huge punch in a short space. Her latest novel, The Wolf Border, is first on my list for next year’s reading.

Kelly Link’s collection Pretty Monsters left me green with envy; a note-perfect example of the use of the fantastical in contemporary settings. I’m really looking forward to her latest collection, Get In Trouble, currently out in hardback.

karenjoyfowler_weareallYou can’t really write about Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves without giving the game away, but suffice to say I adored this: the self-aware narration, the careful consideration of moral conundrums, the humour and the tears. Gorgeous.

Ali Smith’s How To Be Both is published two different ways: I read the 15th Century painter Francesco del Cosso’s story first, followed by George’s present day narrative. This beautiful meditation is my favourite of Smith’s work to date.

hamid_howtogetfilthyrichMohsin Hamid is an author I’d been meaning to get to for a while; I read The Reluctant Fundamentalist and immediately afterwards bought How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, the latter of which had me in tears at the end. Hamid is a superb stylist, able to convey volumes in the tautest of sentences.

In science fiction, I was happily surprised by how much I enjoyed 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson: a structural and philosophical delight.

Jennifer Marie Brissett’s Elysium was an incredibly clever use of narrative structure, and beautifully written to boot.

newman_icecreamstarSandra Newman’s The Country of Ice Cream Star left me somewhat divided: this 900+ pages epic is worth the read for the voice alone – the use of language is searingly good – but its relentless bleakness and somewhat meandering plot left me struggling a little towards the end.

I’d been challenged to read Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan, which I went into a little apprehensively, having no idea what to expect, and ended up enjoying immensely.

atwood_stonemattressI’m still waiting for the paperback edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, but her new collection The Stone Mattress served as a perfect reminder of what a superlative writer Atwood is. Addressing the ageing process with wit and grace, this is dark humour at its best.

Hilary Mantel is another writer I need to read more of: her memoir Giving Up The Ghost is sharp, satiric, a linguistic joy and utterly heartwrenching.

I took Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum on holiday and was blown away to discover it was her debut novel. Like another of my favourite writers, Jennifer Egan, Atkinson has a wonderful gift for combining humour with serious subject matter; this was a joy.

egan_thekeepLastly, I used up my Jennifer Egan credit finishing the last of her backlist, The Keep. Towards the end I had one of those moments of sitting bolt upright and declaring out loud, ‘Damn, but Egan is such a ridiculously clever writer’. And she is. I’m now desperately waiting for whatever comes next from this phenomenally good novelist.

All in all, 2015 was a pretty brilliant year for reading. Here’s to 2016!