LIFE OF LECKIE
Ann Leckie tells us what it’s like to win four major awards
Justice author talks awards domination.
“I feel like lots of people are expecting something special and spectacular”
Then you get a bit older and you’re like, ‘ No, no, that’s not realistic, settle down to what’s actually possible and then do that.’”
So what is it about the book that’s so connected with science fiction fans? Leckie says she’s not certain, but guesses it’s at least in part something to do with readers wanting a “big space opera thing ”.
Ancillary Justice is this and much more as it tells the story of Breq, an “ancillary” or part of the consciousness of a starship, Justice of Toren, destroyed in a covert war. It’s been favourably compared both to the work of Iain M Banks ( a comparison that makes Leckie “a little tetchy” because Consider Phlebas remains the only Banks novel she’s read) and an author who’s a far more direct influence, CJ Cherryh.
Readers and reviews inevitably also pick up on the book’s gender politics and its use of the female pronoun. “I’d been trying to write a society that was gender neutral,” says Leckie. “I don’t think my choice really conveys that, I don’t think I could really convey that, but I ended up deciding to use “she” for everyone, no matter what. Once I’d done it, I really loved the effect of undercutting the default, which is almost always masculine.”
Whatever it is about the novel that’s entranced readers, there’s no doubting that the awards and accolades have irrevocably changed Leckie’s life. With the second novel in what will be a trilogy, Ancillary Sword, out now, there’s a real sense of anticipation about the book this time around. “I feel like lots of people are expecting something really special and spectacular,” says Leckie. “I’m like, ‘ How could it possibly measure up?’ In some ways, that’s very scary. I’m writing the third [ volume], and it’s really very weird when I can see on the internet people talking about things that they’re expecting or that they hope to see. I have to step back from it to get some equilibrium.”
Somehow, you suspect she’ll survive the process. In person, there’s a hint of goofiness about Leckie, but she also conveys a keen intelligence and a quiet steeliness. Before Ancillary Justice was published, she was told it was good, but it probably wouldn’t sell. She carried on regardless. “My conclusion is you should write what you want to write.” Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword are available now from Orbit.
The SF literary world has never known anything quite like it. At this August’s Loncon 3, American author Ann Leckie took home the Hugo for Best Novel for her debut, Ancillary Justice. This was her fourth major award after winning the Nebula, Clarke and – as co- winner with Gareth L Powell’s Ack- Ack Macaque – BSFA gongs.
“Since the awards season started, it’s bizarre,” she tells Red Alert at Loncon. “I mean it’s fabulous, but it’s really weird. You know when you’re 12, you have these really grandiose fantasies about being a writer or whatever, and of course they always include winning all the awards and everybody loving your work.
A woman rapidly running out of space on her gong- laden mantelpiece.