LIFE OF LECKIE

Ann Leckie tells us what it’s like to win four ma­jor awards

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Welcome - Por­trait by will i re­land

The An­cil­lary

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.

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