There is nothing more quintessentially 2015 than the way in which Emily St John Mandel found out she’d won the premier prize for genre fiction, the Arthur C Clarke Award.
“I was obsessively hitting refresh on Twitter,” says Mandel. “My experience has been that I find out about everything on Twitter first! It was very strange – I’m used to obsessively hitting refresh and not winning the awards, but it was a really lovely surprise.”
It’s a fittingly modern method to receive the news considering the subject matter of Station Eleven, a novel that tracks a theatre troupe as it brings Shakespeare to a post- apocalyptic landscape.
“I wanted to write about the modern world, about this extraordinary apparatus of cell phones and aeroplanes, electricity and running water that I think we completely take for granted,” says Mandel. “It seemed to me that an interesting way to write about this present- day world would be to write about its absence, to think about what the world would look like if all of those details were to fall away.”
It’s an idea that, combined with Mandel’s elegantly sculpted prose, has propelled her into the bestseller lists and seen her join an impressive list of previous Clarke Award winners. “I grew up in Canada, where Margaret Atwood is sort of our reigning queen from a literary perspective, so it’s incredible to win an award that she won,” says Mandel. “I have vast respect for a lot of the other winners – China Miéville is one of my favourite writers. It’s an extraordinary honour.”
The question now, of course, is how to follow such a resounding success – although it seems we’ll be waiting a while to find out. “In theory I’m working on another novel,” says Mandel. “But in practice Station Eleven has taken over my life. Which is a great problem to have!”
So how would you cope with the end of the world?