Steph Swainston at Åcon in 2009.
|Born||Stephanie Jane Swainston
Bradford, Yorkshire, England, UK
|Genres||Literary fantasy New Weird|
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (July 2013)|
Stephanie Jane "Steph" Swainston is a British literary fantasy/science fiction author, receiving critical acclaim (from China Miéville among others) for her first novel The Year of Our War (2004). The book won the 2005 Crawford Award and a nomination for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. The sequel No Present Like Time was published in 2005. Swainston's third book, The Modern World, is set in the same universe and was published in May 2007. Her fourth novel, Above the Snowline, was published in 2010, and she has begun work on a fifth book.  In 2011, she announced she was quitting full-time writing to become a Chemistry teacher.
Born in Bradford in 1974, Swainston attended St. Joseph's College, Bradford, Girton College, University of Cambridge, and the University of Wales. A qualified archaeologist, she was employed on digs at the oldest recorded burial site in the UK, Paviland Cave, as well as at Hayonim Cave, Israel. Other jobs included working for an ethical company developing pharmaceuticals from cannabis, as an assistant in a zoo's veterinary lab and as a researcher for the Ministry of Defence.
Swainston's work so far has been set in 'the Fourlands' Castle series, which the author has described as a secret childhood paracosm,  further influenced by aspects of her later adult life, including the competitive academic world. The novels centre on the life of "the Circle", an elite group of immortals created and sustained by the Emperor, a near god-like figure engaged in a prolonged conflict with insectoid creatures, apparently from another world. Told in the first person, the novels follow the life of Jant, a winged humanoid with a distinctly flawed personality. The Castle series is also marked by the existence of multiple worlds, including the fantastic, baroque Shift.
While characterised by others as a member of the fantasy literary genre the New Weird, which aims to reform fantasy literature by transcending its traditional boundaries, Swainston has argued against labeling writers, including herself, within genres, arguing that good fantasy and mainstream literature instead form a continuum. She has been critical of the conservative nature of much commercial fantasy writing, and her approach embraces narrative themes unfamiliar to conventional fantasy, including drug use and graphic sex scenes, alongside the hyper-realistic depiction of warfare. Swainston describes her work as appealing to the ongoing deep structures of universal storytelling, as literature written as much in response to the author's own needs than as a response to specific market requirements.
The Castle books
- The Year of Our War (Gollancz SF, 2004) ISBN 978-0-575-07642-6
- The Year of Our War (Gollancz SF, 2006) ISBN 978-0-575-07798-0
- No Present Like Time (Gollancz SF, 2005, hardcover) ISBN 978-0-575-07006-6
- No Present Like Time (Gollancz SF, 2006, paperback) ISBN 978-0-575-07798-0
- The Modern World (Gollancz SF, 2007, paperback) ISBN 978-0-575-08221-2
- The Castle Omnibus: "The Year of Our War", "No Present Like Time", "The Modern World" (Gollancz SF, 2009, paperback) ISBN 978-0-575-09125-2
- Above the Snowline (Gollancz SF, 2010, hardcover) ISBN 978-0-575-08158-1
- Official site
- Night Shade Books Discussion Boards
- Interview conducted by Jeff VanderMeer for Clarkesworld Magazine
- Reviews of all three books in the Castle series
- Steph Swainston at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database