Jon Courtenay Grimwood
|Jon Courtenay Grimwood|
|Genre||Science fiction &fantasy|
Grimwood was born in 1953 in Valletta, Malta, grew up in Malta, Britain, Southeast Asia and Norway in the 1960s and 1970s. He studied at Kingston College, then worked in publishing and as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers including The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, and The Independent. He now lives in Paris and Winchester and is married to the journalist and novelist Sam Baker, with a son, Jamie, from a previous marriage.
Much of his early work can be described as post-cyberpunk. He won a British Science Fiction Association award for Felaheen in 2003, was short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Pashazade the year before, and won the 2006 BSFA award for Best Novel with End of the World Blues. He was short-listed for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 2002 for Pashazade. His fourth book is loosely based on Stanley Weyman's Victorian novel Under the Red Robe. End of the World Blues was also short-listed for the 2007 Arthur C. Clarke Award. The following were nominated in the SF novel category in the Locus Awards – Felaheen, The Third Arabesk, 2004; Stamping Butterflies, 2005; 9Tail Fox, 2006; End of the World Blues, 2007.
The French translation of his 2013 literary novel The Last Banquet, written as Jonathan Grimwood, was shortlisted in January 2015 for Le Prix Montesquieu, as Le Dernier Banquet, 2014, Éditions Terra Nova, translation by Carole Delporte.
Grimwood's work tends to be of a quasi-alternate history genre. In the first four novels, set in the 22nd century, the point of divergence is the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, where Grimwood posits a reality where Napoleon III's France defeats Otto von Bismarck's Prussia, causing the German Empire never to form and the Second French Empire never to collapse. In the Arabesk trilogy, the point of divergence is in 1915, with Woodrow Wilson brokering an earlier peace so that World War I barely expanded outside of the Balkans; the books are set in a liberal Islamic Ottoman North Africa in the 21st century, mainly centring on El Iskandriya (Alexandria). By contrast, there is little in Stamping Butterflies, 9tail Fox or End of the World Blues to suggest that the books are not set in our reality.
The Fallen Blade is the first of three novels set in an alternative early-15th century featuring Tycho, fallen angel and assassin, at the Venetian court, in a Venice where Marco Polo's family have been hereditary dukes for five generations and the Mongol emperor Tamberlaine has conquered China, making him the most powerful ruler in the world. The second novel in the Assassini series, The Outcast Blade was published in 2012, with the third The Exiled Blade due in Spring 2013. The novels take as a template sequences and tropes from Shakespeare's plays Othello, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.
His first literary novel, The Last Banquet, as Jonathan Grimwood, was published in 2013 by Canongate in the UK and Europa Editions in the US. Referencing Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire and the Marquis de Sade — and picaresque in the style of Candide — it tells the semi magic realist tale of an aristocrat prepared to eat anything, and covers the run up to the French Revolution from the early to late 18th century. The French France 5 critic Gérard Collard called Le Dernier Banquet "le livre de l’année" (the book of the year). It was an NPR Best Book of the Year for 2013 ‘Foodies and Francophiles alike will relish this debut novel about Jean-Marie d'Aumout, whom we first meet crunching beetles as a starving orphaned son of nobility in 1723...’ In January 2015 it was shortlisted for Le Prix Montesquieu.
||This section possibly contains original research. (November 2012)|
Grimwood's style has two main features. Firstly, his central characters often have a somewhat unusual form of (often artificial) inner monologue; the lead character of the Arabesk trilogy has an internal AI generally referred to as "the fox" or Tiriganiaq (Inuktitut for Arctic fox), which acts as a pseudo-conscience to some extent, in addition to giving him often flawed and self-evident advice; another character talks to his ever-present military commander; and most notably, in redRobe, the lead character (an assassin) talks to his sentient gun. In Stamping Butterflies, as well as some of the characters having a mental link (across several centuries in both directions), one character has conversations with an alien AI known as "the Library".
Secondly, he frequently alternates the main narrative with either a continuous story or a series of discontinuous flashbacks, often to the childhood of a central character. He uses this to explain events in the past in such a way that their connection to the plot only becomes evident later in the book, at around the point its effects are felt in the main storyline.
He has described his writing process as analogous to building a house:
You lay down foundations, put up walls, fix roof supports in place, tile the roof and begin to cut in wiring and plumbing before you get to plaster board and long before you get to paint. When I wrote Pashazade, the first of the Ashraf Bey crime novels, I reached the end of the first draft with the world, the characters and the events in place, without ever knowing who killed the woman found in the first scene. The hero didn't know, the local police didn't know and nor did I. It was only half way though the second draft it became obvious. If I don't know why something happened first time round I'm not worried.
For The Fallen Blade a clear month went on plot, characters, and world. (Although all are on-going jobs.) After that, I allowed four months to get the events down in a 140,000-word first draft; four months to do a hard copy edit that nailed the characters; then three months on a third and final draft that included writing a couple of extra chapters. For me, the first draft is what happens, the second is why and how the person it's happening to reacts, the third is how they feel... In drive by style, that's boy on bench crying, boy on bench crying because girlfriend left him, boy on bench crying because he knows exactly why his girlfriend left him, and he deserved it which makes him cry even more... That's massively simplistic, because the scene could be nailed down to what, why and feelings on the first draft and not change.
|Lucifer's Dragon||1998||ISBN 0-7434-7827-4|
|redRobe||2000||ISBN 0-671-02260-1||British Science Fiction Award nominee, 2000|
|Pashazade||2001||ISBN 0-7434-6833-3||First in the Arabesk trilogy
British Science Fiction Award nominee, 2001;
John W. Campbell Memorial Award nominee, 2002;
Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee, 2002
|Effendi||2002||ISBN 0-671-77369-0||Second in the Arabesk trilogy
British Science Fiction Award nominee, 2002
|Felaheen||2003||ISBN 0-671-77370-4||Third in the Arabesk trilogy
British Science Fiction Award winner, 2003;
British Fantasy Award nominee, 2004
|Stamping Butterflies||2004||ISBN 0-575-07613-5||British Science Fiction Award nominee, 2004|
|9tail Fox||2005||ISBN 0-575-07615-1||British Science Fiction Award nominee, 2005|
|End of the World Blues||2006||ISBN 0-575-07616-X||British Science Fiction Award winner, 2006;
Arthur C. Clarke nominee, 2007
|The Fallen Blade||2011||ISBN 0-316-07439-X|
|The Outcast Blade||2012||ISBN 1841498475|
|The Exiled Blade||2013||ISBN 9781841498508|
|The Last Banquet||2013||As Jonathan Grimwood|
- "2003 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "2002 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "2006 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "2007 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Le prix littéraire". La Brède Montesquieu.
- La chronique de Gérard Collard — Le dernier banquet. Les Déblogueurs.TV, YouTube. 17 September 2014.
- "The Last Banquet". NPR Books.
- "How I Write – Orbit".
- "2000 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "2001 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "2004 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "2005 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- Official website
- Jon Courtenay Grimwood at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Grimwood SF Encyclopedia entry
- Interview with the author on SFsite.com, April 2002
- Interview with the author on StrangeHorizons.com, 12 August 2002
- Interview with the author on Infinity Plus, August 2006
- Review of 9tail Fox from The Future Fire, December 2005
- Review of The Exiled Blade from Upcoming4.me, May 2013