Sf stories from closed imprint defeats established stars

Nicholas Clee
News - Prizes 06 Jul 2009

The Edge Hill Short Story Prize , worth £5,000, has gone to Chris Beckett for his collection The Turing Test , published by Elastic Press - which closed at the start of the year.

Beckett, an sf writer whose work includes 'robots, alien planets, genetic manipulation and virtual reality', emerged as the winner from a shortlist also including collections by Anne Enright, Shena Mackay, Ali Smith and Gerard Donovan.
Beckett received his cheque and a specially commissioned painting by Liverpool artist Pete Clarke at a ceremony on Saturday evening, 4 July, at the Bluecoat centre in Liverpool. He also won the £1,000 Readers Prize. Enright won the second prize, worth £1,000, for her collection Yesterday's Weather (Vintage).
This judges were James Walton, journalist and chair of Radio 4's The Write Stuff; author and 2008 winner Claire Keegan; and Mark Flinn, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Edge Hill University. Walton said: 'I suspect Chris Beckett winning the Edge Hill Prize will be seen as a surprise in the world of books. In fact, though, it was also a bit of surprise to the judges, none of whom knew they were science fiction fans beforehand. Yet, once the judging process started, it soon became clear that The Turing Test was the book that we'd all been impressed by, and enjoyed, the most - and one by one we admitted it.'
The full shortlist was: The Turing Test by Chris Beckett, Country of the Grand by Gerard Donovan (Faber), Yesterday's Weather by Anne Enright, The Atmospheric Railway by Shena Mackay (Cape), and The First Person and Other Stories by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton).
Andrew Hook, founder of Elastic Press, explained at an online forum: 'The main reason for closing is that I ve increasingly found Elastic is becoming a burden rather than a pleasure. I ve run it mostly in my spare time over the past six years (and occasionally part-time and full-time), and I ve decided that I now want to focus on my own writing and spend more time with my family.'

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