Hilary Mantel’s “controversial” story, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher (Fourth Estate) has made the shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award 2015 with Book Trust.
Selected from 439 stories, this year’s shortlist includes Briar Road by novelist and former Rough Guides editor, Jonathan Buckley, and Broderie Anglaise by poet Frances Leviston.
The shortlist also includes stories that depict "love in unusual forms": Bunny by Mark Haddon tells the story of a morbidly obese young man who makes an "unlikely" friend as "the world shrinks around him", and Jeremy Page's Do It Now, Jump the Table is a "touchingly comic" story of a young man who meets his girlfriend's parents, who happen to be nudists, for the first time.
The prize was established to “raise the profile” of the short story. Now in its 10th year, the award is “one of the most prestigious for a single short story” with the winning author receiving £15,000, the runner-up £3,000, and three further shortlisted authors £500 each.
Each of the shortlisted stories is set "firmly behind closed doors" and “expresses an unexpected side of British life," the prize organisers said.
Ian Rankin, crime novelist and judge, said: “It was great fun reading so many terrific short stories, but really tough to whittle the list down and pick a winner! The quality was matched by a variety of approach and subject matter, leaving me in no doubt as to the continuing robust good health of the form.”
Rankin is joined on the panel by novelist and short story writer, Tash Aw; 2013 BBC National Short Story Award-winner, Sarah Hall; and Books editor at BBC Radio, Di Speirs. The panel is chaired by former BBC foreign correspondent Allan Little.
Di Speirs said: “We have come a long way in the ten years since our first BBC National Short Story Award when the short story in the UK felt endangered – not much published, read or feted, though always a core part of BBC Radio. A decade of reading the best short fiction produced here, and the rise of home-grown collections, often headlined by National Short Story Award shortlisted stories, is proof that the story is once again flourishing, constantly inventive, constantly challenging. This year’s shortlist is no exception – comic or poignant or both, they all throw the glancing light that a short story can do so well, into overlooked corners of Britain, and in a brief moment, illuminate characters we might otherwise pass by, unaware.’
To mark the 10th year of the award, the BBC and Book Trust launched the Student Choice, which enabled nearly 500 16-18 year old students from schools around the UK to cast their own votes on the shortlist. The scheme aims to encourage young people to read high quality adult short stories. The Student Choice winner will be announced at the award ceremony on 6th October.
Interviews with each of the shortlisted writers will be broadcast over five weekdays on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Front Row’ from Friday 18 to Thursday 24 September 2015. Each writer’s story will be then be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on the following working day, from Monday 21 to Friday 25 September 2015. Each story will also be available as a free download from the day of broadcast for 30 days.
Previous winners of the prize include Lionel Shriver, Hanif Kureishi and Zadie Smith. The winner will be announced on 6th October. The shortlisted stories are published by Comma Press. This is their sixth year of publishing shortlisted stories on behalf of the BBC.
This year will also see the launch of the BBC Young Writers’ Award with Book Trust. Open to 14-18 year olds, the aim of the award is to "inspire and encourage the next generation of short story writers" and is a cross-network collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and Radio 1. The winner of the Young Writers’ Award will also be announced on 6th October.