Lionel Shriver has expressed her concern over the “dangerous” monopoly Amazon is developing after receiving the BBC Short Story Award last night.
Speaking to The Bookseller after the prize ceremony, Shriver said: “I suppose if I were really acting in self-interest I would keep my mouth shut about Amazon, I’m sure a big percentage of my sales depend on it. All the same, I’m uncomfortable with the idea that books should be controlled by a single company and I think that letting Amazon have the kind of monopoly they are rapidly developing is dangerous.”
She added: “I think we all have some investment in there being free flow of ideas, I hate the idea of what we read being controlled by an algorithm.”
Shriver also mentioned the recent Authors United petition to Amazon saying: “I was disappointed no one asked me to sign the petition, I would have signed it, definitely.”
Shriver’s winning story, "Kilifi Creek", tells the story of the near-death experience of a gap-year student at the eponymous creek in Kenya. Zadie Smith’s story about a New York drag queen, "Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets", was named as the runner-up in the ceremony.
Speaking about prizes for short stories, Shriver said: “Prizes often end up being about the promotion of the form not the individual author who wins. I think it’s a little unfortunate the short story has become so defensive, I don’t think we need to have it shoved down our throats. I think we can stop plugging short stories, it’s tiresome and it’s insecure.”
Shriver was awarded the gong at a ceremony at the Radio Theatre last night as part of a special broadcast of BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme, hosted by John Wilson with guests Alan Yentob, creative director at the BBC, Hilary Mantel and Laura Dockrill, judge, author and performance poet.
During the broadcast, Dockrill performed a new short story written especially for the launch of the new Booktrust teen writers prize, a creation which Shriver praised. “It could mean even more to someone who wins that than to me winning this, “ she said. “When you’re that age and someone picks you out it can be transformative. In some ways it’s a more benevolent phenomenon than the older prizes. I have some literary reputation already, this is only going to make so much difference in my life in terms of my profile, but whoever wins that prize could really be changed” She added: “Not that I’m ungrateful!”
During the programme, Hilary Mantel further defended her controversial short story "The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher", which has been condemned by some commentators. When questioned about good taste by Wilson, Mantel said: “Questions of taste seldom occur to me, I have little to do with good taste. If I’d finished it during Thatcher’s lifetime I would have tried to publish it then, although I suspect no one would have.”