Female and American writers, including Curtis Sittenfeld and Miranda July, dominate the £30,000 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award longlist with themes including ‘Trumpism’, the refugee crisis and Artificial Intelligence.
Organisers revealed there were a record-breaking 810 eligible entries submitted for the £30,000 prize this year “perhaps reflecting the surging popularity of the short story form this year” with new British authors Lisa Blower, Nicolas Burbidge and Naomi Booth also nominated alongside more established names such as US writer Allegra Goodman and Irish author Joseph O’Neill. Nine Americans feature altogether as well as four British authors and two Irish writers.
Previous winners of the prize who have also made the 15-strong longlist again this year include British writer Jonathan Tel, and US author Yiyun Li. Fellow American writer Victor Lodato, shortlisted last year, also returns to the longlist for a consecutive year.
The themes and locations of the stories selected are "ambitious, mature and engaged", featuring contemporary topics such as Trumpism, populism, and the refugee crisis as well as marriage, sexuality and revenge. The stories span from present day Berlin to 1980's Dublin and the AIDS epidemic in New York City.
Of the four Brit writers nominated, Tel, who won the award in 2016, is up again for “Berlin Lends a Hand”. Shrewsbury-based author and lecturer Blower is longlisted for “Abdul” while fiction writer and academic, Booth, from York is longlisted for “Cluster” as well as London-based Nicolas Burbidge’s “Cooking a Wolf”.
“Buck Mad” from Dublin-born P Kearny features alongside “The Sinking of the Houston” by O’Neill, an Irish barrister and novelist based in New York.
Goodman, from Massachusetts, is one of the nine US authors longlisted. She is in the running for “F.A.Q.s” while writer and film-maker July is nominated for “The Metal Bowl” and Eligible author Sittenfeld for “Do-Over”. Brooklyn part-time grants consultant Judy Chicurel is in the running for ‘Black Diamond’ while “The Liberator” by Tania James, a Washington professor, also features as well as Princeton academic Yiyun Li’s “On The Street Where You Live”. “Herman Melville” by New Jersey-born Victor Lodato features alongside ‘Life on Earth’ by Washington-based Molly McCloseky. Brooklyn author and academic Courney Zoffness completes the longlist with “Peanuts Aren’t Nuts”.
The judging panel consists of short story writer and novelist Tessa Hadley, broadcaster and author Mark Lawson, writer Petina Gappah and journalist and author Sebastian Faulks along with Andrew Holgate, literary editor of the Sunday Times.
Holgate said: "A record number of eligible entries, and a longlist dominated by women writers and Americans - the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award continues to grow and continues to surprise. And, because of its innovative policy of blind reading, the prize is once again showcasing some exciting new talent, with three relatively unknown British authors - Lisa Blower, Naomi Booth and Nicolas Burbidge - sitting alongside some significant American names (Yiyun Li, Curtis Sittenfeld, Miranda July) in our longlist of fifteen.”
"In any literary judging process, it's intriguing to note the recurrent themes, which tell us what is triggering creativity at a particular political or social moment,” Lawson said. He described this year’s dominant topics as “the Trump presidency, and the rise of Artificial Intelligence”.
He said: “Another fascination of this prize is that - as the entries are anonymised during the initial judging - some of the stories on these topics could, for all we knew, actually have been written by President Trump or a robot. Except that, in either case, they would not have been as original, witty or as emotionally involving as the long list has turned out to be."
The award accepts entries of 6,000 words or under published in English from fiction authors from anywhere in the world who have been published in the UK or Ireland.
The winner will receive £30,000, and the five other shortlisted writers will each receive £1,000. The shortlist will be announced on 18th March and the winner will be announced at a gala dinner at Stationers’ Hall in London on 26th April.
Harvard University director Bret Anthony Johnston scooped the prize last year for “Half of What Atlee Rouse Knows About Horses”.
Last month The Bookseller revealed that sales of short story collections had soared by 45% in value in 2017, to reach their highest level in seven years.
Readers can read extracts from the longlist at the prize’s website.
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