Swainston at Åcon in 2009.
|Born||Stephanie Jane Swainston|
1974 (age 45–46)
Bradford, Yorkshire, England, UK
|Genre||Literary fantasy New Weird|
Stephanie Jane "Steph" Swainston is a British literary fantasy/science fiction author, known for the Castle series. Her debut novel, The Year of Our War (2004), won the 2005 Crawford Award and a nomination for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
Born in Bradford in 1974, Swainston attended St. Joseph's College, Bradford, followed by Girton College, University of Cambridge, and the University of Wales. Outside writing, Swainston has had a broad range of occupations, including bookseller, archaeologist, lock keeper, information scientist, and pyrotechnician.
Swainston's work in the Castle series so far has been set in the "Fourlands", which the author has described as a secret childhood paracosm, further influenced by aspects of her later adult life, including the competitive academic world. The novels centre on the life of the "Circle", an elite group of immortals created and sustained by the Emperor, a near god-like figure engaged in a prolonged conflict with insectoid creatures, apparently from another world. Told in the first person, the novels follow the life of Jant, a winged humanoid with a distinctly flawed personality. The Castle series is also marked by the existence of multiple worlds, including the fantastic, baroque "Shift".
While characterised by others as a member of the New Weird fantasy literary genre, which aims to reform fantasy literature by transcending its traditional boundaries, Swainston has argued against labeling writers - including herself - within genres, arguing that good fantasy and mainstream literature instead form a continuum. She has been critical of the conservative nature of much commercial fantasy writing, and her approach embraces narrative themes unfamiliar to conventional fantasy, including drug use and graphic sex scenes, alongside the hyper-realistic depiction of warfare. Swainston describes her work as appealing to the ongoing deep structures of universal storytelling, as literature written as much in response to the author's own needs than as a response to specific market requirements.