I have previously ranted about Authonomy, the HarperCollins alternative to the publisher’s slushpile. I am glad I discovered it for any number of reasons, but one has been the chance to read a hell of a lot of original fiction that you, the consumer, are not and possibly would not otherwise be exposed to. It's Web 2.0 thinking at its best: the site is completely populated by content from its participants. And what content!!
It’s interesting that you have a chance to participate in this new egalitanariasm: if you’re a keen reader, you can sign up for Authonomy yourself and vote the type of books you like to the top of the chart, to the HarperCollins Editors’ Desk. Each month, the top five books are plucked for a read by HC editors. As I have said before, most authors would wax their bits in public for a chance to get that sort of attention.
So you can actually influence the kinds of books that are being sorted and selected. If, like me, you wander around bookshops wondering why there’s so much mediocrity there, Authonomy actually has the potential to act as a barometer of public opinion.
So here’s some of the writing I have encountered in my journeys around Authonomy: writing that has delighted me or otherwise convinced me that there’s more good and interesting work in all this unpublished stuff than there is in my local bookshop.
Incidentally, most people would expect me to use this as an opportunity to plug my own book, Space, on Authonomy. But I’m above that. It might be the No. 1 thriller, No. 2 comedy and No. 3 sci-fi on this site, but I’d hardly expect you to click on this handy link and read, laugh at and back my own book first. I am simply not that kind of chap.
Right. Here’s my guide to a tasting of smart new literature from unsigned UK, Australian and American authors.
The Banjo Players Must Die by Josef Assad is one of the more original and challenging books on Authonomy. It’s as mad as a hatter’s convention and insanely creative and funny.
Evil Unlimited by my mate Simon Forward is one of the top ranked books on Authonomy, a funny and madcap sci-fi comedy that somehow makes you think of the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and then feel ashamed of yourself because it's an original book with its own life and style to it. Do try it!
Going to the Mountain, by JW Reitz. A luscious book about growing up as a settler in Xhosa country, about looking back on your life’s action: guilt, as the author says, and sex and death.
Sunday’s Child by Anne Lyken-Gardner is a dark but beautifully told tale of a childhood of abuse in Latin America. It’s a haunting and lyrical work that some will find traumatically evocative. It's one of my favourite things on Authonomy.
The Girl on the Swing by Ali Cooper is a book that attracted me for all the wrong reasons: not my kind of book at all. But its clever, dense language and descriptive prose soon turn into a book that captures you.
You want action, Asian gogo bars and big gun, move fast thriller stuff? This is the book for you, Hunting Buddha by Jamie DeBaisio is a really fast paced gangsta book set in Hong Kong. Guaranteed riveting read from Ch1.
How about a bit of ‘classic’ sci-fi? Bob Pickup is a train driver by day who composes intergalactic science fiction that’s about as ‘out there’ as you’d want and highly readable, too.
And, of course famed blogger Keefieboy's new (and timely!?) financial crash book, Tybalt and Theo, which time-switches between present day disaster and a distant, simpler past...
There’s loads more out there – well over a thousand books are now on Authonomy and anyone can go along, dip into them, chat to the authors and generally have an influence on the way new writing in the UK is shaping up.
And I, for one, find that exhilarating. Give it a whirl – and don’t forget Space!!!