Christopher Priest

(b. 1943)

Christopher McKenzie Priest was born in Cheadle, Cheshire, England; and educated at Warehouseman and Clerks’ Orphan Schools, Manchester. He has been married three times: 1) Christine Merchant; 2) novelist Lisa Tuttle (1981-1987); 3) Leigh Kennedy (1988, two children).

Priest finished his formal schooling at age sixteen. He worked as an accountant and audit clerk, and then was employed at a greeting card company and mail order book publisher, before beginning his writing career. He became a full-time writer in 1968, publishing under several pseudonyms, including John Luther Novak and Colin Wedgelock. The comics writer Jim Owsley has caused much confusion by changing his name to Christopher J. Priest, being apparently unware that this was the name of an established sf author.

During the 1980s Priest owned and ran a computer software company, Ansible Information, in partnership with Ansible’s Dave Langford.

He was GoH at Interaction, the 2005 Worldcon.

First publication: “The Run” in Impulse (May, 1966); First SF novel: Indoctrinaire (Faber, 1970); First Collection: Transplantationen (in German, 1972) [appearing in English as Real-Time World in 1974].

He published the fanzines Con, Unsurprising Stories, Thud-F, and Deadloss and edited one issue of Tangent for the BSFA.

He was nominated for the 1975 Best Novel Hugo, the 1979 Best Short Story Hugo, the 1979 Best Novella Hugo, the 1980 Best Novelette Hugo, and the 1995 Best non Fiction Book Hugo.

Other Awards, Honors and GoHships:

The Space Machine: A Scientific Romance (1976) is a recursive SF novel. Other novels include Fugue for a Darkening Island (1972) (Darkening Island in the U.S.), A Dream of Wessex (1977) (The Perfect Lover in the U.S.), The Glamour (1984) [a psychological fantasy about invisibility], and The Quiet Woman (1990) [a weird novel about a woman writer living in rural England]. More recent novels include The Islanders (2011) and The Adjacent (2013).

From the early 1980s his novels have edged more and more toward mainstream literature. Nevertheless, in addition to his genre writing (“the mature point of view of the New Wave”) he also edited the original SF anthologies Anticipations (1978), and [with co-editor Robert P. Holdstock] Stars of Albion (1979); and, from 1974-1977, he served as associate editor of the British academic journal Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction.

He has published several popular nonfiction works: Your Book of Film-Making (1974) [a children’s book], Seize the Moment: The Autobiography of Britain’s First Astronaut (1993) [with Helen Sharman], Running Tall (1994) [with British Olympian Sally Gunnell], and The Book on the Edge of Forever (1994) [the story behind Harlan Ellison’s still-to-be-published Last Dangerous Visions, with contributions from Brian Aldiss, Michael Bishop, Barry Malzberg, Bob Shaw, and others].
Two additional collections of his short fiction are An Infinite Summer (1979) and The Dream Archipelago (1999). In 1999 Priest published eXistenZ, a novelization of the screenplay of the motion picture of the same name, and his novel The Prestige was made into a film. His award-winning alternate history novel, The Separation, was published in 2002; and two recent omnibus editions collect four of his early novels.

He was an editor of Foundation from 1974 to 1977, and lectured on SF and writing at The University of London and at Deakin University in Australia. Ursula Le Guin has called him “a versatile, autonomous writer from whom we can expect nothing expectable.” An interview with Priest, conducted by Nick Gevers, was published in the September 2002 issue (#183) of Interzone. A more recent interview appeared in the June 2006 issue of Locus (“An Unreliable Narrator”). Priest quote on SF: “I grew up reading science fiction, and within three months of discovering it, I knew I wanted to write science fiction.”

Manuscript/Book Collection: Rare Books & Special Collections, University of Sydney Library, Sydney, NSW, Australia. Reference: Christopher Priest by Nicholas Ruddick (1989) [Starmont Reader’s Guide 50].

For more on his career, see http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/priest_christopher