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Allan, Nina

Entry updated 15 January 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1966-    ) UK author, partner of Christopher Priest from 2011. She began to publish work of genre interest with "The Beachcomber" in Dark Horizons for June 2002; of her fifty or so stories released since, about half contain sf elements, though she was first identified as an author of horror. The interwoven tales assembled as The Silver Wind: Four Stories of Time Disrupted (coll of linked stories 2011) comprise a set of sf meditations on – and manipulations of – Time through several renderings of a recurring figure, whose haunted explorations, at least one via Time Travel, construct an overall reality larger than any single world; recurring images of watches and of clockwork in general subtly suggest a Steampunk influence. Several of the stories assembled in Microcosmos (coll 2013) – including "Microcosmos" (June 2009 Interzone), which is set, like some other work, in a Near Future England – and in Stardust: The Ruby Castle Stories (coll 2013) are of sf interest.

Spin (2013 chap) is an sf novella set in an Alternate World where the culture and influence of ancient Greece has survived against the threat of Roman and the Ottoman Empire into a world where its influence, however, has become Dystopian. The story itself, as with much of Allan's work, is deftly Equipoisal: an intense use of advanced Technology jostles deftly in Spin with intimations that the protagonist has acquired Magical healing skills along with her great competence as a weaver (the myth of Athena and Arachne backlights the tale). A Slingshot Ending hints of more to tell. For this work, Allan received the British Science Fiction Association Award for short fiction.

Allan's first full-length tale, The Race (2014; exp 2016), which is set partly in the contemporary world and partly in a Near Future Britain suffering from the effects of deep Climate Change, explores with Equipoisal abandon a range of parallel realities, in the course of which the lives of four initially disparate characters intersect intimately. The Rift (2017) significantly quotes from but undermines what might be called the raft novel typical of some contemporary sf, where an internal narrative coherence is pursued (usually deliberately) at the cost of verisimilitude to the shaking kaleidoscope of the world; here, a sister disappears for many years, returning with a narrative of her Planetary Romance existence on an sf-like planet, which she has reached as magically as does the protagonist of David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus (1920). Her tale is as insinuatingly plausible as "Kirk"'s in Robert Lindner's The Fifty-Minute Hour (coll 1955). Textual perplexities and false positives further undermine any simple description of The Rift as primarily concerning either psychopathy or revenance, or perhaps either. This novel won a BSFA Award. The Dollmaker (2019), into whose densely knitted structure some previously published material is embedded, makes use of several storyable parallels, whose conjunctions might perhaps best described as the lateral fantastic (see Fantastika): match-making what might have seemed irretrievably asunder; these analogous narratives surround and give grammar to the slow acquiring of capable human Identities on the part of the tale's two protagonists. Their eventual meeting is a meeting of whole persons. The Good Neighbours (2021) comprises a meditation on the springs of art, which evokes both Faerie in a literal sense, and in the sense that Richard Dadd understood his subject matter; the protagonist, who photographs murder houses, may evoke Elizabeth Hand's Cass Neary, who photographs dead bodies, but a sense of Timeslip in Allan's tale shapes a very significantly different sense of the stories told.

The web of associations knitting Conquest (2023) into something like a mosaic is exceedingly evocative of Cinema but perhaps more vividly – with significant interplays with composers from Johann Sebastien Bach (1685-1750) to Hans Werner Henze (1926-2012) – of Music in sf. The main story is involves the McGuffin search for a missing character specifically linked to the film L'Avventura (1960) directed by Michelangelo Antonioni (1912-2007). [JC]

Nina Allan

born London: 27 May 1966


  • The Race (Alconbury Weston, Cambridgeshire: NewCon Press, 2014) [hb/Ben Baldwin]
    • The Race (New York: Titan Books, 2016) [exp of the above: pb/Julia Lloyd]
  • The Rift (London: Titan Books, 2017) [pb/Shutterstock/Dreamstime]
  • The Dollmaker (London: Quercus/riverrun, 2019) [hb/Studio Helen]
  • The Good Neighbours (London: Quercus/riverrun, 2021) [hb/]
  • Conquest (London: Quercus/riverrun, 2023) [hb/]

collections and stories

works as editor


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