Entry updated 20 July 2020. Tagged: Author.
(1955- ) Former UK social worker, lecturer on this subject at Anglia Ruskin University since 1990, and author of several sf stories and novels (in addition to solo and co-authored textbooks on social work, not listed below). His first sf appearance was "A Matter of Survival" (October 1990 Interzone); further sales to Interzone and Asimov's followed. Fourteen short sf stories were assembled as The Turing Test (coll 2008), which in 2009 caused some stir by winning the £5000 Edge Hill Short Story Prize – not a genre award – against strong non-genre competition. Further short fiction – comprising all Beckett's stories since The Turing Test – was collected in The Peacock Cloak (coll 2013); several stories included here – like "Rat Island" and "Greenland" (both October 2008 Interzone) – explore his usual Near Future terrain in terms of Climate Change, which he treats as inevitable and savage. The stories assembled in Spring Tide (coll 2018) continue in the same vein.
Beckett's novel debut was The Holy Machine (2004), opening in a would-be Utopian but nevertheless oppressive enclave of rationalism in a future world dominated by fundamentalist Religion; the protagonist, besotted with a Robot prostitute whose developing sentience is forbidden by the soi-disant rationalists, must travel with her through fundamentalist territory where robots are regarded as anathema on religious grounds. Marcher (October 2001 Interzone; exp 2009; rev 2014) is a tale of migrants and crime crossing the borders of various Parallel Worlds, set mainly in a Dystopian Britain where the have-nots (almost all of us) have no real choice but to shift in search of work. His third novel, Dark Eden (2012), which initiates the Eden sequence, rings interesting changes on the Colonization of Other Worlds tradition with a small, increasingly inbred and ritual-bound human community (all descended from the original stranded Adam and Eve figures) on a sunless planet where light comes only from bioluminescent vegetation that lives on geothermal energy. Local food resources in the one inhabited valley have been depleted; the far from flawless protagonist has a Conceptual Breakthrough and leads a band of dissidents through frozen, inhospitable uplands (the "Snowy Dark") to a guessed-at promised land. Dark Eden won the Arthur C Clarke Award. The sequels, Mother of Eden (2015) and Daughter of Eden (2016), trace complex interrelations between settlement and planet over several generations.
America City (2017), a singleton, returns vividly to a Near Future world increasingly devastated by Climate Change; a fragile barrier between the beleaguered southern and relatively intact northern states of America fails to survive increasingly violent weather, as an inherently dysfunctional government (heir to the depredations of an earlier twenty-first century president) demonizes and then invades Canada for lebensraum, a plot turn from traditional American tales in which Canada both deserves and benefits from incorporation into the land of the free. Beneath the World, a Sea (2019) conveys its London police officer protagonist in a heart-of-darkness quest (see Joseph Conrad) into a South American jungle, itself Amnesia-producing and draining, as well as being a clear analogue or outward manifestation of the invader's Inner Space, as signalled by the humanoid "Duendes" at its heart, and who unleash something like a dark daimon within human psyches, a creative/death principle not easily "civilized". Set partly in a distant Near Future UK, Two Tribes (2020) is set partly in the distant Near Future UK, existence in 2266 having been long strangulated by a violent Climate Change event known as The Catastrophe, along with the still-abiding scars of a post-Brexit civil war. The protagonist of the tale, an archivist, having found a revealing early twenty-first century document, engages herself to write an historical novel set then (see Ruins and Futurity) in order to gain perspective on her own world.
A point of associational interest is that, as an archivist at the British Library in 2010-2011, he catalogued the papers of J G Ballard. Beckett is a talented and versatile author whose reputation seems bound to grow. [DRL]
see also: Novacon.
born Oxford, Oxfordshire: 28 December 1955
- Dark Eden (London: Corvus, 2012) [Eden: hb/Si Scott]
- Mother of Eden (London: Corvus, 2015) [Eden: hb/Si Scott]
- Daughter of Eden (London: Corvus, 2016) [Eden: hb/Si Scott]
- Sons of Eden (Birmingham, England: The Birmingham Science Fiction Group, 2018) [novelette: chap: Eden: pb/David Hardy]
- The Holy Machine (Holicong, Pennsylvania: Wildside Press, 2004) [hb/Wilhelm Steiner]
- Marcher (New York: Dorchester Publishing/Cosmos Books, 2009) [short version appeared October 2001 Interzone: pb/Ian Field-Richards]
- Marcher (Alconbury Weston, Cambridgeshire: Newcon Press, 2014) [rev of the above: hb/Ben Baldwin]
- America City (London: Corvus, 2017) [hb/Raid71]
- Beneath the World, a Sea (London: Corvus, 2019) [hb/uncredited]
- Two Tribes (London: Corvus, 2020) [hb/]
- The Turing Test (Norwich, Norfolk: Elastic Press, 2008) [coll: pb/Eran Cantrell]
- The Peacock Cloak (Alconbury Weston, Cambridgeshire: Newcon Press, 2013) [coll: hb/Eugene Kapustyanskiy]
- Spring Tide (London: Atlantic Books, 2018) [coll: hb/]
works as editor
- J G Ballard. Crash (London: HarperCollins 4th Estate, 2017) [exp of 1973 novel as coll: six stories and some nonfiction added: hb/]
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