Becky Chambers’ story is arguably the most unique of all the Baileys-nominated titles. Sponsored by a Kickstarter campaign, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet epitomizes the self-publishing culture, the sort of rags to riches story many dream of but pretty much no one achieves.
Born in California, Chambers began her career writing freelance and now works as a technical writer. At least she is currently. With a first book nominated for the Baileys Prize, that just may change. Barely touched by major review outlets, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is poised to explode onto the scene in a huge way. Should it win, well, I can’t even imagine what will happen to the novel, to the literary world, to the reputation of the Baileys Award.
Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there. But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war. Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.
Part of me wants to root for the underdog, though the majority believes it highly unlikely – perhaps outrageously inappropriate – that a self-published first novel could conceivably topple heavily literary, major writers of established reputation. Not having read the book, I’m willing to play a bit of Devil’s advocate here.
Uncharacteristically, I’m not enraged as much as intrigued. Does her book deserve a win, or is her presence a mere statement piece, a statement endorsing the work of completely unknown, self-published writers?
I suspect the latter, but this move is shocking enough I’m actually thrown. Doesn’t happen often, but then neither do books funded by Kickstarter campaigns regularly make the ranks of major literary awards.
After watching her YouTube video, you know, I really like her. Enough to pull for her in lieu of writers like Kate Atkinson, Anne Enright and Elizabeth Strout?
Oh honey, I don’t know about that. But damn is she charming.