DMU lecturer short-listed for one of world's most prestigious sci-fi writing prizes

A novel by a lecturer at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has been short-listed for one of the world’s most prestigious sci-fi writing prizes.


Rod Duncan, who teaches creative writing at the university, has seen his work The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter named as one of the nominees for the Philip K Dick Award.

The Philip K Dick Award is named after the legendary sci-fi writer whose books, and the incredible ideas contained within them, formed the basis of classic films such as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Stephen Spielberg’s Minority Report, Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall and Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly.

Rod, who is the only British author on the shortlist, discovered he had been nominated for the prize via a Tweet by the MD of his publishing company.

Rod said: “I had no idea that my book was even in the running, so to discover it had made it onto the shortlist of six books was a complete surprise. Twitter went crazy after it was announced and everyone was contacting me to say congratulations. The news sank in over a period of time and I just got more and more excited.

“If you will excuse the British slang, I was completely gobsmacked to be standing alongside such wonderful writers, and to be up for an award bearing the name of Philip K Dick is a great honour. I feel hugely grateful.

“I have to think that I am not going to win it. I am far too excited to entertain any other possibility. I feel like a winner anyway, as I’m sure the other five people on the shortlist do, because to be associated with such a prestigious award is just wonderful.”

Rod’s passion for reading and sci-fi came from his time as a child living in West Wales .

“I am dyslexic and did not learn to read for my own pleasure until quite late,” he said. “My father used to read to me and he was a great science fiction fan and so a lot of the stories he read were classics such as the Isaac Asimov robot stories.

“When I did start to read for my own pleasure I was devoted to Tolkien and Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy was a big influence.

“I didn’t make a conscious decision to write science fiction. It was what I enjoyed and this is the story that has come out. Everyone who remembers being read to recalls it as a special thing and it is always going to have an influence on you as you grow up.”


The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter is part one of a series of at least three books which will form “The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire”.

It is set in a Victorianesque version of Leicester and Lincolnshire and events happen in the aftermath of a Luddite revolution that has reigned back technology.

The novel takes place at a travelling magic show and is themed around illusion, hence the bullet catcher trick in the title.

Critics have noted how the steampunk novel plays with the world of illusion on many levels and it has been recognised for the sleight of hand used by the author, including a surprising revelation towards the end.

Rod is now planning at least two more books in the series which will continue to involve his home of Leicester, and introduce Nottingham and Derby as other locations.

He said: “I have been back and forth around Britain and always seem to return to Leicester to live. I love the city and particularly the rich diversity, which is something that is very precious to me. That is the reason, more than any other, that I keep coming back here.”


An entire world of the Gas-lit Empire has also been created by Rod online. It includes maps, back stories, newspaper articles from the Empire and mysteries to solve.

You can explore the Gas-lit Empire here 

The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter is published by Angry Robot Books and available online from Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith and other book stores.

The winner of the Philip K Dick prize will be announced in Seattle on Friday 3 April this year.

Posted on Monday 26th January 2015

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