Martin MacInnes is a Scottish author, who has written three novels to date. These include Infinite Ground, which won the Somerset Maugham Award

MacInnes was born in Inverness in 1983. In Ascension, longlisted for the Booker Prize 2023, is his third novel, and follows Infinite Ground and Gathering Evidence. His writing has already earned him a Somerset Maugham Award, the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award and a Manchester Fiction Prize. In 2020 he was selected by the Guardian/British Council as One of Ten Writers Shaping the UK’s Future. He currently lives in Edinburgh.  

Martin MacInnes

Martin MacInnes on writing In Ascension

‘I wrote In Ascension during a period when travel wasn’t possible, which was bound to influence the novel both positively and inversely: from the claustrophobia and regulation of domestic space in the novel’s ships, to the dramatic and expansive voyages they sail on.

‘You could argue the whole novel is about symbiosis, the theory that life thrives amid other life (and which has been underplayed in many popular and more aggressive accounts of evolution). And yet Leigh spends most of her time alone. That’s one of the ironies of the novel, and one of its driving energies. She can’t be other than she is – she’s not going to suddenly go around hugging people – and so she seeks out integration and satisfaction and recognition in other ways. Ideally the sense of wonder she feels from the natural world should not be a dead end, but rather lead to empathy, care, alertness. Communication. Leigh grapples with this; other people have caused her pain, and the single-mindedness of her interest in the natural world has kept her alive – should she risk upturning this? 

‘I’m exploring interconnectedness because it’s vital and relatively absent from English language fiction, too much of which draws a world in which humanity is walled off from the rest of creation, as if we were entirely self-involved, made from some other, more rarefied kind of stuff. This echoes and reinforces climate change complacency, and is dangerous. Addressing this in fiction is not just, for me, a moral imperative, it’s an artistic opportunity and a source of humility and joy.’

Read the full interview here.

Martin MacInnes

In this strange and wonderful world, every outward journey – whether to space or the depths of the ocean – is an inward one, as Leigh seeks to move beyond her troubled childhood. In Ascension is a Solaris for the climate-change age

— The Booker Prize 2023 judges on In Ascension

All nominated books

In Ascension by Martin MacInnes