OXFORD'S Christ Church Meadow was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, and a century later the landscape of Jericho formed the backdrop to Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.
Now a futuristic Oxford will be immortalised by an undergraduate being hailed as “the next JK Rowling”.
And 20-year-old student Samantha Shannon hasn’t yet seen her name on a book cover.
Landing a six-figure deal with Bloomsbury to write three books has already made her a much talked-about figure in the world of publishing and at St Anne’s College, Oxford.
The second-year English student is the daughter of a Metropolitan Police officer who retired to Banbury.
Her urban fantasy The Bone Season is set in the Oxford of 2059 and – like Ms Rowling’s work – is the first in a series of seven.
Bloomsbury – also the publishers of the Harry Potter novels – promises “a unique literary voice” delivering “a fully conceived, terrifying parallel world and a narrative pace that grips like a vice”. And in a further demonstration of faith in their young signing, her publisher adds: “It marks the arrival of an extraordinarily talented British writer set to challenge the worldwide bestseller list domination of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.”
Readers will not be able to judge for themselves until September next year, with editors still at work on her debut.
The book tells the story of a teenage clairvoyant named Paige Eva Mahoney.
She is attacked, abducted and taken to a futuristic version of Oxford.
Miss Shannon said: “I chose Oxford because I known it well and it’s a small enough city for me to be able to redesign it.”
It is a vastly different place to the place where she lives. Only the shell of the university remains and it has become a prison city that has been kept secret for decades.
She said: “I’m in love with the story. Every writing session has been enjoyable. It is something I can look forward to – some peace and quiet after a busy day.”
Her big break came when her a tutor urged budding writers at the college to submit their work to Ali Smith, the Man Booker shortlisted author and a visiting professor of literature.
The author loved it, admiring its “huge vision” and urged Miss Shannon to submit her book to publishers.
An agent was soon pitching it to publishers.
Others offered more money but she felt happiest with Bloomsbury, who have encouraged her to maintain a blog that takes her followers through every stage of publishing a first novel.
One of the aims was to encourage other writers to keep going.
It certainly seems to have had some impact at St Anne’s College, where a number of students have begun work on novels.
She said things went “pretty viral” after national news stories appeared tipping her to follow in the footsteps of the Potter author.
“Of course I’m not the new JK Rowling,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with the old one.
“My book is very different from Harry Potter.”