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SF Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times (vi)

(This week’s entry for Judith’s meme at Reader in the Wilderness.)

Again these are small-size (original size) SF paperbacks. Again they are housed in the garage and again are double-parked.

It was difficult to get back far enough to fit these all into the photo.

They start at Stanisław Lem and finish at Connie Willis. There’s a whole shelf of Robert Silverberg in here. Other notables: George R R Martin, Ian McDonald, Larry Niven, Christopher Priest, Tim Powers, Kim Stanley Robinson, Bob Shaw, Cordwainer Smith, James Tiptree Jr (aka Alice Sheldon,) Harry Turtledove and Ian Watson.

Science FIction Books

The 1981 Annual World’s Best SF Edited by Donald A Wollheim

Daw Books, 1981, 250 p.

 The 1981 Annual World’s Best SF  cover

In Variation on a Theme by Beethoven by Sharon Webb humans have developed an immortality treatment but it comes at the expense of their creativity. A reluctant David, who is musically gifted, is plucked from his boyhood life on Vesta to be taken to Renascence, on Earth, to be trained for sixty lunar months before deciding if he wants to be immortal or creative.
Beatnik Bayou by John Varley is set in his future where medical modification of the human body is commonplace and sex changes unremarkable – even desirable. This one deals with what growing up in such a society might entail and the problems with having age-altered personal tutors as constant companions. Tonally the narration is not consistent.
Elbow Room by Marion Zimmer Bradley is one of those confessional stories within which the narrator becomes riddled with self-doubt. She is the director of a Vortex station, institutions which oversee wormholes and had a history of their operators committing suicide or else murdering one another. So a system was evolved in which only a few people would inhabit the stations meeting only occasionally so as they have elbow room. The narrator therefore has her own cook, her own gardener, her technician, her personal priest; even perhaps her own male whore. The crisis comes when a malfunctioning ship arrives at the Vortex and she has to board it, thereby encountering strangers.
The Ugly Chickens by Howard Waldrop finds Paul Lindberl, biology assistant at the University of Texas, setting out on a wild bird chase after a woman on the bus refers to seeing in her childhood the “ugly chickens” he was looking at in his book of Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World.
Prime Time by Norman Spinrad is a take on the future of entertainment where people retire to Total Television Heaven able to access tapes (how soon the future becomes obsolete!) containg their favourite programming and real-time-share them with their nearest and dearest or not-so-dearest as the case may be. The story also has a rather conventional view of the lineaments of male and female desire.
Though typically well written George R R Martin throws a lot of SF tropes into Nightflyers – cloning, telepathy, ancient star travellers, holograms, telekinesis, a backdrop of an extended time-line, the mad woman in the attic (or in this case, a spaceship’s control systems.) Karoly d’Branin has assembled a crew of xenobiologists, linguists, a xenotechnologist, a telepath, a cyberneticist and an ‘improved model’ human to find the almost mythical volcryn, said to have cruised the galaxy at sublight speed for millenia. The ship’s captain, Royd Eris, is secretive though, never emerging from his quarters, appearing only as a hologram. Things begin to go wrong when the telepath feels a stange presence before dying violently.
The first sentence of A Spaceship Built of Stone by Lisa Tuttle is reminiscent of Shelley’s poem Ozymandias but the scene it describes is occurring in a dream. The dreams, apparently of the stone-built city of the ancient Anasazi culture, are being experienced simultaneously by many people round the world. Narrator Rick comes to suspect they are a softening up exercise for a quiet alien invasion.
In Window by Bob Leman, an experimenter on telekinesis has disappeared, along with his work cabin, and been replaced by a transparent cube one hundred feet to a side. The scene it shows, of another reality, looks idyllic. Then, during the brief time there is an interface, one of the obsevers steps through.
The Summer Sweet, The Winter Wild by Michael G Coney is one of the very few pieces of fiction to be written in the first person plural. (Another is my own This is the Road.) Here the We of the narrator(s) is a herd of caribou, some of whose members a while ago developed the telepathic ability to make the Herd and other animals feel their pain when they were injured or attacked. Wolves then back off, also humans (thought of by the Herd as ‘You’,) hence the weak and ill of the Herd do not die, therefore go on to breed.
A disillusioned artist wanders a beach in Achronous by Lee Killough and finds he has stepped into a bubble in time, with people from the far future taking refuge from the end of their world. It gives him new inspiration.

Pedant’s corner:- In the Table of Contents; Killiugh (Killough.) Othjerwise; “a series of performance halls were displayed” (a series … was displayed,) “wasn’t what what he’d be doing?” (wasn’t that what he’d be..,) “a muttered tympani” (a muttered tympanum,) “angle-length maternity gown” (ankle-length,) Argus’ (Argus’s,) tepee (tepee is the preferred spelling,) “‘I thought what happens was…’” (what happened was,) “in the first found” (first round,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech, “on my master’s” (Master’s,) the Chicksaw Nation (Chickasaw, as used previously,) band-new (brand-new,) “none of the soaps were personalized” (none of the soaps was personalised,) “was, What would …” (either enclose the ‘What would ….’ phrase in quotation marks or drop the comma and the capital W at What,) an opening quote mark where none is required and therefore not subsequently closed, Reeves’ (Reeves’s,) “because that is an instinct. We all have” (due to the plural nature of the narrator and its/their capitalisation elsewhere that should be ‘because that is an instinct we all have’ with no full stop,) grill (several times, grille,) Pometheus (elsewhere Prometheus,) D’Branin (usually d’Branin, but D’Branin at the beginning of a sentence – why?- and, once, within one,) Eris’ (Eris’s,) “‘I have not had much a life anyway’” (much of a life,) spasticly (spastically.)

Bluesong by Sydney J van Scyoc

Penguin, 1984, 266 p.

 Bluesong cover

This is a sequel to Darkchild, and is again set on the planet of Brakrath but here Scyoc broadens out her depiction of the societies there. Events are seen through two viewpoint characters, Keva and Danior, but a third appears in the Epilogue which sets up another sequel.

Keva has been brought up in the warmstream among the fisher-people by Oki. But Keva’s dreams are dominated by thoughts of fire. While seeking a poison antidote in Oki’s stash she finds a blue cloth which sings to her when she touches it. She finds Oki has lied to her about her origins and that her memory of a bearded man on a horse is real. She is the daughter of Jhaviir, one of the clones of Birnam Rauth – a Rauthimage – from the earlier book, and of a barohna now dead.

Danior’s mother was also a barohna (Khira from Darksong) and his father was The Boy from that book. Since barohnial inheritance comes through the female line Danior sees no place nor future for himself in the barohnial palace.

Both Keva and Danior set off on their own, Keva to attempt to find her father, and Danior to make his own way. Jhaviir – as the Viir-Nega – has collected together some of the desert people to live in a settlement but they are constantly at war with those who still roam. This pastoral existence and the wanderings through the plains reminded me of Phyllis Eisenstein’s In the Red Lord’s Reach, but perhaps hunter-gathering/partly settled societies are all similar.

When the nomads discover that a barohna has come to the settlement it provokes them to form an alliance to attack. Despite her reluctance Keva is forced to use her barohnial powers as mediated by her sunstone to defeat them.

The vast majority of this novel deals with the situation of the desert clans. The background to Scyoc’s trilogy remains resolutely that – background – for the most part. Little of the Rauthimage inheritance both Keva and Danior embody is referred to – except for the glimpse of Birnam Rauth, as tramsitted via the white cloth Jhaviir possesses, experienced by Danior as he touches it. This presages the third book in the trilogy.

Bluesong can be read on its own. No knowledge of the previous book is necessary and it reads as not merely the second part of a series but works by itself as a novel.

Pedant’s corner:- lightening (lightning.) “‘She’d dead.’” (She’s.) “It made her feel no better than he drew back at her tone” (that he drew back,) dispell (dispel,) vaccum (vacuum,) “instead the Nathri-Varnitz” (instead of the Nathri-Varnitz,) “three pair of eyes” (pairs,) a missing full stop at one paragraph’s end, an end quote mark at a paragraph break where the next continued the same speaker’s dialogue. “The Viir-Nega brows rose” (Viir-Nega’s brows,) “for constance” (constancy,) insured (ensured,) he ask uncertainly (asked,) “she needed to the think now” (no ‘the’ needed.)

Scruffians! by Hal Duncan

Stories of Better Sodomites. Lethe Press, 2014, 205 p.

 Scruffians! cover

Unlike normal folk (groanhuffs,) Scruffians are mis-shapes and misfits – Orphans, foundlings, latch-key kids; Urchins, changelings, live-by-wits; Rascals, scallywags, ruffians, scamps; Scoundrels, hellions, – in their chant that last word is followed by, Scruffians STAMP. The Stamp is how they came to be fixed as Scruffians, an excruciating procedure which stops any growth in age from that time on and embeds all their existing characteristics. Only nicks to the Stamp mark on their chests will allow alteration thereafter. Their lore is expressed by tales known as fabbles (an ideal coinage,) some of which appear here as if addressed to potential or newly-Stamped Scruffians. Not all of the stories here are of Scruffians but each section within one that is has a title (or number, depending on the story) and each paragraph a first line in bold type. All are excellent reading.
In How a Scruffian Gets Their Story a new recruit falls in with the Scruffians.
How a Scruffian Gets Their Name tells of how and why Slickspit Hamshankery got that title.
The Behold of the Eye is where humans store all the things they prize most highly. What catches their eye is stored by the eye – and each is a home to a faery. The story relates the experiences of newly born faery Flashjack as he seeks his Beholder (to be found by Toby Raymond Hunter’s Behold) and follows Toby’s life as he comes to terms with himself and his sexuality.
Scruffian’s Stamp is the story of Orphan, the first Scruffian, and how groanhuffs came to invent the Stamp without realising it would Fix Scruffians for good.
An Alfabetcha of Scruffian Names describes the characteristics of twenty-six Scruffians.
Jack Scallywag expands on the one paragraph about the Scruffian Knight in the Alphabetcha, how said Jack aspired to knighthood and came to it as others did, (by stealing it more or less,) how he set off on his mission to slay the dragon only to find out who the real dragons are.
The Disappearance of James H riffs extensively but explicitly on Peter Pan – a shadow, a crocodile tear, “‘I’m not a…’ ‘Fairy?,’ ‘Every time you say that, I whisper, a little part of you will die,’” – in its tale of the titular disappearance.
The Island of the Pirate Gods is another swashbuckling Pannish adventure (with added language) wherein the twin lovers Matelotage and Mutiny are the background to a story of The People’s Independent Republic of Arse, Cock and bloody Yo-ho-bloody-ho, ie PIRACY.
Very well constructed and set against the background of the playing of a hand in a Texas Hold ‘Em game The Angel of the Gamblers is a meeting with the devil type of story except it’s not the devil who demanded a soul, it was the eponymous angel.
The Shoulder of Pelops features figures from Ancient Greek myth and legend in a story about signs, meanings and the difference between words and the things they name.
Bizarre Cubiques is a history – and critique – of an alternative world art movement, the creation of artists Bricasso and Paque. The narrator has made his way from home in New Amsterdam in Amorica to Pharis via Caerlundein, Felixstoff and Diephe.
The worlds of superhero comics are the inspiration for The Origin of the Fiend, a metafiction where differing origin stories for different supercharacters impinge on the consciousness of a young lad ‘sending his mind back and forth along his own timestream,’ in a mundane world where no superhero can stop his brother dying whether that be in France or Korea or Vietnam or Iraq.
Sons of the Law is a Western story with a framing device positing it as a manuscript handed down through a family. It transcends all the Western clichés while at the same time deploying them – the saloon, the hunter, the killer, the slave (whose name, Abraham, and experience embed a Biblical reference,) the bargirl, the gambler, the wrangler, the drifter, in a tale of revenge and implied poetic justice.
Sic Him, Hellhound! Kill! Kill! ticks off two fantasy tropes in one swoop with a story of a boy and his lover (a werewolf) hunting vampires.
Oneirica melds many myths and legends into one tale as it describes a trip by various characters to find a stone chest containing mythological objects.
Inventive, delightful stuff.

Pedant’s corner:- Plasticene (Plasticine,) “fifth formers” (yet the narrator is Scottish, where the expression is ‘fifth years’. Perhaps not in private schools though where the scene was set.) “Joey sees him close his eyes, puts the barrel to his own chest and pull the trigger” (put the barrel,) rigourous (rigorous,) “that’s bound to sparks some stares” (to spark,) “and the hoi polloi” (hoi means ‘the’, so it should really be ‘and hoi polloi.) “None of them are aware” (None of them is aware.) “None of them know what’s in the briefcase” (None of them knows.)

SF Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times (v)

(This week’s edition for Judith’s meme at Reader in the Wilderness.)

These are all small-sized SF paperbacks. By small I mean the size all paperbacks used to be back in the day – before publishers realised they could charge a higher price for larger editions and they aspired to the status of hardbacks.

In our old house all my paperback SF was shelved in one room – on shelving specially built for the purpose. When we moved to Son of the Rock Acres there was no space for them in the house. Hence these are stored in the garage; to accomodate them they are double parked on each shelf, which is why they seem to start at Ballard and jump from Bester to Bishop, and Dick to Garnett.

Lots of goodies here: Eric Brown, John Brunner, Michael G Coney, Philip K Dick, Mary Gentle, Colin Greenland. If you look closely you’ll even see some Harlan Ellison peeping through at the back on the bottom shelf.

Science Fiction Paperbacks

Beneath the World, A Sea by Chris Beckett

Corvus, 2019, 283 p. Published in Interzone 282, Jul-Aug 2019.

 Beneath the World, A Sea cover

“The ground of one world is the sky of the world below” runs one of the myths and legends of the Submundo Delta, the most inaccessible place on Earth, the Delta Beneath the World. A place of magenta trees with spiral leaves and flowers with bright pink mouths, overhung by a huge sun and moon as if inside a magnifying bubble, and not really below the outside world, it can be accessed only from South America via a long boat trip on the (perhaps too obviously named) River Lethe, passing through the Zona de Ovido, the Zone of Forgetfulness, all memories of which disappear the moment you leave it. The Delta has no radio communication with elsewhere, aeroplanes which try to penetrate its airspace all crash.

Such a cut-off world is a staple of fantastical fiction of course – fairyland, hollow hills, parallel worlds, alien planets and so on – but Beckett’s vision is a fresh take on the sub-genre even if the Delta is a slightly recycled though embellished version of the Caramel Forest of the planet Lutania in the same author’s collection The Peacock Cloak.

The Delta’s local human inhabitants are called Mundinos, and are descended from a group tricked into going there by a Baron Valente in the semi-distant past, long enough ago for them to have developed their own gods in the benign Iya, whose idol adorns every Mundino household, and the less indulgent Boca. More recent incomers are scientists and adventurers or hippie types plus the odd business man on the lookout for profitable exploitation.

Following a UN decree that a Delta life-form known as duendes, grey long-limbed, frog-like flaccid creatures with black button eyes, (somewhat reminiscent of the goblins of Lutania’s Caramel Forest) and which may be the offspring of trees – with which they perhaps form a single dimorphic species – are ‘persons’ entitled to the protection of the law, police Inspector Ben Ronson has been delegated from London to investigate their endemic killing by Mundinos. Duendes can project settlers’ thoughts back into human minds, “‘Things already inside your head ….. become as powerful as things you normally choose to focus on,’” and build enigmatic structures called castelos. Despite their persecution the duendes keep intruding on Mundinos’ space.

What makes all this SF rather than fantasy is the attempt at scientific rationale. “‘There’s no DNA equivalent. No ‘animals’ or ‘plants’ in the delta,’” Ronson is told. “It seemed to him that it was just about possible to imagine that a completely different form of life might not only have a different chemistry and different anatomy, but might even involve the mind-stuff itself being configured in some manner unfamiliar to human beings,” while, “‘the trees and the harts and the duendes and so on aren’t competing against each other … any more than our blood cells are competing against our bone cells,’” but quite why the story is set in nineteen ninety is not clear. The Delta is obviously not quite of this world, making the tale an alternative history does not add to that.

Beckett also undercuts expectations. Despite the set-up what we have here is not a police procedural, nor a straightforward crime novel with a clear-cut resolution, nor indeed an action adventure. The author is more interested in the psychological aspects of isolation, the effect a strange environment has on human behaviour and particularly the influence the Zona might have on motivations and actions. Ronson is almost paralysed by the thought of what he might have done during those four days he cannot remember but is reluctant to consult the notebooks he compiled while in transit.

There are faint echoes here of other odd worlds, perhaps even a nod to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, there is a touch of Ballard in the detachment of many of the characters. We do not have the complete isolation that applied to the inhabitants of Beckett’s Dark Eden, nor the genetic paucity of that environment, and the existence of the duendes adds a distinctive flavour but at the end the nature of the enigma they represent is not unravelled. Perhaps Beckett intends to return to the Delta.

That might be a misstep, though. Beneath the World, A Sea is not really concerned with its backdrop. Instead it uses that backdrop to question how much a person can know of him- or her- self. While not in the highest rank – the characters indulge in too much self-examination for that – like all the best fiction it explores the nature of humanity.

The following did not appear in the published review.

Pedant’s corner:- “whose contents, she learnt, turned yellow and shrank as it dried” (as they dried.) “Their only child, wherever she went inside the house, she was surrounded by” (that second comma distorts the meaning and should be removed,) outside of (outside, just outside, no ‘of’,) “before continuing towards to the west” (either “towards” or “to”, not both,) “a posse of men and woman” (it’s possible only one woman was involved but it reads oddly,) “for hundreds of millions of year” (years,) automatons (automata,) “‘take it out in the duendes’” (on the duendes,) ambiance (ambience,) a tendency to use ‘her’ and ‘him’ where ‘she’ and ‘he’ are more grammatical, “for goodness’ sake” (if the apostrophe is there it ought to be goodness’s, best to leave it out altogether,) “‘she’ll always being able to support herself’” (always be able.) “There were also a number of” (there was a number,) “all the holes on the ground” (in the ground,) “‘a range of tawdry attractions are duly provided for them’” (a range of tawdry attractions is duly provided,) epicentre (centre,) “cheer fully” (was split over two lines without the necessary hyphen when “cheerfully” was meant,) “‘to see if Rico’s turned up If you run into him’” (needs a full stop after “up,”) “three young woman were smoking” (women,) engrained (ingrained.) “He had a mango in there He’d bought at the last village” (No capital H after “there”, ‘he’d bought’.)

Interzone 286, Mar-Apr 2020

 Interzone 286 cover

Val Nolan takes the Editorial and outlines how in his day job at Aberystwyth University he uses SF and Fantasy to help his students explore the genres’ pedagogical possibilities and delights. In Future Interrupted Andy Hedgecock ponders the creative impulse and suggests humans do this sort of thing because simply living isn’t enough. Aliya Whiteley’s Climbing Stories addresses the utility and pleasure of discovering the “Easter egg” (what’s wrong with the word ‘allusion’ by the way?) hidden in a film or piece of fiction. Book Zone starts with my reviews of Re-Coil by J T Nicholas (whose flaws and unexamined assumptions I point out) and Myke Cole’s Sixteenth Watcha which attempts to humanise military SF but to my mind falls short. Juliet E McKenna recommends The True Queen, Zen Cho’s not quite sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown, which succeeds splendidly on its own merits, and praises the brave writing choices. She also interviewsb the author. Val Nolan considers that Alastair Reynolds’s Bone Silence not only concludes the story arcs of the previous two books in his Revenger trilogy but enhances them, Stephen Theaker finds the anthology New Horizons: The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction edited by Tarun K Saint entertaining and stimulating and Sea Change by Nancy Kress a tense and enjoyable SF thriller. Duncan Lawiec says Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer stirs the subconscious, raising questions without asking them directly, making concrete the many worlds theory; but is also much more. Maureen Kincaid Speller worries that Rebecca Roanhorse’s use of Navajo myths and beliefs in the books Trail of Lightning and Storm of Locusts violates that culture’s well-documented protectiveness towards its heritage and, despite the fact they were fun to read, sees little except that background beyond the usual urban fantasy clichés.

As to the fiction:
In Cofiwich Aberystwyth1 by Val Nolan each segment has a Welsh language heading. Our narrator, Mila, is exploring for his vlog an Aberystwyth nuked some years before by crazed Brexiter Royal Navy mutineeers who were enraged that the Welsh Senedd was seeking independence from the UK. He has his own demons to contend with though.
Rocket Man by Louis Evans is the story of a US rocket pilot in a universe where navigational guidance systems are not reliable so interballistic missiles require humans to steer them. Every night he dreams of Moscow but by day he resolves that his mission is to miss. In time he finds his attitude is shared by his fellow US rocket men (and by those in the USSR.) A certain admiration is called for when an author takes the old injunction against stating ‘it was all a dream’ and turns it into a strength.
Organ of Corti2 by Matt Thompson follows a group of scientists through the deserts south of Madrid to investigate a series of huge towers resembling termitaries. The labyrinth they enter resembles the organ of Corti in the human ear and turns out to have been built by deliberately genetically modified ants, now gone rogue.
Carriers3 by James Sallis is a post-apocalypse story, the usual tale of mayhem and casual inhumanity leavened slightly by one of its characters being a medic.

Pedant’s corner:- a Coast Guards’ (here the Coast Guard is a single entity so “Coast Guard’s” – the file I sent had Coastguard’s as I had employed British usage.) b“I wanted to the book” (no ‘to’.) ca missing comma before and after a quote.
1“She fancied herself my producer, always been more comfortable programming the drones” (my producer, had always been,) “just as its inhabitants has left it” (had left it.) 2antenna (an ant has two of these, so, antennae [which was used later].) “The same acoustic phenomena repeated itself” either, phenomenon, or, themselves.) 3Written in USian, missing commaas before pieces of direct speech, “give them wide berth” (a wide berth,) “at city’s edge” (at the city’s edge,) “might of” (might have,) theirselves (themselves, the narrator does not show a tendency to carelessness with language elsewhere,) “from forest’s edge” (from the forest’s edge,) “by water’s edge” (by the water’s edge, apart from the incidences noted indefinite articles were not omitted elsewhere,) one missing opening quotation mark.

SF Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times (iv)

The remainder of my larger SF paperbacks. These are on the lower shelves of the old music cupboard. Looking at these photos two of the books seem to have wriggled away from alphabetical order. (I’ve fixed that now.)

Stanisław Lem, Ken Macleod, Cixin Liu, Graham Dunstan Martin, Ian McDonald:-

Large Paperback Science Fiction

China Miéville, a Tim Powers, Christopher Priest:-

SF Large Paperback Books

Alastair Reynolds, Robert Silverberg, Norman Spinrad:-

Science Fiction Large Paperbacks

Lavie Tidhar, Kurt Vonnegut, Gene Wolfe, Ian Watson, Roger Zelazny, (well half of one is):-

SF Books, Large Paperbacks

Heliotrope by Justina Robson

Stories. Ticonderoga Publications, 2011, 345 p, including vi p Introduction by Adam Roberts and i p Acknowledgements.

 Heliotrope cover

The lead story Heliotrope is all that has surfaced from the author’s “Massively Unpublishable First Fantasy Epic” and at times the writing betrays its inexperienced origin. In it an artist finishing her apprenticeship is given by her ageing tutor the task of encapsulating the essence of dance master Jalaeka who inspires widespread devotion and can float. He can also drain his followers dry.

The McGuffin in Body of Evidence is a device which lets the wearer know what everyone is really thinking when they are speaking. Our heroine finds this even more excruciating when she meets another person trialling the device.

The Adventurers’ League was first published in an anthology dedicated to the style of Jules Verne. Voyager Lone Star Isol has returned from interstellar space in a manner suggesting it has been able to return faster than the speed of light. The journalist narrator Riba, is sent to investigate. Isol is one of the Forged people and there is the possibility of a war between them and Original humans. Riba is pushed off a transatlantic helium airship to fall oceanward. He is saved from death by the actions of an immense tentacled creature, which turns out to be a floating organism on which he meets avatars of Jules Verne, Captain Nemo, Sinbad, the Mermaid Silene, Ahab, and Sir David Attenborough, Forged people anxious to avoid war. The story has a fair degree of intrusive information dumping.

The Girl Hero’s Mirror Says He’s Not the One is set in Robson’s Mappa Mundi universe. The Girl Hero is sent to assassinate a poet who her mirror assures her will not the one to kill her. Biut he does have a device that resets internal software.

In The Bull Leapers a woman whose husband is in Knossos for an archæological dig encounters three Greeks who practice the old art of bull-leaping. They are also in touch with the Labyrinth, to where they take her for the story’s transforming episode.

Deadhead is narrated by Lois, a fourteen year-old girl. Her six years older sister Clem has Asperger’s and Lois always resents having to looking after her. She and their mother come to a better understanding after Clem communes with a dead horse’s head.

Erie Lackawanna Song starts off at the Hoboken ferry terminal with a man looking at the derelict Erie Lackawanna jetty next door. His journey across the river takes a different turn from usual when his nodding and sometimes speaking acquaintance, Claire Glick, asks him to look at a phial of liquid she has taken from work. It contains a substance that can rewrite brain synapses.

Cracklegrackle sees a man helped by one of the Forged (one who can “see” at all wavelengths) to find his daughter, kidnapped on Mars some time before, on Jupiter, much changed.

In No Man’s Island, on the day she finds she has not got the job at CERN she longed for Mariann Harris consoles herself with her discovery of traces of an alien spaceship having used an Alcbierre warp drive. Meanwhile her husband embarrasses himself with a customer of the shop where he works. Both find solace with their dog, Bing.

Robson’s first published story, Trésor, is understated horror wherein a prostitute has been waiting for her mark.

The Seventh Series is a mythical set of yoga exercises Davey is writing into a computer game. Then he finds that there is a video of that title and goes searching for its origin. The explanation at the story’s end is rather mundane though.

The Little Bear is one of the few SF stories to address the fact that time travel is also space travel and vice-versa. Ronson examines this through a series of vignettes set in different time-lines but with the same characters, each lamenting the human loss they incurred when an experiment involving the teleportation of a bottle of wine changed their world.

In Legolas Does the Dishes an inmate of a mental hospital envisages that the man who doe sthe dishes in the institution is Legolas from Tolkien’s Hobbit universe. Her viewpoint is emphasised when she tells us, “I don’t need to say what might happen if you got a shard in your eye and started to see the world through another lens. Who knows what might be revealed?” It is left open as to whether she is deluded or he really is Legolas.

Dreadnought is the intelligence of a spaceship as mediated through its units which can not exist without a human host.

An Unremarkable Man is the tale of two supernatural women trying to be ordinary, a Viscus Diabolique and the ensuing trade with a non-descript man who materialises from nowhere.

A Dream of Mars is suffered nightly by our narrator who was sent to recover the remains of the dead from a downed cable car in the Martian New South Face Woodlands and destroy the human created Bigfoot who had been intended as a tourist attraction only to form a bond with him instead.

Pedant’s corner:- In Adam Roberts’ Introduction “and both, well, Forged stories” (are both, well, Forged stories,) “of of” (only one ‘of’ required,) “but a tale that understand … are” (understands,) “ontological speaking” (ontologically speaking.) “But another of saying” (But another way of saying,) “knows whats I’m talking about” (what,) “I think that it what her” (that is what her,) a missing full stop, “as a way” (is a way.) “On the contrary the story does is” (what the story does is,) “amply demonstrates” (demonstrated.) Otherwise; “whilst others both showed some degree of chestnut” (both?) Elys’ (x 4, Elys’s.) “‘She dare not breathe’” (the rest of this segment is written in the past tense; ‘dared not’,) bringing her skin up to his awake and. He pinned her down,” (no full stop and subsequent capital needed.) “The paint is so thick that is has” (that it has,) “and Elys’ stops making a noise” (Elys,) “dare not” (again, past tense, dared not,) “like a the funnel” (one or other article, not both,) “sent his Abacand him the time” (either ‘sent his Abacand’, or, ‘sent him’ the time, not both,) “together with in increasing lawlessness” (no ‘in’,) “Jules Verne was a Frenchman of the twentieth century” (only barely; he died in 1905,) “that that” (only one ‘that’ needed,) “your media group have been advocating” (has been advocating,) fit (fitted.) “None of them are interested” (is interested,) “and in just in time to” (and is just in time to,) “its rotor whir softly” (‘its rotors whir’, or, ‘its rotor whirs’,) “I could help but take a sharp breath” (I couldn’t help but, Minos’ (Minos’s,) “It’s comfort” (Its.) “Bishop figure it was for his benefit” (figured,) claimes (claims,) “and sings” (the rest is in past tense, so ‘sang’,) scaned (scanned,) “I dare not” (again past tense; dared,) Mars’ (Mars’s.) “‘Their names is what they are” (Their names are what they are.) “‘and its real, external’” (it’s,) ““Let’s start looking’ Bishop said” (“Let’s start looking,” Bishop said,) iat (at,) “Part sof a” (Parts of a.) “‘may I see it?’” (May,) “much me readily” (much more readily,) “even as it wasn’t part of his concern” (‘even if it wasn’t’ makes more sense,) “all the questions that were hunting him” (haunting him makes more sese,) withy (with,) coudln’t (couldn’t,) “he he” (only one ‘he’ needed,) “those involved Forged” (those involved are Forged,) “less seconds” (fewer seconds,) “for the a regular payment” ( no ‘a’ needed.) “None of them were talking” (None of them was talking,) “(CGPS)was” ((CGPS) was,) a new paragraph taken in the middle of a line when a piece of dialogue is opened (x 2,) “watched the their chosen object” (no ‘the’ I think,) “ ‘still signs himself off “ A Friend of Your Father’s” as if’” (off “A Friend…..) “They stared at the offended item” (the offending item,) Legolas’ (Legolas’s.) “‘I want to see him again,’ She rubbed” (I want to see him again.” She rubbed,) Saclides’ (Saclides’s,) “Laura said ordered a double espresso” (is missing a comma between said and ordered.) “The main criteria is” (the main criterion is,) “the meatl struts of the nearest tower groans and creaks” (the metal struts … groan and creak,) Mars’ (Mars’s,) Raditech were set to lose (Raditech was set to lose.) In the Acknowledgements; Crwther (Crowther.)

More Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

Only one photo this week.

Folio Society Books

These shelves contain beautifully produced, slip-cased books published by the Folio Society (with books from other publishers scattered among them.) Some were bought by the good lady but they all belong together.

They are so sumptuous that it is almost a crime to pick them up and read them. Of these particullar editions I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird; Goodbye to All That; Revolt in the Desert; England, Their England; Goodbye to Berlin and The Fire of Liberty.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Frank Herbert’s Dune were Christmas (or birthday) presents from my younger son. I had paperback copies already but was delighted to get these. Barbara Tuchman’s The Zimmerman Telegram is also a doubler.

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