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SF Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times (i)

My contribution this week to Reader in the Wilderness’s Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times meme. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

These are some of my hardback SF and Fantasy books. I didn’t buy many hardbacks back in the day (except second hand) so most of these are fairly modern SF and some are review copies.

Science Fiction Hardbacks (i)

Above note some J G Ballard (his Empire of the Sun ought not really be shelved here but it keeps his books together,) Iain M Banks, Eric Brown, Alan Campbell, Ted Chiang, the wonderful Michael G Coney, the excellent Richard Cowper, Hal Duncan and Matthew Fitt’s amazing But n Ben A-Go-Go, an SF novel written entirely in Scots.

The next shelf still has some of its adornments in front:-

Science Fiction Hardbacks (ii)

Stand-outs here are Mary Gentle, the all-but indescribable R A Lafferty, the sublime Ursula Le Guin, Stanisław Lem, Graham Dunstan Martin, Ian R MacLeod, Ken MacLeod, Ian McDonald.

You’ll also see the proof copy of a novel titled A Son of the Rock perched above the books at the right hand end on row 2.

Brian Aldiss

Earlier today I read the news that Brian Aldiss has died.

At times during my youth he was about the sole standard bearer for British SF (for which actually read English SF as Science Fiction from other parts of these islands was more or less invisible till years later.) Only John Wyndham and J G Ballard had anything like as high a profile and they were very different writers.

(Edited to add: I don’t know why it was that Arthur C Clarke slipped my mind when I originally wrote this. Maybe because his output was hard SF as compared to the others.)

As a result of Aldiss’s prominence I have a large number of his books. I think The Interpreter was the first SF book I bought as opposed to borrowing them from the local library.

The latest such purchase was bought for me for Christmas by the good lady because she liked the cover so much – and she read it before me!

I suppose there won’t be any more now.

I did meet him once; briefly, at one of the Liverpool Eastercons.

One of the greats. Arguably the last of the SF pioneers.

Brian Wilson Aldiss: 18/8/1925 – 19/8/2017. So it goes.

I’m on the Map!


Despite me not having a piece of fiction published for a few years – and only ever one novel – I’ve been included on this map of British SF and Fantasy writers. (If you click on the map it will lead you to its creator’s website, where copies can be purchased):-

Science Fiction and Fantasy Literary Map

I’m humbled by this. Imagine me being on the same map as Alasdair Gray, Iain (M) Banks, Ken MacLeod, Ian McDonald, Eric Brown, Arthur C Clarke, J G Ballard, George Orwell et al. Not to mention J Leslie Mitchell (Lewis Grassic Gibbon.)

J G Ballard

I discovered this morning that the sometime Science Fiction writer and chronicler of the late twentieth century, J G Ballard, whose semi-autobiographical novel The Kindness Of Women I wrote about a few weeks ago, has died. Eulogies are apparently all over the blogosphere.
His early experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese in wartime Shanghai flooded indelibly through his work; images of wrecks, ruin and abandonment abound. An air of the inevitability of decay hangs over nearly everything he wrote. (The word “already” is a Ballardian trademark.) Here it should be noted that as a road map of where as a civilisation we may be headed this aspect of his work may be all too predictive.

Yet to me his writing always seemed to be quintessentially English; it represented a kind of über Englishness in the way that possibly only an expatriate could express. His stories somehow embodied the stiff upper lip and also the “hanging-on in quiet desperation” that Roger Waters of Pink Floyd described as the English way. Yet they dissected alienation and elevated its description to an art from.

Having said all that it nevertheless remains true that pretty much all of his works plough a similar furrow. I know this will be sacrilege to his admirers but to read one Ballard novel is more or less to read them all. The crucial affect is of detachment, events are described matter-of-factly, as if they do not really impact on the character whose point of view we inhabit at the time.

His obsessions, Marilyn Monroe, the Kennedy assassination, car crashes, the nuclear bomb, urban blight, were those of an Englishman of a certain age. In that respect he was more a man of his time than he was one ahead of it.

He is undoubtedly, however, one of the major writers in English, and of world literature as a whole, of the second half of the twentieth century.

And the novels of his that were published as Science Fiction are indissolubly part of his canon, covering the same concerns, and equally as worthy, as those that were not.

J G Ballard: 15/11/1930-19/04/2009. So it goes.

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