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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.

Asterix and the Pechts

Scrievit by Jean-Yves Ferri. Illustraitit by Didier Conrad. Translaitit by Matthew Fitt.
Dalen Alba and Itchy Coo, 2013, 48 p. Originally published as Astérix et les Pictes, 2013, by Les Éditions Albert René.

 Asterix and the Pechts  cover

A bit of fun. This is the Scots version of Asterix and the Picts the first Asterix book not to be written by either René Goscinny or his original illustrator Albert Uderzo. Here Asterix and Obelix retain their familiar names but the “clachan warlock” is rendered not as Getafix but instead Kensawthetrix, we also have Heidbummerix for the chief, Gieitbiglix, plus the inspired name Magonaglix for the bard; but my favourite of these is actually the fish seller, Minginhaddix.

The story starts when an ice-bound, kilted body washes up near Asterix’s clachan. This turns out to be MacHoolet who when thawed out cannot speak at first but nevertheless is a big hit with the local ladies. When MacHoolet, who Tourette’s-like, breaks out in anachronistic song every so often (Mak me wanna shout, Auld Lang Syne, I’ll tak the high road, Boom-Bang-a-Bang, I wid walk 500 miles, I feel it in my fingirs, Ally Bally) and utters the impeccably Doric phrase “foosyerdoos”, finally manages to communicate his origins to the village they set off to take him home and reunite him with his love Camomilla, whom the Pictish chief Macrammie (a nice double pun here on textile working and the Scots for a disputatious contretemps) wants for his own. En route they encounter Nessie’s ancestor Nechtan. They arrive in time to interrupt – with Camomilla’s help – a gathering of the clans to elect a new king (Muirlain Pechts, Plookie Pechts, Joco Pechts, Fattygus Pechts, Pechts fae the wids, Pechts fae the yella watter, White Pechts) as well as to send the Romans home to think again. When MacHoolet calls for new rules of inheritance there is a sly reference to the proportional representation element of the Scottish Parliament’s make-up, ‘we could tak names fae a regional leet’. There are other contemporary references such as ‘Vote Aye. Vote Naw. Better Thegither. It’s Pechtland’s Peat.’ Great stuff: but I doubt non-Scots would make much of it.

Though it is one of the spellings in Scots of that ancient people’s name and Matthew Fitt does make the pun during his translation I would have preferred an alternative (Picht? Peht?) to Pechts. It makes them sound as if they’re out of breath.

The Hoose o Haivers by Matthew Fitt, Susan Rennie and James Robertson

Itchy Coo, 2002, 90 p.

The Hoose o Haivers cover

This slim volume contains retellings of tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, reimagined in a living, vibrant Scots.

The first piece, The Hoose O Haivers by James Robertson introduces the eponymous Hoose, a place where earth, sea and sky meet and the whole world can be seen. A house of rumour and tale telling, of scoom, scandal, clatter, claik, crack, claivers, clish-clash and clype.

Phaethon’s Hurl in the Sky by James Robertson
Phaethon, the mortal son of Phoebus the Sun god, boasts so much about his father that he is challenged to prove the relationship. He asks to drive Phoebus’s chariot across the skies. The task is beyond him.

The Weavin Contest by Susan Rennie
The goddess Athena hears of Arachne’s skill with weaving and challenges her to a contest. She doesn’t like the result.

King Mehdas by Matthew Fitt
Takes as a starting point Midas’s famous greed for gold but elaborates on the theme of his thoughtlessness.

The Cave o Dreams by James Robertson
Is where Hypnus sleeps and where all manner of dreams lie. But when his son Morpheus comes to you, is what you see real?

Echo An Narcissus by James Robertson
Echo and Narcissus.

Ariadne in the Cloods by Susan Rennie
Tells of how Ariadne helped Theseus to slay the Minotaur and escape the Labyrinth but then her dancing attracted the attention of the god Dionysus who took her up to Olympus where she dances on the clouds still. With a side serving of Dædalus and Icarus.

The Man That Made a Meal o Himsel
Starts with a discussion on the pronunciation of Erystichthon’s name before relating how he angers the goddess Ceres by cutting down her favourite oak tree. She then arranges for him to be afflicted with constant hunger, which no amount of food can assuage.

Orpheus an Eurydice by Matthew Fitt
Orpheus and Eurydice.

The Aipple Race by Susan Rennie
Atalanta can run so fast she can dodge even Eros’s arrows. These miss her and go on to hit others who as a result moon over her. One such, Hippomenes, engages the services of the goddess Aphrodite who provides him with enchanted apples to distract Atalanta so that Hippomenes can beat her in a race and so marry her. His lack of gratitude for this annoys Aphrodite.

The Twelve Trauchles o Heracles by Matthew Fitt
The labours of Hercules. Trauchles however is more nuanced than labours. A trauchle is an unavoidable and difficult task that “ends up daein yer napper in.” This story contained the wonderful phrase, “fair ripped Hera’s knittin’,” (which can be rendered much less pithily as “discommoded Hera greatly.”)

The Hoose o Pythagoras by James Robertson
Is a companion tail to The Hoose O Haivers’s tip. A discussion on the necessity of change and on whether the fantasies in this book are any more unreal than things we commonly take for granted.

This is a delightful little book but anyone without experience of spoken and written Scots will likely struggle with its content. The writing does however show what a vital, earthy and vigorous language Scots can be.

Scottish Science Fiction: An Update

Someone got to my recent blog post by searching in google for scottish science fiction. The Wikipedia page under that heading is woefully inadequate while providing some historical perspective but I found this interesting link to an address by Alan McGillivray to The Association For Scottish Literary Studies which he gave in 2000. He naturally focuses on Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod as the only Scottish SF writers around at that time (though my A Son Of The Rock had appeared by then) and looks forward to the growth of Scottish SF which has, in fact, now occurred.

While reading it I realised that I had unaccountably forgotten to mention in my post the novel But n Ben A-Go-Go by Matthew Fitt. This SF novel is singular (and spectacular) in that it is written entirely in Scots. That certainly beat my attempt at Scottish SF into a cocked hat as I wrote/write in English. My apologies to Matthew for the omission.

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