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Socialist Science Fiction

There’s an interseting post over at Ian Sales’s blog where he calls, somewhat mischievously, for nominations for a socialist SF award for which he has come up with the name Sputnik Award. He is looking for works published in 2015 in the first instance (though it strikes me there could be fun looking through the archives to allocate awards retrospectively for previous years.)

Ian did link to a list provided by China Miéville of fifty works of SF/Fantasy every socialist should read. Not all of them are socialist; e.g. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is included on the grounds you should know your enemy.

Now I love a list, so here it is. As usual the works asterisked I have read (in the case of the Gormenghast trilogy two thirds of it and The Iron Heel perhaps as a young lad.)

Iain M. Banks—Use of Weapons* (1990)

Edward Bellamy—Looking Backward, 2000–1887 (1888)

Alexander Bogdanov—The Red Star: A Utopia (1908; trans. 1984)

Emma Bull & Steven Brust—Freedom & Necessity (1997)

Mikhail Bulgakov—The Master and Margarita* (1938; trans. 1967)

Katherine Burdekin (aka “Murray Constantine”)—Swastika Night* (1937)

Octavia Butler—Survivor (1978)

Julio Cortázar—“House Taken Over” (1963?)

Philip K. Dick—A Scanner Darkly* (1977)

Thomas Disch—The Priest (1994)

Gordon Eklund—All Times Possible(1974)

Max Ernst—Une Semaine de Bonté (1934)

Claude Farrère—Useless Hands (1920; trans. 1926)

Anatole France—The White Stone (1905; trans. 1910)

Jane Gaskell—Strange Evil (1957)

Mary Gentle—Rats and Gargoyles* (1990)

Charlotte Perkins Gilman—“The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892)

Lisa Goldstein—The Dream Years (1985)

Stefan Grabiński—The Dark Domain (1918–22; trans. and collected 1993)

George Griffith—The Angel of Revolution (1893)

Imil Habibi—The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist (1974; trans. 1982)

M. John Harrison—Viriconium Nights* (1984)

Ursula K. Le Guin—The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia* (1974)

Jack London—Iron Heel*? (1907)

Ken MacLeod—The Star Fraction* (1996)

Gregory Maguire—Wicked (1995)

J. Leslie Mitchell (Lewis Grassic Gibbon)—Gay Hunter* (1934, reissued 1989)

Michael Moorcock—Hawkmoon (1967–77, reprinted in one edition 1992)

William Morris—News From Nowhere (1888)

Toni Morrison—Beloved (1987)

Mervyn Peake—The Gormenghast Novels* (1946–59)

Marge Piercy—Woman on the Edge of Time* (1976)

Philip Pullman—Northern Lights* (1995)

Ayn Rand—Atlas Shrugged (1957)

Mack Reynolds—Lagrange Five (1979)

Keith Roberts—Pavane* (1968)

Kim Stanley Robinson—The Mars Trilogy* (1992–96)

Mary Shelley—Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818)

Lucius Shepard—Life During Wartime* (1987)

Norman Spinrad—The Iron Dream* (1972)

Eugene Sue—The Wandering Jew (1845)

Michael Swanwick—The Iron Dragon’s Daughter (1993)

Jonathan Swift—Gulliver’s Travels (1726)

Alexei Tolstoy—Aelita (1922; trans. 1957)

Ian Watson—Slow Birds* (1985)

H.G. Wells—The Island of Dr Moreau* (1896)

E. L. White—“Lukundoo” (1927)

Oscar Wilde—The Happy Prince and Other Stories (1888)

Gene Wolfe—The Fifth Head of Cerberus* (1972)

Yevgeny Zamyatin—We* (1920; trans. 1924)

20 out of 50. I’ve some way to go. But a lot of these are vintage and possibly not very easy to come by.

Not Fifteen Books

Ian Sales on his blog mentioned a while back a meme that is going about, where you list the fifteen books that influenced or affected you most and have stayed with you. I don’t know if I can come up with fifteen off the top of my head but here are some.

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
The Man In The Maze by Robert Silverberg
The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin
Winter’s Children and Hello Summer Goodbye both by Michael G Coney
Lanark by Alasdair Gray
The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner by James Hogg
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke
Pavane by Keith Roberts

The Herbert is there because it was the first Dune book I read (out of the local Public Library, when I devoured any yellow jacketed book in the SF section.) I didn’t know when I picked it up it was a sequel. It still made sense, and is a better novel than Dune anyway. So is Children Of Dune; but the later ones are increasingly forgettable.
The Man In The Maze made me realise what SF could be and do. Silverberg has written books even more impressive but I was on the verge of stopping reading SF till I read this. So Robert Silverberg is to blame for my continuing involvement with the genre.
The Left Hand Of Darkness just blew me away.
All the Michael G Coneys from around that part of his career are superb as I remember. Lump in Mirror Image, Syzygy, Charisma, The Girl With A Symphony In Her Fingers* (aka The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That Catch) and Brontomek! to that list.
Lanark, while being a masterpiece by anyone’s definition also let me know it was actually possible to be Scottish and still get literature of a speculative bent into print.
Confessions Of A Justified Sinner is the prototypic Scottish novel. Jekyll and Hyde, your inspiration was surely here – also, in many senses, my story “Dusk,” despite the fact that stylistically I was more attempting to echo Silverberg. But if you live in Scotland that streak of fatalistic, Calvinistic gloom just gets to you.
2001. Amazingly, I read this before I saw the film. Sense of wonder plus. (At the time.)
Pavane opened up for me the delights of Altered History.

*This, I read only a few years ago, though.

I see the total comes to eight; fourteen if you count all the Coneys. But then I haven’t enumerated all the Silverbergs, nor the Le Guins. And now I think about it there ought to be a Roger Zelazny in there somewhere; any from He Who Shapes, This Immortal, Isle Of The Dead or Doorways In The Sand.

Now, if there were a meme for books that stayed with you for all the wrong reasons!….

Four Random Things About Me

Big Rab tagged me with this and I’ve been stuck for a response as I’m pretty boring really (the good lady has a lot to put up with) and I can’t think of many things even vaguely amusing, interesting or unusual about me – beyond the obvious one of being a published author of fiction.


I once performed an impromptu Hokey-Cokey in Soviet Russia.
I was on a school cruise which stopped in Leningrad, as it then was. A few of us were taken to the Pioneers’ Palace – Pioneers being described as the Soviet version of Scouts – and they performed some sort of Russian folk dance for us. To reciprocate we Scots did the Hokey-Cokey as it was the only loosely dance-based thing that the adults present thought we would all know.

As far as I know I was the first person ever to discover an incidence of that weakish attractive force that is called a hydrogen bond from a hydrogen atom that was bonded to a sulphur. (Usually they only occur when H is bonded to N, O or F atoms.)
I made a thiol substituted camphor derivative compound which had the hydrogen atom bonded to the sulphur close enough in space to the oxygen atom located elsewhere in the molecule for it to be attracted enough by that oxygen that the hydrogen was effectively weakly bonded to the O as well. The infra-red spectrum showed this as an unusually sharp line.

I have twice appeared on television by accident.
Once on the terraces at Firs Park when the BBC filmed a Shire-Dumbarton Cup tie and I could be glimpsed in a background shot. The other time was years earlier. I was the only passenger on Renton railway station when some TV show or other was recording there for some obscure reason.

I’m only two handshakes (or maybe conversations) away from Adolf Hitler.
Some years ago now I met a (still youngish) bloke who’d guarded* Rudolf Hess at Spandau.

I can’t think of anyone to tag with this. If you’re offended by this omission let me know and I’ll add you!

*Since Hess (if it was Hess – there are conspiracy theories) died a while ago now my acquaintance must have been one of the last to do this. He said the Russians treated the prisoner pretty poorly; so they obviously thought he was the real Hess.

My Dewey Decimal Classification

I picked this up from Ian Sales‘s blog.

Jack Deighton’s Dewey Decimal Section:
190 Modern western philosophy
Jack Deighton = 013145978054 = 013+145+978+054 = 1190

100 Philosophy & Psychology

Books on metaphysics, logic, ethics and philosophy.

What it says about you:
You’re a careful thinker, but your life can be complicated and hard for others to understand at times. You try to explain things and strive to express yourself.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at

Is this the new horoscope then? It probably has as much (ie as little) validity.

I suspect they only have about six or seven different, “What it says about you” comments. I put in the good lady’s details and hers turned out exactly the same as mine!

Where do people get the ideas for creating this sort of stuff?

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