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The Revolution of Saint Jone by Lorna Mitchell

Women’s Press, 1988, 206 p.

Another Women’s Press book I’ve only just caught up on.

 The Revolution of Saint Jone cover

Newly ordained priest of the Church of the Rational Cosmos, Jone Grifan, has been sent as a Krischan missionary from Strylya to the pagan district of Embra in Skosha, part of the “cold, damp” Yukey Isles off the north-west coast of Yurope. These rather transparent altered spellings do not mean the locations bear more than a tangential relation to anything a twentieth (or twenty-first) century reader might recognise. Even if the text does explicitly refer to the Revelation of St John, Krischan teaching in the book is well removed from Christianity as we know it; though its central tenet – the abjuration of physical contact – is merely a heightened version of the anathemas pronounced by over-zealous adherents of present day patriarchal religions. As one of Jone’s catachumens puts it, “‘it’s “Dinny dae this” an’ “Dinny dae that.”’”…. “‘Aw the time it’s stoppin’ ye daein’ whit ye want.’” Both Jone’s nascent estrangement from the hard line and her willingness to see her new charges as people sow the seeds for her revolution.

As the above quotes demonstrate, the locals’ speech is rendered in Scots dialect, not something I expected to see in an SF book from the 1980s.

In common with other Women’s Press SF books there is a consideration of the rigidity of gender roles, subversion of which is one of the elements of Jone’s revolution. Unfortunately there is also a lot of information dumping in the book – sometimes through an embedded lecture by a character – and a large amount of telling, rather than showing.

Pedant’s corner:- catachumen (the spelling catechumen is more usual for a religious instructee but Mitchell uses catachumen consistently, or employs the contraction cat,) Bablylonianism (x 2; Babylonianism,) “The girls” (girl,) “naebody elses” (else’s,) “Everyone couldn’t run away,” (Not everyone could run away,) “point fifty-five” (oh dear, fifty-five means five more than fifty, anything after a decimal point is smaller than one, designated by a place value: hence point five five,) foreever (forever,) a missing full stop (x 2,) a lower case at the beginning of a sentence, a missing comma before a speech quote (x 3,) “‘you’re going you have a difficult time’” (to,) “to use if skilfully” (it,) diny (elsewhere dinny,) frist (first,) locted (located,) astronimical (astronomical,) by the cats laziness (cats’) Gannymede (Ganymede – again Gannymede was used consistently,) viscuous (viscous,) casuality (casualty,) “Fear of breaking rules… were blotted out” (fear was blotted out,) instrusions (intrusions,) “opt out the whole rotten system” (opt out of,) caryotid nerve (carotid,) “nebulus exploding” (nebulas – or nebulae!) agglomoration (agglomeration,) “a hot spark to Jones genitals” (Jone’s,) HC1 (HCl,) HSO F’s corrosion (HSOF’s,) “it’s mountain contours” (its,) two ethnic woman (women,) gunjed up (gunged,) she was being lain out (laid out,) scanning Luner’s finger’s (fingers,) “then he proceeded to telling her” (to tell her,) “what’s its criteria” (what are its criteria,) gasses (gases.)

Passing for Human by Jody Scott

Women’s Press, 1986, 192 p. First published in 1977.

Passing For Human cover

From the publisher and the title of this book it can be inferred that this is a satire. While men may be its principal targets, “Male bodies are incomplete, because of that stunted Y chromosome, hence males lack intuition (which merely means they’re less intelligent, having a closed-off awareness)” and “There should be no lightness in the male life: only a bossy arrogant machismo,” the human race as a whole is found wanting, with all its primitive instincts, sex-obsession and reprehensible customs. “They commit advertising on each other. And as you know advertising is a crime against nature.” Sadly, though, Passing for Human has dated badly since its first publication.

Consider the plot. Dolphin-like creatures from the planet Rysemus are nearing completion of a Rapid transit system, The Mousehole, in the vicinity of Earth. This project might be put in jeopardy by the actions of the Sajorian, Scaulzo, aka the “Prince of Darkness” for, despite his machinations, humans feel well disposed towards him and are said to be easy prey to his evil ends.

The Rysemians have on their ship, Vonderra, a supply of bodies identical in every respect to their originals; bodies into which they can transfer at will. Our main protagonist, Benaroya, appears variously in the book as Brenda Starr, Emma Peel and Virginia Woolf. (I note here that two of these are actually fictional in our real world.) Other Rysemians inhabit the bodies of Abraham Lincoln, George S Patton, Heidi’s grandfather and countless Richard Nixons.

To a modern reading there are several problems with all of this. One is that, despite Rysemians having telepathic powers, none of the human characters ever rises above the caricature, not even Adrian Resnick who is being kept in captivity by Scaulzo and whose consciousness we roam for a while. The other is the pulpy nature of the plot and the treatment – which comes over more like a piece of pulp SF from the 50s or earlier. Both these elements lend the book a cartoonish quality at odds with any claim to seriousness. Moreover, I know the tale is supposed to be picaresque but there is still a certain lack of internal logic when Rysemians excoriate humans for experimenting on and killing animals but have no qualms about contemplating the extinction of humanity as a punishment, have indeed carried out just that sentence on the main life form of the planet Hogue. Yet what grated most was that for a piece pointing out supposed cultural peculiarities the text seems blithely unaware of its own cultural specificity. An Italian refers to a limey, another says “way to go babe” (I also wondered if 7-Up was available in Italy in the 1970s,) there is a comparison to over-civilized field goal kickers and Benaroya’s interminable interjections, “Jeeps! Holy Moses! Holy croakers! Wowzereeno, holy mackerel,” are unmistakably USian. Her reactions are supposed to be a result of culture shock but these authorial tics encapsulate an attitude arising from within (one of) the culture(s) she is supposed to be shocked by.

File under historical curiosity.

Pedant’s corner:- a thick-molecule “water” planet (what on – or indeed off – Earth is a thick-molecule?) deoderant (deodorant,) “can you imagine this is Scaulzo’s hands?” (in Scaulzo’s hands,) Earthie’s (Earthies,) sprung (sprang,) shizophrenic (schizophrenic,) skelton (skeleton,) a gargoyles’s head (gargoyle’s,) envison (envision,) the the (one the is enough,) as done (has done,) Sojorian (Sajorian,) a cluster of crones were (a cluster was,) knawed (gnawed,) aureoles (areolae,) humilation (humiliation,) comfty (comfy.)

The Wall Around Eden by Joan Slonczewski

Women’s Press, 1991, 288 p

The Wall Around Eden cover

It’s the little things that niggle. One of the families in this book is Quaker, of the strict variety. And they address others as “thee” (except in the possessive when they use “thy”.) This is fine, but…. Bar once, they never use the form “thou” – and in the nominative case they ought to. I found this omission intensely irritating (though I’ll admit that “thou” would require, for example, the verb form “seest” as in “thou seest” rather than the author’s “thee sees.”) Do strict Quakers in the US actually use “thee” in this way? In any case Slonczewski and her characters are clearly aware that the “thou” form exists as in that one instance Daniel Scattergood uses it in the punning phrase “an I for a thou” when he and Isabel Garcia-Chase are exchanging images with an alien artefact. It also occurs in, “She had watched it for too long not to think of it as thou” when Isabel has an apparently wounded keeper at her mercy. Very annoying.

Then too, Slonczewski has her characters reference various works of Science Fiction which, although it provides a means of explaining the topographical relationship of the alien Pylons which link various human settlements together with a central core, comes over more as her demonstrating an awareness of the genre rather than something organic to her creations.

But to the tale. It’s set in the aftermath of an atomic war in which aliens called Keepers may or may not have had some part but where most of humanity and other life failed to survive the ensuing nuclear winter. Those who did now live in domed cities created by the aliens. These have an impenetrable barrier (the wall around Eden of the title) to the outside and also a walled off Pylon at their centre, plus flying aliens (or alien artifacts) called angelbees – who see infra-red – roaming the air inside the domes. There are very few of these environments – none in Europe – the main one is in Sydney, Australia, but ours is in Gwynwood, USA. Courtesy of the aliens the domed cities are kept in touch with each other by a teleportation technology.

Sunlight can penetrate the wall around Gwynwood but snow cannot; nor can animals – the outside is littered with the bones of the dying, humans among them, attracted there by its warmth and light in the days of nuclear winter – but there is weather inside (not to mention bluejays, mice and squirrels.) Despite references to the growing of crops and fruit – and their contamination with radiation via the groundwater – Gwynwood seems rather too small to create that internal weather, and to be self-sufficient. Yes, imports come in from Sydney but these seem to be mostly technological or medical. I did wonder how even the small number who live there managed to survive. Their existence is summed up by one of them remembering Chief Seattle, on being taken to the reservation, “It is the end of living and the beginning of survival.”

No matter; the main story is of Isabel’s quest to escape Gwynwood, join the Underground and eject the aliens from Earth. Somewhere along the way it turns into a voyage of discovery about the nature of the Keepers and their purposes. Slonczewski does the discovery stuff very well and the central message – unusually for a post disaster novel – is of hope but I was left wanting more.

Pedant’s corner:- there was a “sprung” count of one (but sprang was used elsewhere,) the now very unPC, “We’ll watch the poofs at Les Girls.” “But King George (III) was a tyrant” is a very USian sentiment. We had crèche (for nativity scene,) rhinoceri (the word ending is plain wrong; its root isn’t from Latin, the English plural is rhinoceroses anyway,) calling an in unimaginable variety (in an,) polyhedrons (it’s from Greek so the plural is polyhedra,) shined (shone,) could have mowed us down (mown.)

The Incomer by Margaret Elphinstone

The Women’s Press, 1987, 229 p

The Incomer cover

I picked this one up in a second hand bookshop in Edinburgh a few months ago. For two reasons. One, it was a Women’s Press SF publication I hadn’t bought at the time so it filled a gap and two, it fitted the Read Scotland 2014 Challenge. The book has the impeccably Scottish word incomer as part of its title. Though born in Kent, author Margaret Elphinstone has lived extensively in Scotland – in Galloway when the book was published – and has a professional academic interest in Scottish literature, especially of the islands. (She does have a character say, “Aren’t I?” though.)

As dark is falling a human figure falters through a vaguely menacing forest to a crossroads with a village on its north side. The village has several ruined houses but we are given to understand this is by no means unusual for the times. (Almost incidentally we find out some sort of change has reduced the human population compared to our time and advanced technology is conspicuous by its absence. Despite this, familiar things such as flower pots, nappies and sheep crop up from time to time. Heat is provided by burning wood, which seems to be a precious resource despite the surrounding forest. The North Sea is dangerous, referred to as dead, in contrast to the reviving Irish Sea.)

The figure, a travelling musician named Naomi, finds room at the inn. Her fiddle playing at a gathering a day or so later ensures her acceptance to stay for the rest of the winter. The village is called Clachanpluck (the novel has been republished as The Incomer or Clachanpluck) and holds a secret. A path through the forest leads to an entry into the earth hidden behind a waterfall. (No spoilers.)

Naomi’s presence has an impact on the relationships within the village but the main theme of the novel is mutual incomprehension, the lack of understanding Naomi has of the local norms, the assumed knowledge she doesn’t have, the care with which she has to tread. Her main driving force is her music but during her stay in the village she nevertheless – if somewhat unconvincingly – throws off her long-maintained celibacy in a relationship with fellow fiddle player Davey to whom she teaches tunes that she learned on her travels in Europe. Old, powerful music, written by Beethoven. Despite the almost unspoken matriarchy in Clachanpluck human nature hasn’t much changed. Other misunderstandings take place among those who have lived there all their lives.

This is a quiet, understated novel whose depiction of a restrained, unfussy, reticent lifestyle where people no longer exploit nature unsustainably and have a deep attachment to the land may be nostalgic and idealistic yet resists being idyllic.

Despatches From the Frontiers of the Female Mind edited by Jen Green and Sarah Lefanu

The Women’s Press, 1985, 248 p.

Despatches From the Frontiers of the Female Mind

This is an anthology from a time when it was thought there had to be a Women’s Press and a collection of SF stories by women writers only. Given the relative rarity, still, of published SF written by women – though the barriers are no longer so high and the practitioners are at least on a par with and often surpass their male counterparts – arguably the desideratum is as important now as it ever was. The avowedly feminist perspective, the didacticism, of a lot of these stories dates them though. Then again most SF from the 80s would be similarly dated.

Big Operation on Altair Three by Josephine Saxton
On a regressive colony world an advertising copywriter describes the unusual procedure devised to illustrate the extreme stability of a new car.

Spinning the Green by Margaret Elphinstone
A fairy tale. It even begins, “Once upon a time.” A treacle merchant on his way home from a convention encounters a group of green-clad women in a wood. They demand a price for the rose he has picked for his youngest daughter. Curiously this world has computers, televisions and round the world cruises but the merchant travels on horseback.

The Clichés from Outer Space by Joanna Russ
Satirises the portrayal of women in the typical slush-pile SF story of pre-enlightened times – like the 1980s – with four overwrought, overwritten examples. (As they no doubt were.)

The Intersection by Gwyneth Jones
Two space dwellers from an environment where privacy is impossible, “SERVE sees all, SERVE records all,” take a holiday to observe the indigs of the underworld. Bristling with acronyms and told rather than unfolded this is more an exercise in information dumping than a story as such. (And de rigeur ought to be spelled with a “u” after the “g”.)

Long Shift by Beverley Ireland
A woman who is employed to use her mind to demolish buildings safely is given a priority assignment monitoring a subsidence which turns out to be worse than expected.

Love Alters by Tanith Lee
Women only have babies with women, and men only with men. This is the right, the straight way to do it. Our female narrator is married to Jenny but then falls in love with someone else. A man.

Cyclops by Lannah Battley
A space-faring archaeologist discovers Earth was not the cradle of humanity by uncovering an ancient manuscript written by “Aeneas.” It has a clever explanation of why the Cyclops appeared to have one eye. The story’s balance is out of kilter, though.

Instructions for Exiting this Building in Case of Fire by Pamela Zoline
A remedy for the world’s ills involves the kidnapping, and resettlement, of children.

A Sun in the Attic by Mary Gentle
In Asaria, women take more than one husband. Roslin, head of House Mathury, is married to a pair of brothers one of whom has gone missing. The Port Council does not like his scientific investigations.

Atlantis 2045: no love between planets by Frances Gapper
In a repressive future society letters are too dangerous to write. Jene is a misfit, earning her family penalty points to the extent that they have her classified as a Social Invisible. Then one day her equally invisible aunt returns from being Ghosted.

From a Sinking Ship by Lisa Tuttle
Susannah works trying to communicate with dolphins. She is happier with them than with humans; so much so that she is unaware of the impending nuclear war. The dolphins understand the danger; and have an escape plan.

The Awakening by Pearlie McNeill
In a heavily polluted future world Lucy has doubts about her daughter’s participation in the Breeding Roster.

Words by Naomi Mitchison
Is about the inadequacy of language to describe new experiences – especially those induced by a device to stimulate brain synapses.

Relics by Zoë Fairbairns
A woman’s visit to a Greenham Common type peace camp is overtaken by the beginning of a nuclear war. She is placed in a freezing cabinet and woken decades later to be part of an exhibition illustrating her times. The future people get it hopelessly wrong of course.

Mab by Penny Castagli
A post-menopausal woman who takes a yoga class gives birth – from a lump on her head – to a tiny child. This apparently prefigures the demise of the male.

Morality Meat by Raccoona Sheldon*
A simple morality tale. Droughts and grain diseases have killed off the supply of meat but as always the rich still manage to get their share. Meanwhile every pregnancy is forced by law to go to full term. Adoption Centres provide a service for those who do not want or otherwise cannot keep their babies. But parents cannot be found for all the children.

*Raccoona Sheldon (Alice Sheldon) is also known as James Tiptree Jr.

Apples In Winter by Sue Thomason
People from another world interfere with a native culture.

The Women’s Press SF Line

Further to Ian Sales‘s meme about women SF writers he posted an item about The Women’s Press SF line which was published in the 1980s in a distinctive grey border and spine with cover art in a characteristic style.

The usual applies. The ones in bold I’ve read.

1. Kindred, Octavia Butler
2. Walk to the End of the World and Motherlines, Suzy McKee Charnas
3. The New Gulliver: Or The Adventures of Lemuel Gulliver, Jr. in Capovolta, Esmé Dodderidge
4. Machine Sex and Other Stories, Candas Jane Dorsey
5. Native Tongue, Suzette Haden Elgin
6. The Judas Rose, Suzette Haden Elgin
7. The Incomer, Margaret Elphinstone
8. Carmen Dog, Carol Emshwiller
9. The Fires of Bride: A Novel, Ellen Galford
10. The Wanderground, Sally Miller Gearhart
11. Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
12. Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind, Jen Green & Sarah LeFanu
13. The Godmothers, Sandi Hall
14. Women as Demons, Tanith Lee
15. The Book of the Night, Rhoda Lerman
16. Evolution Annie and Other Stories, Rosaleen Love
17. The Total Devotion Machine, Rosaleen Love
18. The Revolution of Saint Jone, Lorna Mitchell
19. Memoirs of a Spacewoman, Naomi Mitchison
20. The Mothers of Maya Diip, Suniti Namjoshi
21. Planet Dweller, Jane Palmer
22. The Watcher, Jane Palmer
23. Woman on the Edge of Time, Marge Piercy
24. Star Rider, Doris Piserchia
25. Extra(Ordinary) People, Joanna Russ
26. The Adventures of Alyx, Joanna Russ
27. The Female Man, Joanna Russ
28. The Hidden Side of the Moon, Joanna Russ
29. The Two of Them, Joanna Russ
30. We Who Are About To.., Joanna Russ
31. Queen of the States, Josephine Saxton
32. Travails of Jane Saint and Other Stories, Josephine Saxton
33. I, Vampire, Jody Scott
34. Passing for Human, Jody Scott
35. A Door Into Ocean, Joan Slonczewski
36. Spaceship Built of Stone and Other Stories, Lisa Tuttle
37. Across the Acheron, Monique Wittig

Only three out of 37 and two by the same author.
Mind you, a lot of SF by women wasn’t available to The Women’s Press as it was published elsewhere. That’s my excuse anyway.

Consider Phlebas: Towards A Scottish Science Fiction

Throughout the 1950s, the early 1960s, through the late 60s efflorescence of the New Wave and into the 1970s and 80s a stream of English authors came to prominence in the SF field and had novels published in Britain. To my mind there was a clear distinction in the type of books all these authors were producing compared to those emanating from across the Atlantic and that certain characteristics distinguished the work emanating from either of these publication areas. While Bob Shaw was a notable Northern Irish proponent of the form during this period and Christopher Evans flew the flag for Wales from 1980 something kept nagging at me as I felt the compulsion to begin writing. Where, in all of this, were the Scottish writers of SF? And would Scottish authors produce a different kind of SF again?

Until Iain M Banks’s Consider Phlebas, 1987, contemporary Science Fiction by a Scottish author was so scarce as to be invisible. It sometimes seemed that none was being published. As far as Scottish contribution to the field went in this period only Chris Boyce, who was joint winner of a Sunday Times SF competition and released a couple of SF novels on the back of that achievement, Angus McAllister, who produced the misunderstood The Krugg Syndrome and the excellent but not SF The Canongate Strangler plus the much underrated Graham Dunstan Martin offered any profile at all but none of them could be described as prominent. And their works tended to be overlooked by the wider SF world.

There was, certainly, the success of Alasdair Gray’s Lanark in 1981 but that novel was more firmly in the Scottish tradition of fantasy and/or the supernatural rather than SF (cf David Lindsay’s A Voyage To Arcturus, 1920) and was in any case so much of a tour de force that it hardly seemed possible to emulate it; or even touch its foothills.

David Pringle noted the dearth of Scottish SF writers in his introduction to the anthology Nova Scotia where he argued that the seeming absence of Scottish SF authors was effectively an illusion. They were being published, only not in the UK. They (or their parents) had all emigrated to America. Though he has since partly resiled on that argument, it does of course invite the question. Why did this not happen to English SF writers?

It was in this relatively unpromising scenario that I conceived the utterly bizarre notion of writing not just Science Fiction but Scottish Science Fiction and in particular started to construct an SF novel that could only have been written by a Scot. Other novels may have been set in Scotland or displayed Scottish sensibilities but as far as I know I’m the only person who deliberately set out to write a novel of Scottish SF.

It could of course simply be that there was so little SF from Scotland being published because hardly anyone Scottish was writing SF or submitting it to publishers. But there were undoubtedly aspirants; to which this lack of role models might have been an off-putting factor. I myself was dubious about submitting to English publishers as they might not be wholly in tune with SF written from a Scottish perspective. I also thought Scottish publishers, apparently absorbed with urban grittiness, would look on it askance. I may have been completely wrong in these assumptions but I think them understandable given the circumstances. There is still no Scottish publisher of speculative fiction.

With Iain M Banks and Consider Phlebas the game changed. Suddenly there was a high profile Scottish SF writer; suddenly the barrier was not so daunting. And Phlebas was Space Opera, the sort of thing I was used to reading in American SF, albeit Banks had a take on it far removed from right wing puffery of the sort most Americans produced. Phlebas was also distant from most English SF – a significant proportion of which was seemingly fixated with either J G Ballard or Michael Moorcock or else communing with nature, and in general seemed reluctant to cleave the paper light years. Moreover, Banks sold SF books by the bucketload.

There was, though, the caveat that he had been published in the mainstream first and was something of a succès de scandale. (Or hype – they can both work.)

[There is, by the way, an argument to be had that all of Banks’s fiction could be classified as genre: whether the genre be SF, thriller, in the Scottish sentimental tradition, or even all three at once. It is also arguable that Banks made Space Opera viable once more for any British SF writer. Stephen Baxter’s, Peter Hamilton’s and Alastair Reynolds’s novel debuts post-date 1987.]

As luck would have it the inestimable David Garnett soon began to make encouraging noises about the short stories I was sending him, hoping to get into, at first Zenith, and then New Worlds.

I finally fully clicked with him when I sent The Face Of The Waters, whose manuscript he red-penned everywhere. By doing that, though, he nevertheless turned me into a writer overnight and the much longer rewrite was immeasurably improved. (He didn’t need to sound quite so surprised that I’d made a good job of it, though.)

That one was straightforward SF which could have been written by anyone. Next, though, he accepted This Is The Road (even if he asked me to change its title rather than use the one I had chosen) which was thematically Scottish. I also managed to sneak Closing Time into the pages of the David Pringle edited Interzone – after the most grudging acceptance letter I’ve ever had. That one was set in Glasgow though the location was not germane to the plot. The idea was to alternate Scottish SF stories with ones not so specific but that soon petered out.

The novel I had embarked on was of course A Son Of The Rock and it was David Garnett who put me in touch with Orbit. On the basis of the first half of it they showed interest.

Six months on, at the first Glasgow Worldcon,* 1995, Ken MacLeod’s Star Fraction appeared. Another Scottish SF writer. More Space Opera with a non right wing slant. A month or so later I finally finished A Son Of The Rock, sent it off and crossed my fingers. It was published eighteen months afterwards.

I think I succeeded in my aim. The Northern Irish author Ian McDonald (whose first novel Desolation Road appeared in 1988) in any case blurbed it as “a rara avis, a truly Scottish SF novel” and there is a sense in which A Son Of The Rock was actually a State Of Scotland novel disguised as SF.

Unfortunately the editor who accepted it (a man who, while English, bears the impeccably Scottish sounding name of Colin Murray) moved on and his successor wasn’t so sympathetic to my next effort – even if Who Changes Not isn’t Scottish SF in the same uncompromising way. It is only Scottish obliquely.

So; is there now a distinctive beast that can be described as Scottish Science Fiction? With the recent emergence of a wheen of Scottish writers in the speculative field there may at last be a critical mass which allows a judgement.

Banks’s Culture novels can be seen as set in a socialist utopia. Ken MacLeod has explicitly explored left wing perspectives in his SF and, moreover, used Scotland as a setting. Hal Duncan has encompassed – even transcended – all the genres of the fantastic in the two volumes of The Book Of All Hours, Alan Campbell constructed a dark fantastical nightmare of a world in The Deepgate Codex books. Gary Gibson says he writes fiction pure and simple and admits of no national characteristics to his work – but it is Space Opera – while Mike Cobley is no Scot Nat (even if The Seeds Of Earth does have “Scots in Spa-a-a-ce.”)

My answer?

Probably not, even though putative practitioners are more numerous now – especially if we include fantasy. For these are separate writers doing their separate things. I’ll leave it to others to decide whether they have over-arching themes or are in any way comparable.

PS. Curiously, on the Fantastic Fiction website, Stephen Baxter, Peter Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds are flagged as British – as are Bob Shaw, Ian McDonald, Christopher Evans and Mike Cobley – while all the other Scottish authors I’ve mentioned are labelled “Scotland.” I don’t know what this information is trying to tell us.

*For anyone who hasn’t met the term, Science Fiction Conventions are known colloquially as Cons. There are loads of these every year, most pretty small and some quite specialised. The Worldcon is the most important, an annual SF convention with attendees from all over the globe. It’s usually held in the US but has been in Britain thrice (Glasgow 2, Brighton 1) and once in Japan, to my knowledge. The big annual British SF convention is known as Eastercon because it takes place over the Easter weekend.

Edited to add (6/6/2014):- Margaret Elphinstone should be added to the list above of Scottish authors of SF. Her first SF book The Incomer appeared from the Womens’ Press in 1987, the same year as Consider Phlebas, but I missed out on it then. My review is here.
See also my Scottish SF update.

Edited again to add (4/4/18) Elphinstone’s sequel to The Incomer is A Sparrow’s Flight which I reviewed here.

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