Thursday, April 09, 2009

Hanging Out At Easter

So I'm getting ready to head north to Bradford and Eastercon, the big annual British SF convention, where I'll be taking part in a few panels, hosting the BSFA Awards with Kim Newman (we also do weddings and bar mitzvahs, rates surprisingly reasonable), generally hanging out, and hopefully seeing something of Bradford's sturdy Victorian architecture. To add a note of randomness to my weekend, the first reader of this blog to find me and mention Unlikely Worlds will win a copy of the new edition of Eternal Light. Don't be shy.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

So It's Come To This (Part 3)

Okay, here's my attempt to come up with a list of essential fantasy and horror books, and this is where I definitely need some help. I read pretty widely in my formative years (the list contains my desert island book - not the Lieber, above, although that does contain one of my favourite short stories, 'Smoke Ghost'), but there are definite gaps in my education, especially regarding ‘high fantasy’. At the moment, the list stands at 44 titles; I need six more to complete it. What am I missing? What books by people like Andre Norton, Knutter and Moore, Tanith Lee, Dianne Wynne Jones, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Abraham Merrit, Robert Bloch, Terry Brooks, Poul Anderson, L. Sprague de Camp (amongst others) should I include? Am I right to leave out Edgar Rice Burroughs? If not, is Tarzan the Ape-Man a better bet than A Warlord of Mars?

Same rules as before: only one book per author, not-quite-arbitrary cut-off date of 1984. And remember that this is associated with teaching creative writing in SF and fantasy, and an attempt to give some kind of thematic perspective to the genres. Which is why both lists begin with the same book:

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus MARY SHELLEY 1818
Tales of Mystery and Imagination EDGAR ALLAN POE 1838
A Christmas Carol CHARLES DICKENS 1843
The Hunting of the Snark LEWIS CARROLL 1876
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 1886
The Well At The World’s End WILLIAM MORRIS 1896
Dracula BRAM STOKER 1897
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary MR JAMES 1904
Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things LAFCADIO HEARN 1904
The Wind in the Willows KENNETH GRAHAME 1908
A Voyage to Arcturus DAVID LINDSAY 1920
The King of Elfland’s Daughter LORD DUNSANY 1924
The Trial FRANZ KAFKA 1925
Lud-in-the-Mist HOPE MIRRLEES 1926
The Outsider and Others HP LOVECRAFT 1939
Gormenghast MERVYN PEAKE 1946
Night’s Black Agents FRITZ LEIBER JR 1947
The Sword of Rhiannon LEIGH BRACKETT 1953
Conan the Barbarian ROBERT E HOWARD collected 1954
The Lord of the Rings JRR TOLKEIN 1954-5
The Once and Future King TH WHITE 1958
The Haunting of Hill House SHIRLEY JACKSON 1959
The Wierdstone of Brinsingamen ALAN GARNER 1960
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase JOAN AIKEN 1962
Something Wicked This Way Comes RAY BRADBURY 1963
The Book of Imaginary Beings JORGE LUIS BORGES 1967
Ice ANA CAVAN 1967
One Hundred Years of Solitude GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ 1967
Earthsea URSULA LE GUIN 1968-1972
Jirel of Joiry CL MOORE collected 1969
Grendel JOHN GARDNER 1971
The Pastel City M JOHN HARRISON 1971
Carrie STEPHEN KING 1974
Peace GENE WOLFE 1975
Gloriana, or the Unfulfill’d Queen MICHAEL MOORCOCK 1978
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories ANGELA CARTER 1979
Little, Big JOHN CROWLEY 1981
The Anubis Gates TIM POWERS 1983
The Colour of Magic TERRY PRATCHETT 1983
Mythago Wood ROBERT HOLDSTOCK 1984

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

So It's Come To This (Part 2)

A big thank you to everyone who posted comments on my idiosyncratic list of what I consider to be essential SF works. It's given me a lot of food for thought - I'm certain that a second list, just as good, could be constructed from alternates. And why not? Mine is a fairly personal snapshot, and by no means definitive.

After due consideration, I've decided to add the following titles:

The Shockwave Rider JOHN BRUNNER 1975

I confess that I haven't read Herland, but it's commonly agreed to be an essential early feminist utopia and fits in with the pedagogic 'themes and echoes' side of the list. A lot of people came out for Brunner, which is pretty heartening considering most of his work is currently OOP. Rather than the people's favourite, Stand on Zanzibar, or Jagged Orbit, which both have considerable merit, I've gone for The Shockwave Rider, which is even more prescient than the first two.

I'll post my list of Fantasy and Horror titles tomorrow.

Monday, April 06, 2009


Pyr's Fall/Winter 2009/2010 season.

PS: Hero editor Lou Anders has just posted the cover of the US edition of The Quiet War over on the Pyr site. Spaceships!

Soyuz: The Next Generation

As the three-man Soyuz spaceship, now more than forty years old, begins to show its age*, there are reports about Russian plans to build a next-generation six-seater spacecraft that could not only reach Earth orbit, but also provide a shuttle service for an as yet golden-vapourware lunar orbit space station. BBC news has a concept picture: it doesn't much resemble the much-touted shuttle look-alike Kliper, but seems to be a rival for NASA's Orion, a mockup of which is just about to begin open-water testing. I hope this is for real - as far as I'm concerned, you can never have too many spaceships.

*A genuine seat-of-the-pants space emergency and it doesn't make the mainstream news? Maybe we're finally beginning to think that space travel is sort of routine . . .
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