A Priest chronology


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So, my next book will be about Christopher Priest and will be published by Gylphi, which is something that makes me inordinately pleased. I’ve started the reading and note taking that inevitably accompanies such a task. But I’ve also put together a chronology of his books and short stories, just as a way of keeping everything straight in my mind. And I realised as I was putting it together that there are gaps. I don’t just mean the pseudonymous stuff (I’ve only included the work he has acknowledged), but there are other gaps. I’m missing the Sally Gunnell book he was ghostwriter on, and I’m sure there are stories missing, also odd details such as where “The Discharge” first appeared. Therefore, if you can fill in any of the gaps, or add more details to this list, I would be very grateful.

The dates given are date of first publication, except for the stories that first appeared in Ersatz Wines. In those cases I have given the date of composition in [square brackets].

[1963]                   Going Native                                         Ersatz Wines, Nov 63

[1964]                   Stranglehold                                          Ersatz Wines, Mar 64

[1964]                   Star Child                                                Ersatz Wines, Nov 64

[1965]                   The Witch-Burners                               Ersatz Wines, Jan 65

[1965]                   Nicolson’s Repentances                       Ersatz Wines, Oct 65

[1965]                   Combined Operation                            Ersatz Wines, Nov 65

[1965]                   The Ostrich Seed                                   Ersatz Wines, Nov 65

1966                       The Run                                                 Impulse 3, May 66

1966                       Conjugation                                          New Worlds 169, Dec 66 [May 66]

[1967]                   Chance                                                     Ersatz Wines, Apr 67

1967                       Impasse                                                  SF Impulse 12, Feb 67 [Sep 65]

1967                       The Ersatz Wine                                   New Worlds 171, Mar 67 [Mar 66]

1969                       The Interrogator                                   New Writings in SF 15 [Jan 68]

1970                       Breeding Ground                                  Vision of Tomorrow 4, Jan 70

1970                       Nothing Like the Sun                           Vision of Tomorrow, Jul 70

1970                       Fire Storm                                               Quark 1

1970                       Double Consummation                         The Disappearing Future

1970                       The Perihelion Man                               New Writings in SF 16

1970                       Indoctrinaire

1971                       Sentence in Binary Code                        Fantastic Stories 20:6, Aug 71

1971                       Real-Time World                                      New Writings in SF 19

1972                       Charlie was a Bastard                             Oz Magazine 41, Mar/Apr 72

1972                       The Head and the Hand                          New Worlds Quarterly 3

1972                       Fugue for a Darkening Island

1974                       Transplant                                                 Worlds of If, Feb 74

1974                       A Woman Naked                                     Science Fiction Monthly 1:1, Feb 74

1974                       The Inverted World                                  New Writings in SF 22

1974                       The Invisible Men                                      Stopwatch

1974                       Inverted World

1974                       Real-Time World (coll)

1974                       Your Book of Film Making

1976                       An Infinite Summer                                   Andromeda 1

1976                       Men of Good Value                                     New Writings in SF 26

1976                       The Space Machine

1977                       A Dream of Wessex

1978                       The Watched                                                 F&SF 54, Apr 78

1978                       The Negation                                                Anticipations

1978                       Whores                                                          New Dimensions 8

1978                       Anticipations (ed)

1979                       Palely Loitering                                             F&SF 56, Jan 79

1979                       Static Gravity                                                  Omni 1:7, Apr 79

1979                       The Agent (+ David Redd)                             Aries 1

1979                       The Cremation                                                Andromeda 3

1979                       The Making of the Lesbian Horse (chap)

1979                       An Infinite Summer (coll)

1979                       Stars of Albion (ed, +  Robert Holdstock)

1980                       The Miraculous Cairn                                       New Terrors 2

1981                       The Affirmation

1984                       The Glamour

1985                       The Ament                                                         Seven Deadly Sins

1986                       Short Circuit (as Colin Wedgelock)

1986                       Mona Lisa (as John Luther Novak)

1987                       The Last Deadloss Visions (chap)

1990                       The Quiet Woman

1993                       Seize the Moment (with Helen Sharman)

1994                       The Book on the Edge of Forever

1995                       The Prestige

1996                       The Glamour (revised)

1998                       The Extremes

1999                       The Equatorial Moment                                      The Dream Archipelago

1999                       The Dream Archipelago (coll)

1999                       eXistenZ (as John Luther Novak)

2000                       The Discharge                                                         [online ?]

2002                       The Separation

2008                       Ersatz Wines (coll)

2008                       The Magic

2008                       “IT” Came from Outer Space

2009                       Real-Time World +2 (coll)

2009                       The Trace of Him                                                 The Dream Archipelago

2009                       The Sorting Out                                                    The New Uncanny

2009                       The Dream Archipelago (coll, revised)

2011                       The Islanders

2011                       Fugue for a Darkening Island (revised)

2013                       The Adjacent

2016                       The Gradual

2017                       Shooting an Episode                                            2084

I have not (yet) included the new novel or the new short story collection, mostly because I’m not exactly sure when they are due to appear. But if you spot any other gaps, I would be really appreciative if you would help me plug them.


Sharke infested custard


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I am, it turns out, a puritan.

This comes as something of a surprise to me. After a childhood brought up on The Children of the New Forest and its ilk (in my last year of primary school, when the class was told to write a story, I produced an 11-chapter, 22-page “novel” that was effectively a rewrite of The Children of the New Forest), I have always felt more inclined towards the wrong but wromantic Cavaliers than the right but repulsive Roundheads.

Nevertheless there it is: when it comes to science fiction, I would appear to be a puritan. Not, I hasten to add, in terms of what constitutes science fiction. On that issue I am decidedly catholic. But when it comes to criticism of, and commentary upon, science fiction, then I am most certainly a puritan. Continue reading

When does the future begin, when did it end?


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This is a placeholder for something I really don’t have the time to pursue right now.

If you argue, as I have done, that the nature of science fiction can best be understood in terms of family resemblances, when we identify something as science fiction because it resembles something else we have already called science fiction, then popular vote awards can be interesting studies. They provide a snapshot of what is broadly identified as science fiction at any one moment. They can also provide a glimpse of the edge, the disputed territory.

For some reason the Hugo dramatic presentation category, or as it is now called, dramatic presentation, long form, is a particularly interesting case study in this respect. Right from the start the shortlisted works have been an extraordinarily wide-ranging melange of sf, fantasy, horror, non-fiction (Carl Sagan’s Cosmos was shortlisted in 1981), satire, comedy, postmodernism (Being John Malkovich in 2000) and on and on. Even so, I always considered the shortlisting of Apollo 13 in 1996 something of an anomaly.

But now there is a pretty much identical anomaly in the shortlisting of Hidden Figures.

Before I go any further, I must insist that both Apollo 13 and Hidden Figures are excellent films. Nothing I say here should be construed as a criticism of the films, I am only interested in trying to puzzle out their place on the respective Hugo shortlists.

Both films are historical dramas based on real events. Like all dramas there are moments when events are elided, when one character represents several real historical figures, or when a character is a fictional construct meant to represent the norms of the period or to fill in a gap in the historical record. Such invention is common to all historical fiction. Were such invention enough to identify the films as science fiction, then we would have to call every work of fiction science fiction. And while there is a certain interest in such a position, it wouldn’t really be very helpful to anyone; and since sf fans and critics have always been particularly keen on marking their territory, I don’t really think it would be a welcome position within the sf community.

So what is it that does make the films science fiction? Or at least: what is it that makes the films worthy of a science fiction award?

Ah, of course, they both have rockets, they both have space. Isn’t that the archetypal sf setting? Don’t they therefore have family resemblances to everything we recognise as science fiction?

But this is, in neither case, our future in space. It is our past; it is that very brief period in the 1960s when America looked upward and outward. Whatever our space ambitions nowadays, that sense of necessity, of inevitability, of excitement, that sense in John F. Kennedy’s famous words, that “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills” – all of that is missing. Indeed, Apollo 13 captures the moment it ended, (and, not entirely coincidentally, I’m sure, Hidden Figures captured the moment it began, including incorporating part of Kennedy’s speech at Rice Stadium). For Apollo 13, the film represented America rising to and overcoming a technological challenge that was all neatly encompassed within one dramatic incident. For Hidden Figures, the challenges of space were a dramatic exemplar for the challenges of racial prejudice that was the film’s core subject. Both films are about a specific time, and in both cases it is important that that time is in the past. Indeed, the most recent events covered in either film, Apollo 13, are getting on for 50 years ago. I would lay odds that a significant percentage of the voters who put both these films on the Hugo ballot were not yet born at the time of the events shown.

And yet, both films are considered, by a not inconsiderable number of core science fiction fans, to be worthy of a science fiction award.

I wonder whether what this means is that, within the science fiction world at least, we can only think in terms of our future in space, not our past in space. Any film that takes us into space is automatically about the future, even if it is set in the past. Is that so? Why? That is the thought I want to muse upon, the thought that prompted this placeholder post.

Shadow Clarke: Occupy Me


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Discussions of the Shadow Clarke choices continue apace. Since my last piece here, several more reviews have appeared.

Jonathan McCalmont on A Field Guide to Reality by Joanna Kavenna

Nina Allan on Fair Rebel by Steph Swainston

David Hebblethwaite on The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

Megan AM on Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton and The Destructives by Matthew de Abaitua

Victoria Hoyle on Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

Nick Hubble on The Power by Naomi Alderman

Maureen Kincaid Speller on The Trees by Ali Shaw

and me on Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan

I’ve included my review below the fold, but you really should go and take part in the discussions. Continue reading

Shadow Clarke: Azanian Bridges


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My reviews for the Shadow Clarke jury are coming just a little too thick and fast right now. There’s only been time for one other review since my last one: this very interesting piece on Christopher Priest’s The Gradual by David Hebblethwaite.

And now here’s my review of Azanian Bridges by Nick Wood, which I very carefully position in relation to Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.

My review is below the fold, but as ever you should go to the Shadow Clarke hub to join the conversation. Continue reading

Shadow Clarke: The Underground Railroad


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The work of the Clarke Award Shadow Jury continues apace. The jurors are now taking turns to review the books they chose for their personal shortlists. So far you can find:

Nina Allan on The Destructives by Matthew de Abaitua and A Field Guide to Reality by Joanna Kavenna

Jonathan McCalmont on The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley

Victoria Hoyle on The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Megan AM on The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

Maureen Kincaid Speller on Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

And now there’s my review of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

I’m reproducing my review under the fold, but you really should head over to read the other reviews, and keep up with the Shadow Clarke hub, because that’s where the conversation is taking place. Continue reading

Equivalence for the Landscape


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He discovered the Hardy novels, and in time the painter Nash; the hills and trees and standing stones, flowers that broke from their moorings to sail the sky, fossils that reared in ghostly anger from the rocks. Suns rolling their millstones of golden grain; and it seemed he heard, far off and far too late, the shock of distant armies.
Keith Roberts, The Chalk Giants, Hutchinson, 1974, p21

Coming across that passage in the mid-1970s would have been the first time I came across the name Nash. Much later, I added a forename, Paul (later still I discovered there was another Nash, John, his brother and also a painter, though I am embarrassingly unfamiliar with his work). But even with a name, I wasn’t sure which Paul Nash I knew about. There were two that seemed to appear, work occasionally glimpsed in magazines or on the television: the weird, surreal artist, and the one who did all those pictures from the First World War. It would be some time before I realised they were the same; it would be even longer before I saw that they were the same. Continue reading

Post Haste



Patrick Leigh Fermor is rapidly turning into the sort of writer who is more prolific in death than in life. Between his first book, The Traveller’s Tree in 1950 and his death in 2011 he produced ten books, four of them in the first decade. But after Roumeli in the mid-60s the gaps between books grew ever longer, and there are numerous reports of publishers and commissioning editors tearing their hair out trying to extract something, anything from him. It is notable that the last three books published in his lifetime were all at least partly the work of someone else. Three Letters from the Andes (1991) was precisely that, three long letters that he had written during a visit to South America some years before and that someone else shaped into a book. Words of Mercury (2003) was a collection of previously published pieces edited by Artemis Cooper. And In Tearing Haste (2008) is a collection of the letters PLF and Deborah Devonshire exchanged throughout their long friendship, again put together by someone else. Continue reading