Intriguing, though when you think about it not totally surprising, to discover that William Golding was what he describes as a ‘science fiction addict’. At Christmas 1954, the year that The Lord of the Flies was published, Charles Mentieth sent him some sf novels (John Carey, in his biography of Golding, does not mention which). In an enthusiastic response, Golding wrote how keen he was on sf, listing as favourites Ray Bradbury, C.S. Lewis, and ‘A Case of Conscience’ by James Blish. As Carey notes, he must have read this as a novella in If since the novel wasn’t published until 1958.

Rather endearing to think of Golding, who at the time was constantly complaining about being broke, still managing to keep up with the sf magazines.

The biography also makes frequent reference to H.G. Wells, with whom Golding was apparently very familiar. The Inheritors was as direct a response to Wells’s presentation of Neanderthals as Lord of the Flies was a response to The Coral Island.

Carey also records that Golding was delighted and puzzled when The Lord of the Flies came third behind The Lord of the Rings for the International Fantasy Award in 1957, because he’d never heard of the award or, it seems, of Tolkien.

Incidentally, I am very irritated by the subtitle of Carey’s biography: William Golding: The Man Who Wrote The Lord of the Flies. For heaven’s sake, it may be the novel that is taught in schools, but it was far from being either his only or his best book. As for which is best, I would have to pick from the novels that immediately followed his debut: The Inheritors, Pincher Martin or The Spire, though I have to confess a secret preference for Free Fall despite its many faults.

First published at LiveJournal, 28 September 2009.