Back at the tail-end of last year I posted an incomplete bibliography of Christopher Priest. Thanks to the comments I received, I was able to fill in a number of gaps. To acknowledge the debt, and show the result of it all, I thought I would post as complete a bibliography as I could (there are some pseudonymous works not included here). Everything – novels, short stories, non-fiction, edited anthologies, novelizations, and two books on which he acted as ghost writer – is arranged in chronological order. Dates in [square brackets] are dates of composition of stories that received their first publication only in Ersatz Wines. As ever, any additions, corrections, or comments would be gratefully received. Continue reading
Anthony Gottlieb, Arthur C Clarke, Becky Chambers, Benjamin Black, Bruce Sterling, C.J. Sansom, China Mieville, Christopher Priest, Colin Greenland, Dave Hutchinson, Edmund Crispin, Emma Chambers, Emma Newman, Gerry Canavan, Gwyneth Jones, Helen MacInnes, Iain Banks, Iain R. MacLeod, Joanna Kavenna, John Banville, John Crowley, John Kessel, John Le Carre, Judith A. Barter, Kim Stanley Robinson, Laurent Binet, Laurie Penny, Lavie Tidhar, Lily Brooks-Dalton, m john harrison, Margery Allingham, Mark Fisher, Matt Ruff, Michael Chabon, nina allan, Octavia Butler, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Paul Auster, Paul Nash, Rick Wilber, Rob Latham, Steve Erickson, Stuart Jeffries, Tade Thompson, Tricia Sullivan, Ursula K. Le Guin, Yoon Ha Lee
It’s that time of year again, when I dust off this oft-forgotten blog and post a list of my reading through the year, along with other odd comments.
2017 has been, in some respects, a very good year. My first full-length book not composed of previously published material, appeared in May. Iain M. Banks appeared in the series Modern Masters of Science Fiction from Illinois University Press, and has received some generally positive reviews, much to my relief.
Also this year I signed a contract with Gylphi to write a book about Christopher Priest, which is likely to take most if not all of the next year. In addition, I’ve put in a proposal for another volume in the Modern Masters of Science Fiction; the initial response has been quite good so I’m hoping I’ll have more to report in the new year. So, in work terms, it looks like the next couple of years are pretty much taken care of. Continue reading
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].
 Going Native Ersatz Wines, Nov 63
 Stranglehold Ersatz Wines, Mar 64
 Star Child Ersatz Wines, Nov 64
 The Witch-Burners Ersatz Wines, Jan 65
 Nicolson’s Repentances Ersatz Wines, Oct 65
 Combined Operation Ersatz Wines, Nov 65
 The Ostrich Seed Ersatz Wines, Nov 65
1966 The Run Impulse 3, May 66
1966 Conjugation New Worlds 169, Dec 66 [May 66]
 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
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.
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.
My review is below the fold, but as ever you should go to the Shadow Clarke hub to join the conversation. Continue reading
Brian McHale, Christine Brook-Rose, Christopher Priest, Don DeLillo, E.L. Doctorow, Frederic Jameson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Geoffrey Chaucer, Henry James, Iain Banks, James Joyce, John Fowles, Katherine Dunn, Kathy Acker, Kim Newman, Kurt Vonnegut, Laurence Sterne, Miguel de Cervantes, Paul Auster, Richard Jefferies, Robert Coover, Samuel R. Delany, Steve Erickson, Thomas Pynchon, Virginia Woolf, William Gibson, William S. Burroughs, William Vollman
Alfred Bester, Brian Aldiss, Christopher Priest, Henry James, Honore de Balzac, J.G. Ballard, John Brunner, John Dos Passos, John Sladek, Josephine Saxton, m john harrison, Michael Moorcock, Philip K. Dick, Sigmund Freud, Theodore Sturgeon, Thomas M. Disch, Virginia Woolf, William James
This was one of my Cognitive Mapping columns. It first appeared in Vector 196, November-December 1997:
you sat on the bed unlacing your shoes Hey Frenchie yelled Tylor in the door you’ve got to fight the Kid doan wanna fight him gotto fight him hasn’t he got to fight him fellers? Freddie pushed his face through the crack in the door and made a long nose Gotta fight him umpyaya and all the fellows on the top floor were there if not you’re a girlboy and I had on my pyjamas and they pushed in the Kid and the Kid hit Frenchie and Frenchie hit the Kid and your mouth tasted bloody and everybody yelled Go it Kid except Gummer and he yelled Bust his jaw
The 42nd Parallel (1930)
John Dos Passos
No, it’s not Donald I should show the door to. It’s Victoria. He’s told me a score of times about my preoccupation with paleass shiggies, and I never listened, but he’s right. Prophet’s beard, all this talk about emancipation! Just one of the shiggies who’ve been in and out of this apartment like doses of aperient was stunningly beautiful and solid-ground sensible and marvellous in bed and a whole, rounded, balanced sort of person. And that was Gennice, that Donald brought home, not me, and I was unappreciative because she was a brown-nose. I must be off my gyros. I must be busted clear out of my nappy old plantation-bred skull!
Stand on Zanzibar (1969)
Realism is a relatively recent literary invention, though it has been remarkably far-reaching in its influence. It was only in the middle years of the last century that, predominently, French writers such as Balzac began to play with the notion that their writing could somehow encompass the world. True realism lasted only a very short time, it was a political fiction in which the plight of characters was demonstrated by a painstaking recreation in prose of every aspect of their lives, circumstances, environment and work. The idea of realism, however, has lasted a lot longer: the notion that words provide a recreation of the world, that fiction tells of something as it is. It has provided the basic fictional form ever since; even today, whether we are reading a crime novel or a historical romance, a mainstream novel or a work of fantasy, we are meant to assume a one-to-one relationship between the words on the page and some actual world being described.
This is an approach to fiction that was being undermined even before the end of the nineteenth century. The development of theories of psychology by Freud and by William James popularised the notion that all of us see the world differently, that whatever the consensus reality through which our bodies move the interpretation of that universe is always unique, always idiosyncratic. And if there is no one true world, then there is no realism that prose can mirror. It was William James who coined the term “stream of consciousness”, and it was his brother, Henry James, who was among the first to bring these ideas to bear in fiction. Rather than the world of the characters, what mattered primarily in the modernist fiction of Henry James, Virginia Woolf and others were the characters themselves. Their perceptions and cognitions became the focus of the work: the world was not truthful, there was no absolute reality, truth now had to be found in people. (At the same time other scientific developments, such as relativity, were starting to seep into the literary consciousness, further undercutting the solidity of the external world and lending weight to the idea that truth could be found only in the relative realities of individual characters.)
Various literary techniques were developed by the modernists to explore and represent this relativism. Viewpoints shifted from character to character; stream of consciousness carried us on a rushing, tumbling ride through the immediate, unanalysed perceptions of the characters; the first-person narrator became more common than the god-like, all-knowing third person; neologisms started to creep in and grammer to depart to represent the individuality of the perceiver; extra-literary devices appeared in to the text and unreliability in the narrator’s voice. The early decades of this century, and particularly the years after the First World War, were rich in literary experimentation as modernism gave a new freedom to the writer’s voice. One of the most representative writers of the period was John Dos Passos, whose vast record of national decline, U.S.A. (The 42nd Parallel, 1930, Nineteen Nineteen, 1932 and The Big Money, 1936), is a concatenation of all the modernist techniques designed to make us distrust the world. It was, as so often with such experimental works, a political novel indicting the rise of big money and the decline of the ordinary man in post-First World War America. In sections headed “Newsreel” he presents a dizzying sweep through headlines, newspaper reports, fragments of incidents; in sections headed “The Camera Eye” (as in the passage quoted) he takes us into the stream of consciousness; still other sections carry the narrative forward or explore one character outside the timestream of the story, often using radically different narrative voices to move us from one view of the world to the next. The result is disorienting and disturbing, this is not a way of viewing the world with which we are comfortable, even in our normal lives, but like the vorticist paintings of the same era it is onrushing and liberating.
Although much of the serious fiction from the turn of the century onwards (at least up to the upsurge in postmodernism over the last couple of decades) has shown modernist tendencies, little of this technique has leached into popular fiction. This is understandable, if modernism is designed to upset our world-view then it is not going to work within the essentially reassuring and comforting confines of popular fiction. Thus, although by its very nature science fiction cannot be a truly realist form, it has continued to use realist techniques throughout much of its history. This is partly because describing an unreal event or situation in a realist manner helps to underpin the believability of the fiction, and partly because modernism demands an experimental approach to the writing which few early sf writers were willing or able to follow.
However, during the 1950s and early 1960s writers came into science fiction whose backgrounds were as much artisitic as scientific or technical while editors began to encourage a more literary approach. It was at this time that writers such as Alfred Bester, Theodore Sturgeon and most particularly Philip K. Dick began to write stories that questioned the secure solidity of everyday reality. Although Bester was one of the great literary experimenters in science fiction, notably in The Demolished Man (1953) and Tiger! Tiger! (1956), this didn’t really translate into a modernist approach to science fiction until the New Wave emerged during the first half of the 1960s.
It was the British New Wave, an iconoclastic movement centred on the magazine New Worlds under the editorship of Michael Moorcock and reflecting the liberated attitude of the Swinging Sixties, which brought the disturbing and questioning style of modernism into science fiction. Writers such as Brian Aldiss and J.G. Ballard used stream of consciousness and unreliable narrators, they used the disintegration of the world as a symbol for the mental disintegration of their characters, they shifted between viewpoints to affirm that there is no one, secure, true interpretation of events. Again, as so often with modernism, it was often used for political purpose: undermining the security of our belief in the world also undermined the establishment viewpoint.
Writers as varied as Aldiss, Ballard, Christopher Priest, M. John Harrison, Josephine Saxton and the Americans John Sladek and Thomas M. Disch have been identified with the British New Wave (the American New Wave, which began a little later than its British counterpart, was more concerned with questioning values and beliefs than in literary experimentation), and their works during a fairly brief period between the early 1960s and the early 1970s provide a good representative sample of the mode. Nevertheless, the one work which stands as an exemplar of the British New Wave, in the same way that U.S.A. stands as a symbol of modernism, is Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, for this, too, is a work that brings together the various literary techniques by which the New Wave re-invented modernism. In fact, in many ways Stand on Zanzibar is a mirror of U.S.A. Sections labelled “The Happening World”, like “Newsreel”, clump together newspaper cuttings, quotations, fragments that add up to a kaleidoscopic impression of the near-future world. Sections labelled “Tracking with Closeups” and “Continuity” would use a variety of viewpoints, stream of consciousness (as in the passage quoted), and differing voices to carry the narrative forward. While other sections, called “Context” would be snapshots designed to provide just that. Brunner was clearly and consciously bringing the technique of John Dos Passos into science fiction, and it worked. If received opinion previously had been that a realist style of storytelling was essential to allow suspension of disbelief in the non-real setting or events of a science fiction story, Stand on Zanzibar disproved that contention once and for all.
Modernism, in the form of the British New Wave, flourished in science fiction for only a short period, by the mid-1970s science fiction was going through a period of retrenchment, a re-establishing of traditional styles and subject matter. But it had had its effect, and ever since then science fiction writers have been able to employ an ever-increasing arsenal of literary techniques to tell their unreal stories.
A little while ago I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Konrad Walewski for the Polish version of F&SF. Along the way, he pressed upon me Nest of Worlds by Marek S. Huberath. The novel is apparently successful in Poland, but they have been unable to find any publisher to take it in this country, despite the fact that there is a very fine translation by Michael Kandel. Having now read the book, I find this mystifying. Not that this is an obvious bestseller: it is very weird, as I shall endeavour to show, but at the same time it has the sort of bravura conceit that should win it an appreciative audience.
The problem is: how to describe the book without giving too much away. Or maybe I shouldn’t worry too much, because if this really is Nest of Worlds everyone will read a different novel anyway. Continue reading
Andrew Crumey, Ann Leckie, Brian McHale, Christopher Priest, David Hebblethwaite, Hugh Howie, Hugo Gernsback, Ian Sales, J.M. Sidorova, James Joyce, John Scalzi, Karen Joy Fowler, Kate Atkinson, Keith Ridgway, Laurence Sterne, Marcel Theroux, nina allan, Paul McAuley, Ruth Ozeki, Samuel R. Delany, Thomas Pynchon, Tom McCarthy, Tom Robbins, Tony Ballantyne, Ursula K. Le Guin, William Gibson
It never goes away, does it? It’s two years now since I put into words (or, perhaps more precisely, into a word), some of my enduring dissatisfactions with science fiction. The word was ‘exhaustion’. And the debate I generated then still rumbles on. It takes other forms, of course, but at heart Nina Allan, in this excellent blog post, in turn referencing this excellent blog post by David Hebblethwaite, is making much the same point: science fiction is losing interest in the new. Continue reading
Now that a new Interzone is out, I thought I’d reprint the interview with Simon Ings that appeared in the last issue. This accompanied my review of Wolves which I’ll also be posting here in the next few days. Continue reading