Of that generation of mainstream writers who were brought to prominence by the first of Granta‘s Best Young Writers promotions, I steadily lost interest in most of them over the years. Amis fils fell away after just a couple of books, I managed four by Pat Barker before losing interest, it was pretty much the same with Julian Barnes, and the last few novels by Ian McEwan were so dull that the most recent has been sitting on my to-be-read pile for a couple of years without me ever feeling like opening it. Only William Boyd and Graham Swift have, for rather different reasons, stayed the course: I enjoy the historical sweep of Boyd’s novels at his best, and the narrow focus of Swift’s at his best. Continue reading
Aldous Huxley, Arthur C Clarke, Bob Shaw, Brian Aldiss, Christopher Priest, Ed Bryant, Eric Frank Russell, Eric Rohmer, Gardner Dozois, George Orwell, George R.R. Martin, Graham Greene, Graham Swift, H.G. Wells, Ian McEwan, J.G. Ballard, Jack Dann, Jerry Pournelle, John Clute, John Fowles, John Jarrold, John Sladek, Kazuo Ishiguro, m john harrison, Martin Amis, Olaf Stapledon, Peter Ackroyd, Philip K. Dick, Rebecca West, Richard Cowper, Roz Kaveney, Thomas Huxley, Thomas M. Disch, William Boyd
I’ve written a lot about Chris Priest over the years, and most of it has ended up in What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction or Call And Response, but there is one major piece that hasn’t been reprinted. It is this interview I did with him in 1999, not long after the publication of The Extremes and The Dream Archipelago. The interview was first published in Vector 206, July-August 1999.
THROWING AWAY THE ORTHODOXY
A conversation about sex, innocence and science fiction
Paul Kincaid: Let’s start at the end. You have just brought out all the Dream Archipelago stories collected in one volume. Why have you gone back to that?
Christopher Priest: Well, there’s a bad reason and a good reason.
Let’s have the bad reason. Continue reading
Making an Elephant: Writing from Within by Graham Swift. As with Unsworth, I’ve been following Swift’s work for a good few years now, ever since Waterland. He is not a very prolific writer, and has produced very little non-fiction, which makes the sudden appearance of this collection rather strange, particularly as it is something of a mess. There are interviews he has conducted and two interviews he has given, there are snatches of memoir, an introduction to a new edition of Montaigne, and a bunch of poems some of which are quite good though best when telling odd allusive stories rather like Cavafy. Practically everything in the book has a long introduction, some of the introductions are longer than the pieces. For example, there is a long piece about Wandsworth (where he lives) covering the history of the area, his family’s background in the area, and especially his liking for a particular pub near the prison that has since been demolished, all of which turns out to be an introduction to an interview with him conducted in that pub, the interview being much shorter and much less interesting than the introduction. There is also a sense of the precious about the book in chapter titles like ‘Buying a Guitar with Ish’ (Kazuo Ishiguro) or ‘In the Bamboo Club with Caz’ (Caryl Phillips), and to be honest his constant talk of ‘writer friends’, the fact that he seems to know no-one who isn’t a writer, doesn’t help to dispel that image. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book more than I feared I might, especially the chapter in which he seeks a reclusive and apparently unknown writer in Prague at the time of the Velvet Revolution, and the memoir of his father, both of which are model of how such pieces should be written.
First published at LiveJournal, 1 April 2009.