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
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.
I’ve been meaning to get back to using this blog as a resource where I can keep as much of my writing as possible online, so let’s start with this review of Poems, Peoms & Other Atrocities by Garry Kilworth & Robert Holdstock, and Poems by Iain Banks & Ken MacLeod, which first appeared in Foundation 122, December 2015. Continue reading
Edgar Pangborn, H.G. Wells, Ian McDonald, J.G. Ballard, Jack London, James Tiptree Jr, John Crowley, Joseph Conrad, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Mary Shelley, Richard Cowper, Richard Jefferies, Richard Kadrey, Robert Holdstock, Ronald Wright, S Fowler Wright, Steve Erickson, W.H. Hudson
Another of my Cognitive Mapping columns, this one was written for Vector, as usual, sometime around 1998, but may never have actually appeared. Continue reading
Alexander Selkirk, Christopher Priest, Daniel Defoe, H.G. Wells, J.G. Ballard, Jane Mendelsohn, Johann Wyss, John Christopher, John Fowles, Kim Stanley Robinson, Nicholas Ruddick, R.M. Ballantyne, Rex Gordon, Robert Holdstock, S Fowler Wright, William Golding, William Shakespeare
This is another of my Cognitive Mapping columns. It first appeared in Vector 189 (September-October 1996).
The man was inside two crevices. There was first the rock, closed and not warm but at least not cold with the coldness of sea or air. The rock was negative. It confined his body so that here and there the shudders were beaten; not soothed but forced inward. He felt pain throughout most of his body but distant pain that was sometimes to be mistaken for fire.
Pincher Martin (1956)
When you think of life on a desert island, you get pictures in your mind of cannibals and pirates, of desolation and thirst. But at first it wasn’t at all like that for us. It really wasn’t bad … Anyone else stranded on a desert island would probably have wanted to die, but for him the nights had never been more beautiful, the wind more gentle, the sea more calm.
I Was Amelia Earhart (1996)
Between 1704 and 1709 the Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned alone in the Juan Fernández Islands in the South Pacific. When he returned to civilisation he became an instant celebrity, his autobiography was published, his story became known throughout Britain, and he was interviewed by the leading journalist of his day, Daniel Defoe. Selkirk’s years on the island affected him, he built a cave in his garden where he lived, he sulked and raged at neighbours, he was such a tormented character that he was a menace to strangers and an embarrassment to his family. Yet when Defoe took his familiar story and transmuted it into the adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719) it became the tale of how a true Englishman could master the elements by his resolution and entrepreneurial spirit.
There had been tales of castaways before, Shakespeare’s luckless characters were forever being cast upon strange shores and in The Tempest (1611) he created a memorable magical isle. But what was different about Robinson Crusoe was that the island itself became a protagonist. Before any other human characters intrude upon his story, Crusoe has already conquered the island, wresting from it a comfortable home, a suit of clothes, a steady supply of foods and luxuries. When Friday comes into his life it is only to extend the conquest, for Crusoe to convert primitive man as well as primitive land to the necessities of civilised life.
Thus Robinson Crusoe was not just the exemplar, it was the creator of a small but persistent literary genre, the robinsonade. Curious in that it is a sub-genre which crosses and re-crosses traditional genre boundaries, a form of fiction that can be at one moment the highest of high fantasy and the next the most realist of mainstream literature, the robinsonade is a romance which pitches man, in isolation, against his environment. Most commonly, robinsonades have told the story of characters thrust into some inimical landscape – most usually an island – where they not only survive, but actually re-establish the comforts of their normal lives. This is most noticeable in those robinsonades that have become established as children’s classics, such as Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss (1812-13) and The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne (1857), which celebrate the power of the family to exert its civilising influences whatever it may encounter.
In science fiction, the robinsonade has been a consistent influence, often explicitly so as in Rex Gordon’s No Man Friday (1956) or the film Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964). The island, whether an actual island or an island in space, an uninhabited planet, is an attractive setting partly for the simple, practical reason that it allows the writer to isolate his protagonist, but also because it allows utopias and anti-utopias to be developed. Adam and Eve on a depopulated planet – a post-atomic Earth, the sole survivors of a crashed spaceship – have recreated society countless times in the pages of science fiction magazines. The rational, can-do spirit exemplified by Crusoe is all that we ever need to rebuild our lives, and the safety and comfort we know today can not be lost forever.
But such optimism has not actually been common in science fiction, in a genre that celebrates the social success of humanity as much as the ingenuity of the individual, the loss of society is generally represented as a dark and threatening event. Islands are as likely to result in the triumph of the primitive as they are in a Crusoe-like triumph of civilisation. H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr Moreau (1896) is a place where the forces of Darwinism have a dehumanising effect in the isolation an island provides, and though S. Fowler Wright tried to counter that with The Island of Captain Sparrow (1928) in which morality stands against nature to load the scales in humanity’s favour the more common scientific view has been that nature is triumphant.
Thus William Golding created Lord of the Flies (1954) as a direct response to Ballantine’s Coral Island: this party of schoolboys marooned in isolation from their society will not allow family values to triumph but will regress to primitivism, violence and superstition. It is a notion echoed in J.G. Ballard’s Concrete Island (1974) and High Rise (1975). Both the traffic island between motorway embankments and the multistorey apartment block are islands in the midst of the sea of uncaring, fast-paced civilisation; they are islands of survival and the establishment of values just as Crusoe’s island was, but with the crucial difference that the values are specifically not those of the protagonist’s off-island society.
Implicit in the island as protagonist is the notion that the island becomes in itself a character, and if the hero is to reshape the island to suit himself, then the island becomes a mirror of his psyche. Thus the schoolboys in Lord of the Flies conjure their fears from the dead parachutist captured by the trees, while Maitland, swept up like technological flotsam on the Concrete Island, finds that it “was becoming an exact model of his head”. But this is perhaps most explicit in Golding’s Pincher Martin. The sailor, cradled by the “negative” rock is dead, though neither we nor he know that yet. His ship has been blown up during the war, and after a wild and disorienting tumble through the Atlantic waters he suddenly finds himself upon an island. It is too small, too barren for him to build any comfort or recreate any civilisation upon it, survival is an end in itself. But the very bleakness of the rock forces his pains in upon himself, and this is a metaphor for the way his memories, his life, are forced in upon him. What Pincher Martin is, in its brutal and unrelieved allegorical manner, is a recapitulation of that old saw: the dying man seeing his whole life flash before him. And this is one of the chief ways in which the island has been used in science fiction, its isolation, its small compass providing a physical shape for the mind, the experience of the protagonist. Sometimes, as in Robert Holdstock’s ‘Mythago Wood’ sequence, it is a forest; sometimes, as in John Fowles’s Mantissa (1982), it is a white room; sometimes, as in Christopher Priest’s A Dream of Wessex (1977) or The Affirmation (1981), it is a dreamscape; sometimes, as in John Christopher’s A Wrinkle in the Skin (1965), it is an actual island: but the island, real or implied, provides an allegory for the human consciousness, the exploration of its landscape is a working out of the hero’s thoughts, feelings, his very humanity.
These examples are, notably, all British. In Ultimate Island (1993), Nicholas Ruddick has proposed that the island is one of the central linking threads that characterises British science fiction. It is not exclusively so, Kim Stanley Robinson, for example, in A Short, Sharp Shock (1990) takes his protagonist along a narrow sea-girt peninsula on a journey that seems in many ways to recapitulate that of Golding’s Pincher Martin. But it is true that American science fiction has not used the island as metaphor with anything like the same enthusiasm or the same bitter, allegorical intensity. (We are, after all, an island race; it serves us conveniently as a metaphor for our social as well as our personal and intellectual existence.)
But the American mainstream has continued to use the island in a manner closer to that originally employed by Defoe: as a figure for survival that isn’t just personal but also social and moral. In her recent fable, I Was Amelia Earhart, Jane Mendelsohn imagines the survival of the flyer who became an almost legendary figure in America between the wars before she and her navigator disappeared in the Pacific on an attempt to fly round the world. But here the island becomes not a battleground for survival but a haven for escape, a place where Amelia does not have to be a heroine, does not have to live up to the legend. The island allows her to live the life she wants for herself; like Ballard’s Maitland, it’s a simpler life, but like Defoe’s Crusoe it’s a civilised life.
I’ve just re-read The King Must Die by Mary Renault for the first time in, what? 35? 40 years? For a long time it was a book I re-read with astounding regularity, along with her other books set in ancient Greece. Revisiting a book after so long is always a test of faith, but I am glad to say that it withstood the test.
Except, of course, that it was a different book I read. Or at least I assume it was. I don’t think the teenager who first fell in love with the novel could possibly have seen in it the things the older me is now seeing. Continue reading
Still trying to decide how I will vote in the BSFA Awards when I go to Eastercon tomorrow. I’ve made my mind up about the novels, but the short fiction category foxes me. I didn’t read a huge amount of new short fiction in 2011, but was it really such a poor year? My choice, I think, is going to come down to a matter of the least worst, which is not how I like to make award decisions. Continue reading
Just back from the funeral service for Rob Holdstock. No, ‘funeral service’ is the wrong term; it was a memorial ceremony, a celebration. It was moving and hard to take and joyous all at the same time. It took place in a Unitarian Chapel, but it was the most unreligious ceremony you could imagine: the only ‘hymn’ we sang, right at the end, was Woody Guthrie’s ‘So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You’. Continue reading
I interviewed Rob Holdstock several times over the years, enough so that we had a running joke going. He would accuse me of always asking the same question, so I replied if he’d just answer it one time I wouldn’t need to ask it again. But, of course, he didn’t answer it. I’m not altogether sure he could.
The question was: why did you give up science fiction for fantasy? Continue reading