a desert

Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.

Drunk, but no longer bleeding, she pushed into a smoky cantina just after dark and ordered a pinch of morphine and a whiskey chaser. She bet all of her money on a boxer named Jaks, and lost it two rounds later when Jaks hit the floor like an antique harem girl.

Nyx lost every coin, a wad of opium, and the wine she’d gotten from the butchers as a bonus for her womb. But she did get Jaks into bed, and – loser or not – in the desert after dark that was something.

Kameron Hurley
God’s War

what the Universe is for

April 22, 2018

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

There is another theory mentioned, which states that this has already happened.

Douglas Adams
The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts edited by Geoffrey Perkins

The serious writer

March 29, 2018

a city of the future - London

There has always been a difference between the SF author and the author who writes science fiction; the difference, say, between an Isaac Asimov and a George Orwell. These days the difference is becoming increasingly marked. The majority of SF published last year was category fiction, like the western and the detective story, with well-defined conventions within which writers rang changes on familiar themes (space exploration, robots, totalitarian megalopolises) with various degrees of skill. In the past year or so, however, there has been an increase in another kind of SF, written by people whose early reputations were made in the SF magazines but whose work has long since ceased to abide by the category conventions, and which many deny is “proper” SF at all.

When these writers still produce SF it is because they’re moved by the same spirit which produced Wells’ “Time Machine,” Huxley’s “Brave New World,” Orwell’s “1984;” they happen to find certain SF elements useful for expressing their particular moral concerns. These writers include Brian Aldiss, J. G. Ballard, Langdon Jones and Americans like Thomas Disch and Harvey Jacobs. Of late, and with similar moral intention, Jack Trevor Story has started to write SF, as have writers like Paul Ableman and Doris Lessing. The difference is between a writer who uses an SF idea and one who writes SF because he can’t easily do anything else. The only pity is that sometimes the better writers are given the least attention. The serious writer who has left the SF category behind him is often more talented and sophisticated.

I hope that next year we shall see closer attention given, say, to Thomas Disch’s “334,” about ordinary New Yorkers managing to live ordinary lives in a world which would seem hellish to us but which they accept (as people do) as perfectly normal. J. G. Ballard’s new novel, provisionally called “Crash,” will have a present day setting and will continue to define its moral themes in terms of man’s relationship to his technological myths (and to his automobiles in particular).

Some of the new SF novels might contain no SF. I speak from experience. It was only after I had finished my last SF novel that I realised I had included less than 400 words of what might reasonably be called science fiction. It wasn’t intentional: it happens naturally during the process of selecting what you need for your theme and discarding what is useless. A good writer, after all, should create his own conventions. Whatever the best SF is these days, it certainly isn’t SF any more.

Michael Moorcock
What does the future hold for Science Fiction
The Guardian 16th September 1971

drunk out of his skull

March 17, 2018

Dr Who

Well, yeah, I was (a fan of Dr Who). I watched it since it started, and I didn’t actually like the first Dr Who, William Hartnell, because he used to be in The Army Game where he was a barking sergeant major, and I couldn’t help seeing him as this barking sergeant major, but in a different suit! I liked Patrick Troughton better, because he was sort of fey and he started to bring that oddness into the character. I didn’t like Jon Pertwee, because he was again a bit too posh, and I really liked Tom Baker. I sort of knew him; I met him once or twice, usually in a pub, and usually drunk out of his skull on 50 valium and a pint of scotch, and ad-libbing like fuck. And it’s wonderful to watch the shows and know that all the other actors are just completely at sea because he hasn’t given them their cue line, he’s just come up with actually a better line, usually. So that was my favourite, like many people I suppose, and I still like him as an actor. I’ve got this sort of secret ambition: I did a book called Mother London and there’s a character in it called Josef Kiss, and he’d make an absolutely perfect Josef Kiss. So the only reason I’d want them to make a movie or a radio thing or anything is just so I can get Tom Baker in to play Josef Kiss.

Michael Moorcock
Interview with Ben Graham for The Quietus 22nd November 2010

alien landscape1

I don’t think science fiction is a very good name for it (what I write), but it’s the name that we’ve got. It is different from other kinds of writing, I suppose, so it deserves a name of its own. But where I can get prickly and combative is if I’m just called a sci-fi writer. I’m not. I’m a novelist and poet. Don’t shove me into your damn pigeonhole, where I don’t fit, because I’m all over. My tentacles are coming out of the pigeonhole in all directions…

…I draw on the social sciences a great deal. I get a lot of ideas from them, particularly from anthropology. When I create another planet, another world, with a society on it, I try to hint at the complexity of the society I’m creating, instead of just referring to an empire or something like that…

…For most of my career, getting that label — sci-fi — slapped on you was, critically, a kiss of death. It meant you got reviewed in a little box with some cute title about Martians – or tentacles…

…I just knew from extremely early on – it sounds ridiculous, but five or six – that writing was something I was going to do, always. But just writing, not any mode in particular. It started as poetry. I think I was nine or ten before I really wrote a story. And it was a fantasy story, because that’s mostly what I was reading. By then, my brother and I were putting our quarters together to buy, now and then, a ten-cent magazine called something like “Fantastic Tales” – pulp magazines, you know…

…the fiction I read, because I was an early beginner, tended toward the fantastic. Realism is a very sophisticated form of literature, a very grown-up one. And that may be its weakness. But fantasy seems to be eternal and omnipresent and always attractive to kids.
But when people say, Did you always want to be a writer?, I have to say no! I always was a writer. I didn’t want to be a writer and lead the writer’s life and be glamorous and go to New York. I just wanted to do my job writing, and to do it really well…

…My first publications were all poetry, and that’s partly because of my father. He realized that sending out poetry is quite a big job. It takes method and a certain amount of diligence and a good deal of time. And he said, I could help you do that, that would be fun! He got interested in the subculture of the little magazines and realized that it is a little world, with rules all its own…

Ursula K Le Guin
Interview with John Wray for Paris Review fall 2013

Spacemen in my cupboard

January 11, 2018

spacemen mag 1spaceman 1Spaceman_03spaceman 4spaceman5Spaceman mag 6spacemanspaceman double-page spread issue one

As a child I came by an almost full run of ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’, purchased from a used book store, courtesy of a substantial amount of saved pocket money. These periodicals were edited by Forrest James Ackerman, who was also known as: 4SJ, or The Ackermonster, or Dr. Acula, or even Mr. Science Fiction. Besides being a writer, editor and agent, Forry was an actor and appeared in such classics of the silver screen as: ‘Nudist Colony of the Dead’.

Some years after my initial acquisition of this wonderful collection of magazines, I came across ‘Spacemen’, another (less successful) publication edited by Forry which was (more or less) totally Science Fiction based – and in its pages first discovered Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and that fabulous silent film Metropolis (not to mention ‘Girl on the Moon’, ‘Things to Come’ and ‘War of the Worlds’).

Forry said he’d fallen in love with Science Fiction at nine years of age after purchasing a copy of ‘Amazing Stories’. He kept that magazine for the rest of his life. Ultimately it formed a part of his 300,000 plus piece collection of SF/horror books and film memorabilia. Forry if nothing else was a true fan of the genre (see below).

My own fascination with Science Fiction began about age ten when I was given a number of used books which included Stanley G Weinbaum’s wonderful ‘A Martian Odyssey, and Others’. Reading those stories I became hooked –

An Evening with Ray Bradbury

December 28, 2017

Philip K Dick writes…

December 21, 2017