Let’s just go with the title of the book, and the author’s name, for the titles of these posts from now on. At the very least, I’ll no longer have to apologise for writing about non-genre books.

I’ve never entirely taken to Paul McAuley’s science fiction. He’s very good at what he does, and I admire it in a sort of totally objective way, but much as I want to to like his books they mostly seem to leave me cold. Uninvested. The problem is, I’m not sure why. He writes the sort of science fiction I like a great…


I suspect I may be more of a fan of the idea of Fitzcarraldo Editions (I assume they were named for the excellent Werner Herzog film) than I am of the actual books they publish. Yes, everything they publish does indeed sound — at the very least — interesting, but there’s no way I could read them all, not without devoting all my reading time to their output. And all my other time as well. I really like the uniform design, blue for fiction and white for non-fiction; and I really like their roster of writers.

The few I’ve read…


Every few years or so, I reread Dune (1966, USA), which I think I first read back in the late 1970s. Well, perhaps every decade or so. It’s not the book, science fiction or otherwise, I’ve reread the most. But, every now and again, I reread Dune — usually with the intention of reading right through to the final book penned by Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse Dune (1985, USA). Sometimes, I stop after the first book, other times I manage the original trilogy. Much less often, I make it through all six books.

I suspect it’s because I’ve always felt intimidated…


I first read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (1954–1955, UK) in the early 1980s. It was the paperback omnibus edition with a still from Ralph Bakshi’s animated film adaptation as the cover art — the 1978 Unwin tie-in edition, apparently. I think I’ve reread The Lord of the Rings once, although I’ve always promised myself I would tackle it again one day.

I had always assumed I’d read The Hobbit (1937, UK), too. I knew the story, how Bilbo Baggins stole the One Ring from Gollum, and helped some dwarves defeat the dragon Smaug. If I was hazy on…


I was introduced to science fiction as a boy in the mid-1970s via Robert A Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and EE ‘Doc’ Smith, but within a handful of years I’d found other sf authors whose books I much preferred — Clifford D Simak, James Blish, AE van Vogt and Samuel R Delany. By the early 1980s, I was reading CJ Cherryh, Ursula K Le Guin, Frank Herbert and John Varley. My reading widened as the 1980s progressed, even more so when I joined the British Science Fiction Association in the late 1980s.

Samuel R Delany, Nova, SF Masterwork 37, cover art
Samuel R Delany, Nova, SF Masterwork 37, cover art

I remember buying a copy of Driftglass (1971, USA)…


We all have our guilty reading pleasures, and for many years mine has been the Regency novels of Georgette Heyer. They’re sharply-written, witty, and a great deal of fun. But... They’re also about the “Quality”, the aristocracy of Regency England, a far from admirable group of people. The Quality are the epitome of privilege. And the books revel in that. Add in the often young ages of the heroines, and the age-gap, frequently decades wide, between the heroines and the male romantic leads… Well, now you can see why they’re a guilty pleasure.

Heyer is credited with creating the genre…


I don’t plan to write about every book I read here, only those which I think are interesting or prompt interesting thoughts about science fiction. I’m not entirely sure Rocket Ship Galileo (1947, USA) by Robert A Heinlein falls into either group. It’s very much an historical document, a fictional description of the first US Moon landing written more than two decades before Apollo 11 took place (and more than a decade before NASA was even established, in fact). Further, its Moon shot is not only commercial but launched from, effectively, a backyard. …


Christopher Evans was one of a number of British science fiction writers whose careers began in the late 1970s and early 1980s, bridging the gap between the New Wave writers of the 1960s/early 1970s and the British sf renaissance writers of the late 1980s/early 1990s. Their careers mostly survived into the twenty-first century, although several then dropped from sight. While Gwyneth Jones, Mary Gentle and Geoff Ryman (Canadian, but resident in the UK and part of the British scene) continue to produce work, albeit at increasingly longer intervals, Colin Greenland’s last book was Finding Helen (2002, UK), and Christopher Evans’s…


Back in the 1990s, I was in a writing orbiter with Justina Robson, one that was run by the British Science Fiction Association. There were, if I remember correctly, five of us. We each wrote a few thousands words of whatever it was we were working on — genre fiction, obviously — and critiqued the contributions of the other four, then read their critiques of the piece we had included on the last round, bundled the lot into a large envelope, and posted it onto the next person in the orbiter.

This was how we did things before the web.


I did say it wouldn’t always be science fiction. And I also promised it wouldn’t always be white males. Although some might consider a dead white upper class woman not much of an improvement…

The six Mitford sisters, daughters of a baron, were famous during their heyday in the 1930s and 1940s. If not infamous. Pamela married renowned physicist and jockey (yes, really) Derek Jackson, before divorcing him in 1951 and spending the rest of her life with an Italian horsewoman. Diana married Oswald Mosley and was a committed fascist. Unity was an ardent supporter of Hitler, and tried to…

Ian Sales

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