Best of British Science Fiction 2020 Book Launch

Tomorrow is the day when the Best of British Science Fiction 2020 is published. There will be a ‘book launch’ for those interested.

Donna Bond, the editor will be doing a Twitter launch using the hashtag #BOBSF20 from 7pm tomorrow, when she will be tweeting enthusiastically about the stories in the anthology. Hopefully you’ll be able to join in with some of the chat and retweets. As she says, she’ll be making a ‘cheese and wine’ evening of it and feel free to to bring an excellent real or imaginary pairing of your choice to the virtual buffet table. Enjoy!

On a personal note, it is the first time one of my stories has appeared in a hardcover book, which makes it a wonderful milestone for me. The copy I’ve got of course is taking pride of place on my bookshelf. You can get a copy of the hardcover anthology at Newcon Press – Link Here.

Classic Short Science Fiction Stories?

It is over ten years since my solo outing was published courtesy of TWB press, namely C.A.T. What amazes me is that it and the two follow-on stories continue to sell. It does make me wonder whether this will ever turn into one of those classic short stories that will be read decades hence. (If you haven’t read it the UK Amazon link is here.)

It got me wondering what stories become classics? They are the ones that you talk about to other people. And the reason we do is that they have a clear message about an interesting situation. The classic story everyone knows is Nightfall by Isaac Asimov. I don’t even need to describe it to most of you because you already know the story. Its premise is still as true today as when it was first published in 1941.

I’m sure you can go on to name many other stories. But how old does a story have to be before it can be considered a classic? I reckon it has to cover at least one generation if only to show the enduring quality and applicability between generations.

So C.A.T. has about another fifteen years to go before it can even begin to be considered a classic. But does it qualify with having an idea that people talk about? Well it is a very simple idea and there are consequents. In fact all three C.A.T. stories have big ideas in them. At least I think so, but then I’m biased, aren’t I? No, only the general readership can give that answer.

There are posts around the internet that give you lists of the best classic science fiction stories. A lot of choices will be right. Some will be dubious. A few will be downright wrong. These few will have slipped into the lists because they were hot topics of conversation at the time the lists were compiled and have since disappeared into the slurry of has-been stories. Which is another reason not to say a classic is a classic until it is at least 25 years old.

And when I look through my list of stories, wondering which will become classics in their due time, I can only say each one is a favourite! Though some shine out from others. One such is Rings Around Saturn, which will be published later this month in Best of British Science Fiction 2020. Below is a picture (O.K. I’m lousy at photography) of the courtesy copies I received in the post yesterday thanks to Donna Bond and Ian Whates.

One thing I’m sure of is that some of the stories in this anthology will be described as classics in years to come.

The Reality Behind Fantasy?

This year has seen weird happenings along the south coast. First came news of two large ships see floating in the air, obviously mirages, but the kind of event that can lead to the legends like the Flying Dutchman. Then we had a boat balanced on a rock in the Scilly Isles, a kind of mini Ark on Mount Ararat. Now we have a picture of waves crashing on a harbour wall to look like Neptune – there is even a hand to be seen further along the breakwater.

All these events involve natural phenomena, though I must admit the boat on the rock was to a large extent self-induced – by the way the people on board sensibly got into a dinghy and waited for high tide before they got back on board their boat to sail away,.

Of course we live in a era of comparatively rapid climate change. New types of weather are bound to throw up oddities by influencing the local weather and sea currents, which could lead to a whole load of strange events happening. This is kind of an inevitable consequence.

If these events had happened when we did not have the scientific knowledge to explain them, then they would have been thought of as magic, like the era after the Romans left and before the Saxon kingdoms stabilised.

Wait a minute. Weren’t there two catastrophic volcanic eruptions in 536 and 539/540 – the first from a high altitude volcano in either Alaska or Iceland and the second from Ilopango in modern day El Salvador? Between them they threw up so much sulphur and dust that the Earth cooled by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Crop failures in Northern Europe and their consequences were inevitable. And this is the time associated with King Arthur and the knights of the round table.

Now what if… yes the famous science fiction question… what if we went through history checking when there was a rise in ‘magical’ incidents to see if those were the times of severe changes in climate?

Let’s take this a step further… could all fantasy that is derived from magic be actually derived from mis-reported real events that had no explanation at the time? It would be interesting to see if there is a correlation.

Queen Science Fiction

I happened to be Exeter yesterday and with a little amount of time to spare I popped into the local Waterstones. of course the science fiction and fantasy section had to be in the basement. When I think of the other Waterstones that I visit, the science fiction is always tucked furthest away from main entrance in a corner where there is no passing trade.

Why should this be when science fiction is the Queen of genres? …it is the Queen because it is the genre that has the most imagination, the greatest number of ideas and largest scope for including all the other genres within its remit. It is the genre that can cover any who, where, what, why, when and how.

And yet it is tucked away at the back or bottom of the Waterstones’ branches.

In fact the themes of science fiction have been around since at least 2nd Century AD when Lucien of Samosata wrote A True Story that includes alien lifeforms, travel to outer space and interplanetary warfare. So the genre, even it has not been called science fiction has been around a very long time.

And still, it is tucked away in Waterstones as if it should be bought only secretively by people to be read furtively in private with no-one else around..

It isn’t as if science fiction is not relevant to our everyday lives either. Societal commentaries on our lives have been around since at least H G Wells published The Time Machine. The impact of potential scientific inventions have been shown ever since Mary Shelley published Frankenstein. Science Fiction brings both warnings and potential solutions. Things that we all ought to have interest in if not for our own sake, for the sake of our children and their descendants.

And despite this,, it is hidden away in the hinter-most parts of Waterstones, as if we as a society are to kept away from such dangerous reality and potential power.

The science fiction books that were sprinkled among the fantasy books were mainly the genre’s classics. New novels were rare in comparison. I suspect this might be the case in other genres, but it does point to a reliance on past glories. Yet the Queen of genres has accrued the aura of the new. This in a way is a contraction in terms. This is not condemning the classic science fiction to being fog-bound in the past, these novels are just as relevant today as when they were first published.

What is missing is the nuance our recent history imposes on science fiction, things like the lessons learnt from our recent mistakes, the diversion of our socio-economic and technological trends from what could be sensibly foreseen, and the unexpected changes in our environment such as the devastation caused by Dutch Elm disease on a single species of trees that resulted with the loss of a wood that was good when working with water systems.

Another thing that is missing from science fiction is a clear identification of what is as yet unknown. This is more to do with the difficulty in foreseeing how science discoveries that are not immediately tangible to the person in the street can be seen to affect their lives. How can for instance the discovery of various types of axions affect our everyday lives? Or maybe how better understanding of how dark matter was formed would would make our lives better? If a discovery does not affect a person, why write about it?

Identifying what we don’t know and where it touches the known is one important thing. Because science fiction can be about how we cross into the unknown, and more importantly a science fiction can do what they like with the unknown. All sorts of things can happen there, some good, some bad, some with an overall neutral effect. This is the type of area where science fiction produce interesting results.

The other important thing is to extrapolate science trends and see where they can interact in new ways. In a sense the unknown here is what the interaction is. The Wright Brothers flew because they could apply controls to steer their flight, not because they knew how to produce aerodynamic lift.

So what are the science areas of interest now that could lead to interesting new innovations of the future? Where do I start? The list is long, certainly far too long to put into a blog post. I’m sure you can think of your own.

In fact Queen Science Fiction waits on your attendance to identify and write about the 99-plus percent of the potential future worlds that have not yet been published.

Science Fiction Needs to Come Out of the Ghetto!

I had the pleasure of zooming on a few items and the combined BSFA and SFF virtual convention yesterday. Like any such variety of events, some were better than others. But two things stuck out for me.

The first was the seemingly unanimous condemnation of The Guardian’s article on Cli Fi that was published yesterday. (you can read it here) This is not a new wave of Cli Fi as the article claims. In fact there have been loads of comments pointing out loads of science fiction fictions on climate change that have been written since the middle of the last century. The list of such novels seems endless. The point being made here is that the author of the article chose to ignore all the science fiction that is cli fi.

The second thing that stuck out was one of the guests of honour made a point that science fiction is the poor relation of other genres. Tade Thompson has now been elected Vice President of the BSFA. When asked what he would be doing in his role, he indicated that he wants to bring science fiction out into the light to be alongside other genres. I wish him every success in his endeavour.

Both these things point to science fiction still being in the ghetto, the genre everyone does not want to admit to publicly reading. Well that’s not quite true. People will admit to reading science fiction if they don’t think their listeners or readers will laugh at them for reading such a genre. I’ve had quite a few people say they’re interested in reading it and wish there were more good novels out there.

Hm. I suspect they’re shy of being caught reading the novel unless it is a widely acknowledged masterpiece.

But I hear you say, if science fiction is a ghetto genre, how can it produce masterpieces? Or do I hear you say, if it doesn’t produce masterpieces, how can the genre get out of the ghetto? A truly vicious circle. In the meantime, the literary cli-fi novels coming from big names outside of the genre are making the profits. Science fiction is once again being starved of the income, both authors and publishers alike.

I personally haven’t really touched cli fi, except in a short story, Ripple Effect, published in Jupiter Issue 37, Pasithee in 2012. It’s more about the politics behind climate change rather than the impact and consequences of climate change.

And herein is the lesson – climate change will not be solved until there is a global political will to solve it. If only the politicians had listened to the science fiction authors sooner!

Solstice!

Happy Solstice… this morning’s picture of Stonehenge courtesy of a NASA photographer –

There is much mystery surrounding Stonehenge – where the stones came from, why did they build it, what connection if any does have with other stone circles around Britain and so on.

Indeed stone circles are not unique to Britain, but I find it interesting they are concentrated in northern Europe. There are certainly enough unanswered questions to write about Stonehenge in science fiction.And yet oddly enough it is difficult to find.

One notable exception is The Secret of Stonehenge by Harry Harrison first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1968.It has since been reprinted many times and translated into several languages.

I must admit it is about time the science fiction canon had more stories… the itch to write within me is!

Best of British SF 2020 Anthology Coming Along

Wow! Ian Whates published photo of the dust cover of the Best of British Science Fiction 2020. Here it is…

Of course I feel both proud and humbled to see my name on the back! I Still can’t believe that Donna (the editor) has chosen to include my story.

I also feel happy that Geoff Nelder is in this anthology. I’ve known him as a fellow science fiction writer for well over a decade now and know how hard he has worked at his craft. I loved his story!

Best of British Science Fiction 2020 Anthology

Well this is a turn up for the books! I’m absolutely chuffed that my short story, Rings Around Saturn, has been included in the Best of British Science Fiction 2020. It was originally published in Kzine Issue 26 last January.

The first short story I got published was on Mercury, the second on Neptune. From there on it it was my aim to have a short story published for each of the planets in our Solar System. Rings Around Saturn completed that aim. Therefore this feels like a crowning moment of personal achievement.

Furthermore, this will be the first hardback anthology a story of mine will appear in! Wow, wow and WOW!

My deepest thanks go to Donna Bond for choosing my story and Ian Whates for publishing it. Orders can be place Newcon Press here.

Secondhand SF Books – Royalties and Selling

Authors have never earned royalties on second hand books. I mean how do you keep track of such books that are exchanged for money? There are a scattering of secondhand bookshops throughout the world and lets face it, tracking down authors to pay royalties to can be a time consuming job.

But it seems it can now be done, at least to a partial extent. William Pryer is the founder of Bookbarn International based in Somerset. I used to visit the main site, which was literally a large barn full of secondhand books. It was an Aladdin’s cave to a bookworm like me.

In 2015 he came up with the idea of paying authors royalties on secondhand books, but could not go it alone. Now in partnership with the The World of Books group, he has come up with AuthorSHARE. Authors will be paid each time one of their books is bought directly from the World of Books and Bookbarn International websites, up to a cap of £1,000 a year.

More details can be found here.

This initiative will certainly be welcome by many authors, especially the majority whose income do not meet their basic living costs and have to have what is called ‘a day job’ to make up the deficit.

But going back to the times I visited Bookbarn, one thing was very noticeable. The proportion of science fiction books for sale was not in line with the numbers for sale in bookshops. It was much lower. It seemed that science fiction readers held on to their books much longer than readers of other genres.

Similarly if I look along the book selection for sale in charity shops today, science fiction is noticeable by its absence. I really do mean absence.

I also remember a chap coming round my house when I was clearing things out for personal reasons. His eyes lit up on seeing my then paltry collection of science fiction novels (it has grown since then). Those he could sell, and I mean they would quickly find a home a relatively high prices.

All this circumstantial evidence points to a thirst for science fiction that is not being as satisfied compared with other genres.

I’m not sure why this is happening. I can speculate endlessly on its causes, but it would be just that, speculation.

Contributory factors may include: it takes longer to write a science fiction story because of the extensive world building involved; and science fiction has more scope for variety than in many other genres and therefore has more bandwidth for risk that publishers are adverse to.

Latest Review of Space Force: Building a Legacy

I was alerted to a review of Space Force: Building the Legacy this morning. It made my day with the following being about my story:

“Slivers of Hope” by  Rosie Oliver

Wow. Just wow. This is a story of human resilience. It is a story about human brilliance. It’s something I wish I had written, but didn’t. I’m not sure about the science here, but it makes sense from a layman’s point of view. Yeah. This one is going to haunt me.

And to think the genesis of Slivers of Hope was observing a con trail while driving home from work on a cold winter’s stare night. My immediate thought was it was a pity we could not use that con trail as a road to Low Earth Orbit. Some convoluted lateral thoughts later, I wrote Slivers of Hope.

Will there be a sequel to this story? There has to be. I can’t leave the ideas in this story alone. They are huge, world-bending in the sense it points to our species taking a different path from what is currently extrapolated and therefore expected, and most importantly innovative even by science fiction standards.

It just shows you how a small incident or observation can lead to greater things if you just let it grow.