Science fiction provides the perfect outlet to escape from everyday life, nothing beats picking up a novel and being transported into a new world. Some of these are classics that you will know but others are excellent works that may have been flying under the radar. Add the unfamiliar ones to your TBR list.Though science fiction is truly out of this world, the stories in these books always connect to the present day. The story lines are often metaphors used to critique society. The book cover opening this blog is from Philip K. Dick, he was an American writer known for his work in science fiction. He produced 44 published novels and approximately 121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime.George Orwell's dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four is perhaps the most pervasively influential book of the twentieth century. Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. A dystopian novel where our culture has become the victim of government surveillance and public manipulation.Altered Carbon is set in a future where interstellar travel is done by “sleeving” one’s consciousness into new bodies, the story follows a private investigator whose past collides with his present as he attempts to solve a rich man’s murder. A dark and gritty cyberpunk experience.So when ex-envoy, now-convict Takeshi Kovacs has his consciousness and skills downloaded into the body of a nicotine-addicted ex-thug and presented with a catch-22 offer, he really shouldn't be surprised. Kovacs is drawn into a terrifying conspiracy that stretches across known space and to the very top of society. It is also Netflix series.Brave New World imagines a future where people are divided into castes chosen before birth and kept docile through the use of drugs. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress. Heavily relying on references to Shakespeare, it offers scathing criticisms of capitalism, utopian ideals and conformity.War and pollution have taken their toll on Earth, leaving it very nearly uninhabitable. Those who can afford to do so have fled off-world, leaving what’s left to the not so fortunate, like Rick Deckard. Rick, who makes his living eliminating renegade androids, is prompted to question his work, and even his own identity, during a particularly challenging assignment. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is an amazing novel, and perhaps one of the most approachable of Dick’s many works.In Ender's Game, an alien threat is on the horizon, ready to strike. And if humanity is to be defended, the government must create the greatest military commander in history.The brilliant young Ender Wiggin is their last hope. But first he must survive the rigours of a brutal military training program - to prove that he can be the leader of all leaders.On 12 October 1979 the most remarkable book ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor (and Earth) was made available to humanity - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. For sheer absurdist audacity, imagination, bombast, and pure fun, The Hitchhiker’s Guide is tough to beat. It’s an utterly irreverent and wildly imaginative adventure that simultaneously skewers and builds on the tropes and confines of traditional sci-fi. It’s biting satire and pure absurdist humor, all shot through with a vein of cynicism and a surprisingly firm internal logic. Basically, there’s nothing quite like The Hitchhiker’s Guide and you really should read it.Andy Weir’s The Martian is the sort of novel that grips a reader from its very sentence. With his debut novel, Weir deftly balanced a truly thrilling story of survival with laugh-out-loud doses of black humor and real, cutting edge science. Weir tells the story of Mark Watney, a fictional NASA astronaut stranded on Mars, and his difficult mission to save himself from potential doom in the harsh Red Planet environment. It was made into a movie starring Matt Damon and released in 2015.William Gibson revolutionised science fiction in his 1984 debut Neuromancer. The writer who gave us the matrix and coined the term 'cyberspace' produced a first novel that won the Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Awards, and lit the fuse on the Cyberpunk movement. One of the seminal works of cyberpunk, Neuromancer taps into the counterculture movements and excitement about computers found in the 1980s to tell a story of a world where hackers and cyborgs work together to perform daring heists against massive corporations.The Time Machine is a must-read for any science-fiction fan. In this classic, the time-traveling protagonist is propelled by his machine to the distant year of 802,701 AD. To his horror, he finds only a decaying Earth that is being gradually swallowed by the Sun, where two strange species— the delicate Eloi and the fierce, subterranean Morlocks—inhabit an eerie dystopia.Jules Gabriel Verne (1828-1905) was a French author and a pioneer of the science-fiction genre. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, this thrilling adventure tale by the 'Father of Science Fiction', three men embark on an epic journey under the sea with the mysterious Captain Nemo aboard his submarine the Nautilus. Over the course of their fantastical voyage, they encounter the lost city of Atlantis, the South Pole and the corals of the Red Sea, and must battle countless adversaries both human and monstrous. Verne's triumphant work of the imagination shows the limitless possibilities of science and the dark depths of the human mind.A description like “Inception meets True Detective” should be enough to pique any science fiction fan's curiosity. The Gone World, follows a woman who is a member of the elite Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Set in the 1990s, Shannon Moss is trying to solve the mystery of a grisly murder of a Navy SEAL's family and is flung into possible versions of the future to try and find answers. This 2018 novel by Tom Sweterlitsch is truly unlike anything else out there in the genre right now.This is Sue Burke’s first novel and a first-contact story about humanity meeting an alien race and trying to coexist with it on a planet that they’re attempting to colonize. It’s the first part of a two-book series. It's a duology worth following as Semiosis was a finalist for several prizes for science fiction novels. Escaping conflict on Earth, an idealistic group of settlers arrive on a distant planet – Pax – with plans for a perfect society. The world they discover is rich with life, but this is not the Eden they were hoping for. The plants on Pax are smart – smart enough to domesticate, and even slaughter, its many extraordinary animals.
I have been meaning to do this more often but it's a busy time for many of my author friends (thankfully) so I haven't been doing these as often as I want to. If you know a genre writer who would like to answer my questions feel free to send their email to me and I'll approach them, particularly if we have any of their books in stock.I met Paul at Octocon and enjoyed several of the panels he was on. A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren’t enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life.Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group. He lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper, and their daughters, Erica and Amy. Paul's first novel, Locked Within, was released on November 6th, 2012, by WiDo Publishing. The sequel, Silent Oath, will be released in 2013. 1. So what kind of fiction do you write? I write fantasy, primarily urban fantasy but I have a number of future projects in mind which will branch out into other areas. 2. Why?I love the freedom in urban fantasy. Almost anything goes, so as an author I'm free to come up with any kind of story I want. I also love combining and contrasting modern-day settings and themes with more traditional fantasy. There's a lot to be said for a sword-wielding hero racing to save the day in an SUV! 3. How long have you been writing for?Professionally, only a couple of years. However I've been writing for myself since I was about 12, when I came up with my very first fantasy story. 4. What is your library history like?I loved hanging around in my local library when I was a child. My parents would take me down every weekend and I'd pick out books ranging from horror to history. 5. Does it give you a special thrill to see your books in your local library?Absolutely. Libraries provide such a great chance for people to try out new books, especially children. I write mainly for adults, but my books are perfectly suitable for teenagers, and I love the idea that someone, still finding their preferred genre, might pick my book off the shelf and give it a try. 6. Do you visit your local library often?Not as often as I'd like. Between writing, my day job, and raising twin baby girls, it's hard to make the time. 7. Have you ever lurked near your books in a library or bookshop if someone seems to be interested?So far I've resisted that temptation! I don't think I'd be very good at hiding my excitement if I saw someone leafing through one of my books. I'd probably look pretty creepy with a huge grin on my face. 8. Do you do readings in libraries, how do you find them?I haven't yet, but I'd love to! I really enjoy readings. They're a great chance to get honest feedback from readers. 9. Have you ever reserved your own book just to prove it's in stock?I haven't. But I have pitched in contacting places to ask if they'll stock it. 10. Did you have a favourite author as a kid?I practically grew up on Christopher Pike books. I went through all the ones in the library, then all the ones I could find in bookshops. 11. List five favourite authors (who aren't you!)Jim Butcher, Hannah Moskowitz, Janice Hardy, Linda Poitevin, Kiersten White 12. Are there any Irish authors you recommend looking for?Celine Kiernan and Ruth Long. Their books are on my reading list since I met them at last year's Octocon. They're both wonderful people and helped make my first Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention a great experience. 13. Do you have an alias? Why?I did some fanfic under the screen-name Wordmaker, which actually wound up on the website www.tvtropes.org, but for my professional writing, I always wanted to use my real name. Partly due to pride, I guess - I wanted to see my own name on the cover of my books, but also because I feel that it's increasingly difficult to actually keep your real identity secret as an author. 14. Do you go to any Irish Conventions?I went to my first Octocon last year as a panellist. It's Ireland's annual science fiction and fantasy convention. Lots of fun and some really great people attend each year. I'm also going to be at Shamrokon, Ireland's turn hosting the big European SFF convention, Eurocon.In addition to that, I go to gaming conventions such as Gaelcon and Vaticon every year. 15. Do you have any hobbies outside of writing?I'm a passionate gamer. I've been gaming almost as long as I've wanted to be a writer, and I have a group that meets up weekly to play table-top roleplaying games. 16. Is there anything that you would like to see Irish Libraries do?I'd like to see more organised readings, like having a group of authors come along to give readings in a single afternoon, or hosting writing workshops.Given that there are so few book competitions in Ireland, libraries would be in a good position to host such events. I think most authors, myself included, would be happy to get involved just for the experience and increased exposure.
For my "interview a genre author in Ireland" series I got Michael Carroll to answer my questions.I've read a fair few of Michael's books over the years, most recently the Pelicos Trilogy, starting with the Last Starship and I've been enjoying it, however my husband has been loving it. Michael has two websites, one concentrating on his Quantum Prophecy series and the other a more general website. He's also written some Adult fiction as Jaye Carroll (I've read at least one, The Sweetest Feeling).If possible I've linked to the authors or books mentioned on our catalogue, if not possible I've linked to relevant websites.On with the questions:1. So what kind of fiction do you write? These days I mostly write Young Adult novels (and some comic books!) 2. Why?I love good, strong adventure stories and I find that YA is the perfect medium for that. With YA, the readers tend to be less cynical - and less forgiving!It's hard to write YA (some people think that because the books are generally shorter than adult novels, that makes them easier - the reality is quite the opposite) and I like that because each new book stretches my meagre talents beyond their limits. You never learn anything by taking the easy path! 3. How long have you been writing for?Let's see... First short story was published in the late 80s, first novel in 1993, and I've been a full-time writer since 1999. But I've *always* been writing. I remember trying to write a novel on my mother's old portable mechanical typewriter back in 1979, and even before that I used to write and draw my own comics. (They were rubbish, but I didn't know that then!) 4. What is your library history like?Not as good as it should be... Everyone in the family is a voracious reader, and Dad took us to the library every couple of weeks when we were kids, though mostly I suspect that was because in those days one could only borrow three books at a time, and he'd use our spare cards to get more books for himself. After I left home I didn't regularly visit a library for years, to my shame. But there's a great library here in Clondalkin and my wife and I drop in every couple of weeks (with rather long absences after Christmas and birthdays because most of our presents to each other are books!).These days, I don't borrow as many novels as I probably should - I mostly borrow CDs, audiobooks, DVDs and graphic novels - but that's because my pile of "to be read" books is in danger of toppling over and killing someone. 5. Does it give you a special thrill to see your books in your local library?It does! Though I do tend to feel slightly awkward to see my books on the shelves alongside real books by proper authors! :) 6. Have you ever lurked near your books in a library or bookshop if someone seems to be interested?No, I've never done that... But I will now that you've given me the idea! 7. Do you do readings in libraries, how do you find them?I do maybe half a dozen readings a year, most of them as part of the Children's Book Festival, but I'd love to do more. To be honest, it's my favourite part of being a writer! Not the readings themselves so much as the Q&A sessions with the audience. Writing is quite a solitary occupation so it's always nice to get out into the real world and interact with actual people instead of imaginary ones... 8. Do you use the interlibrary loan system in your library service? (well I might as well get a minor plug in!)Um, sorry, I don't think I've ever used it, but I know my wife has. It's a pretty useful system! 9. Have you ever reserved your own book just to prove it's in stock?No, that would be too sad, even for me! 10. Did you have a favourite author as a kid?Up until I was about ten, my favourite books were the Three Investigators novels (alas we have no copies of them any more - Deigh), written by a variety of authors, but I also read every science fiction book I could get my hands on. Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke were particular early favourites, but then I discovered the books of Harry Harrison, and everything changed. Harry's books were - and still are - my greatest influence! (and actually Michael was the webmaster for Harry Harrison's Website! - Deigh) 11. Have you read those books again as an adult? What was it like? Did it stand up to adult reading?I re-read all of Harry's books every couple of years, and they're just as good now as they were the first time. Likewise, Bradbury's books haven't aged. But I can't say the same for Clarke or Heinlein... I would no longer count those two among my favourites. Heinlein and Clarke had great imaginations, but their characters tend to be rather samey, especially their female characters whose characterisation rarely goes beyond "she had blue eyes and a pretty dress." These days, for me a good story is more about character than plot or background.If I don't care about the characters, I don't care what happens to them or where they come from. 12. List five favourite authors (who aren't you!)Only five!? That's not going to be easy... OK. Not counting anyone already mentioned above:Carl Hiaasen, Christopher Fowler, James Morrow, John Sladek, Terry Pratchett 13. Are there any Irish authors you recommend looking for?Michael Scott, James White (there are a number of James Whites in the catalogue, Final Diagnosis is a book by the one he means), J.H. Brennan, Bob Shaw, Maura McHugh (who is one of the authors in Womanthology), Ruth Long (we're working on sourcing her books), Derek Gunn, Oisin McGann, Darren Shan, Peadar Ó Guilín, Eoin Colfer... I can name dozens of 'em! 14. Have you read any books about Ireland that made you laugh/cry/breathe smoke?The White Plague by Frank Herbert comes immediately to mind. It's about an American scientist who, after his wife and child are killed in Dublin by an IRA-made bomb, creates a plague designed to kill all women (the leap of logic there escaped me when I was reading the book and still eludes me). The scenes set in Ireland are peppered with "begorrah" and "to be sure" and the whole thing might well have sprung directly from the cod-Irish loins of The Quiet Man (one of my top-ten most despised movies). It's been a long time since I read The White Plague but one scene that, sadly, will stay with me forever is the scientist returning to Ireland and meeting up with the Guinness-drinking, flat-cap-wearing IRA member who constructed the bomb. Said IRA man is walking along a lonely road towing a donkey on a length of string. You know. The way all Irish people do when the mood takes us. At all, at all. 15. Do you have an alias? Why?For a number of years I wrote "chick-lit" (hate that term!) novels under the pseudonym Jaye Carroll. The reason we chose not to publish them under my own name was simply that the targeted readers tend not to pick up - or even notice - romance novels written by men. Using a female pseudonym (even though the name "Jaye" is fairly androgynous) meant that the readers would be more likely to judge each book on its own merits rather than always think of it as "that woman's book written by a man." The books were pretty successful so I guess it worked!I've used other pseudonyms for other reasons, but I won't go into any more detail than that because I'm still using some of them! 16. Do you read any genres outside what you write? Deliberately? I make a point of not sticking to any one genre because I feel that's too limiting. There are great books to be found in *every* genre! Any writer who only reads the genre in which he or she is writing is on a one-way trip down the cul-de-sac of staleness and mediocrity. To grow, we must explore! I have a habit of picking books at random, without knowing anything about the writer or the book itself. It's a great way to find new authors and new sub-genres! I'd recommend any writer to do the same: go into the library or bookstore, pick five or six books totally at random, and read them. You'll learn a lot more from that than from reading the same author and the same genres over and over. 17. Do you go to any Irish Conventions?Absolutely! Every year I go to Octocon and P-Con (or Phoenix Convention, to give it its full name) (which is sadly not running in 2013), plus an assortment of other conventions, depending on where they are, what they clash with, and who else is going to be there. Conventions are a great way to unwind, meet new readers and writers, and buy lots of books! 18. Do you go to any non-Irish Conventions? Any favourites or recommendations?My non-Irish convention-going experience has mostly been comic-book related: Hi-Ex (the Highlands International Comic Expo) in Inverness is a particular favourite, plus there's the New York Comic-Con and San Diego Comic-Con, both of which are great fun but way, way too big. San Diego in particular suffers from "media expansion": you could have the biggest names in the comic book industry talking to a mostly empty room because next door there's the thrill of seeing the second-assistant-coffee-fetcher from a movie franchise like Twilight or Harry Potter.19. Do you have any hobbies outside of writing?I dabble a lot with computer graphics and website design, but I don't have enough spare time to do much else. I also like to cook and I'd love to have the time to learn how to do it properly... Perhaps I'll be able to do that when i retire! (That said, whenever I think about retiring, and all the free time I'll have, I can't help thinking about all the writing I'd be able to get done...) 20. Have you visited Libraries in any other country? Which one impressed you the most?I've only visited a few as a writer, but as an ordinary punter if I'm in a new city I try to make time to drop into the oldest library I can find. There's something intoxicating about really old books! The main branch of the New York Public Library (on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan) is a favourite because it has a Gutenberg Bible... I go and visit it every time we're in Manhattan. I must have spend *hours* staring at that book over the years! I want one, if anyone's buying. 21. Is there anything that you would like to see Irish Libraries do? or Dublin City Public Libraries in particular?Run more events featuring Irish writers, especially me! I was invited to an event recently in Ballymun and by chance there was a local writers' group meeting at the same time, so they dropped in to have a listen and ask a few questions... It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and informative library-based events I've ever done!Also: more events for kids, get them to understand how important libraries are! I've lost count of the number of times I've been talking to a classroom's worth of kids about my books when one of them asks, "Where can we get your books?"I'll reply, "Right here, in this library.""Well, how much are they?""You don't pay for books in the library. You just join the library - for free - then you borrow the books you want and bring them back when you've read them."The kids always seem to be astonished at this! They grin to each other like they've stumbled upon a forgotten cache of hidden treasure.Which, in a way, is exactly what's just happened...
Question. What does Asteroid 9766, a crater on the moon and the site of the landing of Curiosity, the Mars Rover have in common?Answer. They are all named after Ray Bradbury. Asteroid Bradbury 9766, discovered on the 24th February, 1992 and named after the acclaimed author.The Dandelion Crater on the moon (from Bradbury’s novel ‘Dandelion Wine’).Bradbury Landing, where Curiosity landed on 22nd August 2012 – Bradbury’s birthdate.As we launch Science Week in Dublin City Public Libraries with a full programme of events, workshops and talks for children and adults, it is fitting to consider the links between the fact and the fiction of science.Writers such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and others were writing what we would recognise as Science Fiction in the late 19th century, but SF as we know it hugely popular in the early 20th century mainly through American pulp magazines like Amazing Stories and Weird Tales. Not considered a proper literary genre, when writers like Aldous Huxley and George Orwell produced their dystopian novels in the '30s and '40s they paved the way for the giants of the genre like Bradbury, Issac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, and proved that genre fiction could be just as profound as other literature.Bradbury was part of a newer group of writers, less interested in presenting possible future scientific and technical developments than exploring a more spiritual and philosophical future view. His novel ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (the temperature at which paper burns) strikes horror in readers everywhere as ‘firemen’ are sent not to put out fires but to burn books and arrest those who seek to protect them. Published in 1953 and considered by the author to be a story about the conflict between television and literature, it was also interpreted as a commentary on government censorship and the suppression of knowledge.An inspiration to many of the people involved in the American Space programme, the honour of having the Mars Rover’s landing site named after him is most apt for the author of The Martian Chronicles. He died in June this year at the age of 91 and NASA acknowledged his contribution to the space programme and has released a video of Bradbury reading his poem "If Only We Had Taller Been" at a symposium just before the Mariner 9 Orbiter reached Mars in 1971.
Over the 13th and 14th of October I attended Octocon. While there I asked some of the authors if they would be willing to answer some questions I had. I supplied a list of 25 and asked if they would be willing to answer at least five. Peadar was the first to respond with his answers so this is the inaugural post in what I hope will become a series of interviews with some of Ireland's Genre writers.Peadar Ó Guilín on Dublin City Public Libraries CataloguePeadar spent his youth in Donegal and now lives in Dublin. 1. So what kind of fiction do you write?I write all types of Speculative Fiction, by which I mean Science Fiction, Fantasy and Supernatural Horror. My two published books so far have been Science Fiction, but my short stories run the gamut. 2. Why?I love worldbuilding. I like being a virtual tourist in strange and fabulous lands. I try to supply the same experiences for my readers that I get from my favourite authors. 3. How long have you been writing for?My whole life, but my first professionally published story came back in 1997. 4. What is your library history like?I mostly used libraries when I was growing up. Specifically, I read the yellow-covered Gollancz SF books. I think the first Harry Harrison book I read was a loan from the library in Letterkenny. Unfortunately, I was terrible at returning books. I'm so badly organized that I kept losing them. 5. Does it give you a special thrill to see your books in your local library?They're not there. I'm not sure my local library knows I exist or that I live just down the road! 6. Do you do readings in libraries, how do you find them?I have done a lot of workshops for children in libraries. Some of the experiences there have been wonderful. I try to teach them how to make a good story, but we spend most of the time laughing. 7. Did you have a favourite author as a kid?That varied a lot over time, but Harry Harrison is the one I look back on most fondly. And Tolkien, of course! 8. List five favourite authors (who aren't you!)This list changes a lot, but that's just the way it is. Also, I don't write like any of the people below, so, if you love the same authors I do, you might not enjoy my work!George R. R. MartinNeal StephensonR. Scott BakkerUrsula Le GuinM. T. Anderson 9. Have you read any books about Ireland that made you laugh/cry/breathe smoke?Joseph O'Connor's The Star of the Sea was incredibly moving. Also, Thomas Flanagan's The Year of the French is a must read. 10. Do you read any genres outside what you write? Deliberately?I enjoy a lot of non-fiction, mainly history and popular science. I have also read more than a few detective books. 11. Do you go to any Irish Conventions?I go to all of the SF book related ones when I can, as well as TitanCon in Belfast, which is more focused on the TV series of A Game of Thrones. 12. Do you go to any non-Irish Conventions? Any favourites or recommendations?I love WorldCon, which is usually held in the US, but which will be in London in 2014. It's huge and it's tremendous fun.Last year I attended EasterCon in the UK for the first time and thought the organization was brilliant. 13. Do you have any hobbies outside of writing?I like walking, cooking and playing soccer. I have a smartphone addiction, which results in an expensive new purchase every year.
The Testament of Jessie Lamb Wins Science Fiction Award
British novelist Jane Rogers has won the UK's top science fiction prize, the Arthur C Clarke Award, for her novel 'The Testament of Jessie Lamb'. Rogers has been a prize winner before, but this is her first venture into science fiction. The book was also on the longlist for the Man Booker Prize last year.'The Testament of Jessie Lamb' is the story of a 16-year old girl who wants to save humanity after an act of biological terrorism releases a deadly virus which only affects pregnant women. It would seem that the book is somewhat of a surprise but popular winner. This is Jane Rogers's eight novel. Her novel 'The Voyage Home' was on the longlist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2006. This Award is administered by Dublin City Public Libraries. "The Voyage Home is a story of love and loss, of power and its abuse, and of family and faith." (Award site).Her novel 'Promised Lands' won the Writers' Guild Best Novel Award in 1996.Arthur C Clarke Award site announcement.Report in the Guardian Newspaper.
Last night I read that Anne McCaffrey died. It has been confirmed by several sources, including the Guardian so I can't stay in denial any more. She was getting older, 85 at her last birthday, so I knew it was going to happen, I just didn't want it to happen now, or ever.As I've related before, she was one of the first real SF authors I read. Her books stayed with me throughout my teenage years and into my 20s (and I really need to dust them off and give them a re-read). They were groundbreaking at the time, female heroes who did things rather than waiting for things to happen. Menoly from Dragonsong, played music, like me, and kept me sane through the experience of being bullied in school, my own copy is in bits.Her own favourite was The Ship Who Sang, while she's well known for the Pern series, she also had other series (publishing about 100 books in all over her lifetime!)She came to Ireland because of the tax breaks, built a house here, still can be found in the phonebook (she lived in Wicklow), but has never really been celebrated as an Irish Author, although she was a loud voice encouraging people to write, people to come to Ireland and about her love of living here. She named one of her characters Killishandra because, she was quoted as saying, it was a name wasted on a creamery.She was working up to the last, answering questions on her site, she was always willing to talk to fans. She was the first woman to win a Hugo Award, the first to win a Nebula Award (her list of awards is amazing and on her site)"Lessa woke, cold." is the first sentence of Dragonflight, fans know it and there have been occasions when she has appeared as a character in books, usually as a storyteller, and this is the evocative sentence that says, this is her. There are plans to film the Pern series, may it stay true to her vision.She was guest of honour at Octocon one year, and I was there, she also occasionally came as guest. I remember one day, shyly introducing myself and getting caught up in conversation with her in the Convention bar in the Royal Marine Hotel, and figuring that I had enough signatures of hers, and that it would be cruel to ask a woman who was apparently suffering badly with arthritis at the time to sign more. She still was vastly entertaining and understanding about a fan who was a bit overwhelmed at meeting and talking to an idol. She's the reason I have a lot of Dragons in my house and started my fascination with the creatures.While Dragons may be a fantasy concept, hers were Science Fiction Dragons and you could start a row with her by claiming the opposite.There's a scene in one of her books when one of her longstanding characters dies and all the dragons in the world keen. Last night and today have been days when you can see the SF community around the world keening for the loss of one of the giants in the field, one of the ones that touched me most came from C E Murphy, a fellow American writer resident in Ireland.She had "green eyes, grey hair freckles and the rest was subject to change without notice" according to a lot of her newer biographies. I was a fan and I hope that I enjoy her books as much again as I did before. Many of her worlds have been passed on to other writers, including her son Todd McCaffrey, but no-one will be Anne McCaffrey.
Science Fiction is 'Literary Marmite' for most readers. Either you love it or you hate it - although, curiously, any scepticism about the genre disappears once it is dressed up as 'literary fiction', e.g. 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Never Let Me Go, Cloud Atlas, The Road, anything by the great J.G. Ballard.The perception that science-fiction is primarily badly-written, wish-fulfilment pulp was addressed by the writer Theodore Sturgeon who, when challenged about the low quality of most sci-fi writing, responded that 'ninety percent of everything is crud'. At its best, science-fiction is thought-provoking, political, imaginative and, most importantly, exciting. Brian Aldiss offered an unsurpassed definition of sci-fi as 'Hubris clobbered by Nemesis'. So if you are bored senseless by the latest Booker shortlist or...yawn... yet another jaded sub-McGahern study of the rural/urban/generational divide in Ireland, find the escape hatch in your mind and expand your horizons...The Man Who Fell To Earth (1963) by Walter TevisIf there is one sci-fi book I would press on cynics it is Walter Tevis's most poignant novel. Thomas J. Newton, an 'alien human', visits earth in order to save his dying homeland. After amassing a fortune through licensing advanced alien technology, Newton slowly abandons his mission and descends into alcoholism (a subject Tevis unfortunately knew all too much about and the novel itself is one of the most sensitive literary treatments of the disease). Although overshadowed by Nicolas Roeg's 1976 film adaptation featuring the inspired casting of David Bowie, the novel is one of the most sadly beautiful books you could read. Consider Phlebas (1987) by Iain M. Banks Use of Weapons (1990) by Iain M. BanksIain M. Banks re-energised British science fiction in the 1980s and 1990s with his series of 'Culture' Novels. The 'Culture' is an egalitarian, technologically advanced society where deprivation of any kind is unheard of. Banks' series of seven 'Culture' novels to date explore what happens when this utopia is stress-tested by non-conformists. The novels are endlessly inventive and funny (ships have names like No More Mr Nice Guy, Its My Party And I'll Sing If I Want To, and The Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival) but when Banks decides to get dark, things get pitch-black. The ending of Use Of Weapons is still one of the most harrowing and vicious things I've ever read. Childhood's End (1954) by Arthur C. ClarkeArthur C. Clarke is one of the most respected writers of 'hard science fiction', i.e. fiction that emphasises scientific accuracy. His Fall of Moondust (1961) and Rendezvous With Rama (1972) are classics of the genre. Childhood's End is distinctive in that Clarke deals seriously with the paranormal - he was later somewhat embarrassed about his interest in, what he called, 'mind-rotting bilge'. Nevertheless, it is one of his most enjoyable and imaginative publications. A giant starship appears above earth and brings peace and order to the planet. Its mysterious passengers - known as the Overlords - are preparing humanity for an event. Then a child starts dreaming of distant worlds and a process begins that means the end of humanity as we know it. Despite the fact that the imagery of Childhood's End has been co-opted ad nauseam by Hollywood for hackneyed sci-fi schlock (e.g. spaceships looming over cities), the novel remains a powerful study of the breaking of bonds between parents and children. Chocky (1968) by John WyndhamJohn Wyndham is one of the great figures of British science fiction although Wyndham baulked at being described as a 'sci-fi' writer. The success of Wyndham's Day Of The Triffids (1951) was instrumental in Penguin setting up a science fiction imprint. Read a mesmerising account of Penguin's science fiction catalogue. Chocky is told from the perspective of a somewhat distant father whose adopted son Matthew has an 'imaginary friend' with an interesting line in questions, e.g. 'Where is the earth?', 'Why is there twenty four hours in a day?'. As Matthew's behaviour gets odder, the child is subjected to a series of clinical trials in order to root out the problem of Chocky. The story builds through Wyndham's precise prose to an impressively bleak conclusion about the failings of humanity. An irrelevant but interesting anecdote about Wyndham was that he liked nothing more than to go down to his local pub on a Sunday and quietly sip a glass of sherry. He once turned down an invitation to attend a conference in Rio de Janeiro because 'he might have the company of heavy drinkers like Kingsley Amis and Brian Aldiss'. Also check out Wyndham's novels of New Englanders in peril (The Chrysalids) or Little Englanders going insane (The Midwich Cuckoos). He's an absolute hoot. The Stars My Destination (1956) by Alfred BesterGenerally regarded as one of the true classics of science fiction, The Stars My Destination is essentially The Count of Monte Cristo set in space. The protagonist Gully Foyle is a moron devoid of energy or ambition. After he is left to die on a starship, he is suddenly reinvigorated with a zeal to kill all those responsible for his predicament. The novel which follows Gully's madcap revenge odyssey is a masterpiece of high-concept sci-fi and brilliant bad taste. One can only stand back and applaud the sheer energy of Bester's pulpy writing, wild imagination, and his disregard for conventional pieties. The Stars My Destination stands apart and deserves every accolade it has received from the elder statesmen of sci-fi. Hothouse (1961) by Brian AldissBrian Aldiss has been described as 'the godfather of British Science Fiction'. His Science Fiction Omnibus remains a classic compendium of sci-fi short stories and his Trillion Year Spree is a definitive account of the development of science fiction writing. He made his name as a talent worth watching with his second novel Hothouse. The novel is set on a far-future earth at the end of the planet's life. The earth and moon are frozen and locked together in space. The world no longer spins on its axis and half the planet is in permanent darkness. On the day side, the vegetable kingdom rules and vegetable creatures have replaced animals. The book's most lasting image is that of giant, mile-long, spider-like creatures who travel to the Moon on interplanetary cobwebs. Aldiss focuses on the trials of the few final descendants of humanity as they struggle in their hostile environment. It is a world where life is nasty, brutish, and short. Aldiss kills off characters at a hand's turn without reflection. The individual is unimportant. It is the survival of the species that counts for all. As a meditation on the processes of evolution, Hothouse is remorseless. But at its heart is also a cracking adventure story about the journey of the man-child Gren and the creatures he encounters. Their names - the tummybelly men, crocksocks, killerwillows - remind us of nothing less than Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland. Hothouse is a deeply strange and disturbing - almost psychedelic - novel. You will have read nothing like it. Bring The Jubilee (1952) by Ward MooreAlternative histories are a mainstay of science-fiction. Notable examples include Philip K. Dick's The Man In The High Castle in which Germany has won the Second World War and Keith Roberts' Pavane which imagines an England where the Reformation didn't happen. Ward Moore's Bring The Jubilee is in this vein, presenting an America in which the Confederacy won the Civil War (or what is now termed 'The War of Southron Independence'). The novel imagines a world in which the United States is the poor relation of the prosperous Confederate States of America. New York is a provincial backwater and the Southern States have built an empire in Central and South America. The novel tells the story of a historian from the 1950s who, intent on bringing down the Confederacy, travels back in time to the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 to try and change the course of the war. There is an excellent twist in the tale.
I'm an unashamed Fantasy and Science Fiction Reader. I firstly blame my uncle who gave me a box set of the Chronicles of Narnia when I made my Communion and later a neighbour who answered my mother's plea to save her from having to buy a lot of books for the summer when I was 11 or 12 by introducing me to Andre Norton's Witch World and Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels (Dragonflight is the first). Those stick in my mind and I still revisit them occasionally.It isn't surprising, then, that at the beginning of March (March 4th-6th) I was to be found at P-Con, or Phoenix Con. One of the two major Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions in Dublin (the other is older, Octocon). RF Long, one of the writers reviewed P-Con from her point of view here.Unfortunately for me I was a little under the weather for this convention, so I missed the Friday night as usually it's more of a gathering of people, with a certain amount of revelry, so I decided to pass. Saturday morning saw me up and ready for the off. I had taken a quick look on the website to decide what to go to first, so I picked up my badge and headed for the Panel on Disasters, this year the convention decided to have lunch times, during previous years I had to make some unhappy decisions to keep my caffeine levels at an acceptable level. I was on the panel for one programme piece, on the Sunday, about the Future of Libraries, where we talked about some of the issues that face the libraries in the future and about some futuristic visions of libraries.But the panels aren't the most important part of going to a convention like this, the most important part for me is meeting up with people like R F Long, and C E Murphy and Maura McHugh and Juliet McKenna and many others. Some of these people are folks I knew before they were published, some I have thrust books into their hands to get signed, some of the fellow attendees I fail to meet more than twice a year (usually at PCon and Octocon!) and this is a chance to sit down with some like minded people and chat, talk about topics of interest and let my nerd out for a short while. The Central Hotel where it was held encourages this with their Library Bar.It was a fun experience. Full of interesting conversations and reading suggestions. Next year PCon will be in the Irish Writers Centre, hopefully this time it won't clash with the Dublin Book Festival!Coincidentally, the monthly knitters who meet in the Central Hotel were there when I had a break, so I joined them as well. I used to live in the city centre and I met up with this group fairly regularly then, these days I live outside the city centre and don't often get a chance to come in and visit. (There's a useful website that lists most of the Dublin Knitting Groups) So a chance for two of my interests to get an outing. I also was waylaid by an RTÉ interviewer doing a documentary about the hotel, who wanted to know about this group, I was "volunteered" to talk. I often knit during conventions, it makes me think about what I'm going to say. This years socks were a pair called Bellatrix in a yarn called Harry & Ron; I try to pick a pattern or yarn that is Fantasy or SF related, but that isn't so complicated that I can't enjoy myself!I know some people who approach events like this and are intimidated by the people and the fact that everyone seems to know everybody else. Many of the attendees have been going to a variety of conventions for years and the links between conventions can be entertaining, the trick is to take part in the panels, relax, find a chair near a group talking about stuff you're interested in and try not to repeat what someone else is saying. If all else fails, sit reading a book or doing something unusual, it will never fail to get people talking to you, why do you think I started knitting at conventions?