Wednesday, September 07, 2005

On British SF

David Langford has a review on Amazon for Peter F. Hamilton's new book, Judas Unchained. I wouldn't go and read it because it is spoilerific with a capital SPOILERIFIC- in fact, it is less a review and more a synopsis.

I've been aware for sometime that the best SF out there is British (because I am obviously an expert who reads every single SF book written across the globe). Okay, as statements go that was a bit of a sweeper, so let me rephrase. There are a number of uncommonly good British SF authors whom I read consistantly. Some of them I actually buy in Hardback. I expect there are many fantastic SF authors of other nationalities, but they are very difficult to come by. I used to run the SF section in a Waterstones, and believe me, if you like Fantasy, thy cup runneth over (thank you, Peter Jackson). But SF? Like getting blood out of a stone. In the past I have phoned up publishers asking about information on SF books, and have got either a) Nothing or b) Bleeding Fantasy.

You know what, I like fantasy books, I really do. Terry Pratchett is my favourite author. Moorcock? Tolkien? Of course. Gaiman, Brooks, George RR Martin? Oh yes. But please, please can someone give me a fucking spaceship? It doesn't have to be hard SF, any old faster-than-light warpfield bollocks will do me just fine. And either non-Brits are being shy, or (as I suspect) British publishing houses are being crap.

Stephen Baxter is, for me, the king of hard (and I mean diamond, break your teeth hard) SF. (You know, I think I would have preferred this sentence to read "Stephen Baxter is the king of hard.") His novels are all based around fantastic, believable concepts, and I find him incredibly easy to read. I named my band after a device in one of his books. I've kind of lost track of his stuff after the Manifold series, but I'll definately catch up one of these days. Recommended reading? Moonseed for those who like their disaster stories, or Voyage if you like astronauts.

Space opera, motherfuckers; the aforementioned Peter F. Hamilton. The Night's Dawn trilogy is perfect balance of spaceships, horror, and right-wing ideology, with a fucking huge page count. File under the same guilty pleasure heading as Tom Clancy books and computer games. In fact, I can see a longer post about right-wing authors I enjoy despite myself coming on at some point.

As a counterpoint to the above, how about Ken MacLeod, Scotland's finest Socialist Skiffy writer? I like the idea of his books more than the books themselves- left-wing space travellers overthrowing the Gods, for example.

To stay with spaceships, I completely didn't get Alastair Reynolds' stuff at first, but on the second run at it I went through his whole debut trilogy. Massive, Galaxy-spanning concept SF, plus one of the few in the genre where all travel is at sub-light speeds. Starting point: Revelation Space. Interestingly enough, I recently found out he's a Welshman (the only one, as far as I know, to make this list).

And finally (for now), Richard Morgan, who's books I buy the day they come out. He's done cyberpunk/noir/crime (Altered Carbon), Mad Max style anti-Capitalist near-future novel(Market Forces) and best of all (for me) a comic book series. With the latter, it's easy to see how he's a first time comic book scripter, but there's so much potential there I have to say I'm pretty excited about his future stuff. An absolute master of pace, drama and dialogue.


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