John Brunner was born in Preston Crowmarsh, near Wallingford in Oxfordshire, and went to school at St Andrew's Prep School, Pangbourne, then to Cheltenham College. He wrote his first novel, Galactic Storm, at 17, and published it under the pen-name Gill Hunt, but he did not start writing full-time until 1958. He served as an officer in the Royal Air Force from 1953 to 1955, and married Marjorie Rosamond Sauer on 12 July 1958
At the beginning of his writing career Brunner wrote conventional space opera pulp science fiction. Brunner later began to experiment with the novel form. His 1968 novel "Stand on Zanzibar" exploits the fragmented organizational style John Dos Passos invented for his USA trilogy, but updates it in terms of the theory of media popularised by Marshall McLuhan.
"The Jagged Orbit" (1969) is set in a United States dominated by weapons proliferation and interracial violence, and has 100 numbered chapters varying in length from a single syllable to several pages in length. "The Sheep Look Up" (1972) depicts ecological catastrophe in America. Brunner is credited with coining the term "worm" and predicting the emergence of computer viruses in his 1975 novel "The Shockwave Rider", in which he used the term to describe software which reproduces itself across a computer network. Together with "Stand on Zanzibar", these novels have been called the "Club of Rome Quartet", named after the Club of Rome whose 1972 report The Limits to Growth warned of the dire effects of overpopulation.
Brunner's pen names include K. H. Brunner, Gill Hunt, John Loxmith, Trevor Staines, Ellis Quick, Henry Crosstrees Jr., and Keith Woodcott. In addition to his fiction, Brunner wrote poetry and many unpaid articles in a variety of publications, particularly fanzines, but also 13 letters to the New Scientist and an article about the educational relevance of science fiction in Physics Education. Brunner was an active member of the organisation Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and wrote the words to "The H-Bomb's Thunder", which was sung on the Aldermaston Marches.
Brunner had an uneasy relationship with British new wave writers, who often considered him too American in his settings and themes. He attempted to shift to a more mainstream readership in the early 1980s, without success. Before his death, most of his books had fallen out of print. Brunner accused publishers of a conspiracy against him, although he was difficult to deal with (his wife had handled his publishing relations before she died).
Brunner's health began to decline in the 1980s and worsened with the death of his wife in 1986. He remarried, to Li Yi Tan, on 27 September 1991. He died of a heart attack in Glasgow on 25 August 1995, while attending the World Science Fiction Convention there
aka K H Brunner, Henry Crosstrees Jr, Gill Hunt (with Dennis Hughes and E C Tubb), John Loxmith, Trevor Staines, Keith Woodcott
Winner of the ESFS Awards in 1980 as "Best Author" and 1n 1984 as "Novelist"..
A series of sci-fi stories all written by John Brunner that were passably interesting but didn’t “make my pulse rev up and my brain stand on end” as the cover quote promised. In fact, most of them were very sexist. I know it was 1973, but yikes. The best story was probably the one about the ghost, but even then, the women that are mentioned are put in the category of “nagging wife from whom husband can’t wait to escape.”
Other than that, the consumer reports for futuristic products like time machines and wish-granters were genuinely funny. If the whole book had been like that, I would’ve liked it a lot more.
review of John Brunner's Time-Jump by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 30, 2014
This is the 3rd collection of Brunner short stories I've read, I've been very impressed by all 3. I might even be more impressed by this one b/c it's shows a comic side of Brunner's work not usually prominent.. until the last story, arrgghh!!, but I'm not going there. In Brunner's Introduction he explains:
"It's because science-fiction writers, by the nature of their calling, take the future more seriously than most other people that there are so many black comedies and so few rib-tickling farces in the canon. It's for the same reason that, while I can guarantee that all the stories in this book are comedies, I decline to promise that all of them will split your sides.
"The Germans have a term which English lacks, and it neatly spans the area where science fiction and comedy meet. They say Galgenhumor: gallows humor." - p 9
There's a framing device of 3 "Galactic Consumer Reports": 1 as the 1st story, 1 as a middle story, the 5th, & 1 as the penultimate story, the 9th. The idea enables the author to not only explore an imagining of a future invention, it also enables him to imagine the various possible quirks that mass manufacturing might bring.
"About a century ago (recent feedback has made the actual date so fluid as to be insusceptible of definition) a posthumous discussion with Einstein enabled Dr. Ajax Yak of the University of Spica to formulate the fundamental equations of petrified-field theory. the light shed on the subject by his celebrated postulate that yaktion and -re-yaktion are equally apposite so simplified time travel that the legislation was subsequently repealed and a market opened for the sale of time machines to the public." - p 11
The idea of time machines as a standard item for sale to households is genius. usually the time travel story has the isolated inventor trying out time travel w/ a friend or 2 in great secrecy.
I noted to myself that "Thee Warp and the Woof-Woof" is the funniest thing I'd read by Brunner yet. In it, there's a clumsy dog: "Jeff—who had been called Jeff for the good and sufficient reason that that was the next thing to a mutt" (p 36) How many contemporary readers will get the joke? Will get the reference to "Mutt 'n' Jeff" comics?
1968's "The Product of the Masses" has a reference to whales becoming extinct. ""Let's look at it this way. What were the largest animals ever to exist on Earth?" / Jeff hesitated, "Why . . . well, some species of dinosaur I imagine. Probably Diplodocus." "Wrong. He wasn't the biggest, just the longest. The biggest creatures ever to appear on Earth were the giant whales, and we exterminated them around the beginning of the twenty-first century."" (p 51) To appreciate how much foresight Brunner had, consider this:
“Roger Payne is the marine scientist who led the team that discovered that whales produce these songs. In 1970 he put out a record album called Songs of the Humpback Whale. It was one of the landmark events in changing the way humans perceive the animal world....Since the release of Songs of the Humpback Whale you have this great movement among people to disallow hunting whales, to preserve marine habitat for whales, and to think about whales and other marine mammals as fellow creatures that have some right to be here with us.”
Have you ever known someone who has to be right, who can't own up to a mistake? ""Well, someone who has to be right in order to survive as a thinking person isn't normal, is he—or she? Most human beings are wrong part of the time. Someone who depends on being right is trapped in a paradox like Zeno's, having to be right and each time finding it more difficult to make it there ahead of the crowd.["]" - p 58
There's even a music joke in here!:
"The necessity for a second controlling element emerged when Fidler discovered that human musicians couldn't play the instruments he had devised. For his Variations on the Theme of Planetary Collision he attempted to surpass his earlier achievement and create a superior musician, too. The life form resulting had an enormous brain, incredibly acute hearing, twenty-eight pairs of hands and sufficient mouths to play eleven wind instruments at once." - p 71
In the 2nd of the 3 Consumer Reports there's analysis of the various brands of "twin-tube wishing machines" - a simple change of one letter from 'washing machines' &, Voila!:
"On inspection, the Midas and Croesus, proved to be identical except fro the nameplate affixed in the front of the cabinet. The former costs two hundred credits more than the latter. The makers refused to comment on this." - pp 72-73
Given that both Croesus & Midas are Greek figures emblematic of wealth, Brunner's not only referring to that but also making fun of a type of rip-off of consumers.
"The Domesticated Djinn is inscribed all over with excerpts from the Koran and is time-switched to prevent its use when the owner was supposed to be facing Mecca for prayer. Five periods of nonavailability per day, each lasting fifteen minutes, may constitute a drawback in the view of non-Moslems." - p 73
Yes, that wd be funny if it weren't oh-so-true: 75 minutes of obeisance daily - what a spirit-crusher that is. & speaking of spirits, in "Death Do Us Part" there's a ghost seeking legal assistance:
""Then I have grave need of your services. Though how I shall pay your fee I know not, sin' my worldly goods were despoiled . . ."
""Don't let that worry you," interrupted Arthur. "After all, it's quite an honor in itself to be consulted by a"—he swallowed painfully—"ghost."
""Sir, I am truly indebted for your kindness. Well, to the heart of it. I wish to have—ahem!—my marriage dissolved. What, in the parlance of your day, is termed a 'divorce'."" - p 84
& then there's Brunner's "Coincidence Day", 1965, in wch humans are fated for an extraterrestrial zoo - reminiscent in that respect to Kurt Vonnegut's 1969 novel Slaughterhouse Five. Then there's "Whirligig":
"So I said okay, where is this show? He says vaguely it's out of town somewhere, and goes off the line for another minute or two. Finally he comes back to say the guy who's hiring us will provide his own transport and bring us home afterward.
"Now, this is even odder. Most people wouldn't soil their limousines with a musician's hind end, so we have this minibus arrangement with back seats that turn into bunks and a compartment in the roof where you can put the horns even when it's snowing" - p 113
Now this is somewhat oblique, but that reminds me of the movie "Amos 'n' Andy in "Check and Double Check"" (1930) in wch Duke Ellington & his Orchestra are transported to a wealthy party in the country by Amos 'n' Andy's rattletrap taxi. & then the following makes me think of Mail Art. My, how the mind does wander.
"We are also, incidentally, anxious to recruit volunteers to help us in a survey of planetside postal services. We feel it is high time to establish a Galactic Postal Convention to assure the private correspondence of any intelligent organism whatever proper protection in transit and reasonable speed of delivery. The treatment we have been accorded by the Earthside authorities beggars belief, and it is highly probable that some of the questionnaires which members on outlying planets went to a lot of trouble to complete and forward have never reached us.
"For example, we regard it as inexcusable that merely because the only type of stationery available to a citizen of Shalimar happens to be fresh water-lily leaves and pale green bog slime instead of paper and ink, some jumped-up jack-in-office at the Galactic Mail Center in Lhasa should be allowed to class his envelope as "perishable foodstuffs improperly packaged" and decline responsibility for its delivery." - pp 122-123
In this 3rd story of the Consumer reports series, the 'average subscriber' is beautifully imagined:
"Furthermore, it's common civility on Toothandclaw to wrap any missive to a person one wishes to flatter or defer to in the hide of one's latest kill. The more ambitious the kill (and there are creatures on that planet none of our staff would care to handle without battle armor and a lase gun!), the greater the respect which the writer expresses toward the recipient.
"One of our members there, obviously extremely appreciative of the services of ConGalFedConAss, chose to employ the hide of a mugglebuck in which to return his questionnaire. That this hide continues to secrete pure hydrofluoric acid for nine years after being flayed, we submit, is as nothing beside the basic requirement that it be delivered to the address inscribed on the outside. The fact that muggleback skin remains dangerous to handle after the animal is killed is essentially a symbolic equivalent of the customary salutation "Your humble and obedient servant," but no postal authority would decline to accept mail because it included that phrase!" - p 123
That's pretty fucking funny! If Brunner had written nothing else, this bk wd assure his enshrinement in the comedy-hall-of-fame. Finally, there's the story that's so gallows-humor that I don't even want to quote it, "Nobody Axed You". Suffice it to say that it reminds me of a time when a very aggressive late-night panhandler in the Lower East Side of NYC informed me & my companion that he was "Axing us nicely".