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message 1: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 75 comments I have to admit to having a slight passion for science-fiction and thought I would ask which British sci-fi authors others know about, or have read?

Sci-fi has a very long history in Britain with such books as Maragret Cavendish's The Blazing World in the Seventeenth Century and of course Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in the early Nineteenth Century.

Then the women stood back and let the men have a try and H.G Wells came up with such classics as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds.

In more modern times famous names in science-fiction such as J.G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock, Iain M. Banks and Brian Aldiss. Not forgetting Terry Nation the creator of the dreaded daleks. Also Tanith Lee, who's sad passing last year I noticed mentioned in a thread here.

I have probably missed many more than I have included, hopefully someone else can remedy my omissions.


message 3: by E.M. (last edited Jun 06, 2016 08:33AM) (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 75 comments You know, I always thought Arthur C. Clarke was an American. *blushes furiously with embarrassment* My only excuse is that I tend to be more interested in an author's books than their biographies.

Simon Morden is a local lad from my perspective, he lives and works just up the road from me in Gateshead.

I have read and enjoyed Pandora's Star so can recommend Peter Hamilton thoroughly.

Thanks for these additions to the British sci-fi author roll of honour.


 Eldritch Reading Reindeer 2021 In Cobwebs  (readingreindeerproximacentauri) | 5 comments You're welcome! I just received Night Without Stars today as an advance copy from NetGalley, and I am over the moon.

Oh! Must add another favorite, Charles Stross


message 5: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 599 comments Arthur C. Clarke moved to Sri Lanka in 1956 and lived there until his death.


message 6: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 75 comments Mallory Heart Recommends wrote: "You're welcome! I just received Night Without Stars today as an advance copy from NetGalley, and I am over the moon."

You have good reading there - I might well snag some more of his work myself when I get a reading slot.

Rosemarie wrote: "Arthur C. Clarke moved to Sri Lanka in 1956 and lived there until his death."

I did not know that either. I wonder how much that influenced his books?


 Eldritch Reading Reindeer 2021 In Cobwebs  (readingreindeerproximacentauri) | 5 comments Allen Steele has some intriguing comments about Sir Arthur, and Sri Lanka, in the introduction to his novel "Oceanspace." (Sorry I can't link the title, I'm using my phone.)


message 8: by Werner (new)

Werner | 983 comments E. M., this is a great idea for a thread; thanks for getting it going! I'm surprised that I didn't think of it a long time ago myself, since I'm also quite an avid reader of science fiction (and other kinds of speculative fiction as well).

Mallory, here's the Allen Steele novel link: Oceanspace .

If we consider fiction that speculates about the social sciences to be "science fiction" just as much as the writings that speculate about the natural sciences (and I personally think we should), then the whole Utopian tradition in modern Western literature is an important and influential branch of sociological sci-fi; and British writer Sir Thomas More penned the fountainhead of that tradition, Utopia, way back in 1516. Another distinguished early British example of SF (which we sometimes don't recognize as such today) is Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726).

Alas, I'm at work, and my lunch break is over; but this is a thread I'll definitely be coming back to!


 Eldritch Reading Reindeer 2021 In Cobwebs  (readingreindeerproximacentauri) | 5 comments Thanks, Werner! I plan to read Oceanspace soon, and other of Mr. Steele's novels.

I agree that speculative fiction ought to include social as well as natural science. So I'll add Aldous Huxley.

An omission from my earlier post would be the excellent Paul Cornell


message 10: by Rosemarie (last edited Jun 08, 2016 02:01PM) (new)

Rosemarie | 599 comments John Wyndham has written a number of speculative fiction novels, including The Kraken Wakes,The Day of the Triffids, The Chrysalids and The Midwich Cuckoos.

John Christopherhas written some YA science fiction-- The Tripods Trilogy and The Sword of the Spirits Trilogy.


message 11: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 75 comments Werner wrote: "If we consider fiction that speculates about the social sciences to be "science fiction" just as much as the writings that speculate about the natural sciences (and I personally think we should)"

Who was it who said something like 'Science-Fiction is like pornography - you may not be entirely sure what it is, but you know it when you see it'?

Personally, I think it can be tough to draw a line between sci-fi and other kinds of speculative fiction. But I do agree that social-science sci-fi and philosophical sci-fi are just as valid as the hard science variety.

So I will also flag up Alan Moore in particular for his The Ballad of Halo Jones which is a graphic novel and one I will shout the praises of any time I get the chance. Any science-fiction story which starts with an entire storyline about a teenage girl going on a shopping expedition, has to have very something special going for it.


 Eldritch Reading Reindeer 2021 In Cobwebs  (readingreindeerproximacentauri) | 5 comments I add also Peter George, who wrote Red Alert, the novel upin which the film "Dr. Strangelove" was based, and later committed suicide. (Guess that one speaks to the philosophical and social sciences side.) This discussion is fascinating!


message 13: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 75 comments Rosemarie wrote: "John Wyndham has written a number of speculative fiction novels"

One of the true greats IMO - I grew up reading his books and they were so much a part of my reading landscape I think it took me a while to really realise they were science-fiction.


message 14: by Werner (last edited Jun 09, 2016 06:59PM) (new)

Werner | 983 comments Mallory wrote: "I agree that speculative fiction ought to include social as well as natural science. So I'll add Aldous Huxley".

Mallory, I absolutely agree about Huxley (Brave New World. Annotations And Study Aids., and I'd add another giant of British literature to that list: George Orwell (1984. IMO, the masterworks of these two authors are cornerstones of 20th-century sociological SF, and as relevant (or more so!) today as they were when they were written.


message 15: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 599 comments Having recently reread 1984 by Orwell, I certainly agree with your remarks, Werner. On a different thread your were talking about the " horror" and/ or supernatural genre.
I just have to say that 1984 is the most horrifying novel that I have ever read-- incredibly bleak because it is not an impossible scenario.


message 16: by Karin (new)

Karin E.M. wrote: "Who was it who said something like 'Science-Fiction is like pornography - you may not be entirely sure what it is, but you know it when you see it'?

Personally, I think it can be tough to draw a line between sci-fi and other kinds of speculative fiction. But I do agree that social-science sci-fi and philosophical sci-fi are just as valid as the hard science variety."


I agree. However, some of the hardcore scifi writers I used to read as a teen often have more speculation in there than I remember, including Arthur C. Clarke,

I hadn't read that quote, but I got a good chuckle out of that, because it was when I started reading scifi that I read what were some very shocking sex scenes for a child of ages 10 and up.


message 17: by Karin (new)

Karin 1984 is science fiction only in that there is use of some technology, but it's really all about big business taking over the world and controlling it, so more dystopian.

Many people label all dystopian fiction scifi, when much of it isn't scifi at all. There are dystopian scifi novels, of course, but many are the opposite.

Let's not forget Douglas Adams and his The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy which is both funny and scifi, especially the audiobook.


message 18: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 599 comments Karin, how could we forget Douglas Adams? His books are so funny and witty.


message 19: by Karin (last edited Jun 18, 2016 11:21AM) (new)

Karin Rosemarie wrote: "Karin, how could we forget Douglas Adams? His books are so funny and witty."

Easy, but I have read a lot of scifi, primarily in my youth, and have been in a private group dedicated to British books since 2013 or 2014 from Shelfari that has helped me pay more attention to the nationality of authors I've read. In my youth I didn't pay much attention to that.

I keep seeing this group and thought it a good way to get to know more fans of British writing and perhaps learn of other authors.

I just checked our books in common and noticed that you are a fellow Canadian, although I married an American and moved to the states.


message 20: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 599 comments Where are you from, Karin? I live in Toronto, which has a wonderful library system, so that I don't have to spend a fortune on books.


message 21: by Karin (last edited Jun 18, 2016 11:49AM) (new)

Karin Rosemarie wrote: "Where are you from, Karin? I live in Toronto, which has a wonderful library system, so that I don't have to spend a fortune on books."

I was born and raised in BC, although I spent half a year in Sask, and 6 years in Ontario, but London & Ottawa. My kid brother lived in Toronto for half a dozen years or so; he moved there when he got a lead in a series, and moved 2 or 3 years after the show ended and work dried up. He's getting some work now in one of the other big filming areas in North America (he's worked in both Canada and the States, but don't like to give TMI :)).

I was never in Toronto when he was living there, but that's where I had to get my green card after I married an American (he and I are still married), so have stayed there for a couple of nights, and of course driven through it on the highway, and changed planes at the airport.


message 22: by Werner (new)

Werner | 983 comments It's an interesting feature of British SF that it developed along lines somewhat different from its American cousin. American SF, as far back as the 19th century, tended (albeit with exceptions) to have a bent towards the "hard" branch of the tradition, that is, the type of SF that sticks carefully to plausible extrapolation from known facts of science. This tended to be coupled with a fascination for imagining plausible future technological gadgetry, and a breezy optimism towards a coming Utopian future brought to you by inevitable Progress. (Jules Verne, whose work has a lot of those characteristics, was more of an influence on American writers than on British ones.) Then in the 1920s, with the rise of niche marketing in the U.S. publishing industry, American SF was pretty much relegated to a literary ghetto built around a few genre magazines catering to an insular fan base, and those dominant characteristics became pretty much THE norm the editors and fans required.

In British SF, though, the more humanistic (in the Renaissance and Romantic sense) tradition remained strong through the 19th century, with its greater distrust of technology and pure scientism, and more pessimistic take on the inevitability of progress. Also, H. G. Wells influenced the British genre of his own day and after more than Verne did; and Wells' influence was in the direction of "soft" SF, where the "science" doesn't have to be realistic and plausible --it's just a pretext for introducing some kind of speculative scenario the writer wants to explore. Nor did the British Isles develop the specialized magazines with their little ghettoized market that the U.S. did; so British SF had to appeal to general readers who were primarily interested in good storytelling and other kinds of literary quality (a lot of the U.S. fan base wasn't that discriminating, as long as what they were reading delivered genre tropes --and the quality of a lot of the American writing of that period shows it). It's interesting, and maybe indicative, that E.M. thought Arthur Clarke was American; he's the most prominent U.K. SF writer of his generation to have been admittedly influenced by "the Yank magazines." (From what I've read of his short stories, the quality of his work is consistently high, but he often wrote much more in the "hard" tradition than Wells did.) On the other hand, the major American writer of "soft" SF in the pulp era, H. P. Lovecraft, who was published almost entirely outside of the SF ghetto and totally repudiated its worldview of technophilic optimism, was a fervent Anglophile who preferred British over American spelling and once expressed the wish that he could have been born in the 18th century and lived and died as "a loyal subject of the king." :-)

A couple of major British SF writers of the 20th century, who haven't been mentioned on this thread so far and whose work I've greatly liked, are Gilbert Keith Chesterton (in The Napoleon of Notting Hill, which is entirely sociological speculation --it probably wouldn't meet Karin's definition of SF) and C. S. Lewis, preeminently in his Space Trilogy. Each in their own ways, they display the distinctive traits of British Sf noted above, in contrast to the American brand.


message 23: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 599 comments The Napoleon of Notting Hill is an interesting book. Chesterton has wide- ranging imagination, since he also wrote the Father Brown mysteries. I find that I generally prefer the "soft" science fiction to the pure science type. I like character development and relationships in the novels I read, or else an interesting look at society.


message 24: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 75 comments Werner wrote: "A couple of major British SF writers of the 20th century, who haven't been mentioned on this thread so far and whose work I've greatly liked, are Gilbert Keith Chesterton (in The Napoleon of Notting Hill,"

I have not come across that book, but I will agree that perhaps the more 'human' side is favoured by British writers. Though the rise of science fantasy has perhaps redressed the balance a bit on both sides of the pond.


message 25: by Werner (last edited Nov 28, 2016 03:31PM) (new)

Werner | 983 comments Our own E.M. Swift-Hook is a contemporary writer of British SF herself --and based on my reading of the first book of her Transgressor Trilogy, The Fated Sky, a very gifted one! Her work has affinities to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels (though it's set in another part of the galaxy), but is better written, has more plausible world-building and scientific content and much sharper characterizations, and offers more serious thought content. Here's my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... . The great tradition continues!


message 26: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 75 comments *blushes*

Thank you Werner - most kind!

And in - hopefully - good news, thanks to the work of a friend on fb and my son, I may well have a paperback edition of at least 'The Fated Sky' available before the end of the year. Maybe even the others too... But, sadly, there will be no map. If I can arrange one for a future edition, just for you, I will do so :)


message 27: by Werner (last edited Nov 28, 2016 04:11PM) (new)

Werner | 983 comments That's great news, E.M.! I'll be watching for the paperback editions.

E. M. wrote: "But, sadly, there will be no map. If I can arrange one for a future edition, just for you, I will do so :) "
E.M., that's very sweet of you! :-)


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