And the nominees are …

They’re not quite up on the website yet, but I’ve got permission to post them. From the website: the nominees for the 2006 British Science Fiction Association Awards are:

Best Novel

  • Darkland by Liz Williams
  • End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
  • Icarus by Roger Levy
  • The Last Witchfinder by James Morrow
  • Nova Swing by M. John Harrison

Best Short Fiction

  • “The Djinn’s Wife” by Ian McDonald (extract; Asimov’s)
  • “The Highway Men” by Ken MacLeod (Sandstone Press Ltd)
  • The House Beyond Your Sky” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (Strange Horizons)
  • “The Point of Roses” by Margo Lanagan (Black Juice, UK ed., Gollancz)
  • “Signal to Noise” by Alastair Reynolds (Zima Blue and Other Stories, Night Shade Books)
  • Sounding” by Elizabeth Bear (Strange Horizons)

Best Artwork

  • Angelbot” by Fangorn (cover of Time Pieces, ed. Ian Whates)
  • Cover of Farthing magazine, issue 2 (credited to Vertebrate Graphics)
  • Droid” by Fahrija Velic (cover of Interzone 206)
  • The Return to Abalakin” by Alexander Preuss
  • Ring of the Gods” by Willliam Li (cover of Holland SF 206)

Non-Fiction Recommended Reading List

NOTE: There will be no individual award for non-fiction. The following is a recommended reading list based on nominations from BSFA members.

  • The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology, ed. Paul Kincaid with Andrew M. Butler (Serendip Foundation)
  • Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, ed. Justine Larbalestier (Wesleyan University Press)
  • Great British Comics by Paul Gravett (Aurum Press Ltd)
  • James Tiptree, Jr: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips (St Martin’s Press)
  • Polder: A Festschrift for John Clute and Judith Clute, ed. Farah Mendlesohn (Old Earth Books)

Congratulations to all the nominees! The shortlists will be voted on by BSFA members and members of Contemplation, the 2007 Eastercon; the winners will be announced at that convention. I won’t comment on the novel list, for obvious reasons (though I’d love to hear others’ reactions), but I will at least say that I like the look of the short fiction list.

BSFA Awards: Last Call for Nominations

The deadline is midnight tonight. The current list of nominations (which I can pretty much guarantee has grown since the last time you looked at it) is here. The eligibility criteria are here. You can check here to see who’s responsible for cover art, and here to remind yourself of sf novels published in the UK last year. Your own nominations should go to BSFA.Awards@gmail.com. You know what to do!

The Links Beyond Your Sky

Experimentation

When Dan Green reads Dave Itzkoff:

Itzkoff’s take on science fiction in general (or at least that branch he calls “military sci-fi”) leads me to think I might not clearly understand the ambitions of science fiction, at least among its more serious-minded authors and critics. Although I have only relatively recently begun to sample noteworthy science fiction novels and writers (that is, I am most assuredly a johnny-come-lately), I have done so under the assumption it is a genre that seeks to provide an alternative to “realism” and other conventionally “literary” practices, not just by evoking speculative worlds and looking to the future rather than the past or present but also by creating alternative forms and experimenting with the established elements of fiction (plot, setting, point of view, etc.). That SF is inherently a kind of experimental fiction is a proposition I have been convinced to take seriously by some of the more intelligent critical discussion of the genre, both on SF litblogs and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find this proposition very persuasively confirmed. The novels I have attempted, by among others Philip K. Dick, China Mieville, and Samuel Delaney, while they certainly do engage the imagination well beyond what is offered in most humdrum literary realism, do not seem to me especially preoccupied with formal experiment or stylistic innovation. (Which is not to deny that the latter two, at any rate, do write well.) Traditional plotting prevails, setting is described in the kind of minute detail a Flaubert-inspired realist would almost certainly admire, and point of view (at least in the particular novels I have read) remains transparent and undisturbed. They are, finally, resolutely traditional novels, if anything overloaded with conventional storytelling, marked as “other” only by their deliberately exotic subjects.

[…]

Perhaps having “no position at all” on real war isn’t very “commendable,” but declining to take positions in fiction, even if war is the ostensible subject, brings no moral opprobrium at all. In purely literary terms, refusing to “take a position” by sticking to, well, literature, and leaving the moral or political discourse to other, more suitable forums is as much of a “stance” most fiction writers ought to feel comfortable assuming. If John Scalzi thinks his job is to write engaging works of fiction rather than “cultivate a philosophy” by indirection, it’s all to his credit. But is Itzkoff’s own position, that the work of the science fiction writer can be reduced to the attempt to stake out a position on this or that, really shared by most writers and readers who lay claim to this genre? Is it the literary “philosophy” of SF?

Oh, crumbs. Where to start? As ever when Green writes about sf, I find myself having to translate everything he says; we have different enough starting assumptions about reading and fiction in general, never mind our approaches to sf in particular, and never mind that in this instance he seems to be under the unfortunate impression that Dave Itzkoff knows what he’s talking about. (I actually have more time for Itzkoff than some, but he’s really not the man I’d go to get a coherent articulation of what sf does and why.) As John Scalzi noted in response to the review at the time, sf isn’t short of writers who use their novels to articulate a philosophical stance of some kind, but they can hardly be held to represent a central ambition of the genre, because the genre doesn’t really have a central ambition.

Which means that sf also can’t be summarised as ‘a genre that seeks to provide an alternative to “realism” and other conventionally “literary” practices’. For starters, assuming there is a broad division of fiction into “realistic” and “fantastic”, as I understand it there is at least some debate about which camp sf should sit in. Certainly, on an intuitive basis I can see arguments on both sides — a science-fiction world is an extension of the realistic world; but of course it’s a world that doesn’t exist. But readers more knowledgeable than myself (I know you’re out there) should feel free to weigh in any time now, since I feel that I’m on quite tentative ground both here and below.

To a certain extent, I can think of examples of sf that play with the examples Green gives of the established elements of fiction. Whether or not sf is a form of realism, for example, there is something distinctive about the way language is used to create setting in sf: hence the history of discussion about sentences that are distinctively science-fictional (“The door dilated”), or that read differently depending on whether you’re approaching them as science fiction or not (“She turned on her left side”). That is, in fact, exactly the sort of thing I would expect to get from the work of China Mieville and Philip K. Dick. Similarly, I can think of stories that do interesting things with point of view, either by portraying characters who perceive the world according to radically different frameworks than our own (“Story of Your Life”, Ted Chiang, or “In Blue” by John Crowley), or by mixing up the identity of narrator, writer and character (The Female Man, Joanna Russ), or by trying to integrate standard approaches to character with a contermporary scientific understanding of how we actually think (Peter Watts, Greg Egan). I’m drawing a temporary blank on experimental plotting (the work of Hal Duncan, possibly?), but I’m sure examples exist there too.

But I get the impression that Green is looking for sf to do something formally new not found in other kinds of fiction, and I suspect he’s doomed to fail, particularly if — as his current reading list suggests — he’s sticking to canonically recognised sf writers, because they are often the writers with the most traditional plotting, the most transparent points of view. (Delany seems like he should be the exception here, but I haven’t read much Delany and I don’t know which Delany Green has read, either.) This is not to say that sf can’t be formally experimental — I’m not sure there’s much possible in sf that isn’t possible in other kinds of fictions, although I’m comfortable with the idea that there are approaches to which sf is particularly well-suited. But to the extent that sf can be described as inherently experimental fiction, I would say it’s almost never experimental as an end in itself; it experiments with the world, and any experimentation with the conventions of fiction will be a consequence of that. Or to put it another way, sf stories won’t often look like experiments, because the point is the subject.

Welcome to the Internet

Two interesting contributions to the ongoing bloggers-vs-newspaper-critics debate in the Guardian today, by Peter Bradshaw and Dorian Lynskey — interesting not so much because they advance the debate, but because they show evidence of understanding the nature of the debate in a way that most other contributors from the professional side (*cough*) haven’t managed. To all intents and purposes, Bradshaw even comes out in favour of slapfights:

This paper’s Comment Is Free and Arts & Entertainment sites regularly get a massive reaction to their featured blogs. Many believe readers will offer critics and journalists measured, friendly qualifications to their pieces. They will write: “Mmm, yes, but have you considered …” To which we will reply: “Mmm, yes, you could be right about …” And so a wonderfully civilised post-Blairite conversation will ensue. I wonder. There’s nothing very civilised about a lot of the posting happening now; it’s more like a shouting match-cum-punchup. And that’s why it’s often so entertaining. There is something about the Mmm-yes-but theory of the blog that is quite disquieting. Even if it became a reality, it could result only in hesitant journalism, bland criticism and writing that is predisposed to dull consensus.

[…]

The web and blogging have hugely increased the scope for such debates. The critic is finding that the newly empowered bloggers do not share his or her opinions about the new film, play or book, and especially his or her high opinion of him- or herself. So critics must sharpen their wits, clarify their opinions – and, just as importantly, get a sense of humour about themselves.

Lynskey has more reservations — and seems to assume that the rough-and-tumble on the Guardian blogs is representative of all blogs, which I don’t think is true; it’s possible to have extensive, lively, and intelligent discussions, such as those that often take place on Making Light or Whatever — but he still thinks (I think) that, on balance, the web is a good thing:

There is an appetite for genuine debate on the web, but it is often drowned out by the howling of people who seem to regard the very existence of professional critics as an outrageous affront. The subtext is this: anyone can be a critic, so anyone who has the temerity to be paid for the privilege deserves to be put in the stocks.

This is just one front in a wide-ranging battle between the blogosphere and so-called old media. In an ideal world, there should be room for both print critics and online ones, with plenty of overlap between them. Good writing is good writing, wherever it appears. But the campaign is in its early days and there are several years’ worth of grievances to thrash out before a peace treaty can be agreed.

[…]

With time and luck, the good will out and the bad will lose the chips from their shoulders; or, failing that, find something better to do with those slow periods at work. Until then, at least, every critic knows that it is always better to be read than ignored. No amount of abuse at the foot of a blog is quite as disheartening as the dread phrase: “Comments (0)”.

Philip K. Dick Shortlist

And so it begins: via Jeff Vandermeer, the shortlist for the 2006 Philip K. Dick Award “for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States”:

Mindscape by Andrea Hairston (Aqueduct Press)
Carnival by Elizabeth Bear (Bantam Spectra)
Spin Control by Chris Moriarty (Bantam Spectra)
Catalyst by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Tachyon Publications)
Recursion by Tony Ballantyne (Bantam Spectra)
Idolon by Mark Budz (Bantam Spectra)
Living Next-Door to the God of Love by Justina Robson (Bantam Spectra)

I’ve read three — the Ballantyne, the Budz, and the Robson — all of which are fun, but of which Living Next-Door to the God of Love is the best by a country mile. I’ve heard mixed things about the Bear, the Hairston and the Hoffman, although Carnival is already on my TBR-pile and I’d like to give Mindscape a go. Pointing out omissions is trickier, since (from this side of the pond) I don’t always have a good sense of what was published as a paperback and what wasn’t; but I’m a bit surprised to see nothing at all from Pyr.

Happy New Links

What Kind Of Year Has It Been?

I like lists. This will probably not come as a surprise. But when it comes to the time for end-of-year roundups, I’m like a kid in a candy store: I like reading everyone’s lists, I like arguing with them, and I like composing my own. A large part of the reason I keep track of what I read, sad to say, is so that I can summarise it at the end of the year in a post like this. This time (admittedly, by request), I even made graphs. Look on my works, ye less geeky, and despair.

Although this year the portrait of 2006 that I can offer is even more partial than usual. That’s not to say I don’t have a portrait in my head, but I am currently a judge for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and will not be talking about eligible books, although I’m including them in my summary stats; which means that everything mentioned below is either (a) not fiction, (b) not science fiction, (c) not a novel, (d) not published in the UK, (e) not published in 2006, or (f) some combination of (a) to (e). (There were also a fair few fantasy novels submitted. I’m not going to talk about those, either.) Since I’m about to blind you with numbers, I should also say that my totals don’t include books that I didn’t finish (over a dozen, this year) or haven’t yet finished (some books, such as anthologies or collections of essays, I tend to read in small chunks over longish periods of time, unless I’m reading them for review). I’m going to talk about collections and anthologies that I have finished, but not (in this post) about individual short stories. And one final consequence of having read a large number of published-in-2006-books that I wouldn’t otherwise have read means that there is a substantial pile of such books that I would otherwise have read but haven’t: off the top of my head, it includes Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, James Morrow’s The Last Witchfinder, Margo Lanagan’s Red Spikes, Jo Walton’s Farthing, Charles Stross’ Glasshouse, John Clute’s The Darkening Garden, and Stephen Baxter’s Resplendent. And I haven’t finished M. Rickert’s debut collection Map of Dreams, either, although it seems obvious that it’s one of the best books of the year.

So, all of that said, what did I read?

I finished 84 books in 2006, up from 64 in 2005; of these, 56% were novels, 18% were non-fiction, 15% were collections, 6% were standalone novellas, and 5% were collections of comic strips or graphic novels. I read at a relatively consistent rate throughout the year — the peak in April coincides with a reading holiday; the lesser peaks in January, July, September and December largely coincide with either other holidays or business trips where I could read on the flights — and I marked 44 titles as particularly worth reading. Bear in mind that although my reading was heavily skewed towards recent titles — only a quarter of the books I read were published before 2002 — this is a snapshot of what I read in 2006, not the best books published in 2006 per se. The demographics (for want of a better word) of my reading were more or less what you’d expect, based on my natural tendencies being amplified by Clarke submissions —

— which is to say that 82% of the books I read were sf (in the broadest sense) or sf-related, 82% were fiction (although that’s actually a higher percentage of non-fiction than in some previous years), 69% had the names of male writers or editors on the cover, and 57% had the names of UK-based writers or editors on the cover.

For those of you whose eyes haven’t glazed over yet, this is where I start talking about specific titles, although I won’t pretend I’m going to mention everything. The Rickert aside, the best collection of short stories I read — old or new — was Jeffrey Ford’s second, The Empire of Ice Cream. It’s a book in which almost every story is a highlight: not just the ones that everyone knows, like “The Empire of Ice-Cream” and “The Annals of Eelin-Ok“, but also the stories from more out-of-the-way venues, such as “The Beautiful Gelreesh” (I can’t decide whether the ending is a closed door or a slingshot; either way it’s wonderful) and “Summer Afternoon” (which spins off from Henry James’ famous phrase in an irresistably playful manner), as well as the long original novella, “Botch Town”. Two other new collections that I finished in 2006 were particularly notable, although neither was of quite such sustained brilliance. Past Magic, the third collection by Ian R. Macleod (a writer not dissimilar to Ford in a number of ways) was delayed for months but eventually snuck in under the end-of-year wire, and displayed its author’s strengths and weaknesses in roughly equal measure; with stories like “Nina-With-The-Sky-In-Her-Hair”, “Returning”, and “Nevermore”, however, the good far outweighs the bad. Similarly, if some of the stories in Theodora Goss’ much-anticipated debut, In The Forest of Forgetting, were too self-aware and mannered to breath, the majority — and particularly the graved-by-time fairytales and folk myths — were beautifully balanced.

The older collections I read ranged from the superb (Maureen McHugh’s Mothers and Other Monsters, although it perhaps presents a slightly distorted picture of her as a writer, and arguably the two stories-that-later-became-novels don’t justify their hefty page count) through the good (China Mieville’s Looking for Jake) and the mixed (Margo Lanagan’s White Time, which isn’t a patch on Black Juice; Sonya Taaffe’s Singing Innocence and Experience, which includes a number of richly beautiful, often melancholy tales, but also plenty that don’t quite work; Geoff Ryman’s Unconquered Countries, which includes the extraordinary title novella and the powerful dystopia “O Happy Day”, but also the badly-dated “Fan” and the frankly baffling “A Fall of Angels” — and I’ve said it before, but a more comprehensive collection of Ryman’s short fiction is long overdue) to the downright terrible (the less said about Mike Resnick’s Kirinyaga the better, I think). I didn’t read enough anthologies in 2006 — or at least didn’t finish enough, since I’m still dipping into (and enjoying) Pete Crowther’s Forbidden Planet and David Moles and Susan Marie Groppi’s Twenty Epics — but as you may have gathered, I liked Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s Salon Fantastique a good deal; and whatever my reservations about the argument it presents, the James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel-edited slipstream anthology, Feeling Very Strange, is at least composed almost entirely of home-run stories.

My non-fiction reading, like my fiction reading, was heavily sf-driven, although the best non-fiction book I read in 2006 — which was, of course, Julie Philips’ biography of Alice Sheldon — should be read by everyone, sf fan or not. (Although you may want to hang on for the paperback, which is apparently going to include additional photos and examples of Sheldon’s artwork.) The other book I’d have no hesitation in recommending to anyone is Jan Morris’ A Writer’s World. It’s a collection of Morris’ travel writing spanning the second half of the twentieth century, and remarkable in many ways, from the simple grace and clarity of its prose, to the portrait of the world it offers: arguably it’s as interesting as a historical text as it is as travel writing, because by virtue of the fact that it’s defined by both geography and time, it is frequently less parochial than the stories you think you know of the period it covers. It’s fascinating to watch the past turn into the present, and there’s something in the way Morris captures pre-millennial fever — “Everywhere people were similarly disturbed, with the same sense of rudderless betrayal. There was something febrile in the air of the world, like the start of a fever” — that resonates strongly with such intensely of-the-moment novels as William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, or Simon Ings’ The Weight of Numbers (for which see below). I don’t usually read much travel writing, but A Writer’s World is a book that has sent me seeking more — although so far, at least, with mixed results.

My other nonfiction recommendations are more idiosyncratic, although I doubt there are many people reading this who would not be charmed by Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris, a slender collection of witty essays about all things bookish. Mention the problem of merging libraries — or the simple instruction SIR, YOU MUST NEVER DO THAT TO A BOOK — to anyone familiar with the book and watch them wince in recognition. Anyone who aspires to write anything intelligent about sf, meanwhile, should seek out The Issue at Hand and More Issues at Hand, two compilations of (mainly) review-essays by James Blish (writing as William Atheling Jr) which are frequently trenchant and infuriating, and as frequently entertaining and devastatingly perceptive: for me they even eclipse Damon Knight’s In Search of Wonder as exemplary introductions to sf criticism. And once you’ve digested those (there’s a third volume of Atheling, The Tale That Wags The God, but I haven’t finished it yet and it seems less even), you could do worse than to move on to Farah Mendlesohn’s festschrift for John Clute and Judith Clute, Polder. I’m not quite as effusive about the book as I was when I first read it, but it’s still true to say that it features a high proportion of strong essays (those by Bruce Sterling, Gary K. Wolfe, Paul Kincaid and Graham Sleight are particularly good) about not just the Clutes, but the practice of sf criticism in general — plus at least two excellent original stories, by Pamela Zoline and Sean McMullen.

Looking at my novel reading, I find that I only read half a dozen novels published in 2006 that were not eligible for the Clarke Award. On the upside, the hit rate was satisfyingly high. Two were major non-sf novels by writers better known for their sf. Simon Ings’ dazzling The Weight of Numbers is a story woven into the mesh of the second half of the twentieth century; as Abigail Nussbaum noted in her review, it can be read as an exploration of the limits of reason, and as a thundering broadside against the assumptions of genre sf (indeed, I would argue that for sf-familiar readers it demands to be read as such, and not just because it features an eccentric organisation modeled after the SF Foundation). But there is much more to the novel than that: characters whose struggles against a world turning inevitably into the present are absorbing even when they’re infuriating; stories that grip; and writing that is, sentence by sentence, simply very good. Geoff Ryman’s The King’s Last Song is not much less ambitious, being a portrait of past and present-day Cambodia, and perhaps more heartfelt: the sixty-page segment set in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Khmer Rouge is powerful, while — miraculously — not descending into cliche or easy sentiment. But it’s not quite as comprehensively impressive as the Ings. Nor is David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green an unqualified success — it feels, in retrospect, just a little lightweight, although Mitchell’s command of voice is as impressive as ever, and it’s a fascinating book when looked at as a marker in his continuing career.

Back in the genre, I am no less impressed by Peter Watts’ Blindsight now than I was when I first read it. Watts’ depiction of characters who have internalised the language and paradigms of science — whose psyches are shaped by the operations of science — is as impressive as that of any writer this side of Greg Egan, and the remorseless logic of his novel’s central premise more than compensates for any brief moments of impenetrability (arguably, in fact, such moments are a demonstration of fidelity, of commitment to his argument). Not nearly on the same level, but not un-worthwhile, are Mark Budz’ Idolon and Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora; both struggle to own their generic components in the way that Watts manages so effortlessly, but at the very least both succeed simply as engaging yarns.

Lynch’s novel is, of course, his first; a nontrivial chunk of the older books I read were also lauded first novels (the genres of the fantastic are nothing if not relentlessly neophilic), a number of them by names already mentioned above. So, travelling back in time, we have David Marusek’s restless, information-dense Counting Heads (roll on his debut short story collection later this year, I say); Johanna Sinisalo’s lively examination of sexuality and gender identity, Not Before Sundown; Ian R. Macleod’s mesmerising exploration of faith and purpose, The Great Wheel; Maureen McHugh’s moving, meandering China Mountain Zhang; and Geoff Ryman’s (him again) exuberant if undisciplined The Warrior Who Carried Life.

Of the remaining books on my list, the one that most demands to be noted is Ali Smith’s The Accidental, deserved winner of the Whitbread Novel of the Year Prize (and, in all honesty, probably the book that should have won both the Orange and Booker prizes). Almost a full year after I read it, my memories of the book are fresh and vivid, from the characters (particularly, of course, the precocious Astrid) to particular phrases and sentences (“Believe me. Everything is meant”) to the breathtaking energy and invention of the telling. If there is one writer whose back-catalogue I want to investigate further in 2007, it’s Ali Smith (if there’s a second, it’s Ian McDonald, but I’ve been saying that for a while). Too many other much-anticipated books, however, failed to live up to their billing: David Mitchell’s Number9Dream and Christopher Priest’s The Prestige are perfectly adequate, but both writers have done better before and since; Octavia E. Butler’s last novel, Fledgling, is curiously dry, succeeding more as thought experiment than story; similarly, Alastair Reynolds’ Pushing Ice is as average as the other novels I’ve read by him (though I have both his 2006 short story collections — Galactic North and Zima Blue — and look forward to getting stuck into them); Scott Westerfeld’s So Yesterday is fun enough, but far too thin to induce me to pick up his other books (although I’m looking forward to the second novel of another YA writer I encountered in 2006, Frances Hardinge, with no small anticipation); and we will draw a discreet veil over Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s 9TailFox.

There were other books, but I think at this point I’ve gone on long enough. Can I say what kind of year it has been? Only in a very limited sense: although the vast majority of my reading came from a quite narrow slice of the literary spectrum, 2006 felt like a diverse and diffuse year. But to the half-dozen books I was most impressed by in my personal reading — The Empire of Ice-Cream, James Tiptree Jr, A Writer’s World, The Weight of Numbers, Blindsight and The Accidental — I could probably add another four or five of similar calibre from the Clarke dark matter, and that’s not nothing. Coming soon: posts about films and short stories, although probably without graphs — and of course, I need to start working on my lists for 2007.

Vector #250

Ken Slater sent me Vectors 41, 42 and 43 when I was asked to do this article and it all came flooding back to me.

I was the Secretary of the BSFA. We had a new Publications Officer, Steve Oakley, and review books and money were sent to him. Heh lived about 20 miles from me, but he had romantic problems (his mother refused to speak to me, as I had introduced the lady in question), and I don’t believe Vector ever came out during his tenure. In fact, he went off to university in the autumn. I had applied for and got a job in charge of a legal department, and was attending evening classes studying law, when Ken rang me about the non-appearance of Vector.

I arranged to go over to Wisbech, and we had a committee meeting. We decided that Ken and I would jointly edit Vector until the AGM at Easter, and Ken gave me a load of stencils (remember them?) which I took home to type. We had no material, so I wrote to Dan Morgan, Ted Tubb, Chris Priest (who was also auditor, and wanted to know whether we had any money), Ken Bulmer and Phil Muldowney.

Then the fun started. Ken typed his own stencil — no spelling errors — and I typed the rest. We got in touch with Phil Rogers (the Chair) and all me at Ken’s on Saturday. Phil turned up late in the afternoon to find Joyce and I stood there, duplicating. Ken had a really old Roneo, and on every fourth page it got stuck and destroyed the paper. We stood on our feet from 10am to 4pm. When the men appeared we had something to eat, and I remember getting very drunk that night and motoring back to Deeping St James with all the papers, envelopes given to me by Ken, and money for postage from Phil.

We were pleased with theh outcome, and carried on for Vector 42 and 43. You ought to read those Vectors get the flavour of them.

In the meantime Ken and I were meeting weekly (with Joyce, of course) and spent hours trying to think how to make the BSFA safer. Phil sometimes joined us, staying late on Saturdays — but never overnight, as he had a regular Sunday appointment. We expected there was a lady involved, but later when I married Phil (in 1972) and asked him, he just smiled and said he never kissed and told.

I was working, as I said, in a legal office. I was in charge of Probate; there was a company solicitor, Danny, in the same office who went all over the world forming companies. It was office policy that all solicitors and clerks had to do a certain amount of conveyancing. Danny hated conveyancing, though, and asked me to do it for him. I agreed, or the condition that he would help me. I explained all about the BSFA, and whether it would be feasible to form a Limited Company with shares. He said now, and explained to me about a Limited Company by Guarantee, which was one of the options that had been suggested by Ken. Whilst looking into this question, of course, we were still producing Vector as before; Trish (aged 9) was proofreading and helping me to assemble the pages, which we then stapled and posted. Ken and I had such good support — although of course not everyone was pleased with our efforts.

In the meantime, I was also studying for my examis, which I took in February (and passed), and approaching authors, publishers, etc. to ask whether, if the company was formed, they would become Directors. I asked everyone from Edmund Crisping to Brian Aldiss.

We decided to enact the change by referendum, and not at the AGM. There was a lot of approval, and a lot of opposition — some of the loudest from Peter Weston, who refused to become a member. I was surprised and hurt, as we had become […] good friends — it wasn’t until I read With Stars in my Eyes that I understood we were at cross-purposes. Peter thought I wanted to break up fandom; I wanted science fiction to be recognised and respected as a genre, but not at the expense of the breakup of fandom. I thought fandom was a vital part of science fiction.

We formed the company before November when the law was changed. (After forming BSFA Ltd., the company solicitor made me form another company for the theatre he’d started in Peterborough.)

I don’t remember who took over Publications. We never saw Steve again. I carried on for a few years, but after a time, with other things on my mind, my membership lapsed, and I haven’t seen Vector for years. I’m sure it isn’t typed on stencils any more.

What energy and what fun we had in those days! Terry Pratchett said recently that there are no old people, just young people looking around and saying “what happened? Where did the time go?” I couldn’t agree more.

Doreen Parker [Rogers]

In 2006, it is perhaps difficult for people who have grown up in a culture where science fiction images and references are splashed all over the place to understand what it was like in the days when sf readers were a comparatively small group, when the racks in general bookshops were not overflowing with trilogies with individual volumes the size of house bricks. Star Wars, Blake’s Seven and various other things were beginning to generate a new wave of popular interest in visual sf, and Dr Who had not entered its long hiatus at that point, but readers were still, on the whole, very isolated from one another, and I wanted the BSFA to put them in touch with one another. I also wanted to break down what I considered to be very narrow definitions of science fiction, the ABC — Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke — approach, with a little H for Heinlein thrown in for good measure. SF was undergoing its most radical transformation since the New Wave of the 1960s, with the arrival on the scene of William Gibson’s Neuromancer in 1984, and I wanted to challenge people to read widely, think about speculative fiction, not just science fiction. In Matrix I listed anything that looked as though it might have some sort of vaguely fantastical component — magical realism was particularly flourishing at that time, I recall, alongside cyberpunk — and did not simply focus on the output of the sf publishers. Paul Kincaid was taking a similar approach material reviewed in Vector. Soon enough, the Clarke Award would begin its eclectic odyssey to explore the boundaries of sf. What I enjoyed then, still enjoy now, is to find a book in an unlikely place, or from an unexpected publisher, and think ‘yes, this isf’, whatever the author and/or publisher might thing. It’s like prospecting.

I don’t know if any of us at that point actually started a revolution; I don’t think we effected any kind of reconciliation between two sf cultures. I’m not even sure there was a revolution that needed starting, or a reconciliation thaht needed to be made. Twenty years is enough time to realise that what goes around, comes around. Something becomes important for a while, then something else arises to take its place. I freely admit I glaze over when the discussion turns to Buffy but I will be there with bells on when the discussion turns to text again. The most important thing any of us has done, still does, is to stoke the fire, keep the discussion going, and make sure there is a place for it to keep going; one way or another the BSFA has been doing that since 1958 (the year before I was born) and keeps on doing so.

Maureen Kincaid Speller