Saturday, 16 November 2013

Sci-fi, Sex, & Pirates

It's been a long time since I posted any book reviews and I have a lot to catch up on.
Better make a start then.

L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future Volume I edited by Algis Budrys (1985)
 - Writers of the Future Volume VIII edited by Algis Budrys (1992)
 - Writers of the Future Volume IX edited by Dave Wolverton (1993)
Ignore the name L. Ron Hubbard. Let's put that aside for now. Writers of the Future is a contest, now in its 20th year and 28th volume, for amateur writers of science fiction and fantasy. It is free to enter, and pays out large prizes, as well as publishing the winning entries of each quarter of the competition. Each book contains a wide variety of story styles and themes, some of then extremely well written and very memorable, and some not so much. It has a sister contest - Illustrators of the Future - whose winners get to illustrate the published stories of the writing contest winners. I was wondering just how many of the writers and illustrators have gone on to find fame with their publishing, when I came across an illustration for a 1993 story called 'Winter Night, With Kittens' illustrated by 17 year old Shaun Tan, recent winner of the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for his contribution to children's literature, and one of my favourite illustrators. Other winners, of both contests, have also gone on to become relatively big names within the science-fiction and fantasy field. These are books that are definitely worth reading, and that remain popular, in spite of the controversy surrounding Hubbard.

The Encyclopedia Shatnerica by Robert Schnakenberg
If you're a fan of Shatner, or of the original Trek series, then this is a book that you'll probably want to read. Alphabetised and cross-referenced, with Shatner's various works coded and rated, this book takes a humorous tone in discussing a subject who has been laughed at throughout his career. I read it through, from  Acting to Zmed, but it very much suits being dipped into here and there in order to pull out a few random Shat Facts to impress your friends.

New Legends edited by Greg Bear
"New Legends is literally state of the art", shouts the back cover of this collection of science-fiction stories. It's not wrong. Editor Greg Bear wanted this collection to have 'great soul', and in this, and in the quality of the writing and the stories, he was successful. There are no dud stories here, nothing chosen to fill a gap or pad a publisher's requirement. Each tale is powerful and unique. A better science-fiction anthology I have yet to come across. (Yes, it was published in the 90s. I'm a little behind in my reading!)

"Science fiction has always been powerful and important in our society. It is the only form of literature that clearly and consistently criticizes the Western paradigm... Science fiction has never been completely pro-science or progressive." - Greg Bear in his introduction to this anthology.

Where is the Pirate's Treasure? Usborne Solve It Yourself
Really aimed at children, you follow the clues in the text and pictures in order to solve a mystery. Good fun on a rainy afternoon.

Cybersex edited by Richard Glyn Jones
Some intelligent tales in this collection of 'aliens, neurosex and cyborgasms'. Not merely gratuitous erotica, these stories examine ideas of what sex might be like in a range of possible futures. What if we built female androids to use as prostitutes? What if the media made us so insecure about sex that we couldn't enjoy it at all? What if virtual-reality internet plug-in sex became a reality? What if... and so on. This won't be for everyone, but between the frivolous and the thoughtful it's not a bad read.

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