Friday 29 November 2013


I’ve never really been a listy person. You know what I mean by listy people. At least I hope you do; if you think I’m talking about people who always walk about with their bodies a good few degrees out of the perpendicular then perhaps we should start again.

My mother was always making lists. Writing stuff down and ticking things off. It’s not something that I ever really saw the benefit of as a youngster. Organization was never a priority in school as I was always just smart enough to successfully wing it if I ballsed up the prep. As you get older you find that, while going in unprepared is still on occasion possible, it’s generally fairly noticeable in professional environments and is not looked upon as kindly. So I started making lists out of necessity. Means to an end and all.

I still tried to keep them out of my private life though. It’s not that I don’t like goals, so much as often as not I felt they were constricting rather than motivating. You might well argue that this just means I was picking the wrong goals. And you’d be right. Now I’ve got kids and almost no time for myself, effectively prioritizing what little time I do have is pretty much essential. This blog, in point of fact, was born and continues to exist largely as a proof-of-principle regarding imposing a bit of structure on my free time, hence the slightly slavish adherence to the thrice weekly posting schedule at the frequent expense of quality control. I’d apologize but it’s my blog and frankly it’s more important that it works for me than for you. Means to an end, again.

So lists, and list-like challenges: not really my thing but they serve a purpose, and a purpose that’s increasingly important to me. Which brings me, kinda sorta, to this year’s SF Experience, which is quite explicitly Not a Challenge. Hosted by the fragrant and charming Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings it’s basically just an excuse to make some connections with new people about a shared interest, and that’s far more interesting that trying to do X amount of things in Y amount of time. In that spirit I thought I’d share some of my loose, tentative plans with anyone who’s interested.

Firstly, there’s that Culture re-read I mentioned. The tragic death of Iain M Banks lends the whole enterprise an elegiac air which is not what I’d have wished for, because I think any sense of gravitas would be wholly inappropriate, don’t you? Anyway, I’ll be working through the Culture books in order of publication, one a month, which means come January I’ll kick-off with Consider Phlebas.

More generally, the physical and digital piles of books waiting to be read have reached frankly ridiculous heights. That’s not a metaphor. So in terms of SF the next couple of months may involve one, none, or more of the following –

iD – Madeline Ashby
We See a Different Frontier – Fabio Fernandes, Djibril al-Ayad (eds)
Seoul Survivors – Naomi Foyle
Empty Space – M. John Harrison
The Uninvited – Liz Jensen
The Boys from Brazil – Ira Levin
The Best of All Possible Worlds – Karen Lord
Usurper of the Sun – Housuke Nojiri
2312 – Kim Stanley Robinson
We – Yevgeny Zamyatin

After overindulging last year it’s unlikely I’ll get round to them all within the timeframe of the SF Experience (until the end of January, since you ask). The idea of wrapping up the Kefahuchi Tract trilogy that got started last time around has a neat circularity to it, so I’ll probably get to Empty Space at some point, but other than that I’ll read stuff as the mood takes me. As ever though I’m open to recommendations and suggestions.


  1. I like my science fiction, but clearly do not have the afición you have. I can say you must read 'We', yes. It stands on its own, but if you know just a bit about the time and place it was written it stands the taller. Of the rest I've read recently: 'Stalker' and 'Solaris'. Especially 'Solaris'. One of the few TNG episodes which paid any respect to the alieness of aliens was 'The Ensigns of Command'. Though impressive for American network television, not even the shadow of 'Solaris'.

    1. You've mentioned Solaris before. I think I really might have to track that one down.

      "Impressive for American network television" has to be the most qualified term of praise I've heard in a long time...

    2. Do not expect an easy read. It's a lot of interior monologue, conceptualizing, and the author dismissed the translation into English, via French, as poor; and yet it makes the world building of the rest of SF seem infantile.

  2. Fragrant, eh?...I knew I should have showered last week...

    You have certainly hit this 'experience' on the head, it really is all about connections and discovering good books, or those to avoid.

    We is a book I stumbled across at the bookstore many years ago, picked it up on a whim, and was most impressed.

    I have yet to read Ian Banks but I am determined to get to Consider Phlebas sometime in the next year if I don't before this one ends.

    I'm reading the Karen Lord book right now, one of those half-started books I hadn't gotten around to finishing because of my bad reading habits.

    1. Fragrant is good. At least it wasn't 'malodorous' ;)

      I think Consider Phlebas is on a few people's lists this year as well. I'm doing my best to gently nudge them towards some sort of coordination.

      That's two votes for We as well now. Looks like that's definitely going to feature as well. Might be hard to hold off until January.

      Thanks for hosting, as ever.

  3. I've had a tendency to start series during Carl's Experiences, and then finish them for the same Experience the following year...there is a nice roundness to it, and sometimes I need the Experience to remind me to get back to series! I hope you have fun with yours. :)

    1. I'm doing that right now. Just read the second book in Alex Scarrow's Ellie Quin series, which I started last SF Experience, and tonight picked up Andromeda's Choice, the sequel to Andromeda's Fall which I read in Jan. this year for the Experience.

    2. I'm about 1/3rd of the way through Empty Space right now. He really knows how to turn a sentence, I'll say that for him. I've got a couple more middle or concluding volumes on the pile (iD is the second of a duology I think), but no series lined up to start. I'm open to recommendations, as ever :)