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O is for Fitz-James O’Brien

Who? I hear you say, and well you might. Fitz-James O’Brien seems to be a rather obscure author to me but according to all sources he’s considered a forerunner to modern science fiction, born in 1828 and dying in 1862 it puts him well before Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. I found him in the Webster’s Dictionary of American Authors as well as Wikipedia and found various sources of ebooks. If you do a quick search you’ll be able to read his works online, but I will give you links to buy three works as they look really good.

O’Brien was born in County Cork, Ireland with the first name of Michael but his family moved to Limerick when he was young, strangely enough he went with them. When he moved to the United States in 1952 he changed his first name to Fitz-James.

He wrote for a number of periodicals including Harper’s Magazine, Vanity Fair and the Atlantic Monthly. It was to the Atlantic Monthly he sent The Diamond Lens and The Wonder Smith. What Was It seems to have short stories with everything in speculative fiction except for science fiction.

As he had robots in his texts I do wonder how much influence he had on Isaac Asimov. I have done a little googling to try and check my theory but I think I’d something rather more detailed than the articles I found.

N is for Grant Naylor

Yes, I know this is Doug Naylor and Rob Grant, just deal with it. This writing duo write well separately but together they are dynamite. The Robert Llewellyn who played Kryten in Red Dwarf complained about the writing and how challenging it was to memorise as it was

so unique and so free of cliches that a long Kryten speech is very hard to learn.

When I have learned other people’s scripts, I have found there is usually a turn of phrase or a sentence structure that you recognize and you already have at your disposal. It’s therefore fairly easy to learn as you almost know it already, you only have to memorize it in order.

With Kryten talk, this is never the case. Rob and Doug will never use a hackneyed turn of phrase, they always come up with new ways of saying something.

a nice illustration from Robert Llewellyn’s autobiography The Man in the Rubber Mask. You know he married an Australian woman – Llewellyn, not Grant or Naylor.

I first came across Red Dwarf on TV when the kids were young and on their way to bed. The TV was on, I was walking past and there’s this strange show I didn’t get. Then comes season III and the screen showed some extremely strange stuff, I’m sitting there going ‘how did they do that?’ The episode was called Backwards and it needs to be seen to be believed before I knew I was a regular watcher eventually buying all the DVDs and books. The photos show what I have on hand, I seem to be missing some books as I’ve lent them out and they’ve not been boomerangs.


Three Red Dwarf books. All brilliant and although similar to the TV series as they have a similar idea and plot they are completely different. They are all well worth reading.


All the DVDs. If you look at Season IV you’ll find the characters doing a live cooking show, in character. I got asthma from laughing so much…tears rolling down my face. Beat the Geek is a Red Dwarf game signed by Norman Lovatt but it’s not mine.

Llewellyn and Charles

The Man in the Rubber Mask by Robert Llewellyn details his time on the Red Dwarf set and how hard it was to be fitted into his costume. The Log by Craig Charles is a bit bizarre and fits his character on Red Dwarf to a tee.


Buying time. Booktopia has Last Human for sale. Be careful when searching for Red Dwarf on Booktopia (or anywhere else) as you’ll get lots of hits, many of them scientific. The Man in the Rubber Mask, he’s written some other stuff but this is the best. Angus and Robertson have the whole set of DVDs, borrow from the video shop before buying the whole lot just in case you don’t like them. Angus and Robertson also have Fat by Rob Grant, a futuristic look at losing weight, I didn’t bring it off the shelf but I do have it, intriguing and thought provoking.

M is for George R. R. Martin

Who else would I do for M but our own George R. R. Martin? I did consider Michael Moorcock but I couldn’t find any of his books on my shelf and felt that was the deciding factor. I must have read some of Martin’s work over the years as he’s been published in Analog, Galaxy, Omni among other publications but I couldn’t find any on my shelf last night.

Game of Thrones 2: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

Game of Thrones 2: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

George R. R. Martin. Multitalented man, he’s written many books, short stories, TV scripts and edited many anthologies, some with Gardner Dozois and some without. He’s been criticised for spending such a long time between publishing books but I suspect very few people take into account the other work he’s doing. I’m sure even the multiskilled Martin can’t do two things at once and make each of them work well.

In print he’s affectionately known as GRRM and I discovered the hard way why we insist on putting R. R. into his name…there’s another famous George Martin who is an English Record Producer who has been made a Knight Bachelor and who is often considered the fifth Beatle due to his involvement on each of their albums. I’d like to suggest we knight GRRM for his involvement in the science fiction and fantasy world. He’s been the catalyst for other people to start reading speculative fiction and then start writing their own. He constantly makes himself available to fans: attending various conventions and signing books all over the world; he has a blog; is on Twitter and; has an author page on Facebook which only has 351.000+ likes.

Sir GRRM I salute you.

J is for Carl Richard Jacobi

I’ve got this fabulous book on my shelf which I’m not going to share with you today! I pulled it off the shelf to see if I could find someone for J, I’m excited to tell you I haven’t missed a letter yet…a day but not a letter.

Carl Richard Jacobi 1908 to 1997 began making money in his teens writing and selling his own dime novels to his fellow students at 10-cents a piece. He must have been good as before he graduated from the University of Minnesota majoring in English Literature he sold a story to a magazine for $50 having already sold stories for $25. Pity the magazine folded and he saw nothing of his $50.

Anyway, he continued writing and selling, sometimes not selling but continuing to write as a journalist. I’d say he must have been pretty good as I found his name in a list in this book I’m not telling you about yet.

Mary Elizabeth Counselman's 10 Favourite Weird Tales

Mary Elizabeth Counselman’s 10 Favourite Weird Tales

Mary Elizabeth Counselman was the queen of weird tales and wrote her top 10 in this book, you can see the photo above. She has this to say about Revelations in Black by Jacobi:

Carl’s vampire story hit me so hard, I later bound a tear-out of it from his paperback, exactly as his vampire’s evil book was described in the yarn.

Yes, Jacobi wrote science fiction but he was multi-skilled and wrote so much more. I’ve found an anthology in eformat of 19 of his short stories on Angus & Robertson edited by Clifford D Simak which you can purchase for the princely sum of 99c and make me heaps of money, possibly a few cents, anyway.

Authors I’ve met

Someone once asked me about authors I’ve met, it was a long time ago and I’ve since met more with some of them being brand new authors. These three stand out (I am going to link to some books from Booktopia here as I would like to make enough money to pay for my web hosting, or at the very least my domain name):

Anne McCaffrey

I met her back in the 1980s in Myer. I’m sure I’ve written about this before. Dad was in a bad way and trying to make him feel better when I saw McCaffrey signing books I stopped, bought two books and had her sign them both. Dad never told me what he thought, he really was in a bad way. My memory tells me McCaffrey was standing up behind a podium and there was no queue, a far cry from any more recent signings I’ve seen where the queue is much longer.

Books I recommend by her…any of her Dragonrider of Pern books and any in The Rowan series. Here’s Damia and The Rowan. Dragonsinger is one of my favourite as it shows how you can improve given the right conditions.

Terry Pratchett

You probably all know I’ve met Pratchett through the Australian Discworld Convention. I greeted him as he walked into the hotel in 2007 for the first convention and then inadvertently had breakfast with him for the third convention. My brain went stupid and I said some really silly stuff as always happens when I meet a luminary. If you’ve never read Pratchett I recommend you start with Hogfather, it’s an accessible entry into Discworld. I also suggest you look at the Good Omens page which doesn’t appear to list Pratchett as the author under the description despite him being a bigger author than Neil Gaiman.

Trudi Canavan

Can’t remember now if I’m sworn to secrecy as it was a few years ago. I was privileged to be able to sell Canavan some magazines. I’ve heard she’s a very good author and one day I’ll actually read her works but for the moment I’ll send you to the first book in the Millenium Rule series, Thief’s Magic.

H is for Lee Harding

Breathe, just breathe.

You know those days when you decide what you’re going to write about and then do the research? I almost freaked out when I was researching Lee Harding.

Harding, born in Colac, Victoria in 1937, so he’s a spring chicken compared to my cousin who died at 103, started writing at the age of eight purchasing his first typewriter at 12. Took a sabbatical from writing to start a freelance photography career, worked at Space Age Books in Melbourne where he recommenced his writing career and we’re so glad he did.

I read his short story Soul Survivors published in New Writings in SF-17 and was incredibly moved by it. Very skillfully written with a great deal of insight into human nature, it’s well worth tracking down a copy to read.

New Writings in SF-17

New Writings in SF-17. Published in 1970 with a dedication to crew of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing: Neil Armstrong; Col. Edwin Aldrin and; Col. Michael Collins.

Not only but also, Harding is a founding father of the second longest running science fiction club in the world, Melbourne Science Fiction Club (MSFC).

Another book that has passed my desk (unlike New Writings in SF-17 I can’t find it on my shelf) is Beyond Tomorow, an anthology of science fiction edited by Lee Harding. Here is a photo of it.

Beyond Tomorrow edited by Lee Harding

Beyond Tomorrow edited by Lee Harding

Beyond Tomorrow edited by Lee Harding, hard cover

Beyond Tomorrow edited by Lee Harding, hard cover

Actually, two photos as I happened to have both the paperback and the hardcover on my computer.

Mr Harding, should you happen to read these words, please don’t email me I might hyperventilate.

F is for Philip Jose Farmer

Philip Jose Farmer didn’t write easy material, his Riverworld series illustrates that to me. Based on a world fairly similar to our Earth but with an incredibly long river, everyone who has ever lived wakes up at the same time. We have historic figures, nameless people and everyone in between. The series has lots of adult themes with battles and rapes galore. One idea which really captivated my mind was that no-one can die, or rather you can, but you then wake up the next morning. Each person wakes up with a grail next to them which contains food, towels and other things, this is put on a grailstone which fills them up at certain times every day.

Some Riverworld titles from my shelf.

Some Riverworld titles from my shelf.

Many of his other works contain similarly challenging ideas. He was commissioned to write pornographic novels at one point and produced three of them. Some have sex with aliens or females with heightened libidos.

All-in-all, I strongly suggest Farmer was ahead of his time with his ideas. His writing is quite strong and I’ve always found his characters reasonably believable. In his Riverworld books you can find Richard Francis Burton, a real life adventurer who also wrote about his adventures. Thanks to Riverworld I’ve downloaded one of Burton’s books which I shall continue to attempt to read in due course, it’s written in 19th Century English, a language I shall struggle with for some time.

I’ve focussed more on Riverworld as I couldn’t get involved with the World of Tiers series, I did try but it didn’t capture me as Riverworld did.

Just some miscellaneous books, either Philip Jose Farmer or introduced by him.

Just some miscellaneous books, either Philip Jose Farmer or introduced by him.

Strangely enough, Farmer died only two months before I started writing this blog. The Dungeon shown in this photo was actually written by Bruce Coville who I know from My Teacher is an Alien series of books. The series is introduced by Farmer and the books are written by several different authors using the psyche, the themes and the philosphy of Farmers works rather than imitating his writing style or using one of his worlds.

Booktopia has a number of his books for sale. This omnibus has the first of the World of Tiers book, the first Riverworld book and a stand alone space opera. Strange Relations is one of his more controversial books.

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Friday Photos

Just a quick look at some of the photos of Diana Wynne Jones books I have on my computer.

Two totally different photos of Archer’s Goon, both have things to recommend them: the top one gives some idea of how the siblings were fighting over Howard; while the second one shows how big the Goon must have been and how much space he took up in their kitchen.

And the same with Black Maria. Two totally different covers which both represent part of the insides nicely.

As I’ve never met a Diana Wynne Jones book I didn’t like I wholeheartedly recommend any of her works as presents: Christmas, Channukah, Kwanzaa, whatever your reason. I can’t give you links for these particular books as none of my regular haunts seem to have them, very poor service there.


Archer’s Goon


Archer’s Goon

Black Maria

Black Maria


Black Maria


Cart & Cwidder

William B. Ellern

Looking for someone to write about I pulled an Analog at random from my bookshelf and then continued pulling more Analog magazines down until I found one with an author starting with E. When I started researching William B. Ellern I was promptly astounded to see what a find I had.

Ellern has a rather brief entry on Wikipedia which lists very few of his works. If you look at this first photo you’ll see the story that drew my eye. He’s got the front cover!

Analog April 1966

Analog April 1966

I can’t find much else by him except the Lensmen series. Yes. The Lensmen series by E. E. “Doc” Smith. The books I pan as I can’t stand space opera and couldn’t find any redeeming features. The books others consider absolutely fabulous. The Lensmen series that lost out to Foundation by Isaac Asimov for a Hugo Award. Yes, that Lensmen series. Apparently Ellern received permission from E. E. “Doc” Smith to write some additional Lensmen stories, receiving that permission only four days before Smith died unexpectedly. It was reprinted in the same magazine and just for proof here is a photo of that page.

E. E. "Doc" Smith gives permission to William B. Ellern to write additional Lensmen stories.

E. E. “Doc” Smith gives permission to William B. Ellern to write additional Lensmen stories.

I’m having trouble finding any other stories written by Ellern, Moon Prospector and the Lensmen series seem to be all he’s done. He is (or was as he’s currently 81 years old, a good age) a scientist having worked for a number of companies including Boeing.

I couldn’t find any of his books for sale on any of my usual haunts so you’re on your own, if you’re a friend of mine I might consider lending you my copy of Analog so you can read the story but I might not let you out of the house so you’ll have to read it here.

And if anyone wants to play along at home here’s the linky thingy.

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Samuel R. Delany

The fourth in the series of Alphabet of Authors, Delany is a youngster being only 72 this year. I found him in Webster’s Dictionary of American Authors from on my bookshelf. It’s a great book and you’ll hear read more about it at a later date. Today I’m looking at an entry on page 101, that of Samuel R. Delany.

Webster's Dictionary of American Authors

Webster’s Dictionary of American Authors

Besides being young, Delany writes about topics that could be seen as controversial but could also help some people. Some years ago I was given a list of books and asked to provide as many as possible, it was an interesting list mostly science fiction but with some fantasy and the theme was about gender change or sex with aliens. The reason behind the list was someone looking at gender change, someone looking to change their gender and hoping to find out as much as possible in a world that hadn’t explored it much until then. These books were the only books possible for research, there have been many books written about the topic since then as many people have changed genders and written about it but then it was a scarce subject.

Where’s the link between gender change and Delany? It’s a topic he’s written about, published in 1976 Trouble on Triton which you can buy (or just look at) on Booktopia. The main character undergoes a sex-change operation. Or Dhalgren published in 1975 about a young bisexual man searching for identity or even The Einstein Intersection published even earlier in 1967 which addresses issues of cultural development and sexual identity.

Delany was very much ahead of his time as these issues didn’t really become something to think about until after these books were published. I understand the 1960s and ’70s were a time of free sex and flower power and all that but he was still publishing these things with regular publishers before they became well known.

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I want to thank the Koolin people who have been guardians and caretakers of the area I live in for many thousands of years.