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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this third episode of male science fiction writers in alphabetical order I’m looking at Michael G Coney. Never heard of him? That’s not my problem. He embodies the idea that you don’t need to be a science person in order to write good science fiction, Coney started his working life as an accountant.
He’s only written a handful of novels but many short stories have come from his fingers and so many of them have been published in anthologies. His first novel, Mirror Image, reminds me somewhat of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick. In Mirror Image you have amorphs who are so good at passing as humans they think they really are human.
In looking for a ‘C’ author I pulled these three anthologies from my shelf yesterday and discovered Coney has a short story in all of them. If the list on Wikipedia is correct he’s written almost 70 short stories and had most of them published.
A writer to challenge people’s ideas, it’s good his skill was recognised before he died in 2005. He’s received a British Science Fiction Association Award for Brontomek, a Best Novelette Nebula Award and five Prix Aurora Award Nominations. Previous winners for the Nebula are Isaac Asimov so he would have received stiff competition.
Someone must think he’s important enough as today three of his novels are being published in a new publication. You can buy it here while Angus & Robertson have a number of his novels in epub form, here is Syzygy and Fang, the Gnome.
Not forgetting the linky so you can play along wherever you are.
Ruth Park and D’Arcy Niland are both Australian national treasures. You’ve probably read more by Park than Niland as she lived longer but both were equally good. Somehow they could take the quintessential Australian and put them into words. Niland’s The Shiralee is incredibly reminiscent of the Australian outback life, he spent much time observing these people while he was sheep shearing. Park was born in NZ but we won’t hold that against her and instead have adopted her as our own as she also writes very much about Australians. You’ve probably read Playing Beattie Bow or The Muddle Headed Wombat or even A Harp in the South which won her an award becoming her first published novel and shooting her to fame.
The Drums Go Bang is five years in the life of both Ruth Park and D’Arcy Niland. During this time they got married, spent time working in the outback; sheep shearing, cooking and just generally observing people. They also decided they would try to make a living out of writing so you get their trials and errors, their ups and downs and find out how many words they wrote per week. They had one typewriter between them so would alternate typing things up and writing on paper, I’m in awe of the amount of writing they did with just one typewriter.
Just to give you some idea of their writing before you click on the links below and buy their books to read (thereby giving me small amounts of commission) here is an extract from their book. Niland had a Webster’s dictionary he had great reverence for and carried it hither and yon, this extract gives you some idea of how he felt about it. Through this book Niland is referred to as ‘Evans’ while Park is ‘Tiger’ and his brother is ‘Gus’, we see a lot of his brother as they all live together for quite some time.
But Webster was really an ailing old man. Evans rescued him from a fate worse than the Old Tomes’ Home when he was invalided out of the Daily Telegraph reading-room. A parvenu Webster, all shiny and new, was procured, and Evans, then a copyholder, besought the head reader to let him take away the aged Webster and make the old gentleman’s last days more comfortable. At home, with glue, thread, and transparent paper he performed a surgical operation on the decrepit tatterdemalion, straightening his lordosis, healing the multiple lacerations, un-dogging his ears, and outfitting him with a new jacket. It was a week’s work carried out with infinite patience. Even so, the old boy was still not feeling the best, wobbly on his pins and a bit queer about the sacro-iliac. He had to take it easy, gentle handling was the thing. Any rough stuff and he was liable to have a breakdown. Evens trusted this lexicographic member of the walking wounded with no one.
I quite like how much care has been taken with Webster and how he’s been looked after as if he’s human. Note the style of writing, this is the way it is throughout the book with both authors being referred to in the third person so unless you read all their works carefully and do a thorough examination you won’t know who has written what.
Now, to the links. This book must be hard to find, it has my Dad’s name in the front so I suspect he had it as new and I’m struggling to find a new copy. Instead, here is The Shiralee and The Harp in the South, I’ve tried to choose cheap editions for you.
This is the second in a series of articles showing authors by alphabet. There’s many, many different ways I could showcase different authors and I’ve chosen to talk about male science fiction authors, seeing as I started with Isaac Asimov I figured I might as well. If someone doesn’t beat me to it I might follow up with female science fiction authors but that’s a long way into the future. I have some friends joining me on this journey so there will be a linky at the end for you to see all their blogs as well. They’ve chosen interesting alphabets…
James Blish was born in 1921 and died at a young age in 1975. He wrote at the same time as Asimov and had met him. Blish was also a scientist before he was a writer so his science will mostly hold up to scrutiny, in the photo you’ll see A Case of Conscience and in the Forward he talks about jettisoning Special Relativity in 2050, I probably won’t see if he’s right or not but younger people might.
He was a prolific early writer of Star Trek, writing from the scripts often before they were shot which might explain some inconsistencies as sometimes scripts change from writing to shooting. Blish is the author of Spock Must Die!
If you have another look at the photo you’ll see two books I took from my bookshelf. They must have been there a long time as I don’t recall reading them. They both have a book exchange stamp in them with sale prices of $1.45 and return price of 70c so that probably takes them back to the late 70s or early 80s. Don’t know why that’s important. What I do know is the James Blish is an important author and I’ll just have to find time to reread him.
The second book, A Torrent of Faces, is an anthology. One of the stories in it is The Shipwrecked Hotel, originally published in an abridged version in 1965. This story is about a semi-submerged hotel which suffers a massive computer failure due to some silverfish…yep, computer problems caused by a bug, nothing’s changed. I hope you can read the next image, it’s about a very early computer in 1945 that was having problems, they eventually found a moth caught inside leading to the word of ‘bug’ for having a software problem.
Here’s the linky.
I’ve been sitting on these thoughts for some months hoping I could stop disagreeing but it turns out I can’t. This article tells us we should segregate Indie published books from traditionally published books. The article is click bait, I totally understand that and I clicked just like so many others. The comments are interesting and people spend a bit of time arguing with the author of the article who is just rude in return. The bit I really found myself disagreeing with is this quote:
A few days ago, I wrote a piece about self-publishers not being considered real authors. You are only considered a real author if you can make your living solely from the book sales. If you can’t, you are merely a writer, which is still fine. The reason I wrote that post is the industry needs to define the good writers from the bad. The primary way we can do this is by sales figures; if authors make their living from publishing, they are often considered good writers. Once we can define a good writer from a bad, we can start to segregate them.
I know of so many ‘authors’ being published by traditional publishers who should never have been published who are making more than a full-time wage from their scribblings and then there are the indie authors who are publishing themselves with the help of Amazon or indie publishers who are fabulous writers but are making very little.
It all comes down to publicity and how good you are at promoting yourself. If you’re an indie author and lousy at promoting yourself you won’t get anywhere but if you’re good at promotion then you’ll go far. I’ve seen terrible indie writers (you’ll notice I’m using the word writer and author interchangeably as I disagree with Michael Kozlowski, the author of the article) sell reasonably well as they know how to use social media and show their confidence whereas other indie authors who are absolutely brilliant but have little idea of how to promote themselves sell very little.
It all comes down to needing to have more skills than just writing. If you don’t have a publisher to do most of the publicity for you then you have to do it yourself. If you’re not good at getting on the rooftops and shouting to the world then being the best author and having the best message won’t help you sell.
Skills you need (this is just the ones I have in the top of my head)
- Social Media
- Chutzpah and the ability to approach book shops, schools, libraries and whoever you can think of to get your name out there
- Public speaking
- Ability to speak to everyone in a group and singly
- Patient family and friends
If I were being nice I’d use the above list as headers and expand on most points but I’m still rather annoyed at Kozlowski for making the assumption of sales=author.