Catacomb Categories


S is for Olaf Stapledon

I picked Olaf Stapledon a few weeks ago when I came across his name somewhere and now I can’t remember where. I was already familiar with the name but can’t find anything on my shelves to back that up, I suspect I read his books in my dim, dark past when I wasn’t necessarily remembering the books I was reading with books borrowed from somewhere. Anyway, enough about me let me share a little of my research with you.

Stapledon, born in Cheshire, England in 1886. He was a philosopher and science fiction author, two fields which have some synchronicity in my mind, I’ve seen many science fiction authors philosophise about some of the inventions in their books and how they’d affect humanity.

He was writing early enough to be an influence on several prominent science fiction authors notably Arthur C Clarke (I happened to have started reading some of his short stories last night), Brian Aldiss and Stanislaw Lem.

During the last few years of his life he travelled extensively on lecture tours becoming the only Briton allowed a visa for the USA to visit New York for the Conference for World Peace in 1949. Not long after WWII is a very apt time for a conference of this nature, I do wonder how those conferences went, especially as the US and Russia were involved in a cold war at that time.

Some of his most noted works are Last and First Men, Starmaker and Odd John, this last title’s rights were snapped up in the 1960s with David McCallum slated to play the title role, it’s a pity it never happened. I’ve mentioned McCallum before with his roles in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and N.C.I.S.

How’s Andy Going? – Alan Marshall

How's Andy Going? by Alan Marshall

How’s Andy Going? by Alan Marshall

Alan Marshall is one of our national treasures, and if he isn’t he should be. He’s one author everyone should read as he’s written so much about Australian life. Born in 1902 in country Victoria he contracted polio at the age of six. He was put through the wringer with treatment and ended up on crutches, something that didn’t seem to hold him back much. You can read more about him in his fictionalised account of his life I Can Jump Puddles, it’s an awesome book and some day I’ll read the two sequels.

His life was an inspiration and he seems to have the knack of writing about people the way they were not the way we think they should be written. This book illustrates that perfectly. It’s a series of short stories and each one shows us Australians as they were in that time.

I loved these stories. The first one is called Tell Us About the Turkey, Jo and is about a young boy and his older brother. They’re talking to the narrator and telling him about the young boys adventures, making every tiny event seem bigger and more important as happens with young children.

The title story, How’s Andy Going? is about the author as a young boy after he’s been put on crutches. He still wants to race and he has a young friend who also wants to race so they create a race specially for them and crawl 100 yards. Andy is the younger brother of the friend and ends up joining in. I love how they constantly ask ‘How’s Andy going?’ all through the race despite having tried to leave him at home. I shouldn’t spoil the story and tell you he won, pipped at the post. You should still read the story as it’s all in the telling and not in the condensing.

I’m giving you a couple of links to Booktopia for buying. I Can Jump Puddles is a really important fictionalised autobiography as it tells us what it was like to get polio and how he coped with it. And here’s the Complete Stories of Alan Marshall, not sure how complete it is but at 512 pages it should have a decent number. Very enjoyable writing.

R is for E. F. Russell

I was thrilled to the back teeth when I found Eric Frank Russell last night, I’d never heard of him before but one of my favourite magazines was mentioned on his Wikipedia entry as Further Reading! They’re talking about an article by Jacob Edwards titled Overlooked: The Non-fiction of Eric Frank Russell. It’s a neat, little article talking about how Russell doesn’t give his viewpoint about anything in his science fiction but lets fly in his non-fiction books about such issues as mass hysteria, fear mongering and the like. They follow this up with a reprint of an article Russell wrote called Who’s That Knocking? talking about communication between different types of animals and would we actually recognise aliens talking to us if it happened?

Russell has been published in many pulp fiction magazines sometimes using different names so tracking all of his works down may be challenging.

He won the first annual Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1955 and has received two hall of fame awards since his death in 1978. John L. Ingham wrote a thorough and detailed biography of Russell in 2010 but I’m struggling to find a copy to link to for you.

His book A Present From Joe is also listed in a Further Reading list with such luminaries as Arthur C. Clarke, H. G. Wells and John Wyndham in Aspects of Science Fiction edited by G. D. Doherty. This is where I first saw his name and I felt he must be worthwhile as his is the only name in this list I’d never heard of, the theory is that he must be worth reading.



Vale Sir Terry Pratchett

Today has been a very sad day with the announcement of the death of Sir Terry Pratchett. I won’t write about his life or his death as so much has been written about him in so many places already.

It’s hit me harder than I expected. Tears are very close to the surface and telling myself he’s no longer suffering the vagaries of his mind doesn’t really help today but will in the future.

All the Discworld communities are reeling and sharing their grief. It will be a very different Convention in a few weeks as we come together to share more tears and console each other.

As head of Discworld in Victoria my team and I will endeavour to provide a time when we can get together to mourn and celebrate.

I’m pinching a little of Penguin Random House’s email announcement.

We ask that the family are left undisturbed at this distressing time.

A Just Giving page donating to the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) has been set up in his

If you’d prefer you can make a donation to Alzheimer’s Australia.

Q is for Thanas Qerama

I thought I’d have trouble with Q but I ended up with a choice of six authors! Refusing to do all of them I made a choice to do Thanas Qerama just because he’s an Albania author and it tickled my fancy to write about an Albanian author. Of course, I then struggled to find much information on him and I can’t find any of his books so I almost gave up but I perservered thanks to Google Translate!

Thanas Qerama was born somewhere in Albania on the 7th April 1945 and died on the 4th April 2004, a youngish man.

Science fiction is interesting in Albania. Yes, there was some science fiction there from the late 1960s but the first science fiction novels were published in 1978 and by 1991 there were only about a dozen of them with Qerama having written about five. I don’t know what it’s like now but it seems as if Qerama was a big deal in his country and if not, he will be seen to be such in due course when science fiction really takes hold.

This seems to be the best website showing his works. According to this list there are seven books! I’ve found nowhere selling his books and have no photos or drawings of him. I will be keeping an eye open from now on though!

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.

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I want to thank the Koolin people for their thousands of years of guardianship and caretaking of the area where I live.