Tag Archives: science fiction

My Ten Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels

by Robert I. Katz

First of all, I’ve been reading science fiction (I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction) since 1960. I very well remember the first thing that I picked up and read, other than a school assignment, just because I wanted to. I was about seven years old. It was comic book, something with a World War II submarine crew getting involved with dinosaurs. I loved it. The first actual book that I read, again, just because I wanted to read it, was At the Earth’s Core, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It had one of those wildly romantic Frank Frazetta covers. I saw it in the paperback rack at a local candy store and I wanted it. I was there with a cousin of my Father’s, who was nice enough to buy it for me, and I was hooked from that day. I was soon reading everything I could find by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and then Otis Adelbert Kline, Robert A. Heinlein, E. E. “Doc” Smith, John W. Campbell and a bunch of others. My tastes have perhaps grown more sophisticated as I’ve grown older but I still love all the books I read as a kid. Here now, my ten all time favorites:

  1. Courtship Rite by Donald Kingsbury: A nominee for the Hugo and the winner of the Compton Crook award, to me, this is the best science fiction novel I have ever read. The books concerns a lost civilization on the planet Geta, brought to their world in the distant past by a ship that is still in orbit, and is considered a “god” by Geta’s inhabitants. The people of Geta have pulled themselves up out of barbarism (mostly) but their world is lacking in resources and the local fauna and flora are largely poisonous. The book refers to the “sacred eight,” which are the eight foods surviving from Earth that can be eaten by the local populace. Among these are okra, wheat and bees. Since edible food is so scarce, the populace by necessity are cannibals. It is stated that those societies that rejected cannibalism have, in the end, starved to death. The specific plot concerns three brothers, their two wives and their search for a third wife to round out their family. They are challenged by their city’s leader to court one very famous, brilliant and rebellious woman, though they really desire a different and equally brilliant woman. Two different conspiracies to conquer the world are encountered and dealt with. The book is concerned with environmental principles and the needs of survival in a hostile world. It’s fantastic.
  2. Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch: The United States is involved in a war. The book’s protagonist, Louis Sachetti, has been imprisoned in a government run prison called Camp Archimedes, for reasons that are not made exactly clear but which seem to involve either draft resistance or just general resistance to the government. Camp Archimedes is a secret research facility where a mutated form of syphilis gives its victims unmatched intelligence and ultimately, inevitably kills them. A testament to the human spirit and the lengths to which dictatorial governments will go to have their way.
  3. Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks: The third in Banks’ celebrated Culture novels, and in my opinion the best. The Culture is a galaxy spanning civilization that possesses technology sufficient to satisfy every member’s material needs. They don’t use money because everything that they can possibly desire is at their fingertips. The protagonist is Cheradenine Zakalwe, an agent of the Culture who is employed by “Special Circumstances” to violently deal with wars and rebellions on backward planets in order to nudge them into more peaceful and less dictatorial ways, which works only part of the time. The book has two alternating plots, one going forward in time, the other backward, until they meet at the end of the novel, revealing a secret that puts Zakalwe’s life in an entirely different perspective. I loved it.
  4. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny: Zelazny, along with Samuel R. Delany, John Brunner, Michael Moorcock, Harlan Ellison and a few others, was a giant of the “New Wave” during the 1960’s and 1970’s. In this incomparable novel, a far-off colony of Earth is ruled by what appear to be the gods of the Hindu pantheon. In reality, the original colony ship’s passengers were mostly from India and the crew of the ship has assumed the aspect of the Hindu gods, with powers that seem to be partly innate but are largely machine enhanced. The protagonist is Mahasamatman, who prefers to be called Sam, a member of the crew who rebels against the other gods in an effort to bring freedom to the world. The plot of the book outlines Sam’s rebellion, success, failure and ultimate resolution. Fantastic, engrossing and absolutely brilliant.
  5. Dune by Frank Herbert: I hardly need to spend much time on this one, as it’s become increasingly famous over the years. The Atreides family has been given ownership of the planet Arrakis, or Dune, which produces “spice,” a substance that gives long life and enables navigators to guide interstellar ships. Paul Atreides must gain vengeance after his father, Leto, is betrayed and killed by the combined forces of the Emperor and the evil Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. An enormously entertaining pot-boiler that’s beloved by many generations of science fiction readers.
  6. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien: I was on a panel at a convention a few years ago when Jo Walton stated that Cyteen, by C. J. Cherryh, was the second best book ever written. I asked her what the best book was and she said, “The Lord of the Rings.” I won’t argue. I know that scholars and members of University English Departments despair over this book’s popularity, but I say, ignore them. Again, I don’t need to say much about the plot, since the book is almost universally beloved. Suffice it to say that the evil Sauron has fashioned a ring of power designed to bring other rings of power under it’s sway, and our heroes, primarily the hobbit, Frodo Baggins and Aragorn, son of Arathorn, descended from the kings of old, have to deliver the ring to Mount Doom and destroy it, or Sauron will rule the world.
  7. A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay: Guy Gavriel Kay at one point worked for Christopher Tolkien and assisted in editing The Silmarilion. He was also a fervent admirer of Dorothy Dunnett, the celebrated author of the Lymond Chronicles and the House of Niccolo series. Kay’s style is reminiscent of Dunnett’s, being florid, lyrical and erudite. In my opinion, A Song for Arbonne is his best book. It’s set in an alternate history world based on medieval Provence, where musicians and poets are prized as much as warriors. The protagonist is Blaise de Garsenc, a Northern mercenary, who becomes involved in a war between Arbonne’s two principal Dukedoms, and incidentally finds himself embroiled in a plot to claim the throne of his own distant nation.
  8. The Riddlemaster Triology by Patrical McKillip: Patricia McKillip writes lyrical, gem like prose and her books are often considered young adult, but this is a fantasy that belongs among the greats. The protagonist is Morgan, the Prince of Hed, a small and unimportant island, who is destined to return wizardry to the world and must confront “The High One,” who has usurped the other wizards’ powers. It’s a wonderful story with fully rounded characters that ends up just where the reader figures it should, but the journey is worth it.
  9. A Billion Days of Earth by Doris Piserchia: Doris Piserchia published perhaps a dozen novels in the 1970’s. I thought she was fantastic but somehow, her work never became very popular. A Billion Days of Earth is delightfully wacky. Set approximately three million years from today, humanity has evolved to become “gods” and rats have gained intelligence and call themselves “human.” The plot revolves around an amorphous being called Sheen that telepathically preys on other sentient beings and the efforts of a “human” named Rik to defeat it.
  10. In Conquest Born by C. S. Friedman: The tenth was a tough one. I was tempted to go with Jerusalem Fire by R. M. Meluch, but I recently re-read it and noted some plot inconsistencies that I had not remembered. I might have included Isle of the Dead, by Roger Zelazny, but I already have a Zelazny book and I know that some other authors do not share my fondness for this one. In the end, I’ll go with In Conquest Born, by C. S. Friedman. In this book, humanity is divided into two warring races, the Azeans and the Braxi. Azeans prize uniformity and peace. The Braxi are almost insanely aggressive and warlike. Over the centuries, there have been long intervals of peace but sooner or later, the Braxi always renew the war. The plot has two protagonists: Anzha, General of the Azeans and Zatar, General of the Braxi. The book revolves around numerous interconnecting plots, stratagems and counterplots, as these two come to be obsessed by the war and by each other. Both are outcasts from their own culture and it is part of the tragedy that, in the end, each is best understood by their most dedicated enemy. An immense, galaxy spanning space opera, it deserves its place among my favorite books of all time.

Fine Line Between Fact & Fiction

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by Peter Cawdron

Science fiction is make-believe.

Even at its finest, it’s nothing more than conjecture and hypotheticals, and yet people flock to movies where characters flash lightsabers and fly around in exotic spacecraft. Why?

I think science fiction speaks to our longing for the horizon, our nomadic nature yearning for something beyond the hum drum and repetition of daily life. We’re adventurous by nature, but real-life adventures carry costs and risks. Fiction satisfies this itch, allowing us to explore far-flung worlds from the safety of an armchair.

When it comes to science fiction, our dreams can become reality.

While America was engulfed in a civil war, an obscure French author penned a story called From Earth to the Moon. At the time, steam engines were in vogue. Sailing ships and the trusty horse and cart dominated commerce. The idea of launching to the Moon was a flight of pure fantasy on the part of Jules Verne, and yet just over a hundred years later Neil Armstrong stepped out on the dusty lunar surface.

During the early 1960s, a struggling writer developed a story about a wagon train going to the stars. He struggled to secure finances for his wild, new concept. When Lucille Ball heard the title “Star Trek,” she thought it was a reality show following USO performers around the world as they toured for US troops. Lucille overruled her own board to get the pilot made without realizing she was helping make science fiction history.

Gene Roddenberry

Star Trek gave the world a glimpse of the future.

Handheld communicators eventually became the smart phones we enjoy today. Paperless tablet computers on the show inspired iPads. Automatic sliding doors became common place in malls and shops. Non-invasive medical scans found their future in MRI and CT scanners, but beyond that, Star Trek spoke of a new world. Racism was relegate to history, as was nationalism. Reason, it seemed, would dominate the future, not tribal superstitions.

We still have a way to go before the dreams of Gene Roddenberry are realized, but the fiction of today is often the facts of tomorrow. So whenever you read science fiction or watch a scifi movie, pause to consider which aspects may lie in our future.


Peter Cawdron is the author of Retrograde

The Venn of Sci-Fi and Fantasy

by LC Champlin

Twenty years ago, when I was starting to read fiction, I gravitated toward Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Times were simpler then, and so were the genres. If you picked up a Fantasy book, it had dragons, swords, magic, and castles. If you grabbed a Science Fiction book, there were spaceships, aliens, and strange planets. But we live in a different world now! Click on Fantasy on Amazon, and you’ll get more subgenres than there used to be main genres in all of fiction. Same for Sci-Fi.

This Tribble-like multiplying of subgenres didn’t rain down on me, though, until I attempted to select a genre category for my novel series. You see, I hybridized genres, which makes for a fun read, but is tough to class. My story is a fusion of Thriller (terrorists attack), Horror (terrorists unleash a plague that turns people into cannibals), Action-Adventure (running and gunning galore!), and Sci-Fi (the man-made contagion doesn’t reanimate corpses, and it comes with some technologically-advanced features). And those are just the conventional, main categories.

As I explored categories, I started to see an overlap of my two favorites, Fantasy and Sci-Fi. Could it be, I thought, that the two are not as diametrically opposed as they once were? In my quest for answers, I Googled “sci-fi subgenres” and “fantasy subgenres.” Taking the first sites on page one gave more info than I ever wanted.

These are the common Fantasy subgenres, according to Thoughts on Fantasy.

High Fantasy / Epic Fantasy

Low Fantasy

Portal Fantasy

Urban Fantasy / Contemporary Fantasy

Paranormal / Paranormal Romance

Fantasy Romance / High Fantasy Romance

Young Adult Fantasy (YA Fantasy)

Children’s Fantasy

Fairy Tale Retellings

Sword and Sorcery / Heroic Fantasy

Medieval Fantasy / Arthurian Fantasy

Historical Fantasy

Comic Fantasy

Science Fantasy

Grimdark Fantasy

Gothic Fantasy / Dark Fantasy

The New Weird

But wait, there’s more!

These Sci-Fi subgenres are from SciFi Ideas.

Hard

Soft

Military

Robot

Social

Space Opera

Steampunk

Cyber/Bio/Nanopunk

Superhero

Voyages Extrordinaires

Scientific Romance

Gothic Science Fiction

Mundane Science Fiction

Horror

Comedy

Science Fantasy

Apocalyptic

Post-Apocalyptic

Zombie

Alien Invasion

Alien Conspiracy

Time Travel

Alternate History

Parallel Worlds

Lost Worlds

Dystopian

Space Western

Retro Futurism

Recursive

Speculative F

Slipstream

Pulp

Fanfiction (or ‘Fanfic’)

Erotic

Make it stop!

How to make sense of this mess? How are you the supposed to find what you want to read? You can look up the definitions to all these genres, but I wanted a more overarching view. Why? Because nowadays, Sci-Fi and Fantasy have begun to fraternize with each other. I compared the descriptions, and found that no longer can you grab a Sci-Fi and know 100% that you won’t run into wizards. Or if you get a Fantasy, you won’t find aliens.

Thus, I bring you the down-and-dirty infographic, the Venn of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Like any Venn diagram, the overlapping bits hold items that can belong in either category, or have elements of the other category. Purple text are the subgenres that blend Fantasy and Sci-Fi.

What do you think of the proliferation of subgenres? How about the crossing of genres? Are there any you believe shouldn’t be classed together? Did I miss your favorite? Then comment!

PS: If you’re curious what I ended up with for my book Behold Darkness, I chose:

Science Fiction > Post-Apocalyptic

Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thriller

But I’m still experimenting.


About LC Champlin: I write fiction because the characters in my head have too much attitude to stay in my skull, I want to see the world through different eyes, and I want to live life through different souls. As a lover of all things Geek and Dark, I admire villains, antagonists, and rogues more than a little. My books’ characters are antiheroes, not angels.

Space Opera – Are You a Fan?

by Milo James Fowler

The original Star Wars trilogy, Star TrekBattlestar GalacticaBuck Rogers, even comedies like Galaxy Quest and Guardians of the Galaxy are all examples of space opera, which, according to Merriam Webster, is “a futuristic melodramatic fantasy involving space travelers and extraterrestrial beings.”

Notice how it’s not referred to as science fiction? Probably because there isn’t a whole lot of actual science in this fiction. According to the Urban Dictionary: “Generally speaking, [space opera] refers to an epic adventure in space that focuses less on the technical details and more on good vs. evil and action.”

That’s fine by me. Sure, I enjoy cerebral sci-fi too, but there’s just something about the swashbuckling bravado of space opera that makes me feel like a kid again. (Cue Star Wars theme.) Which is probably why I’ve written so many tales featuring Captain Bartholomew Quasar and company. I can’t get enough of this stuff, so I have to write it myself!

But not all space opera is science-free. One has only to look as far as Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space series to see hard science coupled with the intergalactic trappings of classic spacefaring adventure stories. The Expanse series of novels by James S. A. Corey, while mainly character-oriented, includes plenty of real science in the fiction, as do the occasional space opera tales published by Analog every month. I find them just as enjoyable—maybe even more so, than the hard science stories. And while reading this variety of science fiction, I can’t help but feel like I’m being educated (or re-educated) in the process.

In the latest issue of Analog, James Gunn delineates what he perceives to be the difference between print science fiction and the variety we see on the screen. In many ways, the contrast is the same as that between space opera and traditional science fiction. Screen sci-fi (and space opera) is often about big ideas, character arcs, and genre tropes, while print sci-fi (hard science fiction) echoes more from the cutting edge science itself. Some critics have said that space opera stories could easily be recast as westerns if you took away the ships, lasers, aliens, and bounty hunters and replaced them with horses, pistols, natives, and banditos. The science just isn’t as integral to the plot.

Regardless, science fiction in all its forms looks at what’s ahead for humanity. Space opera in particular is often optimistic, for the most part. The Expanse and the latest incarnation of Star Trek can be dark at times, but there are still those characters we can get behind and root for. Sure, we’ll still have our struggles getting along with each other out in the deep black, but there will always be heroes to lead the way: kick-ass men and women like Malcolm Reynolds and Zoe Washburne from Firefly. And between you and me, those are the sort of folks I wouldn’t mind hanging out with.

Because I’m a big fan of space opera—as long as we’re not talking about anything operatic—and I’m proud to say it’s here to stay.


Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. Over the past 5 years, his short fiction has appeared in more than 100 publications including AE SciFi, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, and the Wastelands 2 anthology. Find his novels, novellas, and short story collections wherever books are sold.

http://www.milojamesfowler.com/

Short Story: Clever Girl by Craig Anderson

CLEVER GIRL

by Craig Anderson

Welcome to Mind Chip madam, how may I assist you today?

Sarah glanced around nervously, Is this the place where you sell the brain chips?

The salesman nodded enthusiastically, If you mean the IQ boosting, wireless cognitive enhancement devices then yes, youve come to the right place. Are you looking for something in particular?

A small girl peeked out from behind Sarahs legs, her yellow pigtails tied off with bright pink bows. Sarah gestured to her, “Im looking for something for my daughter. I want to give her the best start in life.

The salesman bent down and held out his hand, Nice to meet you young lady, Im Ben. Whats your name?

When she didnt answer the salesman tried again, Ravi de vous rencontrer jeune femme, je suis Ben.

The young girl stared at him dumbfounded. Sarah leaned over her daughter, “Its ok sweetie, you can say hello.

The little girl clung tightly to her mothers leg as she whispered, “Im Charlotte.”

And how old are you Charlotte?

After a moment to calculate Charlotte proudly announced Five and three quarters.

Ben stood back up, Well its nice to meet you Charlotte. So you want to be smart huh? You could do it the old fashioned way, work hard at school, read lots of books, spend your evenings learning new things. That doesnt sound much fun does it?

Charlotte shook her head, making her pigtails swish around. Ben made a raspberry sound, Thats what I think about that. How about instead of all that, you have one quick, painless operation and youll have access to everything you could ever possibly need to know in the blink of an eye? How does that sound?

Charlotte looked up at Sarah, confusion all over her face. Sarah said, That sounds wonderful. Can you tell me a little more about my options?

Ben placed his hand on Sarahs shoulder, Why yes of course I can, come right this way.He whisked them into the corner of the showroom that was glass and chrome. In a case were tiny black chips slightly larger than a grain of rice. Charlotte immediately rubbed her hands all over the case, leaving smudges everywhere. Sarah did her best to wipe them off but Ben laughed, “Dont worry about that. I see your daughter has excellent taste. Thats the 2025 model, fresh off the production line. State of the art design, 40% smaller which means it only needs a simple injection rather than a more invasive surgery. It has a 30% faster wireless connection which means the requested information is downloaded as fast as you can think it, and this model has real time language conversion into over 200 hundred languages. Låter det inte som en praktisk funktion?

Charlotte drooled. She said, Can I hold it?

Ben glanced at the security guard standing discretely in the corner and nodded. The guard produced a key and opened the case. Ben plucked out a chip. He placed it carefully in Charlottes hand, “Youre holding your future in the palm of your hand. With this chip you can be anything you want to be. The possibilities are endless.

Charlotte wiped her nose with the back of her other hand and promptly dropped the chip on the ground. Bens eyes grew wide and he quickly scooped it off the floor saying, Be careful, thats worth lots of money! Perhaps I will pop it back in the case where its safe, what do you think?

Charlotte shrugged.

Sarah leaned in closer to Ben, Exactly how much is one of these to buy?

This model is a bargain at only $250k madam.

She audibly gasped. It took her a moment to regain her composure, Is there a payment plan?

Bens smile softened at the corners, “Im afraid demand for the newest model is always so high that we dont offer any kind of plan, it is full payment upfront. We do haveother options available. Would you like to see some of our discounted models?

Sarah nodded and Ben ushered them across to the opposite corner of the showroom. The lighting wasnt as bright over here and the display case was scratched and scuffed. He reached in and pulled out a chip the size of a beer mat, This is our 2021 model. Its a little larger, so shed lose more of her organic brain, but we can typically save most of the memories. This model doesnt have the wireless, so you only get whats on the chip. Thats an awful lot of data, but she wouldnt gain access to the latest breakthroughs or world events. Obviously that becomes more of an issue over time. The chip itself is also slower, which causes a slight access delay, but its nothing her pretty little smile couldnt cover up.He reached down to pinch her cheek, but Charlotte scampered back behind her Mothers legs. Sarah said, How much is this one?

Its only $80k and we do offer a payment plan if your credit is approved with a very generous 11.9% interest rate.

Sarahs smile collapsed, I didnt realize these were so expensive. Is there anything else?

Ben reached behind the counter. He retrieved a chip the size of a large coin and said, This is our sponsorship edition 2023 model. This ones refurbished. I can let you have it for the bargain price of $10k.

What do you mean refurbished? Someone else used it?

Ben looked everywhere except at Sarah, Yes, but only briefly. The little boy only used it for a week or so before his parents brought it back. Its been thoroughly sanitized.

Why did they return it?

There was a lengthy pause before Ben said, The sponsorship edition comes with some additional stipulations…”

Such as?

Well, these models are cheaper because companies sponsor them.

Sarah nodded, That doesnt sound so bad.

Right! It just means that the communication is two way.

Two way?

Yeah, so little Charlotte would still get access to the data that she needs, but the companies can see what data shes asking for, what soda shes drinking, her favourite toys, simple things like that. Its all completely anonymous.

Sarah took a step backwards, nudging Charlotte along behind her, “Youre telling me they could read her mind?

Dont think of it as her mind, to them its just an anonymous user. Of course there are also the occasional adverts…”

Adverts!”

Yes, its harmless really, for example if you asked Charlotte where she might like to go for lunch, she may receive some suggested locations from our sponsors. Shes still free to make her own choice, this isnt brain control.

Sarahs voice became considerably louder, Free to make her own choice? Shes five! Youre telling me you want me to put a chip in my daughters head thats been in another childs brain, transmits her thoughts to shady corporations and can suggest to her where to eat and what to buy? Do you think Im some kind of monster!

Ben held up his hands, “Id argue the benefits outweigh the down side. Shell still be miles ahead of where she would be with no chip. If you cant afford a newer model this is your best option.

Sarah huffed, No thank you, well just wait a couple of years for the price to come down.

Ben sucked air in through his teeth, Yeah, about that, youre pretty much at the upper limit of when these chips will take. Were not allowed to install in any kid over six, there have been complications when trying to install the chips in older kids.

Complications? Like what.

Brain death. If I was you Id go with whatever you can afford right now, while you still have a choice. Pretty soon every kid is going to have one of these. What kind of life is that going to be for your daughter? She will be a second class citizen, totally unemployable in all but the most menial jobs.

Sarah stared at the big blue eyes of her gorgeous daughter and said, “Ill need to talk it through with my husband. Maybe we can sell the car.

Thats a very noble sacrifice for you daughters future. Ill be here when youre ready to make a decision. Heres my card if you have any questions.

Well thank you for your time, youve been very helpful.Sarah ushered her daughter out the door.

After a few moments Bens manager walked over, Potential sale?

He shook his head, No, they were time wasters. One day shes going to look back on today and realize it was the moment she should have done whatever it took for her daughter. Its a shame really.

Sarah and Charlotte left the mall and got into the car. The moment the door shut Charlotte jumped around excitedly, I did it Mommy, just like you taught me. Look!She brandished the small black chip that she had so meticulously palmed.

Sarah smiled, “Clever girl!”

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Interview with Alasdair Shaw

What genre are your books?
The overall genre is science fiction.

OK. What about sub-genre?
Now that’s a bit harder. Choosing a sub-genre is very subjective. Most books will have things which identify with several different categories. Sometimes I wish I could do a word cloud or heat bar for how much a book fits each sub-genre.

Sometimes I call my work military scifi, other times I call it space opera because there are elements that aren’t battles and strategy. Amazon puts my books in space marine, space fleet, and galactic empire. I guess they also fit some of the criteria of post-apocalyptic as there has been a planet-wide nuclear strike, but I really don’t think that is the right category given what most readers understand by it.

What draws you to this genre?
I have enjoyed reading SF for a long time. Iain M Banks’ Excession converted me to a fan and inspired much of the world I have created.

What is the easiest thing about writing?
The easiest thing for me is the world-building. I’ve had the background, technology, etc. in my head for years. I work out the history, rank structures, politics, and so on whenever I’m at a loose end. When I started writing the stories it just flowed.

One problem is trying to strike the right balance between info-dump and vacuum. Of course, different readers have different preferences, but I know that my love of long lectures on historical details is not shared by many.

One day, I might even write a ‘history’ of the Two Democracies universe.

What was your hardest scene to write?
There’s a scene where one of my main characters realises she is being sexually discriminated against. I haven’t written it yet as it will take place in a prequel series to the one I’m writing now, but having her remember it in a scene in my latest story was bad enough. Not only is putting myself in her place harrowing, more so than any of the combat or other horrific scenes I’ve written for her, but it is also very difficult to pitch correctly. She is the victim, but not a victim.

How would you react if a film were made of one of your books?
I’d be stunned. It would be really cool. To see “Liberty, the new movie by Stephen Spielberg” or something like that would be a mark that I had made it as a writer. I’d certainly go to see it.

One worry would be that it wouldn’t match what was in my head. Many of the scenes have detailed descriptions of actions, but a lot of what happens is going on in the characters’ heads and that is hard to do in a film.

If you could spend time with a character from your books, which would it be?
Now that’s not fair. I don’t think I could single one out without upsetting the others.

I’m going to have to insist on an answer.
Hmm. It’ll have to be a group outing: Prefect Olivia Johnson, Pilot Legionary Anastasia Seivers, and The Indescribable Joy of Destruction (well, its primary personality at least).

And what would you do on that outing?
Go for a walk in the mountains. Discuss things. Set the world to rights. Oh, and gang up on Johnson to try to get her to try reading more fiction.

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. It is incredibly witty and clever, as well as being a great story. I also love the power he gives to books in it. The lead character is a Spec Ops 27 agent, responsible for policing crimes involving literary works (other than Shakespeare, of course, which is covered by Spec Ops 29).

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Aristotle. I’d like to see if I could convince him of the Galilean/Newtonian understanding of the laws of motion.


Alasdair Shaw grew up in Lancashire, within easy reach of the Yorkshire Dales, Pennines, Lake District and Snowdonia. After stints living in Cambridge, North Wales, and the Cotswolds, he has lived in Somerset since 2002.

He has been rock climbing, mountaineering, caving, kayaking and skiing as long as he can remember. Growing up he spent most of his spare time in the hills. Recently he has been doing more sea kayaking, running and swimming.

Alasdair studied at the University of Cambridge, leaving in 2000 with an MA in Natural Sciences and an MSci in Experimental and Theoretical Physics. He went on to earn a PGCE, specialising in Science and Physics, from the University of Bangor. A secondary teacher for over fifteen years, he has plenty of experience communicating scientific ideas.

The Two Democracies: Revolution science fiction series starts with Independence, and continues with Liberty. The third story, The Perception of Prejudice, is released this month. Equality will hopefully be released in summer 2017, followed by Fraternity the year after.

You can see what else he gets up to on his website at http://www.alasdairshaw.co.uk.

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