The next publishing craze? Weird Westerns.

It’s a little-known fact that one of the all-time bestselling writers of westerns lived most of his life in the English market town of Melton Mowbray. JT Edson, who died in 2014, wrote more than 137 novels, most of them westerns, and claimed in all seriousness “never to have even been on a horse”. AContinue reading “The next publishing craze? Weird Westerns.”

Can you read role-playing games?

You don’t have to actually play a role-playing game for it to fire your imagination, so why don’t RPG manuals count as books? I’m a lifelong fan of role-playing games, but I rarely play them. Dungeons & Dragons. Call of Cthulhu. Vampire: The Masquerade. Cyberpunk 2013. Traveller. I’ve been enchanted by the words and illustrations,Continue reading “Can you read role-playing games?”

Are video games the end for sci-fi novels?

The megastructure is one of science fiction’s most enjoyable guilty pleasures. There is no other genre of literature that takes quite such glee in describing buildings, whether made by the hand of man or alien. Arthur C Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama is little more than a guided tour of the titular spacecraft through the eyesContinue reading “Are video games the end for sci-fi novels?”

Why has the imagination been sidelined in literature?

Imagination is a powerful force for progress. So why has it been sidelined in the one place it should be most welcome – literature. In his now famous quote, Albert Einstein claimed that imagination was more important than knowledge. When Einstein wrote those words in 1929, those who knew about such things might have saidContinue reading “Why has the imagination been sidelined in literature?”

Science fiction’s utopias are built out of wilful ignorance

Project Hieroglyph challenges SF writers to move away from dystopian stories, but while the optimism is refreshing, real-world questions go unanswered Science fiction, for most of the 20th century, celebrated the idea that a competent man could build better machines to help make a better world. In recent years that prediction seems to have comeContinue reading “Science fiction’s utopias are built out of wilful ignorance”

Why we’re all reading young adult fiction

It’s an easy win for a book critic. Harry Potter, then Hunger Games, and now Divergent have dominated not just book publishing but popular culture for more than two decades. So after telling adult readers they should be ashamed to read children’s books, all Ruth Graham had to do was sit back and watch theContinue reading “Why we’re all reading young adult fiction”

Horror – just not scary any more

Whereas Victorian writers could rely on repressed sexuality to generate unease, today’s horror and fantasy novels put sex on the front cover. But the best new examples of the genre still bring up the things we don’t like to talk about. When Bram Stoker penned Dracula in 1897, Eastern Europe was still remote for mostContinue reading “Horror – just not scary any more”

The troll reviewers targeting women writers

Online abuse reminds us that while technology is upgraded, human qualities of jealousy and bitterness are not. It may contain some passages judged by one Amazon customer to be “brilliantly written”, but that isn’t enough to spare Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road a two-star kicking. The reason? Byrne has committed a political sinContinue reading “The troll reviewers targeting women writers”

How Fighting Fantasy beat traditional stories

In the three decades since Fighting Fantasy began, games have changed our concept of story forever. When I was 10 I wanted, for a brief period, to be a professional Fighting Fantasy player. I was so fascinated with the now-iconic green-jacketed gamebooks, emblazoned with the legend “Thrilling fantasy adventures in which YOU are the hero!”, that I hatchedContinue reading “How Fighting Fantasy beat traditional stories”

Marion Zimmer Bradley : can we separate the artist from the art?

It’s a truism that the writer you read on the page is not the writer you meet in the flesh. It’s for exactly this reason that meeting our cultural heroes is so often a profound disappointment. The transcendent singer on the stage is a bawdy lech in the bar. The poet who expresses beauty inContinue reading “Marion Zimmer Bradley : can we separate the artist from the art?”

A digital renaissance for the science fiction short story

A man wakes up from a car crash to find that he is an “electric ant”: an android programmed to believe it is human. At home he uses micro-tools to open up his own chest and discovers a tiny spool of tape inside. Punching new holes in the tape makes new objects appear in hisContinue reading “A digital renaissance for the science fiction short story”

Are we already living in the technological singularity?

news has been turning into science fiction for a while now. TVs that watch the watcher, growing tiny kidneys, 3D printing, the car of tomorrow, Amazon’s fleet of delivery drones – so many news stories now “sound like science fiction” that the term returns 1,290,000 search results on Google. The pace of technological innovation isContinue reading “Are we already living in the technological singularity?”