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SF History

5 ways history changed

by Paul

They are called “jonbar points”, from the moment in Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Time when a small boy, John Barr, picks up either a magnet or a pebble. One choice turns the world towards the good Jonbar empire, the other turns it towards the bad Gyronchi empire. They are, other words, the point of change […]

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Discovering the Award Winners: Birth of the Hugos

by Paul

The organizers of the 1953 Worldcon, known as PhilCon II, were looking for a centrepiece event for their convention. They decided on an award ceremony. The awards would be known as the Science Fiction Achievement Awards, and would be voted on by members of the convention. At the time there was no plan to continue […]

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4 “Great Peculiars” of Science Fiction

by Paul

Over at Tor.com, Walter Jon Williams has an excellent article about Cordwainer Smith, who he memorably describes as one of the “Great Peculiars” of science fiction. By this he means distinctive writers who are impossible to imitate. Start reading a story by Cordwainer Smith and you know immediately who the author is. There is something […]

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Clarke at 100: Rendezvous with Rama

by Paul

Rendezvous With Rama was the first novel Clarke wrote after the international acclaim of 2001, A Space Odyssey. It was also the most successful novel he wrote, at least in terms of awards. It won the Hugo and Nebula Awards, along with the BSFA Award, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and Locus Award. None of his […]

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These are the Ways the World Ends: Environment

by Paul

Concluding our short series on the end of the world, we come to those stories in which the world rises up against humanity. That other apocalyptic horseman, Famine, is the invariable companion of War and Pestilence; but science fiction has expanded on this. It is not just that humanity is unable to find sufficient food, […]

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These are the Ways the World Ends: Pestilence

by Paul

This week we’re looking at the different ways that science fiction has looked at the end of the world, or at least the end of human civilisation. The three horsemen of the sf apocalypse are War, Pestilence and the Environment. Today, it’s the turn of … Pestilence One of the more powerful of contemporary novels […]

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These are the Ways the World Ends: War

by Paul

The darkness grew apace; a cold wind began to blow in freshening gusts from the east, and the showering white flakes in the air increased in number. From the edge of the sea came a ripple and whisper. Beyond these lifeless sounds the world was silent. So the world ends, as witnessed by the time […]

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Discovering the Award Winners: International Fantasy Award

by Paul

When we were putting together our historical list of the best sf (1950s here) I noticed how rarely the book we chose as the best of the year was one of that year’s award winners. And when we compiled our own lists of the best books of 2015 and 2016, the number one book on each […]

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5 Alternate Histories of the Civil War

by Paul

It has been said that there are more books about Abraham Lincoln than about any other historical figure except Jesus. Mind you, the same thing has been said about Napoleon and about Hitler and probably about Stalin, so we should take that claim with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, there are an awful lot of […]

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How to Build Your SF Reference Library: Classic Reviews

by Paul

I know, it’s been a little while since we added to this feature, but there are always more books to add to the library. And this post takes us back, in a sense, to the early days of science fiction scholarship. The earliest sf scholarship was probably bibliographies, fans compiling detailed and complete lists of […]

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