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March Books 23) Trillion Year Spree

23) Trillion Year Spree, by Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove

This has been looking at me from my bookshelves for the last couple of years, and I've finally got around to reading it. I'm a bit irritated that the cover of my paperback House of Stratus edition seems to have deteriorated rather badly in the meantime; has anyone else had this problem? Or have I just been lugging it around on my foreign trips too much?

It is a big big book about the history of science fiction from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to 1986 (with a very brief postscript for the 2001 edition). I was surprised how much of the argument of the book was already familiar to me. I guess I must have internalised it from poring over the writings of John Clute. Still, Aldiss makes some very interesting points to fill out the basic lines about Shelley, Gernsback and what happened in between.

One really striking omission is the influence of broadcast sf - cinema does get a look in, as an essential part of the cultural background as Aldiss and Wingrove see it, but Star Trek and Doctor Who are barely mentioned, and Douglas Adams' name comes up precisely twice - first as making lots of money from Robert Sheckley's ideas, second as just making lots of money. (Indeed, the whole second last chapter is basically about how Heinlein, Asimov, Herbert, Hubbard and van Vogt were getting money for old rope in the most recent period, though there are kinder words for Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl.)

I'm sure there are gaps but I'm bad at spotting them; Aldiss berates himself in his afterword for completely missing Terry Pratchett in his survey of more recent sf, and there will of course be others. It's also interesting that I simply haven't heard of several of the writers described as up-and-coming in the 1970s and 1980s. More for my reading list, I guess. Anyway, it's a very interesting read.

On a totally irrelevant note: I have copied all my various write-ups of books and Big Finish CDs to my LibraryThing catalogue, and this will be the thousandth review I have posted there. I'm still way behind the likes of wyvernfriend, but it's a milestone of sorts.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 15th, 2008 12:33 pm (UTC)
The House Of Stratus printing is terrible.
Mar. 15th, 2008 01:03 pm (UTC)
Congrats on the 1000!
Mar. 15th, 2008 03:14 pm (UTC)
No, it isn't just you. I've a few books published by House of Stratus, and the bindings for all are mediocre. Ignoring the fact that the spine labels are all upside-down, the glue has become brittle, and it seems likely that I'll start to lose pages before too long.
Mar. 15th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
I have the old (Penguin/Viking?) one and remember the joins showing - although I'd not read Billion Year Spree it seemed very obvious where Wingrove had spliced in new material.

On the whole I enjoyed it a lot, particularly the pre-Gernsback era and the coverage of the Golden Age. It very much influenced my reading for a few years, filling up gaps in the 'back catalogue' until I hit a point in the late 80s where it seemed that all was coming out as new SF was derivative cyberpunk and right-wing mil-sf - by the time I graduated I'd virtually given up SF, something I didn't really touch again for a decade.

I think both authors underestimated how far sf imagery would penetrate the mass media (although they do make the point that written SF and cinematic SF have very different roots and audiences), and from what I recall they completely underestimated the future importance of the graphic novel, which was just starting out in those days .

I remember TYS introducing me to lots of things I wouldn't otherwise have found, particularly 'weird' fiction like Lindsay's A Voyage To Arcturus, Joseph O'Neill's Land Under England and the works of William Hope Hodgson - it also turned me on to Olaf Stapledon. If only for that it was worth the time and effort ;)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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