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19 November 2012
A little note about this week’s Editors’ Choice:
I first encountered Bob Shaw‘s work via a short-lived comic – Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction. The stories were framed by a narrative device based on ‘slow glass’ – loosely adapted from Shaw’s Other Days, Other Eyes (sadly, the only one of his works we were unable to secure for SF Gateway). Although I eventually tracked down a copy of Other Days, Other Eyes (no mean feat in Australia in the mid-1970s), my first prose exposure to Bob Shaw ended up being the wonderful Who Goes Here? in which protagonist Warren Peace joins the Space Legion in order to forget something terrible about his life. However, since part of the allure of joining the legion is that they erase your memory, he can’t remember what was so terrible that life in the legion is worth the price of forgetting! It was an early taste of the wit for which Shaw was well-known, and that I would sample for myself when I attended one of his Serious Scientific Talks at the Brighton Worldcon in 1987.
I remember pretty clearly that the editions I had of Other Days, Other Eyes and Who Goes Here? were the fantastic old Pan Science Fiction paperbacks, with the lovely silver panels, but I can’t quite bring the cover of A Wreath of Stars to mind; I think it was a Gollancz edition, which would have a nice symmetry to it.
A Wreath of Stars really impressed me. I wasn’t that far removed from the Golden Age of Science Fiction, and my mind was ripe for blowing. So to speak. It would be churlish of me to spoil the book by going into too much detail, but the concept of an alternative universe composed of neutrinos and its affect on the protagonist seemed to me to be exactly the sort of thing that SF should be about.
It’s been over a quarter of a century since I read A Wreath of Stars but it’s stuck with me as a wonderful example of why SF is the most important and vibrant of literatures. I look forward to revisiting it, and seeing just how good my taste was a generation ago.