This one was a no-no right from the start. Two reporters on a space ship, one of them turning a dial to tune in the radio, gave me difficulties with suspension of disbelief right at the start. People from the 50s supposedly in a future three thousand years away from us. Other things in the science and the narrative were appalling. A guy getting into a pressurized spaceship through the front screen was risible. Then there was a woman, after a 1,000 years in hibernation during which she was conscious, waking up and behaving as if she’s been a bit stir crazy for a few days and, incidentally, speaking the same language as the reporter who freed her. Nah. This makes me realize how much SF I swallowed with a naive hunger when I was younger.
After Syzygy (previous post) and a failed attempt to read With a Strange Device by Eric Frank Russell, I resorted to one who has never disappointed: A E Van Vogt. The Battle of Forever snared me immediately. Sure, published in 1971 it’s a bit dated, but I didn’t find myself cringing at any of the technology, just a little bit at the mores. Of course not: this is Van Vogt and right from the start it’s far future super-science.
Modyun is one of the thousand remaining members of the human race, incredibly long-lived, peace loving and totally rational. He doesn’t suffer much from all that emotional gland-related stuff because, well, as this starts out he hasn’t got very much of that icky stuff going on, being mostly a bloody great head with a negligible body. But then he must venture beyond the barrier out onto the rest of the planet, which is now occupied by animals uplifted into human form and intelligence. To do this he grows and eight-feet-tall body to support that head, and begins to experience its effects, especially when he discovers Earth has been conquered by aliens…
It’s the good old stuff.
Intertwined in this is a human story concerning a bereaved husband falling for the sister of his dead wife, along with a mystery about how she died – all resolved in the final scenes. I’ll go into no more detail about it than that. I found it all a bit prosaic and a struggle to get through because, really, I was after the sfnal hit. In fact, beyond the plankton minds, it all struck me as a bit lacklustre. This could all have been about mind-controlling plankton arriving at the coast of some US town in the fifties. While in science fiction one must suspend disbelief, in old SF one must extend that suspension to cover, in this case: fifty-year-old technology on a colonised planet, and the mores of that time. One just has to laugh a hollow laugh when only a woman is capable of properly cleaning our hero’s house, and when that same hero, upon sensing the thoughts of a pipe-smoking psychologist, has a homophobic reaction that would today have the writer strung up by the thumbs, albeit the reaction was that of the protagonist.
Next it was time to bite the bullet so I started off by publishing Runcible Tales in paper form on Amazon. That went well enough so I did the same with the rest. There were some hiccups concerning pagination and the covers are quite plain (something I must look into in the future), but now all of the above are available on Kindle and in POD paper. The links below each will take you through to the Amazon UK, but these are also available in the US and elsewhere.
I’ve just put this collection up on Kindle. It will also be appearing as an Amazon paperback sometime soon . . .
I have a varied collection of short stories in my files and, of course, the temptation is there to dump them on Kindle, take the money and run. However, though I think some of them are great, some aren’t, and some are profoundly dated. I am aware that there are those out there, who will just buy these without a second thought, so I have to edit, be selective, and I damned well have to show some respect for my readers. Kindle in this respect can be a danger for a known writer, because you can publish any old twaddle and someone will buy it. Time and again, I’ve had fans, upon hearing that I have this and that unpublished in my files, demanding that I publish it at once because surely they’ll love it. No they won’t. A reputation like trust: difficult to build and easy to destroy.
I’ve therefore chosen stories other people have published here and there, and filled in with those I really think someone should have published. Here you’ll find some Polity tales, some that could have been set in the Polity (at a stretch) and some from the bleak Owner universe. Enjoy!
Neal Asher 04/06/18
Memories of Earth
I believe I wrote this one as a publicity exercise for Tor Macmillan while they were publishing the Owner trilogy, but then it wasn’t used. I subsequently shunted it off to Asimov’s and they published it in their October/November 2013 issue. There’s also an audible version on Starship Sofa (No. 383).
This appeared in The New Space Opera 2 edited by Gardner Dozois and Johnathan Strahan published in July 2009.
The Rhine’s World Incident
First appeared in Subterfuge from Newcon Press in 2008, next appeared in In Space No One Can Hear You Scream from Baen Books in 2013. This is the story where the swarm AI the Brockle makes its first appearance.
Appeared in Galactic Empires published by Gardner Dozois in 2008
First appeared in Asimov’s in December 2004, next in Year’s Best SF 10 published by Hartwell and Kramer in 2005. StarShipSofa did an audible version: No. 463
The Other Gun
Cover picture story in Asimov’s April/May 2013. This is a backstory for the Rise of the Jain trilogy – it concerns the Client.
This appeared in George Mann’s Solaris Book of New Science Fiction in 2007
Not appeared anywhere at all!
There’s an audible version of this on Escape Pod, episode 118, read by Steve Eley – went up there in 2007