The Edinburgh Science Fiction Book Group first met 10 years ago this month. Started by Joe Gordon (who now writes the blog for Forbidden Planet but at the time was a bookseller at Waterstone’s), the group’s remit is this:
We take it in turns to select books to discuss, with regulars getting a month each to pick out a book. The criteria is pretty flexible – we take in traditional SF, modern and classic, horror, fantasy, graphic novels and slipstream/speculative fiction works which may not be considered SF&F by many but do contain some SF elements. The main aspect really required in a choice is that it contains elements that will generate some discussion.
I joined in 2006 for the discussion of Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe Of Heaven. My first pick was a couple of months later, when I chose Under The Skin by Michel Faber. Since then, the dozen or so of us have read and discussed over 100 books, including:
- Old-school classics by Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Aldous Huxley, H.G. Wells, John Wyndham;
- Golden age classics by Alfred Bester, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, Roger Zelazny, Philip K Dick, Olaf Stapledon;
- Fantasy and New Weird by China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Gene Wolfe, Jeff VanderMeer, Diana Wynne Jones, George RR Martin, Lauren Beukes;
- Hard SF by Greg Egan, Alastair Reynolds, Iain M Banks, Vernor Vinge, Kim Stanley Robinson, Hannu Rajaniemi, Greg Bear;
- Contemporary SF by William Gibson, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, Ken MacLeod, Chris Beckett, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Tony Ballantyne, Hugh Howey, Tim Maughan, Paolo Bacigalupi;
- Literary SF by Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Michael Chabon, Kazuo Ishiguro, Cormac McCarthy, Nick Harkaway;
For the 10th anniversary we had a little party and a survey to vote for our all-time favourite book group book and to highlight any particularly memorable books or book discussions.
Once all the votes were counted, the top three favourites were revealed to be the following:
The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
This one (or four) book probably prompted the most chat, especially when we discussed “Books You Loved That Everyone Seemed to Hate.” Obviously there was a lot of love for this, although I must confess it wasn’t for me.
In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield
I was especially pleased to see this one ranking so highly, as it was one of my own choices. I did worry that it would be a little bit far from the “robots & spaceships” choices I was known for, but as Kay said at the party:
There can’t be many SF groups that would enthusiastically contemplate a book about royal French mermaids. But we did, and most of us enjoyed it too!
Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
This fantastic and fantastical novel topped our poll, and it was one of the very few books I’ve given a 5-out-of-5 rating on Goodreads. Its post-war take on English folklore and legend wonderfully captured our imaginations
The Edinburgh Science Fiction Book Group meet at 7pm on the last Tuesday of every month at Henderson’s, where we find a table (and I find a glass of wine) then spend an hour or so discussing the month’s book pick.