Tag Archives: sci-fi

Edinburgh Science Fiction Book Group – 10 Year Anniversary

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.

Feel free to drop me a line if you fancy coming along, or check out our new blog!

His Majesty’s Starship Derbyshire: A Science-Fiction Story with Spotify Soundtrack

Towards the end of 1980, His Majesty’s Starship Derbyshire, the pride of the British Space Agency fleet, blasted off into Outer Space on a mission of imperial urgency. The Derbyshire was crewed by six of Britain’s finest astronauts, hastily trained to prepare for a task of extraordinary circumstance. Jodrell Bank had detected an alien spacecraft briefly entering the inner solar system before retreating to an orbit around 90377 Sedna, the distant red dwarf planet that theoretically belongs to humanity. This attack on British soverign space could not be tolerated by the ruling Earth empire of the day, and so the Derbyshire mission was devised.

The HMS Derbyshire launched covertly on the 23rd November, 1980. All seemed well until it passed Saturn, when all radio communication was lost. Its crew were never heard from again. This is their story.

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My Top 10 Favourite Podcasts

I have my HTC Desire wired up to listen to in the car when I’m commuting to and from work each day. I’m often not in the mood for music until later on in the day, so to keep me entertained I subscribed to a selection of podcasts (a podcast is a kind of radio show you can subscribe and listen to whenever you want). I was initially overwhelmed at the sheer volume, variety, and quality of podcasts out there: most bad, some good, and a few essential selections. After checking out many different podcasts over the past few months, I’ve whittled it down to what I think are the very best technology, media, science, comedy and sci-fi podcasts around. Read on for my pick of the Top 10 Best Podcasts!

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The Politics of UK Science Fiction Writers

In this week of the UK general election, several science fiction writers have declared their voting intentions for their prefered political party. English SF writer Neal Asher recently said “I judge books, not a writer’s politics. There’s a lot of books out there by some real hard lefty types, and a lot of those books I really love.” I agree that it’s the book not the writer’s beliefs that matter, but since these are writers whose job it is it speculate on the future (and they’re also guys I admire and respect) I thought I’d post a summary of what political leanings British SF writers have admitted to.
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Science Fiction TV Soundtracks on Spotify

I confess to being a sci-fi geek. I love science fiction in any format: books, movies, comics, television. I have seen every episode of Doctor Who, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Farscape, Stargate and Battlestar Galactica to name a few. Each of these genre shows had a terrific theme tune (well, except for Quantum Leap) and fortunately lots of them are on Spotify. There are many karaoke-style covers albums of theme tunes, but Spotify also has a good supply of Original Television Soundtracks from shows like Doctor Who and Star Trek. Read on for a look at some of the best.

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Top 5 Recent SF Shows I Gave Up On

Here are five recent SF/Fantasy TV shows that I tried to like but gave up on (perhaps too soon in some cases):

  • Fringe – Admittedly I only watched the pilot, but that was enough for me: all the characters seemed to be stereotypes and the plot’s revelations were ludicrous and full of psych-babble. I was never a fan of The X-Files (for similar reason to Richard Dawkins) and this seemed to be re-treading far too similar territory.
  • Sanctuary – One or two good episodes at the start, this soon turned into a freak-of-the-week show. Also I could only take so much of Amanda Tapping’s accent.
  • Bionic Woman – Michelle Ryan wasn’t too bad in this, but the family life aspects felt forced and the action scenes weren’t very exciting.
  • Demons -Fantastic cast, but what an awful script. I found some of it quite funny, unfortunately usually during scenes that were supposed to be serious. This show ended up being even worse than Eleventh Hour, which takes some beating. If only they’d used Philip Glenister and Zoe Tapper (below) in a remake of Sapphire and Steel instead…
  • Merlin – A CBBC programme on at the wrong time: I’m too old for this.

Book Club Book : Survivors

This month’s Edinburgh SF Book Club book is “Survivors” by Terry Nation. I’m not sure whether he wrote this before the 1970’s TV series or whether it’s just a novelisation; either way, I’m looking forward to reading this as his Blake’s 7 is quite probably my favourite TV show of all time.

I never watched the original TV show but I did follow the recent remake on BBC HD. I though this had a couple of excellent episodes and was building up into a cracking story, but then it suddenly ended on an almighty cliffhanged after only 6 episodes. Hopefully the book will have a proper ending…