Pulp (Science) fiction in a Railway Town
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Pulp science fiction


Wolverton Books pulp scifiOne glance at this table, and I knew I wasn't leaving without buying some books. The trap was sprung...

Regular readers will know three things: I like to frequent used book shops, I like science fiction, and I like photography books.

A couple of Weeks ago I popped into Wolverton Books on my way home and went away with ten books. What a result! One book on photography by an author I already know, and nine science fiction books. Most of those were what the shop calls pulp science fiction, and nearly all of them from the table in the photo. That is, cheaply printed books from the late 60s. Here’s some of them.

Medium and Large Format Photography (2001)
Roger Hicks, here with his wife Francis Schultz, writes with great experience on using cameras that take photos on much bigger film than the 35mm film most enthusiasts used. This gives a nicer quality to photos.

There’s lots of cheap used medium format cameras around and I’m thinking of getting one for black and white photography, which is why I bought this book. It's already been a great help.

You’ll have seen the large format cameras; tripod mounted, lens at the front, bellows in the middle, the photographer under a dark cloth at the rear. This book is full of advice that can’t be easily found anywhere else. Recommended.

Heinlein's Stone familyThe old and the newer.

The Rolling Stones/Space Family Stone (1971/1978)
This is one of Robert Heinlein’s juveniles; written for teenagers. I’ve had my copy for at least 45 years and it’s falling apart; I can’t read it without making it worse. It was published about in 1971 under the original title of The Rolling Stones.

This is a 1978 UK edition so it’s under the Space Family Stone title. It was good to read it again, though this later edition has a lot of typos.

From the back cover of my earlier edition:

““In Robert A. Heinlein’s THE ROLLING STONES, the Luna family is pleasantly daft along with being terribly intelligent. Mother is an M.D.; Father an engineer who doubles as a television script writer for Earth; the twin boys are mathematical whizzes; Sister is not far behind them; the four-year-old brother is a chess expert; and Granny is an engineer! The elements which make this an extraordinary book are the fascinating characterizations, the terrific dialogue, and an abundance of fine humour. the famous science-fiction writer hits a new high with this one….”

-New York World-Telegram”

At least I think that’s what it says; some of the back cover is missing.

Saturn’s Children (2008)
It’s been 200 years since the last human died. Robots inhabit the solar system and have picked up some of humanity’s less savoury practises, like a rigid social heirarchy that includes slavery.

This novel is a tribute to Robert A. Heinlein and his book Friday,  In particular if you have read Friday, you’ll see all sorts of references to it in Saturn’s Children. I wrote about Friday here.

I had not heard of Charles Stross before, but on the strength of this book, I will be looking out for more.

Used book haulThe book haul

The Great Explosion (1964)

I read this satirical science fiction work by Eric Frank Russell many years ago and greatly enjoyed it, but forgot the title and couldn’t find the book again. Years later I found his 1951 short story ...And Then There Were None and it shared some of the ideas, but it just didn’t seem the same.

Two thirds of the way through The Great Explosion (I’d bought it on the author’s name) I realised I’d found the book at last, and I was very pleased. It’s just as good as I remember. The last third of this 1962 book was based on the earlier short story, but Russell had made a much better job of the ideas.

From the back cover:

(Half of humanity had left Earth) “settling wherever they could give free vent to their ideas and establish their prejudices. This whole operation was written in history as ‘The Great Explosion’. For four hundred years it weakened Earth. Then came the time to pick up the pieces….”

Spaceships are sent out, with bureaucrats that know what’s best for everyone else, and others who are at the top of the pecking order and want to stay there.

It's not as easy as they thought it would be, and they don’t find it easy to deal with the more independantly minded people they find. On one of these planets, they stop a bus full of eccentrically dressed people:

            “‘It’s more likely they’re a consignment of lunatics being taken to an asylum. I’ll ask the driver.’ Going to the cab, he said, ‘Do you mind telling me your destination?’
            Yes,’ responded the other.
            ‘Very well, where is it?’
            ‘Look,’ said the driver, ‘are we talking the same language?’
            ‘Eh? Why’
            ’You’ve just asked me whether I mind and I said yes.’ He made a disparaging gesture. ‘I do mind.’
            ‘You refuse to tell?’
            ‘Your aim’s improving, sonny.’
            ‘Sonny?’ put in Bidworthy, vibrant with outrage. ‘Do you realise that you are speaking to a colonel?’
            ‘What’s a colonel?’ asked the driver interestedly.”

It’s amazing what you can find. It was this haul of books that led me to do last week’s post on Wolverton Books in Milton Keynes.





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Re Charles Stross: The first story of his I ever read was set in Milton Keynes! It was part of the "Laundry" series he writes - a cross between Ian Fleming and HP Lovecraft - which is scarily funny. He also writes the "Merchant Princes" series of alternate worlds novels (it should really be called the "Merchant Princess" series actually, as he has succumbed to the lure of having a female protagonist to expand his market away from the usual male geeks!) but his best books (IMNSHO) are the non-series ones; they are "hard" SF in the sense that you probably appreciate them more if you are a computer nerd (Stross wrote the Linux column for the Computer Shopper magazine) but if you "grep" (another Heinlein allusion) the technical dimension to them they are superb. In particular, the post-singularity "Accelerando" is in my top three books of all time.

Gareth (who looks after the SF in the Age UK Wolverton bookshop you reviewed so nicely - come back soon!)

Hi Gareth

The Laundry series sounds interesting; I'd like to see what Charles Stross makes of Milton Keynes, but the whole idea of the series (I Googled the books for more information just now) appeals.


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