This week’s video is me answering the weird and wonderful questions that everyone sent in over the last week. As ever there’s a (condensed) written version below the video if you don’t want to watch it.
There were lots of SFF themed things in there and lots of people interested to know where to start with my favourite genre so in addition to the video text I’ve also included a selection of links to some older videos where I recommend different things.
1. What’s your favourite Hugo award winning novel and why?
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (last year’s winner) because I’m still obsessed with it. But other than that it’s probably The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin because her writing is just so very good.
2. In the intro to his The Great Divorce, CS Lewis gives credit to an unknown scifi author for idea(s) Lewis then uses in his book. Who was this author & what book of hers or his did this idea/these ideas come from?
Charles F. Hall – The Man Who Lived Backwards published in Tales of Wonder 1938.
3. Are you into steampunk?
I’ve been known to enjoy it from time to time!
4. What did you want to be when you were growing up and what do you want to be now?
I was pretty appalling at thinking about careers as a kid. I once told my mother that I was going to be a vampire when I grew up. Possibly not such a valid choice this days. Now I am a grown up I still have no idea. 😀
5. What is your favourite episode of any Star Trek and why?
Time’s Arrow parts 1 & 2 (end of season 5, start of season 6). Because time travel and dressing up.
6. Who is your favourite Star Trek character?
Picard. Always and forever.
7. What was the first thing (tv show, movie, book) that got you into the genre to begin with?
It was books. Either THE SPACE MERCHANTS by Pohl & Kornbluth, or FOUNDATION by Isaac Asimov. I can’t remember which was first but they were both amazing. They were some of my dad’s books that I picked up as a kid and I just fell in love with the ideas.
8. From my mum – Dad says do you know what his favourite sci-fi books is?
No, I don’t. Which is weird. What is it?!
9. From my mum – What’s the only science fiction film I like?
Got to be Blade Runner.
10. Bearing in mind the Arthur C.Clarke quote “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”, how do you distinguish a science-fiction book from a fantasy one?
Okay, so there’s a pretty traditional explanation here which is that fantasy is something that could never be possible ever and science fiction could be maybe sort of possible one day (if you squint a bit and ignore some basic physics). To be honest, I think the genre lines are completely blurry and you can put them wherever you want.
11. Will you be reading the Hugo Award nominees again this year?
Yes, all of them.
12. Which science fiction books would you recommend for people who mostly read YA?
I’ve got a whole video on YA Science Fiction if you want to watch that. But also I’d recommend trying some bestsellers that just happen to be SF – READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline or THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir. Also classics like FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley and BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley.
13. What’s a food you can’t live without?
Gin. It totally counts.
14. What science fiction technology would be super beneficial to your life right now?
Some kind of super advanced robot to feed me and clean my house because I’m up to the eyeballs in coursework. But other than that some kind of super advanced medical technology to get rid of asthma would be lovely!
15. William Shatner or Patrick Stewart?
Is that even a question? Patrick Stewart.
16. To make a really good science fiction story does the science have to be accurate or will you forgive a fantastical story if the characters and plot are good?
I’ll totally forgive anything if the book is good. Science fiction should be fiction first. If I want to read pure science I’ll read a textbook.
17. Who is your favourite fictional character?
Helen Vaughn from THE GREAT GOD PAN by Arthur Machen because she’s badass.
18. What/why am I studying at the grand old age of 30?
As well as working in higher education, I’m doing a masters degree and it’s just super. I’m not at all stressed and overwhelmed and I find the topics scintillating. Hah. My thesis is about the impact of open access publishing on research funding in UK Higher Education. Can you imagine the lolz I have researching this? Can you?!
19. Least favourite book?
THE LAST BATTLE by C.S. Lewis. I HATE IT SO MUCH.
20. What do you envision your personal library looking like in the future?
A lot like it does now but moved around a bit. I tend to acquire and give away books on a regular basis so I don’t see myself having an ever-growing giant collection of doom or anything like that.
21. What’s your favourite space opera (book)?
THE EXPANSE series by James S.A. Corey. Though I do have a soft spot for FOUNDATION by Asimov.
22. Why science fiction?
Well there’s a hell of a question! And there are many possible answers. I spoke about one of them at the end of my science fiction history series when I said that it’s about looking into the maybes, the possible futures, the dreams of humanity. But also, I had this conversation once, about how Star Trek is basically the atheists vision of heaven because we don’t imagine anything for our own future. But for the future of somebody, of the world, it’s nice to see that it might possibly, maybe, go somewhere good.
23. What’s a good book for someone looking to get started in SF?
You can check out some of my old recommendations videos or just tell me the sort of things you like and I’m sure I can recommend something!
YA Science Fiction Recommendations
Science fiction and fantasy recommendations (very old!)
SFF without spaceships – recommendations
24. Who is your favourite villain and why?
Satan in PARADISE LOST by John Milton for having all the best lines.
25. Which villain would you most like to be?
One that didn’t get vanquished horribly!
26. If you could have a dinner party with four famous or notable people, dead or alive, who would they be?
Neal Stephenson, Kathleen Hanna, Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr.
27. What was the first adult-themed (as in not teenagey, as opposed to sexy times) SF book that you really connected to?
Probably something like NEUROMANCER or IDORU by William Gibson. Science fiction but gritty and grownup and weird.
28. What are your favourite TV Shows?
Orange is the New Black, Deadwood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, King of the Hill.
29. If you could have any device/vehicle/shelter and any sidekick from and SFF novels what would they be and why?
A time machine from one of many time travel books. And Molly from NEUROMANCER because I think you’d probably need a badass ninja bodyguard when time travelling.
30. Favourite non-SFF book or genre?
Probably The Saint books by Leslie Charteris. But I’ve also got a whole video of my Non-SFF favourites if you want to see more.
31. Only physical books?
Nope, I’m happy with books in all formats.
32. Do you ever write SFF?
Nope, not a writer.
33. If you could meet your favourite alien character would you advise them to keep the ketchup in the fridge or the cupboard?
Mine is in the cupboard but I have no strong feelings either way.
34. Most view-changing book you’ve ever read?
NEUROMANCER because it was the first book I’d read that was so very unreal.
35. Which political climate that you’ve read about could mostly closely compare to the current day?
THE DIAMOND AGE by Neal Stephenson for it’s relevance to internet cultures.
36. What would you do if you sprouted a five foot long tail every time you laughed and it only disappeared when you stopped laughing?
Laugh a lot!
37. Character you wish you could give a piece of your mind to?
Dumbledore. Someone need to have words with that man.
38. What was the most awkward conversation you’ve ever had in a bookstore?
I had a very awkward conversation in a library trying to explain that it wasn’t a bookstore!
39. Favourite bands and musicians?
Varied things. I really enjoy stoner, doom, metal stuff like Sleep, Big Business, Black Sabbath. Also things like Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, FKA Twigs. And Russian choral music is another soft spot.
40. What’s a book you didn’t think you would like but really, really did?
AMONG OTHERS by Jo Walton.
Holy hell, that was a lot of questions.