Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Manchester's SF Book Group

I've not been a member of a book group since Waterstones did one on foreign literature about a decade ago, so was keen to be involved when I heard that Madlab (Manchester's Digital Laboratory) was thinking of starting one. A Science Fiction book club as well. My love for SF was primarily a teenage thing, yet over the last couple of years a strange thing's happened, I've been reading SF again, whether classics that I'd never got round to like Asimov, re-reading John Wyndham's dystopias or getting excited by new writers, okay, one new writer, China Mieville. I've also started writing SF again, as it somehow allows you to say what you want about the current world in a better, metaphorical way.

Anyway, last night we met in the Northern Quarter for a "scoping meeting." Manchester Libraries are going to be helping out as well, though we all agreed to try and nominate books that are readily available - and with Amazon and the Book Depository you can get most things online in a couple of days and at a reasonable price. Clare Conlon sums up the meeting (not bad since she wasn't there!) here, but I thought I'd reiterate the first 4 books we chose - a nice diverse mix, only one of which, Neuromancer, I've read, and that was years ago.

February - The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
March - The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard
April - Neuromancer by William Gibson
May - The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

We had a good general discussion about what we'd like to read - and there was a mix of people there, from hardcore SF nuts, to people who just wanted to have something new to read. Its meant to be informal - so all are welcome to read the books, come along - and I guess we'll probably have an evolving group of people over the course of the year. None of these initial books are too long so hopefully it will be easy enough to read them, but I'm sure we'll tackle something massive at some point (such as Mieville or Neil Stephenson), in which case we might alternate it with a short story or two. It was with this in mind that I recommended a "course text book" in Penguin's "A Science Fiction Omnibus" - it includes a lot of the writers we discussed, and we'll probably recommend a story or two from this to complement the monthly novels. 

We're hoping, at least to start with, that each book has an advocate, but beyond that the discussions each month will be quite informal and wide-ranging. I can imagine as the year goes on that we might look at linking it in with the Literature Festival, FutureEverything and other events - and in the post-pub bit of the discussion a couple of people mentioned books that have been made into films; so that might be another angle.

A Google group for the book club has been set up here. 

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