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John Brunner

John Brunner

Jad Smith
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    John Brunner
    Book Description:

    Under his own name and numerous pseudonyms, John Brunner (1934-1995) was one of the most prolific and influential science fiction authors of the late twentieth century. During his exemplary career, the British author wrote with a stamina matched by only a few other great science fiction writers and with a literary quality of even fewer, importing modernist techniques into his novels and stories and probing every major theme of his generation: robotics, racism, drugs, space exploration, technological warfare, and ecology._x000B__x000B_In this first intensive review of Brunner's life and works, Jad Smith carefully demonstrates how Brunner's much-neglected early fiction laid the foundation for his classic Stand on Zanzibar and other major works such as The Jagged Orbit, The Sheep Look Up, and The Shockwave Rider. Making extensive use of Brunner's letters, columns, speeches, and interviews published in fanzines, Smith approaches Brunner in the context of markets and trends that affected many writers of the time, including Brunner's uneasy association with the "New Wave" of science fiction in the 1960s and '70s. This landmark study shows how Brunner's attempts to cross-fertilize the American pulp tradition with British scientific romance complicated the distinctions between genre and mainstream fiction and between hard and soft science fiction and helped carve out space for emerging modes such as cyberpunk, slipstream, and biopunk. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09451-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. 1-16)

    John Kilian Houston Brunner (September 24, 1934–August 25, 1995) once observed that while we all inhabit the same world, we live in and among parallel worlds.¹ The personal and social, the ecological and technological—such realities coexist for us but do not necessarily cohere within our experience. Parallel worlds tugged at Brunner’s imagination insistently, and he found the friction between them at once fascinating and unsettling. He believed that a good science-fiction writer should cultivate awareness of parallel forms of experience and open up vistas onto the future that make readers more mindful of them. In keeping with this...

    (pp. 17-50)

    Brunner owed his first meaningful encounter with SF to happenstance. At the start of World War II, his father Anthony decided to support the war effort by running a farm in Brimfield, Herefordshire, and after the move, Brunner’s grandfather’s rare 1898 Heinemann edition of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1898) ended up misshelved in his playroom. At six and a half years old, Brunner read it, adorned its endpapers with Martian fighting-machines, and that was that. As he once explained it, he was imprinted “as permanently as one of Konrad Lorenz’s geese.” He went in search of...

    (pp. 51-93)

    In September 1966, between finishing Quicksand (1967) and starting Stand on Zanzibar (1968), Brunner made a forceful and controversial statement at Tricon: “SF must go where the speculation is fiercest, or die.”¹ The following year, as Guest of Honor at Briscon in the United Kingdom, he reiterated and expanded upon the point. Although concerned with the future, SF struck him as “vaguely archaic” in two respects. First, even though he subscribed to Lovecraft’s notion that the protagonist of the fantastic tale is an event, not a person, he thought that the widely cited maxim too often explained away weak characterization,...

    (pp. 94-118)

    Brunner’s retreat from the SF world at the height of his career related in part to his health. Not long after moving to Somerset and finishing The Shockwave Rider, he began to have excruciating headaches. During the summer of 1974, his doctor explained why: a skyrocketing blood pressure of 200 over 120 or, as Brunner termed it, acute hypertension “approaching the phone-the-undertaker level.” That September, just before his fortieth birthday, Brunner started taking a medicine known in the United Kingdom as Aldomet. Although it lowered his blood pressure, he suffered serious side effects, including sleeplessness, digestive disorders, depression, mood swings,...

  9. BRUNNERʹS LEGACY: Foreign Constellations
    (pp. 119-127)

    As one would expect, a wave of memorials followed in the wake of Brunner’s sudden and visible death. Some basic points of agreement about his legacy emerged quickly. Stand on Zanzibar was classed as his greatest achievement and, along with The Jagged Orbit, The Sheep Look Up, and The Shockwave Rider, portrayed as the foundation of his reputation. Several other popular works tended to receive special note here and there, including The Squares of the City, The Whole Man, The Compleat Traveller in Black, and The Crucible of Time. In some respects, however, the commemoration of his life and work...

  10. Thrust Interview (1975)
    (pp. 128-140)
    JOHN BRUNNER and Steven L. Goldstein

    THRUST: Where do you get your ideas?

    BRUNNER: Oh, gosh! The “Where do you get your crazy ideas?” question, as you probably know, tends to make writers turn purple and starts smoke coming out of their ears. Everybody has ideas, and a lot of people have ideas that are even crazier than the ones that come to science-fiction writers. There is no such thing for a writer as a problem of ideas; there is only a problem of expression. The difficulty is not in finding ideas but in finding what to do with an idea once you’ve got it. Ideas...

    (pp. 141-160)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 161-168)
    (pp. 169-176)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 177-184)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 185-187)