Guilty Secrets: I’ve Never Seen Star Wars

I have a confession to make.

Before I started working on the SF Gateway, I hadn’t in fact read much SF. I hadn’t even seen Star Wars (something that I haven’t quite been allowed to forget but have since rectified, never fear!). When pushed to state my allegiance I would without a doubt have said “high fantasy”. In my defence, my specialist subject at university was supernatural Victorian literature and I did an entire module on the collected works of Tolkien, so I’m not exactly lacking nerd cred – it’s just taken me in a different direction.

Since I joined the project 18 months ago, however, I can honestly say that it’s been difficult not to read SF. My reading habits certainly shifted somewhat: I’ve found myself hoarding all the new SF Masterworks that come within grabbing distance and have started happily adopting SF novels alongside fantasy during my regular field trips to the bookshop. My bookshelves now look positively rounded and balanced!

Two titles that I have enjoyed recently are Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and Eric Frank Russell’s Wasp, both very different novels.

The Forever War was fantastic, with its mecha suits that made me think of Gundams (I refer to the Mobile Suit Gundam Wing anime of the mid-90s, of which I am a massive fan) and detailed military tactics. What really fascinated me was Haldeman’s use of the collapsars – wormhole-like phenomena that allow the military ships in the novel to travel thousands of light-years in seconds. For the characters using this method of travel, hardly any time passes at all, but for those outside the collapsar time has moved at a phenomenal rate; Mandella’s first mission only lasted two years in space but decades had passed on Earth. This allowed Haldeman to explore the direction that Earth could take in order to cope with overpopulation and a lack of resources. I found the development of homosexuality as the “default” to be particularly interesting, especially the protagonist’s personal struggle to adjust as a heterosexual when confronted with this new culture.

Wasp is a rather more light-hearted novel based on the simple idea that something as small as a wasp can terrorise a much larger creature to the point of self-destruction. James Mowry, our wasp, is planted on an enemy planet in order to bring it to its knees by appearing as a much larger terrorist organisation through psychological and guerrilla warfare. Russell’s rather black humour coupled with Mowry’s creative methods of sabotage make for a highly entertaining read!

I certainly look forward to reading many more enthralling, mind-bending SF novels in the future and recommendations are most welcome!