Sunday, 14 October 2007

(DEC 30) Born on this day: Somtow Sucharitkul

Photo: © 2007 Somtow Sucharitkul, used by permission.

Somtow Sucharitkul – better known to SF fans as S.P. Somtow – was born in Bangkok, Thailand, on 30 December 1952. As active in science fiction and horror as he is in composing and conducting classical music in Thailand, he has been described by the Bangkok Post as the “Thai person known by name to the most people in the world.” He was first published in the 1970s in Asimov’s Science Fiction and has since been nominated for many major awards, including the Bram Stoker Award, the John W. Campbell Award, the Hugo Award, and is also winner of the World Fantasy Award. He now holds the post of president of the Horror Writers Association and is currently artistic director of the Bangkok Opera.

(OCT 22) Born on this day: Doris Lessing

Photo: AlfredTNT, 2006. (GFDL); text by Doris Lessing (fair use)

“A visiting American said, did I read science fiction? I offered Olaf Stapledon, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and he said it was a good beginning. Then he gave me an armful of science fiction novels. What I felt then I have felt ever since. I was excited by their scope, the wideness of their horizons, the ideas, and the possibilities for social criticism ... and disappointed by the level of characterization and the lack of subtlety. ... But if what we do get is so wonderfully inventive and astonishing and mind-boggling, then why repine? In science fiction are some of the best stories of our time.” —Walking in the Shade, 1997.

Born on 22 October 1919 in Kermanshah, Persia (now Iran), Doris Lessing has won all the major European literary awards. Her first words on hearing that she had also won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature were, “Oh, crap.”

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Fan History: Les Flood

Photo: Les Flood; text by Peter Weston.

During the 1950s and early ’60s Leslie Flood’s ‘Fantasy Centre’ bookshop at Sicilian Arcade, near Kings Cross, London, was the absolute mecca for SF enthusiasts. He had a huge stock of new and secondhand books and magazines, including scarce US titles - desperately sought-after, in those days when currency controls prevented imports from America. Many treasures were to be found in that basement, but science fiction alone couldn’t support a shop in such a central location, so the ground floor was given over to music and records - not such a bad idea in 1956, when this picture was taken, when jazz and science fiction were contemporary bedfellows.

Les Flood was a regular at the ‘White Horse’ pub meetings and conventions, and was also one of the ‘Gang of Four’ (along with John Wyndham) who launched the International Fantasy Awards in 1951. He was involved with the establishment of the London-based SF Luncheon Club in 1954, and in 1957 presented the final IFA to a bemused J.R.R. Tolkien for Lord of the Rings. Les was closely associated with Ted Carnell’s New Worlds as a reviewer and supporter, and eventually took over the Carnell literary agency when Ted retired. Les died in August 2007 in Spain, where he had lived for many years.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

(APR 6) Remembering Isaac Asimov

Illustration: Rowena Morrill. (GFDL)

“What I will be remembered for are the ‘Foundation’ Trilogy and the Three Laws of Robotics. What I want to be remembered for is no one book, or no dozen books. Any single thing I have written can be paralleled or even surpassed by something someone else has done. However, my total corpus for quantity, quality and variety can be duplicated by no one else. That is what I want to be remembered for.” – 20 September 1973; included in Yours, Isaac Asimov, 1995.

Isaac Asimov was born on 2 January 1920 and died on 6 April 1992. The asteroid 5020 Asimov is also named in his honour.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Locations: The Chelsea Hotel, New York

Photo: Pete Young, 2007 (CC by-nc-sa 3.0).

The distinctively bohemian Chelsea Hotel, at 222 West 23rd Street, New York, was opened in 1884 as one of the city’s earliest cooperative apartment houses. It became a hotel around 1905 and is now on the US National Register of Historic Places. Artists and writers who have lived here over the years include Brendan Behan, William Burroughs, Arthur B. Davies, James T. Farrell, Robert J. Flaherty, O. Henry, Arthur Miller, James Schuyler, John Sloan, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, Thomas Wolfe... and Arthur C. Clarke, who first stayed here in 1956, and again in 1964 while writing 2001: A Space Odyssey.