I normally eschew making lists, but at a certain point, having read so many appallingly bad ones by other people/publications that just don’t contain the right things, one starts to get worn down. The worst trend of all is encapsulated in those increasingly frequent ‘best’ or ‘all time’ lists that contain loads of stuff you’ve never heard of, written in the last five years and, if you’re lucky, a couple of token entries from the last century.
So, like anything really important in life, if you want it done properly, you have to do it yourself. Here, in no particular order, over the next few weeks, I’ll post a personal list of ten of the most brilliantly bonkers things that SF has thrown at me over the years.
For a brief period in the late 1970’s it seemed as though Trevor Hoyle might be the British SF writer to smash the all-powerful transatlantic hegemony in English-speaking SF of the time. This was on foot of his magnificent Q. Series (Seeking the Mythical Future (1977), The Gods Look Down (1977), Through the Eye of Time (1978)), the trilogy that bestowed ‘myth-technologist’ Queghan upon the SF world, and furnished Hoyle with his catch phrase The Cup Might Smash… …And Then Fall.
For me though, Hoyle’s most memorable foray into quantum phenomena comes in Vail (1984) a near-future post-apocalyptic satire set in the UK. Just get this:-
The boy or youth sighed wearily. ‘Where have you been living? Never heard of Heisenberg?’
‘A new Bavarian lager?’
‘Cause can precede effect and effect can precede cause at one and the same time. What you do later affects what you do now – it’s all the same.’
‘Not in my world,’ I said, shifting feet.
‘Sure. Remember what Max Born said: “I am now convinced that theoretical physics is actual philosophy.”‘
Two in one day. First a terrorist loonie and now a mad quantum mechanic. Which of us was going off our rocker, the world or me? ‘Suppose I say I’m not going to do the favour, – will you still give me the Temporal?’
‘That all depends on whether you do the favour or not.’
‘But you won’t know till later.’
‘That’s when I’ll decide.’
‘How can you decide later whether or not to give me the Temporal now?’
‘Simple. I won’t have given it to you if you don’t do the favour and I will have given it to you if you have.’
‘You call that simple?’
‘It is to me, squire.’
‘All right.’ I’d made up my mind. ‘Give me the Temporal and I’ll do you the favour, how’s that? Happy?’
‘I thought you’d say that,’ he said, handing me the foil strip.
Temporal is one of SF’s finest conceits – time and space bending quantum mechanical effects in convenient pill form – that later enable our hero Vail to escape an untimely death at the hands of a Watford Gap motorcycle gang.